Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Days and Nights with Homeless People

I'm sure you've figured out that's what I'm doing these days. These people have a lot to teach me, and I need to make space and time to pay attention to that.

But first can I rant about the food?

I promise that the people in our care are not calorically deprived. Donations come in fast and furious. And the deal with the program that I'm involved with is that clients use ALL of their food stamps to buy food for the house. We help plan menus, and they take turns cooking.

This ought to work.

We also know that malnutrition is a disease of poverty, and that one can be both obese and malnourished. We also know that eating the wrong things consistently informs one's palate, so that soon enough the wrong things taste better than the right things.

So here's the thing. Dinner, apparently, must involve big hunks of meat. And heaven forbid that it involve a vegetable or a piece of fruit. I suggested a vegetarian night, and you would have thought I was suggesting that we feed the children arsenic. Like macaroni and cheese will kill you. But no, macaroni and cheese has to have hot dogs in it. WTF???? We had fish tonight. Salmon -and I am not making this up- is apparently cow tongue, so no one would eat it. I know you thought it was fish, but what can I say? You were misinformed.

I am no nutritional zealot. I watched myself reach for chips rather than an apple, when they were right next to each other. So I can't exactly claim the moral high ground here. But tonight I started bringing my own dinner -yogurt, grapes, and a bottle of water. I didn't need a huge dinner because the kids and I went out for lunch. People thought I must have joined the Pritikin Order of Ascetic Eaters ;)

And darn it, now I know people are watching what I eat. So I have to be good. But I'm actually tired of eating crap. Who would have thought this day would come? I've planned my menus for the week, and I'm bringing healthy, vegetarian stuff for my at-work meals. I won't need to make a comment; I'll just eat. We'll see where this takes us.

And please, for the love of all things holy, if you donate food to the homeless shelter, have it be healthy food. We have enough white bread, stale Entenmann's muffins, and tortilla chips to last until the second coming.

4 comments:

Lisa :-] said...

From now on, I promise to be more thoughtful about what I put in the "Food for Columbia County" barrel...

Renee said...

Interesting.

Have you seen Jamie Oliver's School Lunch Project? It's a really interesting bit of social work--famous tv chef Jamie Oliver decides to take on the London school lunches, which are cheap and awful, and try to get the kids (and their parents) to eat better, going so far as to visit some families at home to determined why their kids are so damn picky and to lobby the government for additional money for school lunch programs. I could easily guess that the people you are working with were like those kids--they grew up on cheap convenience foods and that is what they are used to.

One way Jamie got the kids to eat better was to involved them in both growing and preparing some of the foods they eat at school. I know winter in Illinois is not the time to start a kitchen garden, but maybe something to think about for spring...

Renee said...

And from all the grammatical errors in my post above you can guess what kind of eater *I* was as a kid ;)

(healthy food for healthy brains!)

lonelywombat said...

My mom and a friend of mine have both prepared meals for Hope Haven residents and many of them were not shy about expressing their distaste for anything that was out of the ordinary for them, vegetarian meals for example. Of course it could be worse for example if they were receiving some of the food that the government used to hand out instead of food stamps, now that was some nasty stuff in a can.