Other People's Challenges

Sharon March 18th, 2009

Ok, so I’m kind of a challenge follow-up failure.  First there is Independence Days, which I’m planning to post an update on this week - but I haven’t in a zillion years.  Then there’s my ongoing not-quite challenges, ones I was planning on setting up but haven’t my “Competence Project” and “Stuff” problems (since lord knows any little thing in my life has to go on the blog ;-) ).  What can I say - I’m a lazy schlub!

But just because I’ve fallen down on the job (again!), doesn’t mean that other people aren’t right there running superb challenges for you to participate in. I promise I’ll be back with challenges as soon as I’m done with AIP and the crazy month of constant travel and speaking engagements and the editing for Independence Days, and probably after Passover ;-) .

 Meanwhile, definitely sign yourselves up for some of these cool things.

First, at Hen and Harvest, there’s Edson’s wicked awesome (ok, sometimes the Massachusetts I grew up in leaks out ;-) ) challenge to grow 10% more for the local food pantry!  Here’s the info: http://henandharvest.com/?p=415.  This one could make a major difference.

Second, check out La Crunch’s Sustainable Food Budget Challenge, which gets us checking out whether it is possible to eat sustainably and ethically on a Food Stamp budget.  This is a really important project for a host of reasons - for the project of documenting the barriers and realities of decent food for the poor (I’d strongly recommend you try this project even if you don’t think you can succeed - in some ways that’s as important as success!) and also for cutting our food budgets in these tough times.  An all around excellent project. http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/2009/03/sustainable-food-budget-challenge.html

While we’re on the subject of the food issues affecting the poor, I’d strongly recommend to you two books about food access issues (besides my forthcoming one, of course ;-) ).  Raj Patel’s terrific _Stuffed and Starved_ addresses this from a global perspective, and I wish the book had been out before we wrote _A Nation of Farmers_.  And for those of you exploring the issue from a US perspective, Mark Winne’s superb _Closing the Food Gap_ is a must-read.

But I’m not done with challenges yet!  Peak Oil Hausfrau has another one “The Doomer Dinner Party” in which you invite guests and prepare a meal made entirely from the stuff you’ve got in your preps - in your garden and your food storage.  http://peakoilhausfrau.blogspot.com/2009/03/doomer-dinner-party-challenge.html.  I love her seasonal menus and information and this is a great way of getting people excited about the meals that come from storage - and getting people more tied into their communities!

I’ll be doing all three of these, and coming back, once things settle down a bit to my own challenges.  I’m going to try and start up the Friday Food Storage Quickies again as well, and also maybe, just maybe even the post-apocalyptic novel reading group.  Of course, that will be garden season, so we’ll see.  But, as they say, a girl’s reach should exceed her grasp ;-) .  Meanwhile, I’m going a-challenging!


19 Responses to “Other People's Challenges”

  1. Crunchy Chicken says:

    Hey, thanks for the mention. I just started reading, Closing the Food Gap, and will be posting tidbits of note as I read through it in addition to suggestions for succeeding at the challenge as well as the usual check-ins.

    As for the Doomer Dinner Party, I’m afraid the predominant menu items will be beans, cereal, peanut butter and frozen beef marrow bones that my brother is storing is our chest freezer. And jam. Lots of jam.

  2. Tanya says:

    Hi Sharon,

    FYI, Bob Waldrop had a column a few years ago that showed that you could eat sustainably on a food stamp budget. You could probably search for it on the justpeace website.


  3. Peak Oil Hausfrau says:

    Sharon - thanks for the mention! I reserved the two books you recommended from the library, can’t wait to read them.

    Crunchy - don’t forget, you get to include produce from your garden at your DDP! So you can have kale and garlic with your jam and peanut butter. Yummm. :0

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is the Bob Waldrop article Tanya mentioned:


  5. Hummingbird says:

    You are only doing a thousand things, Sharon, so I had given up on any continuation of the PA book club, but you have given me hope. I hope you get to it after doing the thousand other
    things of course.

    The “party from your storage” thing sounds like a great idea.

  6. ctdaffodil says:

    Sharon - in my book if you take a challenge and make a change you are a winner - regardless of if you can find the time to post your progress. You know what you do….

  7. e4 says:

    Thanks for the mention on the garden challenge too!

  8. siobhan says:

    This crunchy chicken thing is a little nauseating. Having been on Food Stamps my experience tells me that a good diet is possible on this budget. But it requires almost full time cooking plus storage of bulk items and whatever got made out of them. Lots of “poor people” don’t have the skills to cook from scratch. Also many low income housing units have extremely limited counter space. Again from experience, it can be a challenge to even make toast on four square feet of counter space. Then there’s the gas or electric bill that comes after you’ve baked bread, made soup, etc. And if there’s limited storage, then what?

    For “workers” on Food Stamps it’s close to impossible to do this what with public transport, dropping off kids at school, and the work day eating up most of your time. You’d pop in frozen dinners too, I’ll betcha. Or maybe you’d spend both days off shopping cooking and doing laundry…

  9. Sharon says:

    Siobhan - Well, low income people obviously do have limits on what they can do. I’ve written abou this a number of times - in many cases, the kids are the ones cooking, since both parents work and they can’t do much more than open cans. In other cases there are now cooking facilities at all. On the other hand, some very poor people do have time - they may be disabled or retired. Some people consider food a priority and even though they are low income nad recieving food stamps, they do this. I think the value of Crunchy’s challenge is this - that it does help peopel understand the realities of doing this, and gets more and more people doing it in different regions and areas iwth different realities.

    Every time this subject comes up, one gets low income people who are angry thatw’d assume that low income people can do this, and low income people who would be angry at assuming that they can’t, and recount their own experience as single parents making sure their kids eat well, or as disabled people doing this.

    Speaking also as someone who works full time as a writer (and the last two years this has meant long, long hours - 3 books in 2 years), with a husband who works full time as a faculty member, while running a farm, homeschooling and preparing, we also spend substantially less than the food stamp budget for a family of six, and cook just about every meal from scratch, simply because there is no takeout where we are, and it is a long drive to the nearest restaurant. We do occasionally eat out, particularly when we have guests. But generally speaking, from a purely time perspective, I’d be reluctant to say that no working families can do this, because we do it. I don’t deny that the working poor have special challenges (our household income here would qualify us for food stamps in New York at present, although not the maximum of course, and the first two years we lived here our family then of four lived on less than 20K. Before that, Eric and I lived in one of the most expensive housing markets in the US on a combined salary of less than that. And always, I’ve managed to buy and cook good food. I know too many other people in that situation who do the same to doubt that it is possible for some.


  10. Susan says:

    Ya know, I’ve been on food stamps myself. And I know it is possible to feed three growing boys plus myself quite well, if monotonously, on what they give you. You just eat more beans and rice.

    And there’s no reason a pot of beans can’t be simmering on the counter in a crockpot all the time. Or a pot roast. And cornbread is quick to make when you get home.

    No, working and going to school and all that other stuff is really no excuse. It can be done. I know, I’ve done it.

    I’m no longer on food stamps, but we still eat as though we were; I cook extra on my days off so we have stuff to take to work, we do a lot of crockpot cooking, and we eat little meat.

    Regarding vegetables, eating seasonally is really the key to low cost fresh veggies. Like now for instance, cabbage is 39 cents a pound at my supermarket. I can get two or three meals out of one head, and the leftovers go to my chickens. Like I said, a little monotonous, but cheap, nutritious, and yummy with the right spices.

  11. Crunchy Chicken says:

    I’ve done a lot of challenges that can be considered nauseating, but I didn’t think this was one of them :)

    Siobhan, the intent of this challenge was to show people that it may be more difficult to achieve eating sustainably on the federally stated allotments, but that it was doable for most of us.

    Clearly there are some serious issues at hand when one is talking about the poor, resources being a big one, as you mentioned, but the biggest and hardest one to get over is the problem of accessibility. Sustainably grown foods just aren’t generally available in areas (particularly inner-cities) where the poor are doing their shopping. Food prices in those areas tend to be higher as well for a number of different reasons.

    The book _Closing the Food Gap_ that Sharon mentions goes into to this far better than I am in this comment. Either way, I wanted to state that the challenge isn’t to marginalize the poor even more than they already are, but to counter the argument that eating sustainably is unaffordable to most. The Food Stamp allotments are only being used as a guideline instead of me arbitrarily picking numbers.

  12. Lisa says:

    I do miss the Friday food storage Quickies. Those helped keep me focused.
    Plus had a conversation with a friend, who is concerned her husband’s hours are about to be cut back.


  13. Jyotsna says:

    Anyone can live on a “food stamp budget”, but it takes a food stamp recipient to really say that. IMHO.

    BTW, I post newbie food storage info on my blog, tho it isn’t on the scale of Crunchy Chickens blog! : )


  14. Shira says:

    As was noted above, it’s the constraints that get you, not so much the budget- the tiny kitchens, limited storage, lack of equipment, lack of time to get somewhere to buy bulk food and schlep it back by public transportation, sometimes lack of a predictable schedule or stability of residence. All the stories of coping have a momma in them, a momma who is willing to make soup stock, cook a pot of beans while she does the laundry, put on bread to rise while she makes breakfast and bake it when she gets off work at night, keep an eye out for specials on cabbage and plan the menu around it.

    It’s easier in middle class digs, even on the same budget. More kitchen space, more equipment, more storage space. The cyclical nature of my business is such that I plan on gardening, canning and planting a winter garden in the summer, because the winter may be verra thin. This winter exceeded expectations. Business was miserable, the garden froze out in a big winter storm, we lost power and the baggies of green beans melted and got foul in the freezer. The larger items were OK, thankfully, at least nobody’s died so far. I think I’ve spent $200 total on groceries in the last three months. We ate well anyway, what with eating up the frozen stuff and what I had stashed around the place.

    As for a dinner party out what’s on hand, that would be normal. I’m planning on dandelion greens, a giant squash from last year’s garden, refrozen chickens, and handmade matzot for Passover. I have some homemade wine left, but I plan to take pity on my guests and buy the wine.

    Shira in Bellingham, WA

  15. Brendan Himelstein says:

    It is my opinion diferrent because my friends and family use another model.But next kitchen productsI’ll think of this as Kitchen productsthat you just present.Grate!!!

  16. Claud Ramsdale says:

    Thank you very much for this illuminating program! There is only one conclusion that sticks most in my mind and that is that Americans need to start saving or at least live more within their means. America is far to important to the world than to be dragged down by our own want and greed. My hope is that the next generation(my generation) will learn some valuable lessons from what is happening now and this will be the sharp u-turn that had to happen in order to have a better future.

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