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It’s Not as Easy as Pie [week 2]

June 20, 2011


“A hungry world is indeed a dangerous place. Only when our food policies begin with the hopes and dreams of the urban and rural poor will we build true food security, which will also be a huge step towards homeland security.”
~Peter Mann (Closing the Food Gap — Winne)

Currently reading:
Second Nature — Michael Pollan, aka: God
Closing the Food Gap — Mark Winne

As I’m holding on for dear life while riding my bike down sidewalks that are more uneven than the hills they were built on, looking at the shabby houses that act as a home to the luckier members of the migrant population that lives here on wages that prevent them from consistent access to food, and thinking about the women in Circles who are working so hard to just “get by” on the low wage jobs that put them in the purgatory that exists between food stamps and the middle-class dream, I can’t help but wonder how the United States has the nerve to call itself “developed.” Does a country with a:

a. 13% poverty rate
b. 25-30% obesity rate in EVERY state,
c. and a government full of politicians voting for the budget cuts that will take money NOT from the department of defense or the FDA, but instead the benefits programs for the disabled and elderly,

ever have the right to differentiate itself from the “developing” countries?
is this truly what other countries are supposed to aspire to be?
Just a little food for thought.

It’s the end of week two and unlike the abroad interns this internship isn’t flying by. Instead, Campus Kitchens and I are taking a pleasant speed walk through the summer, and it has been another week of learning, making mistakes, and regular trips to let our dog, Baxter, out to poop.

First, the people at this job never cease to amaze me. If there is one thing that I’ve learned from this week, it’s don’t get in between farmers and their vegetable soup. Seriously. It could result in physical violence. Not really, but they were dead set on using as much parsley as they could. We had a great time preparing our vegetable soup and meatball subs for the Wednesday Circles meeting– especially because it was me, Cam, and three 40+ community members who each had such a strong opinion on how the soup should be made. They were pulling ingredients out from EVERY cabinet, insisting that “there could never be enough parsley” in the soup. It was the first time I “let go” and went with the flow. Like some of my fellow interns have learned, most of the time it’s better to just let them do what they want to do and step back and enjoy the ride, because they know better than anyone what should work. They were so sweet, and the soup came out perfectly, although we had a good laugh at the fact that if anyone ever asked us what the recipe was, we’d have no clue!

The concept of “poverty,” as it was discussed at my white, middle-class household throughout my childhood was something that had strong connotations with laziness and personal failings. That was what I was taught, what my friends were taught, and what our school agreed with. We were under the assumption provided for us by the “American Dream”– that hard work pays off. And it pays well. 

I now understand that that is the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard.

Between my drop-offs to the LIU families (migrant families who CKP delivers meals to every monday and wednesday), our time at circles listening to the financial review and discussion that took place at Circles last Wednesday, my awareness of the “working poor” has expanded in ways I never dreamed possible. I always thought of poverty as the guy holding the cardboard sign on the side of Minneapolis Boulevard as I drove to work, or the people on the news who got in trouble for gang violence, but never once did it occur to me that the lady taking my order at Wendy’s, or the guy who worked as the receptionist at our gym could be in the same (if not worse) living situation. The concept of the working poor blew, and continues to blow my mind. To have a job and STILL not be able to support your family, schedule a dentist appointment, or have a reliable access to food goes against everything that the middle-class American Dream flaunts. I have absolutely no idea how to combat it, or even a suggestion as to something that I think would work to fix this, because it is in every sector of our society, and at every turn there’s eight more roadblocks that are invisible to the middle class that the working poor are all too aware of.

I’m not going to lie and say that I feel like I’m making a world of difference. I don’t. I feel a little helpless, actually. Today I was pulling weed after weed after weed out of what used to be a garden at the senior center, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit stupid at thinking I could single-handedly create a sense of community between the two buildings of seniors by remaking this garden. 85% of the people that live in the buildings can’t even bend down, and probably 40% can’t even get close to it because they use walkers and can’t step up over the curb to walk the 4 feet it takes to get to the vegetable patch. Kim helped me find the coolest site that boasted their “enabling gardens” which are essentially gardens build on top of tables that sit on pavement so that it is both handicap accessible and removes the need for gardeners to have to bend over. Truly a garden for everyone. But how am I supposed to do that with two and a half months, no real plan, and senior center that lacks any enthusiasm for the project?

So what can I do? I don’t know. What I do know is that I have a lot of donated plants to plant, and still don’t know exactly how much space a squash plant actually needs…
Time to return to the library.

Until next time,

1. & 2. Cam & helper Sebastian recycling during our wednesday Circles shift
3. & 4. The lovely ladies putting together meals on wheels boxes
5. Kitchen Chaos
6. The magic soup
7 & 8 All the happy eaters at Circles!




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