Thursday, August 26, 2010

Feeding the People & Helping Them ID Fruit

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook then you probably heard about an incident I had at the grocery store several weeks ago in which the cashier could not identify ginger, avocado, or cantaloupe. My first reaction was one of frustration (you work at a grocery store and you can’t identify a cantaloupe?!), but after I posted my initial tweet I actually started to feel really bad, because I realized that for many people in America the identification of fruit outside of the can really is too much to ask. Why? Lower-middle and lower-class Americans simply cannot afford to purchase or eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Let me say that again: There’s a HUGE segment of the American population that cannot afford to purchase or eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Wow, that’s a big fucking problem.

On average my grocery bill can easily get well over $100 a handful of times in a month, but it’s not like I come home with bags upon bags of groceries. I usually have 3 to 4 bags, two of which are nothing but fresh produce – fruits and vegetables – that’s the bulk of my bill. Lucky for me I have a good job that affords me the luxury of being able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but if I were to come on hard times I can surmise that this is one area in which I would have to cut back to save money. And I own a house and drive a car and have another income flowing in without any kids. Imagine I’m a single mother who rents and I have no car – there is little to cut back on “first” other than food. It’s no wonder the incidence of obesity continues to rise as well as the incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

For a relative outside like me, I hear statistics pertaining to the persistent degenerative public health crisis on evening news programs daily. I know the incidence of preventative illness relating to the American diet is out of control, and I get angered and frustrated when I actually take a moment or two to think about why we’re in this position. We make people choose between clothing themselves or killing themselves because we’ve been trained to value greed and short-term returns instead of communal wellbeing or even foresight into our own futures. We let ourselves off the hook and justify it as “not our problem”, because it ultimately is an individual’s choice as to what he or she eats and how he or she feeds her family. It’s a choice unless buying fresh vegetables means you can’t afford your bus pass, which you need to get to the two jobs that only pay you minimum wage because not only was college not an option but neither was finishing high school because you had to drop out to help pay for your mother’s medication that wasn’t fully covered by Medicaid, but you weren’t learning much anyhow except how to deal drugs out your locker because this country’s public education system is in the middle of a full-blown crisis, and we’d rather fund a war that helps the rich get richer than buy some fucking books for kids who cannot identify fruits or vegetables, but I digress… I’m an outsider. I’ve never been in any of these situations. If I were, I may think shopping in the Plus-size section is just natural, like when I moved out of children’s sizes and into adults, or I may think getting high blood pressure is just like getting your period for the first time or an erection – all these things are natural, right? They’ve happened to everyone around me or will happen to them when they get older.

Deciding, as a society, to let ourselves off the hook for the obesity epidemic and Type 2 diabetes health crisis is ridiculous, irresponsible, ignorant, and idiotic, but making this decision and then not providing the proper education to help empower lower-income families to make different or marginally better choices makes us all downright responsible for every negative repercussion that comes from the creation of one more obese child or another person who becomes a Type 2 diabetic. And I don’t give a shit what the law says about responsibility here, because enforcement of the law is funded by the guy who padded his wallet by voting against better social services in the first place, and fuck him in his ear. Luckily, despite all the elements that have seemingly conspired against the individuals who will be the next to be told they now have diabetes, there are resources that exist within communities that help educate and empower the people who are at the greatest risk for losing the most because they cannot identify a cantaloupe.

On September 11 I’ll be a celebrity judge in attendance at the Goddess Gala, a fundraiser for Feeding the People, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to develop and implement a research-based model of nutrition-related in-home care for under-served, low-income diabetics in order to reduce the incidence of diabetes and diabetes related illnesses in Maryland.”  Feeding the People, the organization putting on the gala, provides home-delivered meals, nutrition education, and intensive, ongoing support for low-income diabetics in the Baltimore area. This first-annual Goddess Gala is a costume ball in which by attending attendees will be helping to empower low-income diabetics with meals, education, and ongoing support. While ticket proceeds go toward this effort, there will also be a silent auction of goods that have been donated by local Gala sponsors (like acupuncture sessions from About Chi Acupuncture - where I go to get stuck!). Tickets are $55 each, and in what you’d have likely spent on an evening out, you’ll have a wonderful evening out dressed as a god or goddess, sprite, nymph, or fairy, enjoying dancing, “delectable delights”, and you might even win the costume contest that will be judged in part by me!

Yes, this is a plug for you to help support Feeding the People, but it’s also a plug for you to wake up. Look at what’s going on around you. Vote in elections accordingly if things upset you. Start or participate in something unifying and beneficial instead of something divisive and greedy. Compassion is an accessory that makes everyone look better, and as an added benefit it may help you feel better too.

Tickets are available here until 9/10, the day before the Gala. I realize there’s a CCRG bout that night, so feel free to send any donations my way if you cannot make it, or make one online here. I’ll be making an appearance at the CCRG afterparty dressed like the goddess that I am, and if you don’t already have plans to attend the bout, come support a good cause with me.


Carrie said...

I don't know what grocery store you were at, but when I worked for Lowe's Food ( a local chain here in the Carolinas) we were required to pass a produce identification test on dozens upon dozens of produce based on what they looked like. While I understand that many people here in the US don't regularly buy fresh produce, if they are working somewhere where they sell it then they should have a general knowledge of what they sell. The ginger I can overlook...the rest -eh- aggravates me. lol

Anonymous said...


Single income family, three kids-- one of whom is "special needs", hubby's a disabled vet. I'm educated, but it doesn't mean I can find a job in my chosen field without at least a masters-- and who can afford that when they can't afford asparagus?!?

While I can definitely IDENTIFY a canteloupe, a starfruit, a papaya and horseradish, I can't afford them.

Happily, with good compost, and a bit of soil, I am able to grow and preserve a lot of the fruit and veggies.

It's sad that Twinkies (verboten in my house) are so cheap in the short term, while the stuff that cuts down on long term costs for everyone in the form of health care, etc is so spendy.

Take bread as another example. Multigrain bread usually runs a little over $2 a loaf, while white bread (you know, the kind with as much nutritional value as Kleenex) is 99 cents.