May 30, 2012


During the week long Landry residency last month, we spent a lot of time discussing what makes a world-class city…including the fact that immigration is trending away from our traditional European roots to populations migrating from Africa, Asia, India; thus creating the need for an intercultural perspective on our urban lives going forward.


So I welcomed the STRIB article regarding issues of meeting the needs of immigrants and elderly residents through the Emergency Foodshelf Network Initiative.  The recognition of the problem and the availability of grants to assist in meeting the needs of non-whites is encouraging and should be applauded. 


Because, as we must admit if we think about it a minute…the “American” cuisine that sustains us all would  be far different today if we had not over the last 200 years welcomed  and integrated the foods of newly arriving immigrants into our daily sustenance.  The one meal a day, in late morning, consisting of boiled or roasted meat/fish,  seeds, nuts , and berries  with a bit of cactus, cattail, corn, or sweet potato  hardly represents most of the menus of today’s Americans – all influenced and altered by the foods of arriving immigrants.


Yes, using dollars to fund the need that is not being met by food drives should be applauded; we are making a step in the right direction to recognize and accommodate the needs of many of the users of emergency food shelves.  And yet something disturbed me about the article…what was I missing? 


So I re-read it and there it was…the “can of cream of mushroom soup”… and it all came flooding back to me…the lessons I learned in those first days of TASTE OF THE NATION in the Twin Cities – those visits to Second Harvest that demonstrate so well why we need to switch our thinking from a “Food Drive” to perhaps a “healthy, eco-friendly, sustainable Feeding Drive” representative of the changes in our world over the last twenty years.


At Second Harvest, it is easy to see the COST of taking that can of soup or peas out of pantry and putting it in box or barrel at your local church or bank or store…Do we stop to think that the can of mushroom soup we most likely bought for 10 for $10 at our favorite grocery store now has to transported via truck to a food bank, received, sorted, inventoried, stocked, and then re-transported out to the food shelf for distribution? 


Or have we thought about the fact that the Second Harvest buying power when purchasing wholesale and in bulk is much more cost-effective way to provide the necessary sustenance?  Most likely, they can buy that can of soup less expensively than you can donate it to them!


Or, do we realize the items we contribute – mostly convenience goods we use to supplement our fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, dairy and eggs- do not constitute a healthy welcome, and may even teach some very bad habits?  Are we unintentionally contributing to the growth of the Unhealthy population of America?


These are serious issues and the education of how we- as citizens- can help, needs to get back to how we can help both cost-effectively and in a healthy manner!  So I guess in retrospect, I am glad I added an unopened box of barley and some whole-grain penne to my can of mushroom soup in the blue plastic bag left for our postman’s food drive a couple weeks ago.  Not good, but at least a step in the right direction and I am hopeful I can do better next time with a CHECK!


Meanwhile, those sponsoring food drives also need to RETHINK the process.  At a minimum, a mention of the type of foods sought and perhaps a website address for monetary donations would focus in better on the needs.










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