Inspired by the new documentary film, A Place at the Table, fellow blogger Nicole Gulotta has asked hundreds of us to “donate” our posts today to help raise the issue of hunger and food insecurity in America, and I’m proud to join this chorus.
Of the more than seven billion people on this planet, nearly one billion are hungry. Yet we produce enough food right now to feed ten billion people. It’s clearly not a question of production; it’s issues of distribution, poverty, inequality, and policy.
As many as 50 million Americans are food insecure – including 1 in 5 children – and rely on the Supplemental Assistant Nutrition Program (formerly known as “food stamps”), which provides (only) about $3 or $4 of assistance each day to pay for food.
I believe that SNAP is a good and necessary program (even if I’ve been critical of parts of SNAP in the past), but it’s ultimately a band-aid. There are a few ways we can fix these inequalities, but it’s mostly going to come from political might and the stroke of a pen. Improving our economy, increasing wages, and reducing pay inequality is the place to start, of course. Beyond the obvious, though: We subsidize corn and soy beans to the tune of about $4 billion a year (most of the corn is used for animal feed and corn syrup) thus reducing the price of processed foods. Yet we subsidize fresh fruits and vegetables with about $825 million – and that includes all of them, not just one or two species.
Then please let Congress know that SNAP is a critical program that should not be cut or reduced.
I’d also like to highlight another benefit of the SNAP program that most people aren’t aware of: SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food-producing plants! So if you’re receiving SNAP assistance I encourage you to consider using your benefits to help you grow some of your own food.
Additionally, EBT (Electronics Benefits Transfer) cards are now being accepted at many farmers markets. Even better, some markets also offer a “bonus” credit for purchases made using SNAP. I know of one market in Long Beach, CA, for example, that basically doubles the benefits through a matching program. So $5 worth of EBT credit becomes $10 worth of fresh farmers market produce. How great is that? So talk to your farmers market manager, and make sure they accept EBT cards (if they don’t, send them to this page!)
Nicole also suggested we share a budget-friendly recipe in our posts, and I immediately thought of this Fettucine with Tomato Avocado Sauce. I discovered this recipe twenty-ish years ago in John Robbins’ powerful Diet for a New America (which was just recently updated to a second edition!), and I’ve always loved it as an easy and unique dish, with a high “bang for your buck” ratio. I haven’t actually looked at his version of the recipe in many years, since I just make it from memory now – so I’m calling this one “adapted” as I’m sure it’s drifted a bit from the original (I also use whole wheat pasta now, of course!). It’s definitely a crowd-pleaser, and leftovers keep pretty well in the fridge, too. Enjoy!
- 1 pound Whole Wheat Fettuccine or Linguine
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1½ pounds tomatoes, diced (peeling is optional)
- 4 to 8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- ½ cup wine or pasta water (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (more or less to your spiciness preference)
- 3-4 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced, or ½ teaspoon dried basil
- 2-3 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into approx. ½" cubes
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. (If you start cooking the sauce at the same time as you start boiling your pot of water, they'll both finish around the same time.)
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and diced onion. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally. Around this time, add the garlic too.
- After about 5-10 minutes, the tomatoes will begin breaking down and releasing their juice. Continue simmering and stirring as the mixture becomes runnier - as the liquid condenses the sauce will get a bit thicker. Optionally add the wine or pasta water. Continue simmering until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Add the salt, pepper, chili flakes, and basil and adjust to taste.
- Just before you're about to serve dinner, turn off the heat and gently stir in the avocado. The idea is for the sauce to warm the avocado, but not let it get too mushy.
- Portion out some pasta, ladle some sauce on top, and dig in!
More tips for eating well on a tight budget: