Showing posts with label Hunger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hunger. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Hunger in Our Society: What’s happening now?

Source:  Food Gatherers’ Website
“Scenes of crowded food banks have provided some of the most arresting images of the pandemic and brought hunger issues a rare spotlight. A recent Census Bureau survey found that, over the previous week alone, 8.4 percent of adults said their households ‘sometimes’ lacked enough to eat and 2.3 percent said they ‘often’ did. That translates into 23 million hungry adults, plus millions of children.” — (source)

The pandemic made many of the problems of our society more obvious and more pressing than they were before last year. Food insecurity, in particular, has been an issue here in America for a long time, and the large-scale loss of jobs a year ago definitely made it much worse and also more visible. Who doesn’t recall the photos of long lines of cars queued up to receive food boxes and other help from a variety of organizations. Throughout the year, I have been following both the national problems and the actions of Food Gatherers, the food bank in Ann Arbor where I live, and I wanted to explore what’s happening now.

Several changes in the national situation recently have offered a cause for optimism:

At the moment, there is a better outlook for employment. Jobless claims were at a pandemic-era low at the end of March. Specifically: “The unemployment rate edged down to 6.0 percent in March. The rate is down considerably from its recent high in April 2020 but is 2.5 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The number of unemployed persons, at 9.7 million, continued to trend down in March but is 4.0 million higher than in February 2020. (source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Coming soon or already in place: better benefits and direct help from the federal government are being enacted into law. The New York Times reports: “With more than one in 10 households reporting that they lack enough to eat, the Biden administration is accelerating a vast campaign of hunger relief that will temporarily increase assistance by tens of billions of dollars and set the stage for what officials envision as lasting expansions of aid.” (source)

Throughout  the past very difficult year, charitable organizations have been improving their organizations and distributing more food to those in need —“The people who run America’s charitable food banks take pride in what they’ve accomplished over the past year, and the numbers justify it: They distributed roughly 50 percent more food in 2020 compared with 2019, a considerable portion to first-time visitors. They served millions of people even as they dealt with supply-chain interruptions and health risks for their volunteers and employees.” (source)

Although there is a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Michigan, and a “fourth wave” of infections may be underway, the vaccination programs throughout the country are also a cause for optimism. As more people become able to go to work, to eat in restaurants, and to enjoy a more normal life, and as children and students of all ages return to school, the root causes of increased food insecurity may become less drastic, and the new approaches to the general well-being of Americans may help solve some of our problems. 

I wrote about some of this a few weeks ago, and I wanted to update that post here. My previous post:

There are still many problems with the rest of the world — especially the fact that distribution of vaccine is not anywhere near as effective elsewhere, and the disease is still spreading. The challenges facing any approach to world hunger are drastic, and the changes needed globally are frightening. I can’t begin to grasp the scope of what’s needed globally. We have to face the consequences of climate change and destruction of resources — two potential causes of increasing poverty and unimaginable want. As we also have to face incredible public health problems. 

blog post © 2021 mae sander

Thursday, March 18, 2021

A Year of Feeding Those in Need

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the coronavirus lockdown; that is, the moment when many jobs were first lost and when food and essential products suddenly became hard to find. This table shows how the need for food in our community -- Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the surrounding area -- has grown in the year of the coronavirus. The yellow line shows food distribution totals by Food Gatherers, the Ann Arbor Food bank, from March, 2020, through February, 2021. The green line shows the previous year. The need has been very great, and Food Gatherers’ effectiveness in collecting food and distributing it through their own and through end-user social work organizations has been a huge task.

Food Gatherers writes:
“Since the pandemic began, Food Gatherers has distributed between 700,000 and one million pounds of food each month, a significant increase over the same months in the previous year.”
Our total this year [2020] is an 18.7% increase from last year and the average distribution per day was 21,542 pounds of food!
Hunger in our community, in our state, in the USA, and throughout the world is a great concern, mine as well as that of many others. As the pandemic began and continued, more and more people lost their jobs, increasing their dependence on social services from private and public sources in our community. I have been following these issues, and I have been writing from time to time about the challenges to our society as hunger stalks our land. I have tried to support Food Gatherers and their partner organizations with donations of money. 

I have hope for the near future. Many workers are beginning to find jobs again. Vaccination is providing safety for more people to work and to resume normal lives. School re-openings have given children better access to feeding programs as well as better education. We have a new administration in Washington with a better will towards human needs and with a strong new law offering financial support for those who need it. However, our society still has a lot of work to do in helping the weakest of our communities.

I hope those of my readers who have the means to help others will continue to do so in the coming months. Update to this post: modern food banks have several ways to purchase food at favorable prices. So contributing money, if you can afford to do so, helps them a great deal. In some ways cash contributions are more effective than donating canned and pantry goods, though food banks also welcome food contributions from both individuals and businesses. When more people can safely do so, food banks also have many jobs for volunteers. There are many ways to help!

I wish you safety and good health.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Hunger, Food Safety, and Food Justice

-- New York Times
"On Friday, President Biden signed an executive order that would increase both the amount of federal food assistance for about 12 million people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (also known as food stamps), and the grocery money given to families with school-age children. He has also included more money for food stamps and other federal feeding programs in his proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package."

During the pandemic, I've been extremely aware of many pressing food issues: above all, the skyrocketing food insecurity throughout the country and terrible conditions for workers in meat-packing plants. An article in today's New York Times, "How America’s Food System Could Change Under Biden" by Kim Severson discusses the changes that are already beginning to affect these issues.

The terrible abuse of workers in many industrial food processing plants has concerned me so painfully that we have stopped buying red meat. The disastrous toll of the disease on workers in the huge meat-packing plants that supply most of the meat that's sold in supermarkets in the US is shameful. This issue, "protecting Agriculture Department employees and people who process the nation’s food from the virus" tops the list priorities of Tom Vilsack, who appears to be Biden's choice for Agriculture Secretary (but isn't officially designated).

Hunger relief, along with fighting for social justice and addressing climate change, are among Biden's big issues as well. School lunch programs, support for food pantries, distribution of food boxes to needy families, and many such issues have become especially important as the pandemic has greatly increased poverty: "The number of Americans who face hunger rose by some estimates to more than 50 million in 2020, from about 34 million in 2019." Help for farmers, such as equitable farm subsidies and policies, is another big issue, including support for regional agriculture and improvements in policy regarding organic agriculture. 

All the challenges require improving the situation of the workers at the Department of Agriculture, which has been politicized and made less effective by intentionally destructive policies in the former administration. Agriculture has "a budget of $153 billion and nearly 100,000 employees," and it "runs 29 agencies and offices whose jobs range from feeding the poorest Americans and regulating what public schoolchildren eat to managing forests and helping farmers sell commodities like soybeans abroad." 

Fixing all these problems is a big deal!

For months, I've been worrying about these and other food issues that were made worse by the double impact of terrible government policies and the pandemic. I have new hope!

Blog post © 2021 by mae sander, photo and quotes from article, as attributed.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Another Backward Look at 2020: Rich and Poor

In thinking about social and economic issues that became more critical during the pandemic, I've tended to focus on hunger. New and terrible levels of food insecurity in the US resulted from widespread unemployment. During lockdown, employment dropped because consumption dropped. Reducing consumption had always seemed to be a good idea, but like an evil genie's gifts, having this wish granted didn't turn out the way it was hoped. Reduced consumption caused vast loss of jobs and thus dire poverty among those whose jobs became unnecessary. 

Somehow, as the poor became poorer, the rich also became richer. Is this an economic law, not just an old saying? Two articles published today summarize this reality.  "Amid surging worldwide poverty, planet's 500 wealthiest got $1.8 trillion richer in 2020" by Julia Conley writing in puts it this way:

"The Bloomberg Billionaires Index recorded its largest annual gain in the list's history last year, with a 31% increase in the wealth of the richest people. The historic hoarding of wealth came as the world confronted the coronavirus pandemic and its corresponding economic crisis, which the United Nations last month warned is a "tipping point" set to send more than 207 million additional people into extreme poverty in the next decade — bringing the number of people living in extreme poverty to one billion by 2030. Even in the richest country in the world, the United States, the rapidly widening gap between the richest and poorest people grew especially stark in 2020."

Also today, Robert Reich in The Guardian wrote about "Seven Ways 2020 Left America Exposed." At the top of his list: "Workers keep America going, not billionaires." He writes:

"American workers have been forced to put their lives on the line to provide essential services even as their employers failed to provide adequate protective gear, hazard pay, or notice of when Covid had infected their workplaces. Meanwhile, America’s 651 billionaires – whose net worth has grown by more than $1tn since the start of the pandemic – retreated to their mansions, yachts and estates.

"Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, sheltered in his 165,000-acre west Texas ranch while Amazon warehouse workers toiled in close proximity, often without adequate masks, gloves or sanitizers. The company offered but soon scrapped a $2 an hour hazard pay increase, even as Bezos’ wealth jumped by a staggering $70bn since March, putting his estimated net worth at roughly $186bn as the year came to an end."

These views look at the top and the bottom of our economic spectrum, but people on all the rungs in the middle of the economic ladder have also been affected, as summarized a few days ago in a New York Times "Upshot" column, "The Year Inequality Became Less Visible, and More Visible Than Ever" by Emily Badger:

"This year, many Americans left the places where it was still possible to encounter one another. White-collar workers stopped going downtown, past homeless encampments and to lunch counters with minimum-wage staff. The well-off stopped riding public transit, where in some cities they once sat alongside commuting students and custodial workers. Diners stopped eating in restaurants, where their tips formed the wages of the people who served them.

"Americans also stopped broadly sharing libraries, movie theaters, train stations and public school classrooms, the spaces that still created common experience in increasingly unequal communities. Even the D.M.V., with its cross-section of life in a single room, wasn’t that anymore. 
"Instead, people who could afford it retreated into smaller, more secure worlds during the pandemic. And that has made it harder to see all the inequality that worsened this year: the unemployment that soared even as the stock market did, the eviction threats that grew as home prices hit new highs."

Surely most people feel helpless. What can you change if your health depends on living in isolation and working from home? How can you change if your job has been eliminated and your government benefits have disappeared? How can you change if your only job possibility forces you to meet people and take risks? The defiant people who refuse to wear masks and insist on drinking in bars are not changing the distribution of wealth and poverty, only making things worse. 

My thoughts are incomplete and incoherent. I feel lost.

Luxury? The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.
This was luxury a century ago. Luxury for the billionaires today
is never visible to ordinary people.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander. Quotes as credited.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020: A Memorable, Miserable Year

In my kitchen this year I've been aware of many consequences of the terrible global coronavirus epidemic, some with direct and some indirect impact on my personal life. On the whole, I'm among the luckiest of people so far. I wouldn't even characterize 2020 as my year of Zoom, Doom, and Gloom, because I didn't do very many electronic meetings (only with family, often very small), because I was able to go with Len for walks and drives in the countryside outside my home, and because we tried to keep an upbeat attitude, fostered by lots of cooking and baking, throughout it all. Here is a summary of what's happened in my kitchen during this year of extremes.

Food Politics in Mind

My most pressing thought for the end of the year in my kitchen is not about myself but about 50 million Americans -- including 17 million children -- who are facing hunger due to the economic conditions in our country. The new wave of poverty caused by the pandemic created a horrendous increase in hunger and want that will persist even after the vaccine allows many workers to return to work. Recovery from months of unemployment could leave many people still struggling, even when their jobs return.

Symbolically, these people are with me in my kitchen where Len and I are alone. It has become my habit to donate to organizations that help those in need. I've especially donated money to the local food bank, Food Gatherers, whose delivery van is pictured (from their newsletter). Food Gatherers is able to buy food efficiently from the nationwide organization Feeding America and other sources, and distributes food through several food pantries that directly serve the local community.

Political misdeeds are ongoing in Washington, preventing the deployment of adequate help for the most vulnerable members of our society from the Federal government. The calloused postponement of signing the relief bill was the last of many insults and injuries. Cruel delay in funding for those in need -- as well as many other events -- made me angry and sad, but I'm not going to discuss the matter further. I have high hopes that the situation will improve with the new and more humanitarian administration.

Food Politics in My Kitchen

Masked meat packers on the processing line.  (source)

Vegan curry with cauliflower, bell pepper, tomatoes,
potatoes, red lentils. This is becoming one of my go-to recipes.

Food politics also have had a direct impact on my kitchen decisions. I've worked around the shortages and challenges of shopping without entering the stores. But most pressing: I've worried about disruptions and objectionable practices in the food supply, including the terrible treatment of food workers, the problems for farmers, and the shortages of packaging materials, especially for flour. 

In response to the cruel behavior of meat packing plant owners, who caused large numbers of workers to become infected (and many to die), we reduced meat consumption and avoided all meat from American industrial packing plants. Some sources say that these essential workers will be prioritized for the vaccine: I hope so!

I've done many experiments in vegetarian cooking during the year -- just one is in the picture. Red lentils were completely new to me! For a while, besides actual vegetables, we also experimented with various fake meat options, like Beyond Burgers. Eventually, I decided that I really didn't find them that appealing. I'm not sure they are better for the environment, for food workers, or for one's health than actual meat -- and they aren't cheap! On the whole, I prefer small-scale farmed local meat. It's been a few months since we had fake meat, and I don't think I will use it in the future.  

My Pantry During the Pandemic

My pantry with a new shelf for the many canisters of flour and
 jars of spice that we need for all the baking and cooking
we have been doing during lockdown.
Treading a fine line between becoming a hoarder and being prudent with available shopping options has been challenging. I've learned to deal with remote ordering of food and kitchen tools. No shopping! No personal selection of produce! (With a few exceptions during the summer when there were outdoor markets).

Grocery stores, having experienced many supply chain problems, aren't offering as wide a variety of products as before. They are making fewer innovations, which also affects what's new or different in all of our pantries. "Stocking shelves with innovative new products is less of a priority than stocking shelves, period." (source)

My spice shelf in December.

I bought the orange-lidded jar of Hawaij spice blend -- labeled only in Hebrew --  in Israel a few years ago. It's really good: I used it up. I was unable to find a replacement for a while, but now has a selection of the spices from the same Israeli company, so I have the new, purple-lidded replacement.

No More Coke: That Is, Diet Coke

July, 2020: one of my last Diet Cokes.
One item no longer appears in our kitchen thanks to the vast changes in our lives. It's insignificant but I'm just going to mention it. As it became so difficult to shop in March, we felt it was too much trouble to ask people to bring us our usual quantities of soft drinks. We switched to water (filtered, from our refrigerator).

We sparingly drank our remaining cans of Diet Coke throughout the summer, and by the time we could more easily have ordered more through the improved grocery delivery systems that had emerged, we had lost our taste for it.  Thinking of this is a reminder of the complete breakdown of grocery shopping we experienced in the first weeks of lockdown, and how so many businesses have adapted to new conditions!


New vegetarian recipes in Ottolenghi's
latest book have been an ongoing experiment
in my kitchen for the last several weeks.

We constantly make new kinds of pancakes from sourdough discard.
Here: pancakes with raisins and dried apricots with a side of fried apple slices.

Finding new ways to enjoy kitchen activities has been one of my important ways of handling a safe and isolated life as required during the pandemic. My experiments with spice and vegetarian meals have been a response to the meat supply problem described above. Another way to deal with it: buying gadgets. 

The pancakes are in an image from the November, 2020 In My Kitchen post.


Throughout the year, Len's baking has progressed and become an increasingly important part of our lives. He's tried many sourdough recipes, breads from a variety of ethnic cuisines, and more. Some of the bread books have been on our shelves for years, but many of them  are new, especially The Rye Baker.

Sharing the loaves of bread with friends -- which can be accomplished with a safe level of contact outdoors -- has also become an important result of Len's baking. We have several friends who have become "testers" of his experiments -- they are very enthusiastic! He's also shared his sourdough starter with a few people, and another generation of the starter (shared onward by his recipients) has even happened in a couple of cases.

Shared Cooking

We miss events like this dinner in the backyard with family in August, 2019, and many dinners around our dining room table. Cooking for a crowd while sharing the kitchen with friends and relatives is one of the forbidden activities we miss the most, along with travel and actually seeing others!

My kitchen contains numerous unused items that I hope I'll be able to bring back by sometime in 2021. Covered cake plates and hot-dish carriers for potlucks, large serving bowls and platters for dinner parties, and similar equipment has stayed on the shelf. No doubt this is true for everyone, and we all hope to cook for a larger crowd some time soon.

Hunger Stalks the Globe

To end where  I began: my most pressing concern is for the many people in our country and throughout the world who have been impoverished by the economic effects of the pandemic. In my kitchen is thus heightened awareness of hunger that stalks our country and the globe. 

We hope that the vaccine will soon be distributed. We hope that our own situation and that of many others will improve. However, we have enormous concern for those who remain vulnerable due to poverty and poor health. Our concern for our society is enormous. Our kitchen is only one small place in a huge world, and difficult times make us all the more aware of this.

For all my fellow bloggers and other readers: I hope your New Year, 2021, is much better than 2020. Above all, I wish you good health. And I thank you for offering descriptions of your kitchens and your lives throughout the year.

Blog post © 2020 mae sander.
Shared with Sherry's In My Kitchen blog event.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Hunger In America

Food Gatherers, Ann Arbor, Michigan: a food bank that serves many charitable organizations.
I took these photos a few years ago when I toured the Food Gatherers facility.

Thinking of Thanksgiving this week, I have written several posts about the celebrations that we have enjoyed over the years, and on the foods and traditions of this American holiday. I'm thankful that my family, friends, and I have been privileged to enjoy many of these traditions over the years. 

Now I would like to turn my thoughts to the many people who are suffering more this year than ever because they do not have sufficient resources to obtain adequate foods, for every day or for the holiday. Hunger is worse than ever in our community, as in our country as a whole, and in the entire world.

From the newsletter of Food Gatherers, our
local food bank (source)
What can I do? What can we do? My choice has been donating to Food Gatherers, the local food bank in Ann Arbor. Like most similar organizations nationwide, Food Gatherers has experienced a great increase in need this year. The associated food pantries that distribute food from Food Gatherers to needy people have been extremely stressed. Pantries that served 100 families a month before the pandemic now serve 100 families per week. 

The food distribution organizations working with Food Gatherers have increased support for vulnerable families and individuals who are unable to pick up food at distribution centers. They have also been increasing help provided at the distribution centers where people can pick up food boxes.  

Food Gatherers obtains food from a number of sources, including donations of surplus food, donations via food drives, purchases of food from various sources, and food obtained from Feeding America, which is an organization that supplies food to food pantries nationwide. Feeding America is the parent organization of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries nationwide. To learn about how Feeding America collects and distributes food throughout these organizations, see: "How Do Food Banks Work?"

Feeding America has recognized the accomplishments of Food Gatherers: "For the second year in a row, Food Gatherers has been inducted into the Feeding America Advocacy Hall of Fame. To be included, food banks must complete a year-long challenge that includes educating community members and policymakers about the realities of food insecurity."

From the website of Feeding America (link), I would like to quote the following summary of the dire situation of hungry children, working-age Americans, elderly people, and households in both urban and rural areas. They write: 

Millions of children and families living in America face hunger and food insecurity every day.

  • Due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 50 million people may experience food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 17 million children.
  • According to the USDA's latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 35 million people in the United States struggled with hunger in 2019. 
  • In 2018, 14.3 million American households were food insecure with limited or uncertain access to enough food.
  • Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity. Before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 10 million children live in food-insecure households.
  • Every community in the country is home to families who struggle with food insecurity including rural and suburban communities.
  • Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and need to rely on their local food banks and other hunger relief organizations for support.

I try to be conscious of the needs of others, and I have been donating money to Food Gatherers throughout the terrible emergency that's gripped our country this year. When I think about Thanksgiving, I think of my own life but also others' lives. I feel grateful to these organizations for helping those who need help. I encourage generosity from anyone who is able to be generous.

Note about a program to alleviate hunger: In thinking about the problems of hunger in America, I have been trying to follow a government program that was invented last spring to address the food insecurity caused by the pandemic. This program, unfortunately, has been kept fairly secret from the public and from relevant watchdogs. It was supposed to collect farm surpluses, such as food that would have been sold to restaurants, and to employ private corporations (rather than the existing food bank network or the USDA) to assemble and distribute food boxes to needy people. Many problems with suspicious or corrupt dealings have been documented with these private corporations, which were often cronies of the administration. For a recent report on this issue see "Trump officials gave a finance firm $16.3 million to supply food boxes to the poor. House Democrats are raising questions about how those funds were handled."

UPDATE: Also see this summary about the increase in hunger in America at the Guardian today.

Blog post © 2020 mae sander, quotes and images as credited. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Food Insecurity (Again)

Food insecurity is a topic I've written about, but there's no way to finish with this topic! For a very large number of Americans the economic crash that resulted from the Covid 19 pandemic was a catastrophe. "Due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 54 million people may experience food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 18 million children. ( There's plenty of data to show that hunger in third-world countries is much worse than here, but in this post, I'm only going to explore what's happening in the USA, and try to understand the results of our crashing economy, irresponsible national leaders, and unprecedented demand on social services.

At the beginning of the pandemic, food banks and social welfare programs were overwhelmed with people in need. Long lines of cars formed at food distribution sites. Donations of surplus food to the food banks disappeared as panic buying emptied the shelves of food markets and donations from restaurants ended as the restaurants shut down almost everywhere in the country. Although the dramatic events have become more manageable, and thus less news-worthy, extreme food insufficiency still exists in many parts of our society, with several times as many people needing food aid than did before the pandemic. Long lines still form at many distribution sites, and food packages run out while people are still waiting.

To say it simply: many children are going hungry, many adults are going hungry and many families are suffering deeply. Of great concern: it's about to get worse. Government measures to help the suddenly unemployed and newly poor citizens are about to expire at the same time as untimely opening of public accommodations and businesses drives Covid 19 numbers upward again.

About the economy, Paul Krugman wrote a summary on Twitter on June 27:
"Wage and salary income fell $800 billion (at an annual rate) between Feb and May, but this was more than offset by $1.2 trillion in unemployment benefits. This kept lockdown of contact-intensive sector from spilling over into a much wider slump. 
"But expanded benefits are set to expire at the end of next month, and for technical reasons will actually vanish for most workers on 25 July. There was supposed to be OK because of a rapidly recovering economy — but the failure on virus control means slow recovery instead. 
"In effect we're set to impose devastating austerity on an economy not remotely ready to handle it — and to head that off we'd need major policy action in *less than a month*. With the White House still in denial, what are the odds of that happening?"
Unemployment benefits have been difficult to secure, thanks to dysfunctional application systems and bureaucracies, but by now a large number of unemployed people have received payments and many are now going back to work, though new increases in the number of Covid 19 cases may disrupt the apparent progress. Further, as Krugman points out, the special benefits seem likely to expire, thus leaving many people without the means to put food on the table. Adding those who will lose benefits to those who didn't qualify for benefits is a scary prospect.

For example, many families relied on school lunch programs for much of their children's nutrition before the pandemic. Many shut-down school districts managed to supply meals to students although no actual classroom teaching was going on. Now summer vacation is putting new stress on social service organizations that normally provide summer replacements for the school meals. I've tried to find out how they are coping this year.

In my local area, I'm aware of SOS Community Services in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the next town over from Ann Arbor where I live. This organization and many others like it organize summer meals for children who rely on school lunches during the school year. Food for the SOS programs to cook and serve is provided by the county's central food bank, Food Gatherers. This summer, however, the need for social distancing makes their usual approach of communal meals impossible. Under special regulations of the Michigan Department of Social Services, "Each week, sites will distribute bundles of free, to-go meals (breakfast and lunch), to provide 14 meals/week for each child. Parents/guardians may pick up the food." (source)

A major source of food for low-income people is the Federal program SNAP. Of course SNAP has experienced major increases in demand since the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Obtaining SNAP benefits has always been difficult, even when a huge surge created new problems and when hunger was an emergency for many people. Efforts are slowly being made to improve the roadblocks. From the website Food Bank News:
"The notoriously difficult process of applying for SNAP — involving pages of documentation and even face-to-face interviews — is finally entering a more modern age, as mobile applications optimized for ease of use start to become more widely available. For example, GetCalFresh, a mobile app developed by the non-profit Code for America, makes it possible to submit an application for California’s version of SNAP in a matter of minutes. 
"In the face of crushing demand, improvements to the SNAP application process cannot come quickly enough. GetCalFresh processed 115,000 applications in March, compared to only 40,000 in February." (Source
Another US Department of Agriculture program, initiated last April and still growing is the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program (link).  More than 20 million food boxes have been distributed since the start of the program, though there's much about it that isn't clear, and I'll be trying to learn more. Marion Nestle writes that the benefits to farmers and to end-recipients have not been well-documented, and she lists a lot of open questions about the program (source).

Hunger, especially, haunts the black community along with racism, which has received particular attention recently, as everyone knows. Combine civil unrest, fear of police violence, widespread illness, job losses, difficulties applying for social benefits, and yet more problems -- Black Americans are disproportionately affected by all the problems in our society, including this:
"African American households face hunger at a rate more than twice that of white, non-Hispanic households. And getting enough to eat is a consistent struggle for 1 in 4 African American children." (source)
Poverty, food insufficiency, and diseases of poverty lead to worse risks and worse outcomes for those infected with the virus. Per 100,000 members of the Black community, there have been 178 hospitalizations due to Covid 19; for the non-Hispanic white community, the comparable number is 40. (As of June 13, per the CDC.)

What can we do -- those of us who are mainly locked down because of high risk from the virus? Various organizations have suggestions such as this one from Feeding America: "How to help your neighbors get by this summer and beyond."

Every stratum of our society has been affected by the pandemic, and the more I try to find out, the more I suffering I see. Economic pain, poor health, and social problems are all worse than ever.  The impact of the coronavirus reaches every part of the food chain. Farmers, food processors and packers, grocery workers, food preparation professionals, restaurant workers, food banks, transport workers and any other part of the chain you can think of all have new problems which all have an impact on food insecurity. There's just too much to cover in a short post like this!

This blog post © 2020 by mae sander and written for mae food dot blog spot dot com.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat" by Janet Poppendieck

"A breadline knee-deep in wheat is obviously the handiwork of foolish men." 
 -- James Crowther, 1932 (cited p. xv)                

Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance
in the Great Depression
by Janet Poppendieck.
Here's a book that's all-too reminiscent of the current emergency of unemployment, hunger, and social dislocations. The expression "breadlines knee-deep in wheat" embodied with sadness and irony a paradox of want in the midst of plenty in 1930. Throughout America, families were starving and at the same time farmers were destroying bounteous harvests. Vegetables were plowed under to rot in the fields. Wheat was ending up in government warehouses where vast surpluses were piling up. Apples and oranges were soaked in kerosene and burned. Dairy farmers poured milk onto the street. Hog farmers killed their sows and piglets because the market value was so low. And meanwhile there were breadlines -- starving people waiting for pathetic handouts of any food they could get. Sound familiar?

Janet Poppendieck's book documents the long political struggle to bring prosperity back to the US. Legislators and the president had to balance several constituencies, a struggle that began in around 1929 or earlier, and lasted until World War II (unless you take a bigger look, and say it never ended).

The interest groups pressuring the government as the Depression began included the nation's farmers. Naturally, they wanted to get a fair price that covered their production expenses and enabled them to plant the next year's crop; economic collapse left them unable to earn a living or pay their debts. Commodity farmers were often unable even to feed their families. Food processors  and middle-men opposed food being "given away" -- even to the poorest people who couldn't pay for it -- because the food industry feared erosion of their profits. State and city governments ran out of money and tried to convince Washington to pass bills to help them do something for their desperate citizens. Ideologues and puritans said everyone should earn his bread, no giveaways, no charity that would be a destroyer of the human spirit. Hungry unemployed and impoverished people, both on farms and in cities, didn't care how they got food, they just wanted starvation to end. And yes, children and adults really died of malnutrition in this terrible era.

The complexity of all the different interest groups was a major topic of the book. For example, the FSRC (Federal Surplus Relief Corporation), formed to address these problems, was
“ accountant’s nightmare, it was a politician’s dream, it promised something for everyone.The diets of the unemployed would be improved .... Farmers would benefit both by direct government purchase of their unsaleable crops and by improved prices for the remaining portions. Processors could expect contracts to convert raw commodities into forms suitable for relief use .... Budget balancers presumably, could anticipate reduced overall relief costs due to bargain prices and economies of scale, and both the public and the New Dealers would be relieved of the discomfort caused by contemplating waste amid want. ...surplus commodity distribution seemed to promise loss nowhere and gain everywhere.” (p. 135-136)

Somehow in spite of all the politics, new programs began to function soon after Roosevelt became president. Job programs like the WPA and CCC began to provide money so that people could buy food and other essentials, and could pay their rent. Farm programs worked out. Unfortunately, no program was free of political fights.

Hard Times weren’t necessarily over, but within a few years, the worst of the problems of the early 1930s began to be handled. The book deals with all the ins and outs of policy negotiations; ideological reasons for choosing to give people make-work jobs, sometimes with a good will towards the victims of the economic disaster, sometimes not; outright grants of money, or assistance in kind (such as distribution of farm surplus to stop hunger). The sum total of Roosevelt’s New Deal alleviated hunger and poverty for several years, until in 1938, the decision was made to spend less on the many relief programs — and the country was back in a “recession,” if not an all-out depression again. The details in the book are interesting but I felt very overwhelmed by the time I was finished reading about these efforts

Policies and programs were put in place have lasted virtually until now, despite various revisions throughout successive administrations with many ideologies about welfare, food programs, school lunch programs, and farm subsidies. It’s tempting to see that undermining of these very programs during the last decade has forced us to repeat many of the hardships during the current challenging situation, though obviously the causes are totally dissimilar. As in 1930, the lack of solid programs to fight poverty has made our society less able to deal with the sudden widespread unemployment and want caused by the pandemic. For this reason, Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat is that much harder to read today but astonishingly timely.

UPDATE May 1: article about farm produce rotting in fields and efforts to donate it to food banks, the twenty-first-century reenactment of breadlines knee-deep in wheat:

Review © 2020 by mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com.
If you read this at another site, it's been stolen.

Friday, April 24, 2020


In Detroit, less than an hour's drive from Ann Arbor, where I live, cars line up in huge numbers to receive food distributions
from The Gleaners Community Food Bank. Source: "These Photos Show the Staggering Food Bank Lines Across America."

Hunger and disease are two of the traditional and tightly linked horsemen of the apocalypse. While struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus throughout Michigan, as well as in most other states, state governments out of necessity and prudence have shut down productive industries, retail businesses, restaurants, entertainment venues, schools (including many school lunch programs), and government endeavors. Despite being considered essential, other industries have shut down because of high rates of illness spreading among the workers: notably in meat processing plants. Several million people in the United States who were earning a living one month ago are now jobless, and emergency funds allocated by the federal government have not to date been effectively distributed. Hunger and disease haunt our land.

From the Food Gatherers' twitter feed
Start with my own town, Ann Arbor. The high incidence of coronavirus in Michigan has hit the state very hard, despite recognized success in keeping the disease at bay through severe shutdowns. Our county, Washtenaw County, with approximately 1000 cases, is less affected than the neighboring Detroit area, but there's plenty of suffering throughout our area.

Ann Arbor's local food bank, Food Gatherers, is experiencing very high demand. Food Gatherers partners with the nationwide organization Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the United States, from which it obtains bulk purchases of food. It also receives food and other necessities from  local businesses and food drives. Food Gatherers supplies many local food pantries and welfare organizations, which distribute the food to their clients. Volunteers who staff Food Gatherers in normal times include many retirees, whose risk is too high to allow them to continue to work in the warehouse or other jobs. Members of the National Guard have been assigned to work at the warehouse to ensure that shipments of food are stored and distributed in a timely way.

From an article published in Common Dreams online news: "As Food Banks Face Shortages and Fresh Produce Rots,
Pandemic Spurs Calls for Sustainable Supply Chain." A picture of a volunteer with a Detroit mobile food pantry. 

Ann Arbor is very close to Detroit, where the food emergency is very much worse, as Detroit is extremely hard-hit by the pandemic, and already had a high rate of food insufficiency. An article in Bridge, a website representing Michigan nonprofit organizations was titled "Detroit food banks overrun by coronavirus demand."  From the article:
"Tens of thousands of residents show up each day at a growing number of food sites, with many going away empty-handed because there still isn’t capacity to meet the profound needs. 
"'There is so much of that going on,' said Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. 'The need is huge all across our service areas. And we serve all of Michigan’s 83 countries,' The Lansing trade association represents seven major food bank suppliers in the state. Those regional food banks supply more than 3,000 sites in Michigan where residents get food, from soup kitchens to schools to senior citizen centers."... 
"In Washtenaw County, the donations from local grocers have dropped by half while requests for food has tripled, said Eileen Spring, president and CEO of Food Gatherers food bank. 
"Donations by grocers have nosedived partly because retailers are having enough trouble keeping stores stocked for buying customers, said Knight, ...'Another stress point is retailers are struggling with logistics and transportation,' of getting more food delivered to them, Knight said. 'There is enough food. It’s not getting to people in the time we are used to-- because so many things are fluid. It’s unprecedented.'"
Pam Smith, president and CEO of the Washtenaw/Ann Arbor United Fund, a source of funding for Food Gatherers and other partner non-profits was interviewed by MLive, the closest thing we have to a local newspaper:
"There is exceptional need in the county, Smith said, saying over 37% of households were already struggling to afford basic necessities and the pandemic only exacerbated the problem. Even in Ann Arbor, there are pockets of poverty, she said, citing a 22.1% poverty rate in the city." (link)

The cascade of consequences of the rapid increase in want and poverty among the unemployed is overwhelming to think about. I have been trying to grasp the enormity of this situation, as it's depicted in the press. In this post I have only tried to explore what's going on in food banks and food pantries near me. The shocking waste of farm produce due to the closure of restaurants is another horrifying part of the picture. On a national scale, want and desperation is scaled up many times, so that I can hardly grasp the massive suffering. I have found numerous articles detailing what's happening throughout the country, but have tried to grasp only this little part of the picture.

As for me, I'm shut down in my home; on fresh-air walks I only see my own neighborhood and a few parks that I judge to be empty of people. As a result of being locked down, I have no first-hand observations of anything. I'm not even going into the grocery store. All I can do is read the news and look for images on the web.

Don't worry about me: I am able to afford what I need. We can buy food from stores with curbside pickup, order online, or ask generous friends to do our shopping for us. But I'm really worried about my fellow human beings whose resources are drained. The only thing I can do is to send a check to Food Gatherers in hopes that they will continue to have sources for purchasing quantities of needed food. Dear readers, if you have the means, I hope that you too will contribute to your local food bank.

This blogpost copyright © 2020 by Mae Sander. Photos are credited in the captions.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

What will we eat?

Ann Arbor Farmers Market in better times. Now closed by order of the governor.
Economists writing op-eds, government analysts, and news articles are pretty gloomy about the US food supply in coming months. I'm no economist, so I'm totally puzzled about the sum total of what I've read. Grocery stores have had unpredictable shortages, especially products like flour and many canned goods. I'm not doing my own shopping so I don't have any grasp of food prices or availability in my local shopping places or in general, though I am fortunate to have received most of the items I wanted. Quite a few of my fellow bloggers have described their own difficulties with expected deliveries that were unfilled, or with bare shelves if they were still shopping. Some have reduced incomes or immunocompromised relatives that make their lives really difficult. Others, while doing better, are also worried as I am.

Some things I've read in trying to see how dystopian our new dystopia will be:
"In its first assessment since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, the government forecast lower prices for U.S. crops and livestock as a worldwide economic slowdown, the result of aggressive efforts to squash the virus, weakens the global appetite for food. The notable exceptions are wheat and rice, where panic buying has driven up prices for the food grains, said the USDA on Thursday." (America's Farm Report -- link)
"There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases at meat plants in the U.S., with hundreds of reported infections in just the last week. That’s adding to questions over the fragility of the food-supply chain and raising concerns about worker safety." (LA Times -- link)
"As US food banks handle record demand and grocery stores struggle to keep shelves stocked, farmers are dumping fresh milk and plowing vegetables back into the dirt as the shutdown of the food service industry has scrambled the supply chain. Roughly half the food grown in the US was previously destined for restaurants, schools, stadiums, theme parks and cruise ships." (Guardian -- link)
Many farmers say they have donated part of the surplus to food banks and Meals on Wheels programs, which have been overwhelmed with demand. But there is only so much perishable food that charities with limited numbers of refrigerators and volunteers can absorb. (New York Times -- link)
I'm aware that many types of food suppliers are trying to act creatively to keep us all happy and fed. The food bank in our town, like many food banks across the country, is working hard to provide groceries and meals for rapidly growing numbers of needy people. Many local restaurants in my town have closed, though quite a few have begun providing food for curbside pickup or delivery. In the New York Times, the LA Times, and other papers, I have read about restaurants that are now offering not only prepared meals, but also groceries re-packaged from their bulk supplies. Unfortunately this doesn't work financially for all restaurants. What I see and read about is enormous efforts at creative adaptation to a new and dangerous reality.

I have been very lucky. Friends and relatives are shopping for me, and have found most of what I requested, though I've tried not to ask anyone to spend excess time in the store. I've received curbside orders from one nearby small market, which is still well-provided with meat and produce; however, demand for their service is going up. My first order took 2 hours, second order 3 hours, third order 2 days. (Update: by April 12 the wait time was 10 days.)

At, food offerings and prices are erratic from what I've seen. There's evidence of price gouging among the resellers; for example, garbanzo beans available for order exceed by five times or more the prices at Whole Foods or Kroger's. In hopes of keeping my own shelves supplied, I have made some orders when amazon showed availability of fairly-priced pantry products I can use; delivery for these items, formerly a day, is predicted to be in a few weeks. Is this caused by hoarding or by the drastic change in everyone's shopping possibilities?

Along with everyone else, I have questions, not answers. Because I'm concerned for myself and others -- for sick people, for people with limited resources, for people harmed by poverty and urban decay, and ultimately for the whole of our society -- I have been trying to grasp what's predicted by experts. Effects of the abrupt changes on consumers result from a variety of problems for farmers, processors, wholesalers, transport workers and so on. Will the grocery stores remain stocked, perhaps with more and more limited choices? Or will widespread want and hunger be the result of all the dislocations?
"The spread of the coronavirus has disrupted global supply chains, leading to shortages and price increases that are cascading from factories to ports to retail stores to consumers. ...
"Farmers are also learning in real time about the nation’s consumption habits. The quarantines have shown just how many more vegetables Americans eat when meals are prepared for them in restaurants than when they have to cook for themselves." (New York Times -- link)
A Meme. (Vivian Swift -- link)
The long article in the New York Times is especially detailed about the widespread consequences:
"The widespread destruction of fresh food — at a time when many Americans are hurting financially and millions are suddenly out of work — is an especially dystopian turn of events, even by the standards of a global pandemic. It reflects the profound economic uncertainty wrought by the virus and how difficult it has been for huge sectors of the economy, like agriculture, to adjust to such a sudden change in how they must operate." (New York Times -- link)
From the University of Florida IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center an expert on the situation in Florida explained how the sudden drop in demand and new requirements for worker safety have resulted in a catastrophic situation for food growers. Suddenly, they can't find markets, and they are throwing away vast amounts. A long quote summarizes how enormous these consequences are for growers:
"We have heard many ideas and suggestions from the public and even local officials - what many people fail to realize is that picking, packing, cooling, storing and transporting veggies costs money and growers who have already lost 100’s of millions of dollars are understandably reluctant to throw good money after bad. It also costs money to maintain fields with no hope of sales in sight, so growers are disking up fields and maintaining just what they feel they have markets for. Unfortunately, this is only about 20-30% of the total acreage. Each acre of tomatoes costs 10-12,000 to grow and 5-6,000 to pick and pack. Unmaintained fields rapidly succumb to pests and diseases and soon become a breeding ground threatening the health of nearby fields that growers are trying to save for their remaining markets.  
"It is not only veggies, 10’s of thousands of gallons of milk are being applied to pastures. 
"People really have no concept of the amount of food we are taking about – Immokalee alone ships approximately 400-500 semis of vegetables a day from March through mid-May – this is 450 x 35,000 lbs = 15,750,000 lbs of veggies headed to market every day – add to this Belle Glade, Palm Beach Co, Homestead and the amounts are staggering. I know of one grower in Belle Glade who is disking up 1 million pounds of green beans every three days.  
"I would not be surprised if collective losses for South Florida growers do not exceed 1 possibly 2 billion dollars."  (from Marion Nestle).
Trying to make sense of all this is really challenging. I am reading what I can find and writing this blog post in an effort to put all these various facts together. The future, being totally unpredictable to experts, is opaque to me. I have no chance of knowing how supply and demand, price variations, and new danger of infection can combine and create the new food situation. All I can do is keep reading and hoping for better times, and maybe some effective government intervention to allay the problems.

Blog post copyright © 2020 mae sander for maefood dot blog spot dot com.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Food on the American Frontier

The American West was the Promised Land, the land of plenty, the near-mythical dreamland of hungry and ambitious people. Large numbers of settlers came to the West from the cities of the East as well as from Europe.

In the 1790s, Ohio was the frontier. By a century later, the Dakotas were essentially the last unsettled lands, and just being plowed for farmland. The 19th century saw development of agriculture, mining, and other industry in the West. Settlers and workers arrived on the frontier by wagon via the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe trail, various routes to the California Gold Rush, and the Mormon trail to Utah. They made their voyages from the East by wagon train or even on foot. They took ships around Cape Horn; to New Orleans, up the Mississippi, and then on west; or to Panama across the isthmus and then up the Pacific coast. They built and then traveled on the ever-increasing rail network. Military wagon trains brought troops to Western forts and outposts. The settlers' relationship with the native Americans varied: at the beginning the Indians were frequently helpful, but as their lands were taken over, they became hostile and warlike.

In Feast or Famine: Food and Drink in American Westward Expansion, historian Reginald Horsman examines what these travelers ate. He describes how they got their food, what they brought with them as provisions for their long journeys, the cooking equipment they used, and how they prepared meals. He documents highly appreciated dishes of game, vegetables, and pies, and describes desperate hunger rations. He includes the likes and dislikes of many of the settlers — such as a woman who hated venison, or many people who tried roasted bear meat or beaver tail with varying reactions. He provides the specifics of how many pounds of flour, salt pork, and coffee would be needed for a 6 month wagon trip across the continent, and notes the changing standards for US military rations, which weren’t always provided to the troops. Above all, once they settled most of these pioneers found a land that yielded amazing bounty from wheat fields, orchards, and pastures for domestic animals.

Many settlers experienced hunger, sometimes near or actual starvation along the way, and homesteaders were often both isolated and food-deprived during at least the first season before they established their fields and farms. One family was reduced to feeding one potato per day to each child during the winter, and eventually to only half a potato. Sometimes in desperation, the wagon train voyagers slaughtered and ate their pack horses, their teams of oxen, or even their dogs. Some members of the famous Donner Party, trapped by heavy snow in the Sierras, ate the flesh of their fellow travelers. Less dramatically, scurvy was a common affliction of people crossing the desert on the 6-month wagon train trip; although they knew the possibility, they often couldn't provision adequately. Only in parts of the country did they find wild fruit to gather, which would prevent scurvy as well as being very satisfying after a daily diet of hardtack and salt pork.

The incredible variety of wild plants and game animals mentioned in the text was especially fascinating. Some meats -- such as wolf -- were eaten only in desperation. Recipes were changed when key ingredients were lacking. Here are just a few quotes from the many accounts cited in the book:
"Early in January, three hunters [from the Lewis and Clark expedition], after killing nothing for days, killed and ate a wolf. They 'relished it pretty well, but found it rather tough.' Early in February, a hunting party led by Clark brought in forty deer, sixteen elks, and three buffalo, and later in the month Lewis came in with two sleighs loaded with meat from a kill of thirty-six deer and fourteen elks. Some of the animals were so thin that they were largely unfit for use." (p. 60)
"When mountain man Jedediah Smith went on a famous exploratory trip from the Great Salt Lake to Los Angeles and back, he and the two men who returned with him depended on horse meat for their survival. ... They ate some fresh meat when they made the kills but spread the rest out in the sun to dry so that they could take it with them. ... David Meriwether described making wolf soup. On a journey from Santa Fe, Meriwether and his party had nothing to eat for three days. Finally, they shot an old wolf and boiled it in the camp kettle. They drank the resulting soup but found the meat too tough to eat until it had boiled all night." (p. 84)
"Before they had enough milk and eggs, they had to improvise. Mrs. Biddle remembered two recipes that had been handed down from a woman who had been on the frontier at midcentury. 'Custard' was made without eggs or milk by using six tablespoons of cornstarch in enough water to thicken it when cooked. It was flavored with essence of lemon and sugar. 'Apple pie' was made without apples by using soda crackers that were soaked in water, warmed until soft, and flavored with essence of lemon, sugar, and 'a great deal of nutmeg.'" (p. 263)
Of course I connected the lives of the settlers to the strange and unfamiliar situation that we are all currently living in today. How is our hunger different from their hunger? Is there a connection of the early farmers trying to make a living and farmers now who have lost their markets?

Feast or Famine is a hard book to like, but I found it mesmerizing at times. Relying on settlers’ diaries, letters home, and published memoirs, the author goes into detail: sometimes excruciating detail. But I can’t really recommend it to anyone else -- it's just not sufficiently interesting. The main problem is this: the author doesn't exactly present the big picture of life on the frontier. Readers have to connect for themselves the threads in masses of detail.

One theme that did repeat throughout the book: the change from very abundant wild game in the West at the start of the 19th century to almost none by the end. When the Ohio settlers arrived in the 1790s, buffalo herds still roamed the areas where they cleared land for farming. Lewis and Clark's expedition -- documented in great detail -- employed hunters to supplement the food they carried with a wide variety of game: elk, bison, antelope, ducks, prairie chickens, and many others. By the end of the mass migration west, settlers and wagon trains were finding game scarcer and much harder to shoot or trap. At times, hostile Indians made hunting too risky. Mainly, the animals and birds became more wary, or species were becoming extinct.

In short, there's a lot of fascinating material in this book, and a lot to learn from the adventures and misadventures of our predecessors.

This review copyright © 2020 by mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

You don't need to cook a wolf -- yet!

Original cover of How to Cook a Wolf.
My kindle edition has several of FIsher's
books under the title The Art of Eating.
Quite a few food writers recently have been quoting M.F.K. Fisher's wartime book How to Cook a Wolf, published 1942. Curious, I got out my dogeared copy -- well ok, I own the kindle edition, but it has a lot of highlighting, electronically, so I guess it's virtually dogeared. Anyway, I read through it.

These food writers are enamored of Fisher, a classic of 20th century food writing. I agree that her writing is quirky, vivid, and often insightful. Nevertheless, I find that How to Cook a Wolf is too preachy. It's presented as advice on how to be thrifty in the kitchen, based on her experiences, opinions, and prejudices. But it's still advice, maybe too much advice.

Since the beginning of the current pandemic and the shortages and food problems it's caused, these lovers of Fisher have been suggesting that her sage advice could help us in our current troubles. However, Fisher's worries are not our worries. Generically, thrift is a virtue, but the details are important.

For example, those of us now worried about shortages of this or that specific food or how to stay away from the store don't really have to worry about the use of gas or electricity right now. The economic disaster resulting from the coronavirus pandemic might reduce us to such worries as time goes on, but not yet. So the many lessons she offers on conserving cooking fuel don't really apply at the moment. Fisher's words on the subject:
"More or less, this simple but surprisingly little-practiced rule is true in using an oven: try to fill every inch of space in it. Even if you do not want baked apples for supper, put a pan of them with whatever is baking at from 250 to 400 degrees. They will be all the better for going slowly, but as long as their skins do not scorch they can cook fast.... Another thing to do while the oven is going is to put in a pan of thinly sliced bread which is too stale to use any more. It makes good Melba toast, if you watch it so that it does not get too brown." (The Art of Eating, Kindle Locations 3615-3620).
Tips for cooling food really show how different our lives and kitchens are: "As for your icebox, then, there are several ways to use it with the most intelligence," Fisher wrote. In 1942, she didn't assume that you have an electric refrigerator, but that if lucky, you may have a wooden box in which you keep food cool with a block of ice. She offers ways to get the most of this primitive appliance (see example in photo). Well, we need to count our blessings, don't we! (Kindle Locations 3600-3601).

Fisher addressed far more severe shortages than ours. Wartime rationing was much more drastic than our supermarkets temporarily running out of some items. Of course I mean the plight of current middle class families who haven't lost their livelihood in the current pandemic, and can still afford to buy what they can find. Hunger is a reality in our society, but that's a very different topic.

Here are some quotes from How to Cook a Wolf that in my opinion highlight the differences between us and them --
"For myself, if I were rationed to two ounces of meat a day, as many of our brothers are (to mention only the more fortunate ones) ... I should prefer to save it for a week perhaps, and make a nice stew of it, or fix it in some way so that for one meal at least I would feel myself safe and fat again in the time of plenty." (Kindle Locations 4894-4896).
"Another trick is to cut the consumption of sugar in half when you are making jams and preserves by mixing one cup of sugar with every two cups of fruit and the correct amount of water, and then adding one-half a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda. I have never done this, but ardent housewives who lived through the last war in both England and America swear that it works, and of course the wear and tear on sugar cards is cut down considerably." (Kindle Locations 3586-3589). 
"It is best to keep it [meat-cooking water] in an old gin bottle in the icebox, alongside the other old gin bottle filled with juices left from canned fruit. You can add what’s left of the morning tomato juice. You can squeeze in the last few drops of the lemon you drink in hot water before breakfast, if you still do that. You can put canned vegetable juices in. You can steep parsley stems in hot water and pour their juice into the bottle. In other words, never throw away any vegetable or its leaves or its juices unless they are bad; else count yourself a fool."(Kindle Locations 3663-3667).
How to Cook a Wolf offers quite a few recipes, which definitely reflect the cooking style of the 1940s when Fisher wrote it. For example, she's fond of "one-dish meals." She recommends a baked ham slice, and includes two recipes, one with apples, one with cream, plus variations. (Yes, it's retro -- my mother used to serve baked ham slice, but I haven't had in years.) She says:
"Get a little more meat [ham] than you plan to use at dinner, because it is fine the next day diced in a macaroni-and-cheese casserole, or in an omelet or any way you want it. A green salad is good with this, and either a light beer or a rather sharp white wine. And for dessert, if you want one, nothing can be a better complement to the tang of ham and apples than hot gingerbread." (Kindle Locations 3634-3637). 
Many of Fisher's suggestions, on the other hand, apply quite well to the here and now, especially this one:
"It is often a delicate point, now, to decide when common sense ends and hoarding begins. Preparing a small stock of practical boxed and canned goods for a blackout shelf, in direct relation to the size of your family, is quite another thing from buying large quantities of bottled shrimps and canape wafers and meat pastes, or even unjustified amounts of more sensible foods." (Kindle Locations 5952-5955).  
Taken all together, Fisher's prescriptions for saving fuel, food, and money are neither wrong nor bad, just not always applicable to current problems as some writers would have it. Many of her thrifty practices, in fact, are normal habits of careful household managers. Using vegetable scraps and a chicken carcass is a way to get a delicious stock (I did it yesterday); however, making some sort of cake out of vegetable scraps and oatmeal, while it may be good when the wolf is really at the door, doesn't fit our current situation. Saving some fat from cooking bacon or chicken to use later is a way to get good flavor; however straining and re-using cooking fat from every frying pan and being miserly with cooking oil may not be reasonable under current circumstances. Can you overdo the reuse of leftovers? Maybe, maybe not.

Living with ration books that limit all purchases, to me, is a very different thing from living with limited time in the grocery store, even with erratic emptying of shelves and unreliable delivery times and incomplete orders. Our food supply is still generous, and we should appreciate it. And we should be helping our less fortunate fellow humans who have many serious problems.

This review copyright © 2020 mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com.
If you read this elsewhere it's been pirated.