After a busy, but enjoyable summer, Christopher and I headed back to work last week. The first day students returned coincided with the one year anniversary of the start of the One Dollar Diet Project. In contrast to last year, I have made it through the first week well fed, but I was still exhausted by Friday.
The first week of school is a blur of going over syllabi, learning the names of roughly 100 new students (I am pretty good, I knew them all by the third day. Christopher will take a little longer), students coming and going as they change their class schedules, and getting back into the patterns of the school day. I wonder how we had the energy to face our students each day with rumbling stomachs. Of course the current financial situation of the state leaves us with slightly larger class sizes. But, while we are once again eating well, the problems of the economy are continuing to leave many Americans in need. The New York Times reports that the number of homeless school children continues to grow. While we are asking them to read and work on homework, many children are worried about where there next meal is coming from.
Tuesday will mark another anniversary from our project. September 8th was the day that Christopher declared to be our own holiday which he named “National Beans and Rice Day.” He wanted us to celebrate the simplicity and beauty of what had become our staple meals. We still appreciate the meals we make entirely from scratch. Just last night we had polenta, another common item during our month-long project, with tomato sauce and zucchini from the garden.
We are grateful that we have the time to prepare meals like this, something that is hard to remember when we get home from work exhausted. On the first day of school we ditched the homemade food for the convenience of Rico’s, our favorite burrito shop. delicious, but perhaps not the best choice in terms of health.
A better choice would have been to make dinner at home from the whole grains in our cupboard and veggies in the fridge. Items such as these don’t come with packaging that works to entice us to buy them or the convenience of quick preparation. Processed foods, in their brightly colored packages are appealing, but many offer little in terms of nutrition. It is interesting what products will be labeled as healthy in an effort to get consumers to purchase them. There is currently a food labeling campaign that is working towards indicating items in a grocery store that are “Smart Choices” for healthy options. This campaign is supported by some of the largest food manufactures and is receiving quite a bit of criticism for the packaged “food” it is claiming to be good choices. Many of the items are a far cry from simple ingredients and include items such as Froot Loops and fudgesicles. An article in the New York Times reports that the FDA wrote a letter to the managers of the program and “the letter said the agencies would be concerned if the Smart Choices label ‘had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.'”
We share the same concern.