One out of every two children is on some sort of food assistance today. Families are living on a daily food budget of three dollars a day for an entire family. I’ll spend twice that on an afternoon doughnut treat for my daughter and her friends. Or for a morning coffee and copy and a magazine that talks about food.
It’s time to put our voices where our mouths are and make some noise to fix what is wrong with the state of nutrition in our country. Thanks to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry initiative and education of the general public through documentaries like A Place at the Table, the food plight of millions of American’s is being exposed.
When I walk into my daughter’s classroom in the morning, that’s when the notion that this is a real problem hits home. As I look around the continually changing and growing faces, I watch and wonder about who had what for breakfast. Do they look deflated because it’s early and they didn’t want to crawl out from their covers or because breakfast didn’t give them the energy their growing minds need? If they did eat was it a meal balanced with protein, whole grains and calcium or did they swiftly down a sugar soaked cereal that will bring them to a mid-morning crash? Or maybe they had nothing at all?
My daughter and I have an after school routine where she tells me three things about her day. The one I always care about most is about her lunch and how much she ate. While I loved school lunch as a kid, I pack my Smudge’s lunch instead. I want her meal to be balanced. I want to know what is in it and I want to know how much of it she’s eating. I’m not totally hard core about organic and avoiding sugars at all costs, but I definitely don’t want her eating frozen pizza or deep fried french fries everyday in lieu of fresh fruit and whole grains. The funny thing is she doesn’t even know what she’s missing. She doesn’t like french fries anyway. Is that why?
I’m pretty sure the majority of the children’s families in my daughter’s school have a pretty healthy notion of eating. But even having money to buy food doesn’t necessarily translate into buying the right food. You still have to make good choices.
Making healthy food, the food that isn’t full of empty calories, the food that doesn’t come from a package, available to low-income families is essential in making a change. Creating meals that utilize fresh vegetables and grains can be extremely economical if you know how to prepare them.
Eating empty-calorie foods not only serves low nutritional value but ironically creates obesity.
In my opinion, the main solution to avoid this is with education.
Educating not only mothers and fathers, but children who will be cooking soon enough for themselves about how to create menus that stretch for more than one meal, which combinations of food groups get the biggest bang for the buck and simple recipes with simple ingredients that are tasty and economical is the key to the next generation of feeding our nation’s children.
And a lot of that, right now, is at risk of going away.
Congress is currently considering cutting funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that supplies low-income assistance, children’s school food programs and even disaster relief feeding programs. Take a moment and let our governing Congress know how you feel about these nutrition programs.
I’m happy to share the message behind this post thanks to the organization of Nicole of the food blog Eat This Poem who is spearheading the charge for food bloggers to take action with her creation of The Giving Table, where she has organized over 150 food bloggers to participate in today’s Food Bloggers Against Hunger. Support the following food blogger’s by visiting their sites for more great information and recipes.
It’s not too late for you to join the cause. Support the movement by visiting The Giving Table, telling Congress what you think, watch the film on demand through iTunes and Amazon and follow the feed on Instagram and Twitter hashtags at #takeyourplace.
And now to the recipe.
Quinoa might sound a tad unconventional to the everyday American, a bit on the hippie side of eating. I was first introduced to Quinoa when I worked for a natural foods publication. It sounded sooooo, odd. But it’s so far from odd. I find it similar to cous cous, but with far more nutritional value.
Quinoa has a history of health and nutrition and is a superfood powerhouse. Originating 3000 years ago, this whole grain is the perfect example of a food that just needs a little acceptance by the general public to embrace it as a replacement for empty calories. Gluten-free, high in protein, fiber, amino acids, calcium and iron.
Hence it’s won the distinction of bearing the coveted moniker: Superfood. It’s kind of like the royal family of the nutrition world.
I added Quinoa to a simple salad of protein packed avocado, vitamin and folate packed fresh spinach, lycopene and vitamin C filled red bell peppers dressed with a chimichurri sauce with heart healthy garlic and detoxifying lemon juice.
Real food = real nutrition.
I first had this avocado chimichurri at my friend Courtney’s house, where she make it as an appetizer on bruschetta, torn from the pages of an 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. The taste wooed me immediately and quickly made its way into my avocado obsession as this salad.
If you’d like to serve this as an appetizer, dice the avocado with chunks of roasted red bell pepper and serve with crackers or slices of baguette drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted.
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