Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
I remember sophomore year of college my best friend and I committed to follow this verse with our lives and hold each other accountable. It’s easy to read this and expect that God owes us something because we are obedient to Him. It’s really saying that delighting in God each moment of each day should be the focus of our lives. And that when we live in such a way, He will provide us with not just what we need, but things we desire as well. And this does not mean He will magically give me a new car, or new shoes. The more we walk with God, the more our hearts desire things He wants.
Delight is defined as great pleasure or joy. I view this as spending time with the Father each day, each moment acknowledging His spirit, seeing Him work, and thanking Jesus for everything.
Now, I cannot say I always do this. I have spent a good amount of the last few months feeling frustrated or angry with God. He knew my heart for Baltimore city and my love for kids, and my skills in research. But why wasn’t he giving me a job? I got mixed advice from people. Some telling me to apply to any job and get my start in a nursing home or hospital just to get some experience. Others said to wait on God’s perfect timing and that when He brings something, it will be better than I ever imagined. I hated hearing both of those things. I knew in my heart I could not spend another year of my life in a hospital, but I also didn’t think I would be one of those lucky people to get my “dream job.”
I get a lot of fulfillment from work in general and I view it as a very spiritual experience. I’m currently reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller so there will be a future post about that! But I knew that if God wanted me to stay here, He had to provide a job. I doubted myself and God many times and started looking into opportunities all over the country and world. But my heart was not in the right place. While I love traveling and I feel that sometime in the future God will use me in that way, my motivation was bitterness. I was thinking, “Ok God if you won’t give me what I want, I’ll just up and leave.” The problem is, no matter where I escaped to, my heart would still be in the ugly state that it was.
I finally came to peace about everything one day when I was house sitting earlier this month. There is something about being away, even just out of your routine and away from distractions that gives you clarity. I realized that I was seeking a job to define who I was, thinking that my life would start once I had a job or a steady paycheck. The same way a month earlier, I was hoping passing my RD exam would define give me fulfillment. I was feeling like a failure and feeling completely useless and sorry for myself. I was wasting time I could be using to invest in relationships, start new hobbies, be present and serve others. I realized I had been given the gift of time, and I wanted to use it well. I made up my mind that day to practice my baking skills, start a blog which has been a longtime dream of mine, take some classes to learn more about human trafficking domestically, and take steps to get licensed in Maryland to do private practice nutrition counseling. I had put that off for a while, since I had times of doubting whether I wanted to stay in Maryland. I realized at least for now, God had me in Maryland and for a reason, so it was my job to be present here, until He called me elsewhere.
I was reminded that my purpose in life has NOTHING to do with being a dietitian or having a job. God just simply asks us to know Him and help others to do the same.
Now here is the part of the story with the big announcement. That very same day, I got a call from a former colleague asking if I wanted a job. We had a conversation about a month before about some opportunities through her friend, but she never followed up with me. I almost did not apply. It looked like something I was overqualified for and I never heard back so I kind of forgot about it anyway. She said her friend was asking about me and they wanted an RD for the position, but could not find my application. She said that she would give her my cell number to set up an interview. I could not believe it. All the hard work and stress was for nothing, a reminder that it’s never about my own strength or efforts. Here was something falling right into my lap! I still did not get my hopes up and I did not have a ton of information.
I got a call the next day from HR to set up the interview. In my research and preparation, I realized this was my dream job. It combined everything I have ever wanted to do. Kids check, childhood obesity check, policy check, research check, food insecurity check, working with people check, not in a hospital check, prevention check, Baltimore city check, department of international health check.
I had a feeling deep down that this was the one I had been waiting for and a peace that I have not felt with any other job or opportunity. God’s timing is really is perfect. I still tried to play it cool and did not want to jinx it. It had to be too good to be true. I didn’t even tell my parents until I was selected as the “top candidate.” I got my official offer letter yesterday, so I figured it was safe to share with the blogging world. I will be working as a Research Program Assitant II in a Childhood Obesity Center. It’s not glamorous by any means. I’ll be driving around low-income neighborhoods interviewing families and doing diet recalls, but I can’t wait!! I could not have picked a better job myself.
So here we are. I survived the food stamp challenge! I did not get any email updates with themes for the last two days. The theme for day 5 was focusing on the cuts in food stamp benefits that will occur on November 1st. More information can be found at the links below.
I apologize if the posts this past week have been kind of depressing. I think this has been a great way to raise awareness about what is going on around us and we cannot turn a blind eye to it. For those of you who know me well, I am a pretty deep person so I will probably have a lot of depressing future posts with my thoughts or injustices of the world. But I have to be honest, towards the end, I started to dread posting because I felt like there wasn’t anything worth saying. I didn’t have a glamorous life to post about like trying new foods at ethnic restaurants, a cool new happy hour spot, or some great run I did because I did not have the energy or resources for that this week.
I definitely feel that it got slightly easier towards the end of the week, especially the busier I was so I didn’t have to sit at home around a ton of food that I couldn’t eat. But it may just be that my body got used to starving and didn’t feel the hunger cues as much. Which sort of resembles an eating disorder, which is not a good thing..a post for another time. I just want to let you know that my intention with this was not to lose weight. If I ever did this again, I would totally shop around and get more food for my money. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the power of prayer. I started praying a lot when I would feel that the hunger was unbearable.
Some things I learned this past week:
-I have a lot of people in my life that love me and feed me-physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I know some people living in poverty or on food stamps do not have a support network in place. It sounds so simple, but love is the answer to a lot of the problems in this world. Love really does win. And it’s encouraging to keep in mind that we have victory through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We’ve already won the battle so we don’t need to get bogged down by struggles of this life… or we can at least have hope in the midst of the struggles.
– I’m lucky that I have friends and family willing to sit down and share a meal with me. I realized how much of my social life revolves around food. It really brings people together and I felt that I was missing out in some ways, eating my rice and beans for dinner instead of what my family made.
-I can survive without caffeine and chocolate.
-However, if I ever do this again, I will budget for one dark chocolate bar to ration out for the week.
-Chicken noodle soup really is magical and not just when you’re sick. After that night of my “charity meal” I woke up feeling like a champion and banged out some squats and push ups before going in to work.
-I’m not a huge fan of meat and I eat like a vegetarian 90% of the time. But I realized I could never be a vegetarian 100%. I am craving a burger right now so bad, which doesn’t happen very often. I’m just so nutrient deprived I think my body needs iron. And I’m not talking a McDonald’s dollar menu burger. I need a grass-fed buffalo or lamb burger.
-There are glimmers of hope in the darkness of despair. Whether it’s an urban garden or finding messages of inspiration on the streets of Baltimore, change is coming.
P.S. Stay tuned for a big announcement in my next post!
Childhood hunger is an issue near and dear to my heart. I always knew I wanted to work with kids in pediatric nutrition one day. But after my community nutrition rotation during my internship last year working in schools in the city and on urban farms, I was convinced my calling was not to a hospital.
I got an email from Maryland Hunger Solutions today with some interesting statistics:
“According to a Gallop Poll analyzed by the Food Research and Action Center, 1 in 5 households with children in Maryland reported having difficulty affording food for their families sometime over the past 12 months. In Maryland – the richest state in the richest country – 43% of children in public schools receive free and reduced-priced meals (according to the state Department of Education). In Baltimore City, that number skyrockets to 84%. ”
Childhood hunger is a vicious cycle that will lead to the detriment of our country if left unchecked. Kids who are hungry do not do well in school, are more likely to get sick and develop health problems later, less likely to graduate high school or go to college, and ultimately will have a job where he or she has trouble putting food on the table to feed their kids. The problem is bigger than just food. This problem not only affects health, but also has far-reaching educational and economic impacts. A society where people are not educated does not progress.
For more information, visit:
Thoughts from today:
-I got called into work last-minute so it was nice having a distraction all day. I felt like I was able to think about things other than food (ironic I know working in a restaurant). Luckily, it wasn’t busy enough to require a ton of concentration but steady enough to keep me busy.
-I haven’t really had any headaches today, which is good.
-I had a make-up training for some street outreach I’ll be doing with Safe House of Hope http://safehouseofhope.org/(a post for another time) and I counted that as my “charity meal” for the week. Some challenge participants went to lunch at our daily bread this week to show that food stamps are not enough and most people need to supplement with emergency feeding programs. So I had chicken noodle soup and a cookie at the Yates household tonight. I could not turn down the hospitality and I thought it would be a good example of how food stamps are not enough.
-I had a banana and peanut butter for breakfast and beans and rice for lunch.
– I was able to squeeze in a mini boot camp session with some squats and push ups for my workout today.
Stay tuned for more tomorrow. I am officially at the halfway point 🙂
So I’m almost halfway there!! I’m already missing dark chocolate and I don’t seem to have the energy to work out today 😦 I’m hoping to rest up and eat up today to have some energy for a strengthening workout tomorrow.
I slept in again and ate an apple, peanut butter and bread when I woke up. I got creative and made a black bean burger for lunch over a salad and ate some more bread. I’m noticing food stamp diets are very carb heavy. I’m probably not the norm since I’m using brown rice and whole wheat flour, but it’s still making me feel like I’m in a constant state of carb coma. I also have the time to make everything from scratch, so lukcily I have not needed to utilize McDonald’s or anything out of a box.
For the black bean burger, I doubled the recipe since I was so hungry but it’s super easy! Just 1/3 cup black beans, 1 tbsp flour, and seasonings of your choice. I used worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, dried minced onion, and a sprinkle of old bay. Mash it all up with a fork, form a patty and saute in a pan with some olive oil- about 4 minutes per side. I got this recipe from KERF.http://www.katheats.com/favorite-foods/homemade-bean-burgers Maybe I can pretend it’s a crabcake.
Dinner was uneventful: rice and some veggies. I babysat tonight which was a challenge to be excited and engaged while interacting with children when all I could think about was food. Today, I started thinking about how the food I bought is possibly going to last me the rest of the week. It’s a worry I’m sure is a scary reality for some people every week of their lives. The theme of the day is food as medicine. I did not realize how quickly I would start to feel the effects from a lack of nutrients. I can only imagine that once I start eating normal again with copious amount of fruits and vegetables, my energy level, mood, and everything will improve. Antioxidants do the body wonders.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates
Each day this week, Maryland Hunger Solutions is sending out an email with a different facet of the problem of hunger to reflect on . The theme yesterday was homelessness. What hit me the most is that a lot of states do not accept food stamps for prepared foods. I believe in Maryland, food stamps can only be used on groceries. As a dietitian, I have always felt strongly in the past about food stamps being used just on healthy foods, fresh produce, and groceries. I used to hate the proposed bills to allow food stamps to be used at fast food restaurants. But today, I realized that there are homeless people on food stamps that do not have a way to cook anything! I did a good bit of work with the homeless population in college, but never really connected it to my profession before. And even people who have housing may have a limited kitchen or may deal with their power getting shut off frequently.
In Baltimore, there are homeless people EVERYWHERE. It’s not like other cities where there’s one part of town where they hang out and people try to avoid it. The sermon at church this week was about Jesus and the woman in Samaria. The fact that Jesus went through that town on his Journey and not around it was pretty radical since the Jews hated the Samaritans. I am always blown away by Jesus’ perfect balance of grace and truth. The order is significant. He first showed the woman grace by offering her living water, and then spoke truth into her life.
I’m not saying you have to give money to every homeless person that asks you or walk around alone in Sandtown at 2 am, but I just think we need to be aware of the needs around us and have a heart for people made in the image of God. It’s not our job to judge their motives; God just calls us to give. I want to challenge you to find something that works for you. For me, I keep granola bars or snacks in my purse and my car for my commute and I frequently give those out when asked for money. Some people don’t even want money. They just want the dignity of being treated like a human being. So if I don’t have anything on me, the least I can do is look them in the eye and acknowledge them, maybe even smile and ask how they’re doing.
The cardboard signs I see daily are a reminder to me of my own brokenness. We all have struggles in our lives, some are just more obvious than others. There’s a YouTube video called cardboard testimonies I saw back in college and I think it’s a beautiful picture of the realness we need to have about our struggles and how God’s power can allow us to overcome them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ
So many sins are hidden and not talked about in the church. Just because I’m not homeless and holding a sign asking for food, does not mean I have my life together. I am just as broken if not more than that person on the street. Realizing that you are that person is key and although it may be different, we can share in the brokenness of humanity. In this economy, you are only one paycheck away from being on the street. Our benches proclaim we are the greatest city in America, but we have people everywhere who are hungry and without housing sleeping on these benches. It angers me to no end. I so badly want change and I pray for revival for this city. It can be an overwhelming problem, but the power of ONE is what motivates me. One granola bar, one smile, one conversation.
A speaker at the hunger conference shared his story once about sleeping in a shelter one night. He was asleep on the floor and the man next to him was not moving. The workers and the shelter were kicking the man trying to see if he was alive because no one wanted to touch him. The speaker said he woke up to this and leaned over to take the man’s pulse and realized he was indeed dead. In that moment, he realized that could be him: alone and dying at 40 years old as an “untouchable.” He also shared how he had type 2 diabetes when he was homeless due to the poor quality of his diet, but was able to reverse it by healthy eating once he got his own place. I love to hear success stories of food as medicine, which just so happened to be the theme of today 🙂
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” -John 4:24
Today marks day 2 of the food stamp challenge. I know they say the first few days are supposed to be easy, but it’s been tough. Maybe it’s because I’m used to grazing or mindlessly snacking all day. Or maybe I’m actually lacking some key nutrients that I’m used to eating every day. It does not take long for the effects to set in.
-Even the first day I was dragging around the time I would usually run to Starbucks for a chai latte or make one at home. I’m not someone who is addicted to caffeine or needs it every day, but it is definitely something I am used to getting for a pick me up when needed.
-The price of my $5 latte is more than a school gets in reimbursement to feed one child for a week.
-l rarely let money stop me from doing things, especially with food. I am a complete foodie, so good food is something I always make room for in my budget. Sure I complain all the time that I have student loans and I’m in debt, but I really have no clue what it means to be in need.
-I don’t eat out all the time, but it’s not abnormal for me to splurge every so often and drop $30 at happy hour. That makes me sick. That I will spend the same amount of money in one sitting that most people need to eat with for the entire week. I was making plans with a friend this week and realized how much of my social life revolves around food and going out. Not only can I not meet a friend for dinner, but that $5 glass of wine that’s a great deal during happy hour is not within my means either.
-I’m already having headaches and difficulty concentrating. I noticed it last night when I was at a bible study, but I cannot imagine having to get through an 8 hour school or work day.
For dinner last night, I had 1/2 sweet potato, 1/2 head broccoli and rice. This morning for breakfast I had bread with peanut butter, a banana and 1/2 of an apple. Lunch was 1/2 of a can of tuna with some avocado mixed in over a salad with some chickpeas and some bread. Dinner was leftovers from last night. I’m already noticing the lack of variety in my diet. As a kid, I would complain about having the same meal too often. I can’t imagine being a kid that has to eat Ramen every night for dinner 😦
So that’s all folks. Stay tuned for some deeper conversation about homelessness and hunger.
I had the honor of attending three weddings during the past month! I used to be that girl that never wanted to get married, but I must say, couples like these give me hope. I wanted to wait until the end of the fall wedding season and do a post with highlights from each one.
Sickle-Benjamin Wedding 9/21/13
A lovely day at Greenwell State Park that even the rain could not ruin! In fact, it did not even start raining until the ceremony was over and we were all in the tent. I grew up in youth group with Greg and although I do not know Kaitlin very well, I can tell that she is the perfect match for him. They are an amazing Godly couple that were so sweet to watch the entire night. What I will remember most about this special day is that during her speech, the maid of honor said when she asked Kaitlin what she loved most about Greg, it was that they serve better together than apart. I could not stop the tears at that point. What a beautiful summary of what marriage is all about.
Phelan-Berube Wedding 10/12/13
I was so lucky to be a part of celebrating Kathleen and Matt’s wedding. I have known Kathleen for a very long time. I believe we met in 7th grade math class. I hate math more than anything so she was the one good thing I got out of prealgebra 🙂 We are in fact distantly related.. by marriage. I was showing a friend at work pictures from the wedding and she was like oh my gosh is that your sister?! I took it as a compliment since Kathleen is absolutely gorgeous and I would be lucky to be related to her. Since I have known Kathleen for a while, I have been there through most of her dating life. But when I met Matt, I knew something was different and that they were really great for each other! He challenges her in a way that no one else every has. It was so sweet that he started crying during his speech at the wedding and couldn’t even get out the words what he wanted to say to Kathleen. Real men can cry so he’s definitely a keeper 🙂
Davenport-Dembeck Wedding 10/19/13
A chilly fall day at Rocks State Park set the stage for Neil and Laura’s wedding. Every relationship takes work and things will not always be easy, but at the end of the day, Neil and Laura totally get each other on a soul level. Although the best man speech was filled with deep thoughts from Dumb and Dumber and Wayne’s World, the quote I will remember was from the pastor during the ceremony. He said “remember to love the most the one who loves you the most.” Meaning put God first in your relationships and everything in life and that will make your worldly relationships that much better. I’m so glad I got to be a part of this special day for them!
I am just overwhelmed with joy, happiness, and excitement for each of these couples. I cannot wait to see where this wonderful advernture takes you!
So today marks day one of the Food Stamp Challenge I am participating in with Maryland Hunger Solutions. $30 comes from the data collected on the average amount of money allocated per person per week on food stamps.
I first learned of this challenge at a showing of A Place at the Table. http://www.magpictures.com/aplaceatthetable/. I was really inspired and wanted to try it for myself one week. When I registered for the hunger conference I saw that Maryland Hunger Solutions was hosting a week coming up so I immediately signed up. I will be blogging my way through the week from October 21st-27th and will be sharing my thoughts here. I kind of cheated already since I went “shopping” in my house. My mom had just gone grocery shopping and I’m not one to waste food, so I looked up prices for everything at safeway.com and chose my rations for the week based on what we had.
I ended up wasting a lot of my precious dollars on fresh produce. If I had been shopping in a store I may have gotten some frozen veggies instead. I started planning meals around protein items: beans, canned tuna, and peanut butter. I then chose some whole grains: brown rice and whole wheat flour (I figured this would be versatile to make into tortillas or whatever). Then I added some fruits and veggies: salad, apples, bananas, avocado, broccoli, and a sweet potato. Apples took up the bulk of my budget at $0.88 each. I realize this diet is vegetarian (or technically pescatarian because of the tuna). So it’s not totally realistic since most people prefer to spend their money on meat and not vegetables. I also think having kids would make it 100 times harder since they are not going to be satisfied with a sweet potato and salad for lunch.
I originally thought this would be easy, after all, I have been a “poor” college student before. But in crunching the numbers, I found it really hard and had to prioritize and make sacrifices in certain areas. I definitely had to choose between more vegetables or dairy. Notice, I did not have any money left for my luxury items of almond milk and greek yogurt. I only have to survive a week without it, but I can see where the malnutrition begins in situations like this. I understand now why someone would prefer to spend $2 on the dollar menu at McDonald’s instead of a $2 bag of salad. Because it’s more calorically dense and it fills you up more, thus leading to obesity and proving the point that someone can be overfed calorie wise but undernourished. I also have access to a car and the ability to browse ads and online for things on sale.
Some basic rules:
- Only eat food you purchase for the Challenge, and if you eat a meal out, that must come out of your $30.
- Don’t eat other food already in your home (exceptions: spices and condiments).
- Don’t accept food at meetings or events (exception: water).
I slept in today and went for a 10 mile run, which also doesn’t mimic the lifestyle of someone working 2 jobs, 16 hours a day and then taking two buses to a grocery store. My first meal was lunch. I had 1/2 an apple with peanut butter, 1/2 can tuna, 1/2 avocado on some home-made flatbread. On a small scale, I’m already starting to feel the pangs of hunger…
I tried to keep this one and all my future blog posts short and sweet. Please continue to read along the rest of the week!
Happy Belated Birthday Mom! 10/13/13
I like to think that gift giving is one of my “love languages,” but I usually only make time for really thoughtful, planned gifts around Christmas time. And working for free as an intern last year definitely taught me how to get creative with gift giving on a budget. The busyness of my internship last year also taught me that sometimes time can be a gift in itself just my making time to be there for someone. My mom always insists she doesn’t need anything so I figured a blog post would be a good gift this year.
I saw Lady Antebellum in concert this year just before Mother’s Day and the lyrics to their song, Mother Like Mine stuck with me and served as the basis for the card I made my mom. The message is beautiful, basically that the world would be a better place if everyone had a mother like their own. The root of a lot of problems in this world stems from a lack of love, and how people choose to fill that void. My mom and I had our share of fights over the years, but at the end of the day, I always knew I was loved and that she believed in me.
Everyone would follow their dreams.
My mom always saw something in me that she knew would change the world one day. She did not know what it would look like, but she saw my stubbornness as a defiant child as something that could be channeled into something good. My dreams evolved over the years as I considered the possibility of becoming a veterinarian, lawyer, nurse, and finally a dietitian. I have her to thank actually. She was the one who first told me that there is such a thing as a dietitian. Over the years, she watched me as I read food labels, asked her to buy salads to go with dinner, and read articles online about current nutrition trends and she knew I was onto something. She set me up to shadow her friend who works at Hopkins as an RD. I found a profession that resonated so much with me internally and I have never looked back.
Everyone would be themselves and love it.
I don’t know anyone else that would have put up with and embraced my goofiness the way she did. She said I was one of a kind. I have my own set of weaknesses and quirks, but my mom always loved them because they were a part of who I was. She liked that I was completely myself and didn’t care if people didn’t like it. Just a side-note, embarrassing stories from my childhood is a post for another time.
Everyone would have their own personal cheerleader.
My mom was always there for me when I was facing major life challenges whether it was a tough class, getting cut from a team, surviving my dietetic internship (those of you who know me or have gone through this process know that it is one of worst years of your life) or going through my first heartache. They seem small now, but at the time, it was a crisis and it was earth shattering. She always reminded me there was something better right around the corner and that my time will come. There were times when I didn’t believe in myself, but she did and that is what got me through. She always told me she was proud of me, even when I felt I had failed. We need people like that in our life because we are human and weak and there are times when we have self-doubt and need to hear from others that we can do it. I can thank her for the perseverance I have today and the ability to see obstacles and discouragement and as motivation. When someone doesn’t think I’m capable of doing something, I love proving them wrong.
Everyone would have fresh food, and appreciate where it comes from.
I have my mom’s dad to really thanks for this. He gave my mom her green thumb. I always looked forward to the days when we got to go over to Nan and Pop’s and pick strawberries, lima beans, plums or green beans. My mom loves gardening today and has been so supportive in my desire to fight hunger and food insecurity. She was always the one during college sending me articles about new urban farms in popping up in Baltimore or health food stores replacing old corner stores. She was lovingly nudging me to move home I’m sure, but was actually cultivating an interest in me that would grow into an unstoppable, fiery passion. Honestly, I never thought I would move back here or fall completely in love with Baltimore for that matter. But because of the amazing things happening around Baltimore right now, I can’t help but stay and get involved. As my sister Colleen likes to say, “it’s in my blood.”
We would all have faith that could move mountains.
Most importantly, I can thank my mom for the faith and trust I have in the Lord today. She and my dad were pretty radical back in the day and decided to leave the Catholic Church to begin searching for something deeper. Although I still have very different views than my parents on some matters of faith, I can thank both of them for wanting more for our family. They introduced me to church as a way of living through faith instead of just going somewhere once a week to be a good person and check it off your list.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
So that’s it. Happy Birthday Mom! I love you so much 🙂
P.S. There is a story behind the picture at the top. First of all, Colleen loves to point out the fact that I was crying in all the pictures from my childhood. It was always something. I hated the feeling of sand on my feet. (I have some sort of weird tactile disorder because I used to hate when my socks had”lumps” in them.) I was quite a “spirited child” back in the day, which is th politically correct term for difficult. See definition below:
“The spirited child–often called ‘difficult’ or ‘strong-willed’–possesses traits we value in adults yet find challenging in children. Research shows that spirited kids are wired to be ‘more’–by temperament, they are more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and uncomfortable with change than the average child.”
–from Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Anyways, my mom would hold me for the entire duration of our vacations to keep me from having a meltdown. That’s true love ❤
I had the opportunity to attend the annual fighting hunger in Maryland Conference last Wednesday. It was something I went to last year as an intern, and decided to go this year to get my networking on, start getting some continuing education credits, and just get a reminder of things that inspire and motivate me. The beginning of the day was super depressing honestly. Everyone could not stop talking about the government shutdown, whether it was the speakers, or just chatter amongst the attendees.
I have to say though, things started to look up when there was a panel that included a few “witnesses to hunger.” I don’t know why, but I cry every time I see something like this. It must mean I have chosen the right profession. Their stories will haunt you and motivate you at the same time. You hear stories of living conditions that you thought only existed in third world countries.
That’s what this issue is all about. The faces and the stories. I get so angry when people try to say that people abuse this system. I know it is a broken system and I am sure it happens, but not to the extent that people say it does. Some reasearch shows that the food stamp program only has a 1% rate of fraud and 3% rate of error. I feel that the media.. cough cough fox news (which is not based on facts and is not even considered news in my book) blows things out of proportion such as the surfer dude in California using food stamps for a lobster dinner.
Federal programs need to be strengthened to get people out of the place where they are. It was designed to be a temporary type of system, but the system does not give people enough to get by even when they are working full-time or multiple jobs, so they become reliant on it in a way and stuck where they are.
Just a side note, I signed up to take the Food Stamp Challenge from OCtober 21-27 and I will have to eat with just $30/week. I will be blogging through my experience so come back for that. I think it will give me real perspective and increase my compassion towards people who have this as their reality every day.
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The food stamp program’s first administrator, Milo Perkins said this in 1939: “We got a picture of a gorge, with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm.” The program ended when the conditions that brought the program into being , unused food surpluses and rampant unemployment, no longer existed. Imagine that?! This is a bipartisan issue. Access to healthy food is a basic human right and I’m pretty sure it is on the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so we will never move forward as individuals or as a society without it.
25% of kids in Baltimore city live in food deserts. That seems to be a trendy term these days but according to the Baltimore Food Policy Intiative is defined as: An area where the distance to a supermarket is more than ¼ mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 40% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index score for supermarkets, convenience and corner stores is low (measured using the Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey).
I also thought it would be helpful to differentiate between food security, food insecurity, and hunger.
According to the official USDA definition, food security is defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods and an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. Food insecurity is limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. Hunger is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food.
Our kids are overfed, yet undernourished. Childhood obesity statistics are on the rise, so people don’t think we have a problem with hunger at all! Every healthy society in the world has a low rate of income disparity. With more income disparity, there is a loss of opportunity. These issues are more than just food. There is a lot of expertise and collaboration needed beyond my scope of practice as a dietitian. The future of our country is at stake. People don’t realize how much nutrition affects kids’ ability to learn and focus in school. They are the future of this country and societies have problems when their citizens are not educated. I know some people like to think that churches and charities can pick up the slack and that it’s not the government’s job. But it would take every single church, mosque, synagogue etc, donating $50,000/year for ten years to cover the snap benefits.
And while I’m on my soapbox, just a note about Obamacare, which if some of you don’t know is the same thing as the Affordable Care Act.
Now, I’m no economist, but one of the speakers used a great analogy. You cannot just go into a supermarket and get food, so that makes it a market sort of model that runs itself. But because you can go into a hospital and receive care, it shows that it is not a market and requires some sort of government intervention. The entire system we have for insurance operating like a market is ridiculous. I heard a story the other day that a woman was pregnant and had to switch insurance when she got a new job. The new insurance would not cover her because her pregnancy counted as a “pre-existing condition.” That makes me sick. Haha pun intended.
Again, I’m sure Obamacare is not perfect and it will need some revision, but some sort of change definitely needs to happen soon. And for now, I am grateful that it allows me to stay on my parents insurance until I’m 26, considering I still do not have a steady full-time job and may not even receive benefits when I do find one. Another visual this speaker used it the hammock idea. Many conservatives try to say it’s time to cut the hammock. Well, there is no hammock, just a crappy, porous safety net. And a note on this whole government shut down, I think we’ve been doomed for a while considering the model of democracy works when their citizens are informed. But we do not have an informed society. People don’t have time these days so a lot of information comes to us through twitter or Facebook or if we happen to have time to watch tv and catch the news, which is usually biased anyways.
I’ll be honest, I am not as informed about politics as I was in college. I cannot cite all the studies or where these statistics came from. You can cite statistics all day about the prevalence of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. But for me, the fact that it happens to one person is this country is unacceptable. And although this conference had a very liberal spin on things, I consider myself pretty moderate and think that these are not issues that should be divisive.
Now onto something more positive. The sessions after lunch seemed to have glimmers of hope sprinkled throughout. Baltimore really is a sort of hub for work in food insecurity and is leading the nation in creative approaches to tackling this multifaceted issue.
Things that make me happy:
-The EBT benefits (electronic benefit transfer aka food stamps) used at farmer’s markets has been increasing exponentially over the past three years, The pilot year, a total of $15,000 were used, $42,000 the next year, and $90,000 the next year.
-The work I have done with low-income parents over the past year at my internship showed me that 99.9% of them want to eat healthy food and want that for their kids, but just don’t know where to find it or how to pay for it.
-A program called Baltimore Bucks will double someone’s EBT benefits up to $5 at a farmer’s market since they are spending it on fresh produce.
-Baltimarket is a free, virtual pea-pod type of delivery program to reach people in food deserts.
-There is a prescription assistance program where a doctor can literally write a prescription for fruits and vegetables for a patient and they will receive $10 to spend at a farmer’s market. That just made my heart sing. And that’s why I probably could never work in a hospital when I’m really being honest with myself. That is the direction our healthcare system needs to be heading. From “Sick Care” to “Health Care.” From reactive to proactive.
-There are tons of community projects being funded that focus on urban gardens, mobile farmer’s markets, kitchen renovations, cooking classes , etc. and even one modeled after the Jamie Oliver community kitchen idea to give people the skills they need to prepare healthy food.
-Real Food Farm in Clifton Park was one organization I had the pleasure of working with during my internship. They have a mobile farmer’s market that visits low-income areas and last year 20% of their sale were SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program aka the new name for food stamps after the 2008 farm bill) benefit recipients.
I know this post was super opinionated and probably very biased as well. But for me, this is not a political issue, it’s a heart issue. Because of my values and the way I live my life, I cannot help but feel called to be a part of the solution. I truly believe in the power of the individual. I can’t save the world of hunger by myself, but I can do everything in my power to make sure I am not harming others by my actions or votes.
A quote from the Dali Lama, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
And finally, to end with a quote from my favorite person:
.. whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.. Matthew 25:40
Again, thanks for hanging in there for all of this 🙂
Indignation: Anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy. I think the emotions this day brought out in me is just all the more confirmation that I want to dedicate my life’s work to pediatric research and be a part of the solution. Thanks again for joining me in this journey!