False Advertising: NW Harvest Food Drive

One week of food

After I drafted yesterday’s post about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I ran into some folks who get most of their food from local food banks.  We were all waiting to meet with our case manager, who is one of the most wonderful people on the planet.  She blesses everyone she meets with her grace, compassion, brilliance, empathy, love and resourcefulness.  She’s also gorgeous.  She’s an extraordinarily self-actualized person.

Her clients, however, are on the other end of Maslow’s pyramid.  We struggle to eat nutritiously, and most of us are damned grateful we still have a roof over our heads.

When we have extra, we share our bounty.

I arrived yesterday with a huge bag of food I got from the local food pantry that I’m not supposed to eat.  I’m pre-diabetic.  I asked one of the women if she’d like some of the food.  She sneered and said her own pantry groaned with the same excess.  A younger woman snorted.  Pretty soon the room was abuzz with angst over the Northwest Food Harvest’s commercials about feeding a family of four for pennies.  I was stunned to realize I’m not the only person who is highly offended and feels manipulated by non-profit fund-raising and promotion.  

The photo above is what I got today from Northwest Harvest.  My “bounty” is nine potatoes, 3 onions (one rotten), two bags of oatmeal, rice, frozen corn, stewed tomatoes, and two loaves of bread.

Yes.  I’ve got breakfast covered.  It’s a good thing I like oatmeal, and it is heart-healthy.  What about lunch and dinner?  Beans, rice, frozen corn, stewed tomatoes, and bread do not make a healthy meal.  It’s a whole lot of cheap starch ~ deadly to someone who is pre-diabetic.  Where’s the protein?  Where’s the dairy?  Where are the vegetables?  Where are the ingredients that would allow someone to transform a bag of beans into soup?

Chris Voigt

60-Day Potato Diet

Chris Voigt, the Washington State Potato Commissioner, was on the Today Show this morning plugging his diet of 20 potatoes/day for 60 days.  Yes, he dropped weight and his chloresterol levels, but the nutritionist on the show with him said he’d have negative long-term health impacts.

Are There 21 Meals on This Table?

Because I’m a disabled senior citizen, I am allowed to visit a second food bank.  This photo is of my total “bounty” for the week.

Yes, some of the extra food comes from Northwest Harvest, but the good stuff is donated by generous church members and the local grocery store.  However, you have to get a very low number in the weekly lottery to get protein and fresh produce that isn’t garbage.  I’ve learned to check expiration dates after getting a really bad case of  food poisoning.

My banana was black inside.  The turnip is also rotten.  I tossed them.

I had the half sandwich for lunch.  It was fabulous.

For dinner tonight, I have beef stew, potatoes or squash, corn, and stewed tomatoes.  Yum.  There’s a can of chicken and brown rice soup for tomorrow’s lunch.

I’ve got margarine to make toast out of all that bread.  There’s a granola bar for a somewhat healthy snack.  And, there’s a pile of forbidden pastries:  muffins, cookies, carrot cake, brownies, and cheesecake.  Ditto for the brown sugar and flour.

Yes, this is a pile of food, but it isn’t a week’s worth of meals.  It’s going to cost me some serious money to morph the macaroni, lentils, kidney beans, and salmon into a meal.

Lentil soup, for example, requires chicken stock, vegetables, olive oil, and spices.  I’m guessing it will cost me at least $5 to transform a 50 cent bag of lentils into dinner.  I can buy a nice steak for less than $5.

Similarly, it will cost me about $10 to transform that 85 cent can of kidney beans into chili.  I can buy salad for a week with $10.

I’ve fallen in love with salmon after relocating to the Pacific Northwest.  Wild salmon is one of the most healthy sources of protein.  However, the salmon in that can is gross.  I think it is the left over scraps after they can the salmon that’s sold in the grocery stores.

If people had the money to buy the expensive ingredients necessary to create a meal from food bank ingredients, they’d be buying their food in a grocery store and wouldn’t be compelled to rely on a food bank.

I’m profoundly grateful for the loving, compassionate people who work at my local food bank.  They feed my spirit every week.  But, they’re as livid as their client base about how inadequately Northwest Harvest meets the nutritional requirements of people who are forced by hard times to rely on their services.

We don’t need any more damned pasta, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, and beans.  We need protein.  We need fresh fruits and vegetables.  And, we need dairy.  These are the foods we can’t afford to buy.

If you’ve read this far and don’t understand why this is such a serious issue, I invite you to read yesterday’s post about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Food is one of the most basic needs for survival.  We live in a land of agricultural abundance.  There’s no excuse for people not having nutritious food to eat.  The agricultural industry gets a ton of corporate welfare.  They got a lot of “pork” because they promised Congress they’d deliver pork to our most vulnerable citizens.


3 responses to “False Advertising: NW Harvest Food Drive

  1. OMG! Yes, I have heard the same stuff from other friends who have had to visit food banks. They all are having the same problem I think. It definitely is no bonus getting food from these places. Soon, I suppose, the food banks will become more overwhelmed when millions are dropped from the unemployment insurance program because funding was not extended. Merry Christmas folks! We really need Santa now…

  2. Nancy,

    Good to hear from you! Scrooge seems to be alive and well this holiday season.

    I’ve been where those folks are now ~ back in the early 1980s. We got cut off after 18 months. The jobs never did come back.

    Sending hugs and get well and warm holiday wishes,

  3. I have to disagree with you about the food quality. Beans and rice make an excellent and antioxidant-rich protein. Especially if the rice is brown rice. Lentils are packed with protein. Even potatoes have a good amount of protein, although yams are better, vitamin-wise. Also, if you go to the bulk spices and bulk olive oil, you can save a ton of money on these soup-making ingredients.
    You don’t need meat, and you certainly don’t need dairy. I agree that the food banks need to have more fresh vegetables. But the perishable factor weighs heavy. They often donate many of their perishables to meal programs that serve daily, and can get the food cooked in large quantities before it goes bad.
    Check out the nutritional info and recipe section here (The recipes are great for economical ideas too!) http://www.cancerproject.org/
    And Dr. Fuhrman here: http://www.drfuhrman.com/default.aspx

    Thats for starters.
    Also, I’d be happy to help you get more creative with your food bank supplies.

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