Category Archives: Movies and Documentaries

The Perennial Plate: Episode 83

Here’s Daniel Klein’s tribute to Prune Restaurant on 1st Street in NYC via video montage. This was just another stop on Klein’s Real Food Road Trip. (Okay, it was two summers ago, but I’m still catching up on these episodes!)

The Perennial Plate: Episode 82

Warning: This video is graphic. It’s about a halal slaughterhouse in Queens, New York, that sources many of its chickens from small farms and is run by a guy who believes in the humane treatment of the animals he buys for food. And many people in the neighborhood prefer to come here and pay a premium for natural, free-range, organic, or pastured chickens rather than paying cheap prices at the grocery store down the street because of the way the chickens are slaughtered and processed.

The Perennial Plate: Episode 81

I skipped a couple of The Perennial Plate episodes (number 79 and 80) in my plan to cover their Real Food Road Trip from Season Two since Daniel Klein and Mirra were on a bit of a hiatus. So here’s Episode 81, which covers two of my favorite topics: growing food and New York City. And, one of my favorite places on the East Coast: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

It’s a Farming State of Mind.

What Can You Do to Fight Hunger?

Consider this: 1 in 4 U.S. kids don’t know where their next meal will come from. In our country, we subsidize the wrong products. Millions of Americans live in food deserts without access to healthy ingredients. The foods we should be eating—fruits and vegetables—are more expensive than the chips, sodas, and processed foods that are available. We currently spend a mere $1 per week per child in school meal programs. Food stamp participants are only allocated $4 a day to survive.

Last year, in response to a local hunger challenge, I did a series of blog posts on How to Eat Healthy on $5 a Day. My goal was to demonstrate that $5 a day (close to the allotment provided by the SNAP food stamp program) can go a long way towards healthy food (as opposed to cheap processed food). And that even takes into account Bill’s food allergies and our preference for happy food (local, organic, sustainable, humane). The experiment lasted five days.

I’m one of more than a hundred bloggers donating today’s post to raise awareness about hunger. It’s all in support of an initiative called Food Bloggers Against Hunger, which was created in response to the new documentary A Place at the TableIt’s also in partnership with Share Our Strength‘s efforts in Washington to protect SNAP funding and make anti-hunger legislation a priority.

When the government subsidizes products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest. One thing I learned by Day 5 of my experiment last year was that legumes are cheap. And, of course they’re healthy!

So today I’m sharing some of my favorite cheap and easy recipes that could easily take the place of processed and fast food to help keep Americans fed and healthy.

Split-Pea Soup in a Crockpot

Yellow Split Pea Soup

Cuban Black Beans and Brown Rice

Refried Cuban Black Beans with Brown Rice and Quesadillas

Nutty Rice Porridge

Use leftover brown rice to make this next recipe for breakfast. Buy apples from the farmers’ market when in season.

Nutty Rice Porridge

Kale Chips

Kale is fairly ubiquitous and seems to be available much of the year. Kale chips are a great alternative to potato chips. Much healthier, and easy to make!

Curly kale

Red Lentil Soup

Shourba Ads, or Red Lentil Soup

I recently watched A Place at the Table. And one thing I learned is that hunger in America cannot be eliminated by creating bigger food banks. The only way to stop hunger is by changing policies, so it’s important we make our voices heard. If you’re inspired by the trailer for A Place at the Table, go see it. (You can also watch it on demand through iTunes and Amazon.)

If you’re moved to action, please consider sending a letter to Congress to support anti-hunger legislation.

Let’s obliterate hunger in America!

Everyone Deserves a Place at the Table

It’s hard to believe the number of people who go hungry in this country every day. It’s around 50 million. And about 17 million of those people are children. But I think our image of hungry people is distorted. I know mine has been. Hunger to me has always meant malnourished. Skin and bones. Living skeletons. These are examples of extreme hunger that has gone too far. But hunger in America often means the opposite: people who are overweight because the food they’re eating is crap. They don’t get the nutrients they need. And it’s often the root cause for a number of diseases, such as heart failure and diabetes. The cost of hunger and food insecurity to the U.S. economy is $167 billion per year.

It’s not just about the day-to-day hunger due to lack of food, but also the continual stress and wasted energy spent on figuring out how to make ends meet. How frustrating it must be for people who are driven to work but then make too much to qualify for food stamps. Food is the most basic of all human needs. It should be a right.

I recently watched the new documentary, “A Place at the Table” where I learned many of these facts. Like I’ve seen in movies such as “Food, Inc.” and “King Corn,” or read in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, part of the problem stems from the monoculture we’ve created. Our government actually encourages farmers to grow certain crops such as wheat, soy, and corn, which are then funneled into the food industry in the form of processed food. This so-called food is cheap and accessible to people who live in food deserts—places where it’s difficult to get fresh, healthy food.

Why should a state like Mississippi suffer from food deserts when its climate is prime for farming most of the year? Mississippi is known for its rank as the most obese state, largely due to its poverty rate and lack of access to healthy food.

According to the documentary, one out of two children will require food assistance during their lifetime. And this affects their development–physically, emotionally, and socially. As Harry Truman once said, a country is only as strong as its youth. For the first time ever, this generation of children is poised to live sicker and die younger than its parents’ generation.

Jeff Bridges, founder of Share Our Strength, says, “Charity is a great thing but it’s not the way to end hunger. We don’t fund our Defense Department through charity.” Why not spend the money on fixing hunger, which can do so much more for people’s health in the long run?

The issue isn’t about lack of food. It’s about poverty: offering people a living wage so they can afford food. We need to address this issue in our government. What can be more important than feeding our fellow citizens?

Keepers of the Seed

You’ve probably heard a lot about Monsanto and its drive to continue producing  GMOs and pesticides. But what is its impact on a person’s livelihood? It can go as far as suicide.

The Perennial Plate recently went to India and interviewed environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva on the reality of these issues. Watch this video called “Two Options” to learn more about Dr. Shiva, a farmer named Bija Devi, their network of seed keepers,  and their fight to preserve heirloom seeds in India.

The Perennial Plate: Episode 78

Insects as protein. Watch David Gracer, an entomophagy (bug eating) expert, offer a good case for making wider use of bugs.  He’s eating them to save the planet, not to make a buck.