Anyone who’s ever watched late night television for any length of time has seen it — a two-minute segment aired mainly so that a TV station can look good in the eyes of the FCC around license renewal time.
The images are of grossly underweight children looking through glazed-over eyes at the camera. These poor souls don’t even attempt to swat the swarm of flies that rest on their eyelids, cheeks and shoulders.
These children are hungry. Starving, in fact.
They are so far away that we tend to look at the screen and register the images as fiction — the same fiction that drew us to tune in the first place. But hunger is true there. And it’s true here too.
Right here in the U.S. —
- About 17 million children live in food insecure households (Feeding America; 2011)
- Almost 5 million seniors are food insecure (Feeding America; 2011)
- An estimated 14.5 percent of American households are food insecure (USDA; 9/13)
- One in six people face hunger – daily (Feeding America; 2013)
What does food insecure really mean? It’s a short and somewhat detached way of describing people or families who don’t always have access to food. Not just chips & salsa, popcorn or a filled cookie jar. But food. No meat. No bread. No packages of ramen or canned beanie weenies.
I’ve seen the hunger up close and personally. Part of my charge as the media and community relations coordinator in one of Texas’ larger public school districts is our backpack program. In our diverse district of about 8,600 students, we’ve identified more than 800 who don’t know where their nightly or weekend meals will come from. It’s a heartbreaking sight. Right here in the U.S.
Want to help? Become involved in your local school’s backpack program — there are plenty to choose from — or help out at an area food bank. Don’t forget to break out your checkbook. You might have to give up a few trips through the fast food drive-thru, and it’s not likely that you’ll ever be thanked, but you’ll be providing some child — right here in the U.S. — the most basic of necessities. Food.
Other ways to help
Feeding America has deemed September to be Hunger Action Month. Today is the official kick-off, and organizers are asking that you wear orange, or change your Facebook and Twitter profiles to orange. (Check the Feeding America website for the badges.) It’s your way of saying that you support hunger relief efforts.
The Feeding America folks also ask that you write your local elected officials — especially those who spend their time in Washington D.C. An email is fine too. (Find your representatives here.) All you have to do is ask that they just visit a food bank some time this year. Easy enough.
Take a photo. Feed a child. Feedie is a brand new app that generates food donations. If you are at a Feedie-sponsoring restaurant (and the list is growing), just take a picture of your food and post it to your social media account. Learn more about Feedie at the group’s website.
Parchment has been around for thousands of years — originally made from animal hides. Though the skin versions are still produced (primarily for religious purposes) , the stuff we cooks use is plant-derived and treated with acid and/or silicone.
The following recipe is really just a technique. We keep summer squash on hand when it’s harvest locally, but you could use anything from asparagus to sugar snap peas. Add garlic, if you like. And feel free to replace the cilantro with fresh basil. Of course, salted butter is a tasty replacement for olive oil.
Parchment Fish w/ Summer Squash (Fish en Papillote)
1½ cups – Summer squash, thinly sliced
10-12 – Thin Onion slices
4 TB – Dry Sherry
1/2 cup – Fresh Cilantro, chopped
4 – 6 oz. Fish portions*
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground Black pepper
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Cut four pieces of parchment paper to about 15-inches. Fold each in half to create a crease. On one half of the each piece of parchment (nearest to the crease, in the middle) layer divided ingredient portions as follows:
- Squash slices
- Onion slices
- Sherry (1 TB for each packet)
* – Flaky white fish such as Halibut, Cod, Flounder, Tilapia, etc.
Season with a few twists of Black Pepper, then drizzle about 1/2 TB of olive oil atop each stack.
Fold parchment paper over stack and, working your way from one edge to the other, crimp the paper (upward) so that it is sealed. When you reach the end, crimp and fold the parchment under.
Place pouches on a baking sheet and bake until fish is flaky — about 10 minutes.
Serve with Salsa Quemada, lime and avocado slices, if desired. Makes 4 pouches.