Happy New Year and best wishes to you, faithful readers and new friends, with thanks for making it so much fun to raid the pantry!
Do you see an empty pantry jar?
I see all the possibilities: spices yet to be tasted, grains I've been wanting to cook, legumes to be turned into winter soup, local specialty foods brought back from travels — and best of all, meals I'll prepare for, and with, family and friends.
I see all of this, because I can afford it. I can afford to fill my pantry with pasta, beans, tomatoes, flour. I can afford some basics in the freezer, and a chicken to make stock, and fresh vegetables.
Odds are, if you're reading this, you can afford it, too.
In America, the families of nearly 14 million children cannot afford it. They face the reality of hunger every day. I'm not talking about, "Mom, I'm hungry. What's for dinner?" I'm talking about no dinner. No milk. No hot meals, except what's provided through school lunch programs. No ingredients stacked in the pantry, waiting to be turned into the wonderful variety of recipes we find in cookbooks, newspapers, blogs.
Odds are, if you're reading this, you don't have to choose between buying food and paying for utilities or heating fuel this week.
More Americans went homeless and hungry in 2006 than the year before, and children made up almost a quarter of those in emergency shelters, according to a report released last month by the US Conference of Mayors.
Children need nutritious food to learn, grow and thrive. If they go to school hungry, they are at a disadvantage to succeed before the day even starts. There's plenty of evidence that hungry children do not concentrate as well as those who've had a good breakfast (and those of us who are a bit older know that's true for adults, too).
Ninecooks and The Perfect Pantry have a longstanding commitment to Share Our Strength, an organization that invests in the most effective local and national nonprofits working to guarantee that families at risk of hunger receive critical support.
Share Our Strength has a recipe for ending childhood hunger in America; it's not the easiest recipe, but I hope you'll try it. Reach out to a food pantry in your community; support a community garden; attend a Taste of the Nation event; teach your kids about nutrition.
And, please share this recipe with your friends and families — along with my very best wishes to all for a happy and healthy 2007.
Ending childhood hunger in America
An inspirational and achievable goal. Recipe adapted from Share Our Strength. Serves 14 million children.
Volunteers with soul
Event participants with interest
Chefs and restaurants with heart
Corporations with a conscience
Local organizations and partners with vision
Combine a huge desire to help end childhood hunger with a dash of inspiration. Blend with volunteers, chefs, corporate partners and event participants. Generously add perseverance. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary.
Serve with a bold, innovative and unique national hunger strategy to surround every child with nutritious food where they live, learn, and play.
Include state and local governments, organizations and nonprofits who can help families help themselves by increasing access to the public and private programs that can provide food to those who need it.
[This bold yet achievable recipe is best served with hope. With your help, we will end childhood hunger in America. To learn more, visit www.strength.org.]