Tag Archives: New York City

Inspiration for the “Faces of Hunger” Contest.

The latest video from the New York based group Improv Everywhere was released today and is called “Grocery Store Musical.” Enjoy.

In addition, for those budding filmmakers out there, consider making your own short film about hunger for a cash prize.

While it may be too close to the deadline for some of you, the “Faces of Hunger” video contest asks people 25 years old or younger to document hunger in his or her community through a short film (5-12 minutes) for the chance to win a prize of up to $5,000. Please share the opportunity with those you know, and if we can make a suggestion: if you win, give some of the money back to the community organization most effective in delivering food to those who need it. The deadline for the contest has been extended to October 30, so with a little over a week, there’s still time to shoot, edit, and submit. You can do so by visiting the Faces of Hunger Web site here.

– Christopher

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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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Sweet (In)Dependence.

Delicious vegan sugar cookies helped us ring the bell of freedom on Independence Day, as we struggled with our addiction to sugar. Photo by Christopher.

Delicious vegan sugar cookies helped us ring the bell of freedom on Independence Day, as we struggled with our addiction to sugar. Photo by Christopher.

While sitting on the lazy bike at the gym on Saturday, I glanced up from Louis Fischer’s book “Gandhi” to see Joey “Jaws” Chesnut cramming down his 68th hot dog to set a new world record and defend his title as part of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest which has been held on July 4 for the last 94 years on Coney Island in New York City. Call it coincidence, but as I read about one man fasting to create powerful social change, another man waved a large trophy in the air, while 1.5 million people like me sat watching it on national television.

As part of our most recent experiment in eating, Kerri and I have been spending quite a lot of time at the gym, planning menus, and doing our best to eat well, but the process has been quite challenging at times. There is food everywhere, most of it is sweetened or salted to a “bliss point,” and when people get together, it’s usually over a meal. The eternal invitation to indulge is hard to resist. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the power of vegan cupcakes during Father’s Day, but as Saturday was Independence Day the veggie dogs, potato salad, and sugar cookies at our friend Justin’s house were ready to be enjoyed en masse and pushed into the depths of my belly.

I went back to reading about Gandhi. More fasting. More political change. Then another glance up at the television. On a commercial break there was one ad proclaiming that you could “Use food to lose weight!” complete with before and after pictures. Another for a salad dressing that apparently had something to do with a man and his dog getting the paper (the sound was off). And on another television, a breeze of snack crackers danced around the screen as kids chased them into the house. Our culture is food obsessed, and utterly self conscious about our weight (rightfully so?). This duality is hard to reconcile in any meaningful way, and is exactly what I have been struggling with. At that moment in a room packed full of other people looking to be fit, it seemed comically tragic.

After the gym, I spent the morning preparing sugar cookies. This says it all.

But if that is not enough. I even made my own dyes for the frosting. A crafty endeavor stemming from a desire to not eat “chemicals,” or “artificial” food products. I think this is what literary people call irony, and our country’s attitudes toward health and eating are marinating in it. Regardless, while making the cookies I could not help but eat chunks of dough every now and then, and when they came out of the oven, it was easy to find the ones that had to be eaten (this one is a little too crisp, that one a little too broken). And so my physical exercise was easily overcome by the buttery baked biscuits of sugar.

I began to wonder what Gandhi would say about Joey “Jaws” Chesnut and an event such as this annual eating contest. I thought about my own struggle to eat well and get in shape. I wondered if it would ever really be possible to create lifestyle habits that are both bliss filled and healthy. If you have suggestions, please get in touch.

To the taste of sugar in my mouth,  the need to be fit, and a culture gone wild over it’s eats…

– Christopher

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The Middle.

contra-costa-food-bank
A report released today by the Food Bank of New York City, and reprinted by the Wall Street Journal, stated a challenge that many people are dealing with at this very moment: they can’t afford to eat.

For the folks who are determined to keep believing that, “those people just aren’t working hard enough,” I’d like to point out that many of the people struggling to eat are actually working hard.

The report cites that, “the number of middle income households experiencing difficulty affording food has tripled: among households with annual incomes between $25,000 and $49,999, difficulty increased from 21 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in 2008 (jumping 40 percent within the past year alone), and among households with annual incomes between $50,000 and $74,999, difficulty increased from 14 percent to 43 percent (jumping 59 percent within the past year alone).”

With job losses and under-employment climbing, we will continue to see people just like us struggle to feed themselves. The report also points out that those most effected by the struggle are  young children, and senior citizens.

I’d like to encourage you to find out if the food bank in your community is struggling. If you can, consider donating. It’s never too late to plan something that could help others.

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