I don’t normally talk about politics, my wife won’t let me. Also, what I really care about is that people are eating healthy, nutritious food and taking care of themselves. The democratic form of government is not perfect and is quite frustrating at times, but it is a compromise of an amazing and wonderful cross section of people and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
There is one current topic that I believe IS worth discussing. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which used to be called food stamps is experiencing record growth. This should not be surprising since we are in the worst recession since the great depression, but for some politicians and conservative thinkers it is outrageous. 72 Billion was spent last year in the program. That will go down somewhat as people get back on their feet, but don’t expect any precipitous fall. SNAP is part of the Farm Bill which is coming up for renewal right now. Although there is no official word on the cuts, there are rumors that as much as 45 billion is being proposed to be cut. The thinking is that churches will take up the slack. I read one calculation that said that every congregation in the United States would have to come up with $50,000 per year for ten years to make up for this sort of cut. The frightening reality is that there are many people who support this thinking, feeling that “those people” should just go get a job.
I think that the SNAP program should do more to encourage healthy eating, but should not be cut back. Here are a couple of facts. In order to qualify for SNAP you have to have less than $2000 in assets (not including your home). The maximum that you can get for a family of 4 in the State of California is $668 per month. That is if you make nothing. The program assumes that if you make money that you will spend 30% of that income on food and is therefore subtracted from the maximum level. If one person works and makes minimum wage (which is below the poverty line) they subtract $384 so the total SNAP you receive is $284 per month. Considering that equation and the fact that 72 BILLION was given out last year, we are a hungry and poor country right now. Sure, there is some abuse, but there are somewhere around 49 million people receiving SNAP benefits.
The chef Mario Batali has taken the food stamp challenge for a week and is feeding his family of 4 on $31 per person, per week or $124, a realistic scenario. The reason that he is doing this is to raise awareness of the problem and to encourage people to write their representatives to express their disproval of any cuts to this program. Chef Batali has a distinct advantage on top of knowing that he can go back to his normal fare next week, not having to continue being perpetually hungry and experiencing the worry and shame of not being able to feed his children. His advantage is that he has food knowledge. He knows that rice and beans combine to make a complete protein. He knows how to season a cheap cut of pork to make a pasta sauce that will last two or three days. He knows how to plan and budget a menu. And, above all, he knows how to cook.
Next week our family will take the food stamp challenge and each of us will write to our representatives. I will dutifully report on our progress and our menus.
In the meantime, to continue with little goodies for this weekend’s picnic, here is a great butter for smearing on grilled corn (or anything else for that matter).
- 1/2 Stick (4 tablespoons) Butter
- 1/2 Fresh Lime
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
- 2 Tablespoons Finely Grated Parmesan
- Salt and Pepper
- Mixing Bowl
- Set the butter out to come to room temperature.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl, pressing together with a fork.
- If you want to get fancy, reform into a stick and serve on butter dish.