We're on a tight budget, and getting actual healthy food is sometimes tricky. We try to focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, and we avoid more expensive and less healthy processed foods. I shop the outside edges of the store. The last week of every month, there are no tomatoes or apples left. We don't have salad or stuff to whip up a stir-fry. We make do, and when money comes in on the 1st, we start the cycle again.
Even though we're surrounded by food most of the time, eating well is still a challenge. And we're the lucky ones. Millions of American families don't have enough to eat, let alone access to fresh, whole foods. Children -- so many children -- need the free lunch they get at school so desperately that they get the impression the purpose of school is to get to eat. Like the old missions that would require recipients of a free meal to worship with them if they wanted to eat, kids go to school and go through the motions of whatever the teacher asks, often in a language they barely understand, believing that is the price of the meal. Learning? Who cares? Eating, that's what matters.
No wonder our public education system is struggling so much. It can't focus on education, because it has to bear part of the burden of the poverty crisis. I'm grateful that it's not my job to figure out how to get a balance of nutrients into those school meals on an impossible budget, knowing that the half of the kids who do have choices will be too picky to eat a lot of the healthiest options.
If you're hungry, you'll eat whatever there is. I know this from personal experience. But those of us who don't suffer from hunger on a regular basis still seem to feel that there will always be something to eat if we need or want it. And that allows us to become complacent about our food, our nutrition, and waste.
Take a look in your kitchen garbage -- or better yet, move it to a less convenient place for a couple of days. What's going in there? Is it edible? Does it contain the vegetables that one of the kids picked out of his casserole? Did someone take too big a portion and throw the rest away? Are there processed food wrappers and packages? Being more aware of our garbage may help us be more aware of what food is actually being eaten and which, no matter how nutritious, is being passed over.
Can we be a little more efficient with our own food, so that maybe there's something we can share with the folks who would never dream of throwing out the peas or tomatoes from a hearty soup? What if nobody ever had to sort through garbage looking for food, because we shared enough when it was still fresh?