Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


French Bread

French bread
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
This is Hunger Action Week in King County. In 2007 I shared my thoughts on the Oregon governor's Food Stamp Challenge. Everything I said then is true now. If anything I feel even more strongly , considering the way the country has changed in the last three years.

In theory I'm up for this challenge but having felt plenty of food insecurity not only do I have no desire to relive the experience but keeping my pantry stocked "just in case" is, hmm, obsession is too strong but let's say it's a high priority. So instead of tracking my spending and trying to cook from only what I bought for the week I've been trying to honor the spirit of the challenge by using what I have on hand in my newly reorganized pantry and my freezer. In a case of handy timing, our "junk food" cupboard is bare so there are no chips, pretzels, sodas or other prepackaged snacks in the house at the moment.

Despite all of my food-loving ways I've never had good luck with breads. I can whip up a quick bread, muffins, cakes, cookies, or bars with good results. Yeast breads, dinner rolls, even biscuits have been another story though. Even using a bread maker has been 50% disappointment. Seattle has many lovely local bakeries supplying the local markets with an array of fresh breads but at $3.00 to $4.50 per loaf (and with a daughter who loves bread just slightly less than potatoes and slightly more than rice in her largely white food diet) that can get spendy, especially when I know full well how inexpensive the base ingredients for bread are in comparison.

With the Hunger Awareness Challenge in mind and bread in the house running low, I decided to try again yesterday. I decided to shy away from the bread machine and try going with the Kitchen Aid and my plain ol' oven. I couldn't find my Kitchen Aid recipe booklet I had to rely on the handy Internet. Google helpfully turned up an entry from someone else who didn't want to misplace their Kitchen Aid recipe again and so put it up on RecipeZaar under the name "Old Reliable" French Bread (for Kitchen Aid Mixers). How could I resist a recipe called "Old Reliable"? I couldn't!

What do you know, it worked, too. To my shock and my family's delight, I have successfully made two good loaves of French bread for about $1 in flour. Not quite as excellent as the $4.00 loaves from our local bakery but certainly at least as good as if not better than the $2.00 loaves from the grocery store. If not spurred on by the Hunger Awareness Challenge I wouldn't have made this breakthrough.

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The Hunger Issue

I wrote last month about Oregon Governor Kulongoski's "food stamp challenge". Other elected officials are getting in on the act and trying it for themselves.

Among those publicly sharing their experiences are Ohio Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, whose efforts to live on $3 a day were thwarted when TSA confiscated the peanut butter and jelly he was traveling with (you can read his blog entry about it at the link), Rep. Jan Shakowsky of Illinois, and Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern and
the sole Republican willing to give it a go so far Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri (yay this thing is crossing party lines a bit!) who are co-chairs of the House Hunger Caucus.

Something that Rep. Ryan wrote in his blog shows me he gets it:

I know many people have written in saying that Food Stamps are meant to be a supplement to other income. Well, yeah that is how the program was intended, but it has been 11 years since we've added ANY value to food stamps, 10 years since we've raised the minimum wage and in that time inflation has risen, the price of milk has risen, the price of produce has risen. NOW we find ourselves in a position where with gas well over $3.00 a gallon in many places those who earn the least among us use their food stamp benefit not as a supplement, but as their sole source of income for food.

I've seen plenty of criticism that the people taking the "food stamp challenge" are doing so to score political points, as a "stunt". Perhaps they are just grubbing for publicity and trying to score points with voters when they start, but I can't believe that thinking, feeling human beings can go through the exercise without being moved to have even a little more compassion, a tiny improvement in their understanding of the issue. People are going hungry in the United States and it's not a class of nebulous "bad" people who somehow deserve to be hungry (!?) but working families, children, the elderly, the disabled.

Gas prices are only going to make this problem worse. The Seattle Times ran a story about how food banks were being hurt by gas prices last year! A quote from the article, "...when we start hearing from our loyal cadre of volunteers that some of them can't afford to pick up donated food or do deliveries, we know there is a big problem." How much worse now, when prices for gas in Seattle are between $3.50 and $3.70 a gallon for regular? A couple weeks ago the Seattle media reported that local food banks were completely out of baby food and formula. As summer approaches, kids who get at least one (sometimes two) meals a day at school need to get their food elsewhere. I'm glad, publicity stunts or not, that a least a few people in positions of power may find themselves sufficiently motivated to do something to make sure that America's hungry citizens can eat.

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