Monthly Archives: August 2009

Happy Birthday to Us!

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In a couple of days this blog will reach its’ one year anniversary.

When we started this thing back in September of 2008, we had no idea what would become of our little project. We had no idea that trying to eat on a dollar a day would end up landing us in the New York Times, or on the t.v. show Inside Edition. We had no idea that people from all over the world would be writing us about a cacophony of concerns related to food issues. And we had no idea that we would be able to use this medium to give back to our local community hunger program.

Since last September a lot has happened, people continue to write us, journalists continue to write about us, and most of all, we continue to write about the many issues related to food in our lives. So today, as we’re working on the edits for the book, we just want to say thank you to all of our readers, to everyone who has written us, and to all those who have continued to support our efforts and challenge our thinking.

In two days the school year will officially begin, and on that day we will continue to think about all of those who are struggling to make ends meet, and will continue to move forward in doing what we can to help.

So, thank you once again, and please, keep reading…and by all means go ahead and pre-order the book. Order one for you, and one for a friend, we know you’ll love it.

Thanks,

Christopher

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Planting a Row

Summer is coming to an end, and on Monday, Christopher and I head back to school for prepping and meetings before the students join us the following week.

While we have had plenty of time for relaxation, we have also managed to stay busy. Between Christopher’s fellowship, the  trips we have taken, and gardening, we have been hard at work on our manuscript, which we are currently in the process of wrapping up. 

With the school year facing us, I am not only thinking about lesson plans, but I am also looking into what I can plant for the winter. Of course in San Diego, we have helpful weather year round. All of my plants are producing, and I still have one empty garden-bed left that I am waiting to get compost for. That last bed is going to have a slightly different purpose than the others. I am going to “plant a row” or two to donate to local food agencies. 

The Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign started in 1995 when a columnist in Anchorage, Alaska asked his readers to plant a row and donate the vegetables to a local soup kitchen. The idea was then introduced to the Garden Writer’s Association as a national program which has delivered fourteen million pounds of food to people in need in the last fifteen years. 

I have learned in the past few months that I love the feeling of growing my own food in my backyard. I am constantly checking on my plants and I bring each vegetable into Christopher and show it off as if it was a trophy. What I have already planted is plenty for us, and while I was having the beds put in the back yard, I may have been a bit ambitious. I have five good-sized spaces to work with and the one waiting for compost is the largest. I have more than enough space to plant food to share.

While my contribution will be small, according to the Garden Writers, “There are over 84 million households with a yard or garden in the U.S. If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local food agencies and soup kitchens, a significant impact can be made on reducing hunger.”

If you are a gardener, and you have the space, consider planting a row. 

Kerri

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As seen at The Providence Journal.

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Sheila Lennon at The Providence Journal did a quick write-up of our project…enjoy. Hello to all you folks in Rhode Island!

– Christopher

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As seen on TIME Magazine’s “Cheapskate” Blog.

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For those of you who read our Q & A with Brad Tuttle of Time Magazine’s “Cheapskate” blog, welcome to the One Dollar Diet Project.

Back in September of 2008, a recession was looming and we started to feel the sting every time we pushed our cart out of the grocery store. We would walk to our car with lighter wallets, and a feeling that we were starting to be priced-out of our local market. As a public high school teacher who advises students in a Social Justice course, one of the many facts that struck me while we started to feel some financial fatigue, was that close to a billion people live on a dollar a day. The fact that we felt burdened by the cost of organic produce in the face of this reality seemed ridiculous.

So we decided to experiment with our lives.

We could have spent time re-assessing our expenses, made a strict budget, or decided to put an end to all discretionary spending, but we didn’t. What sounded more interesting was the challenge of trying to eat on just a dollar a day, each. We really had no idea what to expect. So we laid out some rules, started a blog for our friends and families to read, and ventured into an abyss of beans and rice and homemade breads, only to discover much more about ourselves, the food system, and the economics of eating. By the end, we were left with more questions than answers, which inevitably provoked us to try some new experiments in eating and economics, all of which that will be revealed in our forthcoming book “On a Dollar a Day” which will be published by Hyperion in January.

If you’re interested in reading about our experiences eating on a dollar a day for month, you can start here and then click through each day; you’ll see “Day 1”, “Day 2”, etc. in the upper corner. If you would like to pre-order the book, you can do so at one of the links to your right. Thanks for visiting, and we look forward to hearing from you after you’ve read through the blog.

We’re very thankful for Brad’s Cheapskate blog as it provides worthwhile announcements for deal seekers, engaging stories about living on the cheap, and insights that are worth reading (keep up the good work Brad!).

Warmly,

Christopher & Kerri

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Return from Gotham City.

On our trip to the United Nations in New York City, we learned about Plumpy'Nut, a high protein, peanut-based food used in famin relief.

On our trip to the United Nations in New York City, we learned about Plumpy'Nut, a high protein, peanut-based food used in famine relief.

Kerri and I were in New York City recently, and during that time we spent far more than a dollar a day on food. In fact, I had restaurant outings planned before we left for the trip. Having traveled to the big apple before, there were a few places I wanted to make sure that we visited: Hangwai, Red Bamboo, Candle Cafe, Blossom, and Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, just to name a few.

Yet, what we learned during our visit to the United Nations about feeding programs around the world stood in stark contrast to our extravagant eating patterns as trendy jet-setting idealists. While we were eating seared seitan on my birthday, millions of children were eating Plumpy’Nut; a peanut-based food used for famine relief which was invented by French scientist in 1999. I had never heard of Plumpy’Nut before, and assume that most folks haven’t, so I’ve re-printed some of the basics,

“The Plumpy’nut product is a high protein and high energy peanut-based paste in a foil wrapper. It tastes slightly sweeter than peanut butter. It is categorized by the World Health Organization as a Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).

Plumpy’nut requires no water preparation or refrigeration, making it easy to deploy in difficult conditions to treat severe acute malnutrition. However, it must be used under medical supervision and the nutritional status of the children has to be clearly identified by a doctor or a nutritionist. It has a two year shelf life when unopened. The product was inspired by the popular Nutella spread. It is manufactured by Nutriset, a French company based in Normandy Rouen, fully dedicated to humanitarian relief, specialized in products to treat malnutrition, used by humanitarian stakeholders (international organisations and non-governmental organisations basically) for distribution. The ingredients are: peanut paste, vegetable oil, powdered milk, powdered sugar, vitamins, and minerals, combined in a foil pouch. Each 92g pack provides 500 kcal or 2.1 MJ.

Plumpy’nut contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E, and K, and minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, iodine, sodium, and selenium.”

As I held the pouch in my hand, I wanted to taste it, but unfortunately they don’t sell Plumpy’Nut at the U.N. coffee shop. However, during our tour of the U.N. we were reminded of the millions of people who are barely getting enough to eat, and the millions more who get sick and die as a result of global poverty.

However, while we live a life far from poverty, New York City isn’t exactly a cheap place to visit.

Traveling can make it difficult to eat affordably, but we managed to pick up a box of cereal, soymilk, and orange juice to eat each day for breakfast. We definitely could have done more “home” cooking, as our hotel had both a refrigerator and a microwave, but part of the experience on holiday is to enjoy the foods available in the part of the world that you’re visiting; and enjoy them we did.

In addition to eating well, seeing some sites, going to The Daily Show and watching the Yankees sweep the Boston Red Sox, we were also lucky enough to sit down with the folks at Hyperion who are working on the release of our book for January. We are very pleased with everything we learned from them, and we’re really excited to have such a supportive group of people to help us bring the book to all of you.

As of now, the first draft of the manuscript is complete, and we’ll be doing editing from here on out.

– Christopher

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We will be back.

We are currently out of town and thought we would have time to post, but have not. We’ll post again on Saturday. 

 

Kerri

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Taxing the Children of the Corn?

A report released earlier in the week suggests taxing unhealthy foods to help combat obesity.

A report released earlier in the week suggests taxing unhealthy foods to help combat obesity.

Our time with Kerri’s family at Donner Lake is quickly coming to an end, and as we continue working on the last few chapters of the book, I have found my urges to eat food-like products such as Oreos and Wheat Thins stronger than ever. This week has been a battle. I took a vow two weeks ago to not eat prepackaged cookies anymore, but a week ago, I caved. I returned home from my fellowship at Cal Poly and found a small Ziploc bag containing some Nutter Butters in the cupboard. I inhaled them. My mind shut down, and I could not help myself.

So this week, we have been in an environment flush with processed foods that we would never bring into our home, and the challenge continued. During the dollar diet we could not afford foods like Triscuits or Lay’s Potato Chips. During our last experiment they were not part of the menu, so we didn’t eat them. Our most recent eating endeavor has sidelined these same products as well, but I am struggling now more than ever.

In order to help me understand what is happening in my brain when I see things like packaged cookies, I picked up a copy of Dr. David Kessler’s book “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.” Dr. Kessler, who in addition to having been the dean of the Yale medical school, was also the commissioner of the FDA under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His writing about why we overeat, the role of food companies, and how we can take control of our urges was both insightful and engaging. However, in addition to personal responsibility, there are several other things that need to be done to help our country drop the extra weight.

A recent blog entry on the Los Angeles Times Web site concerning a report released last week by the Urban Institute titled “Reducing Obesity: Policy Strategies from the Tobacco Wars” created a firestorm of comments from folks saying things like “There isn’t one tax out there that I would support at this point. We Americans are being taxed to death and we’ve had it,” and from another reader, “My govenrment [sic] is too large. It dictates too much. It no longer allows freedom.”

The majority of the comments were of this ilk, and there were 720 of them in the last 24 hours. Now, I do not want any new taxes either, but for those who oppose it, either on grounds of a “no new taxes!” chant, or “no more government!” please give your elected officials some new ideas that will help us figure out how our country is going to have a healthy population and workforce (over 20 serious diseases are related to obesity, including colon cancer), how we are going to stem exponential health care costs (that we are already paying for through current taxes), and how are we going to change the food system so that it will both satisfy and become sustainable?

This report, if you read it, is quite well done. However, I suggest that before we start taxing certain products, we should eliminate subsidies for both corn and soy farmers, thus letting products made from these ingredients (which is basically every processed food) take on their true cost. Costs of these products would inevitably rise, reducing consumption, and the money currently used for subsidies could be redirected to any number of avenues to help us combat obesity: health care, education about eating, etc.

Unless you have a better idea about how to change things, keep thinking, and keep quiet.

– Christopher

PS. If you are curious about our feelings concerning the recent report released about organic food, we align ourselves with Marion Nestle’s most recent post.



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