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Childhood Hunger in America

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thank you for allowing me to participate in your online community. I have a challenging problem I was hoping some might be able to guide me in.

My wife is a state-licensed home daycare provider currently charged with caring for the children of about 12 families. All of her kids come from low-income, single parent homes. Their daycare is subsidized by the state of Michigan through an agency called " F.I.A." (Family Independence Agency). Without F.I.A., these mothers would be unable to work. The problem we face is that these kids are hungry and malnourished, in spite of the fact that we live in a very wealthy suburb (we ourselves live paycheck to paycheck but our neighbors seem to do quite nicely indeed).

Our kids are routinely dropped off at 3:00 PM without having had breakfast or lunch as the mothers have no food at home and their food stamps have run out. Other mothers will wait to pick up their children until after dinner because they cannot afford to feed the kids themselves (we are expected to provide one meal per shift). I used to think childhood hunger was a problem in third-world countries, but I assure you this is an American problem as well.

I am looking into home milling so that I can bake low-cost, nutritious breads to give these children to take home, as well as to eat while here. My current restaurant is also a micro-brewery, so I have cheap access to whole grains and wheat berries at a fraction of the cost of commercial flour. Of course, items baked with these will have the bran, germ and germ oils included and it is my real hope that this will help boost the immune systems of these kids.

My experience is that these kids will eat absolutely anything we serve them, almost always with delight. As I am a very busy chef, only one person, and on a budget myself, I am wondering if freshly-milled bread by itself can help to favorably impact their health and if there is some additional way I can fortify these breads while keeping them desirable for children. For example, I have heard that there are health benefits in both cinnamon and peanut butter, so I was toying with the idea of cinnamon buns with a peanut butter icing. I am wondering if you have other suggestions I could work with?

Thank you,

Utica, MI
post #2 of 13
I don't want to sound like a stingy ***, but you will want to protect yourself.

I used to donate my bread at the end of the day till my lawyer told me that it was a liability issue which I should not take.

Have you tried dried fruits?
post #3 of 13
You can add nuts and seeds ... maybe raisins, apples ... take a look here for some ideas: Vital Vittles: Delicious, Fresh, Organic Kosher Whole Grain Bread, one of my favorite local bakeries.

Screw the liability crap from the lawyers. These kids need nutrition and if you can do something to help 'em, do it. Maybe I'm being too cavalier about this, however, I've had it with the fear and intiidation of lawyers telling us how to live our lives.

I applaud you for trying to do something about the situation these kids (and their parents) find themselves in.

post #4 of 13
OMG The money that we are using in other countries could be used here to help people with these problems. Here in Maine we also have the food pantries squeeking by in the summer because families have to have more food to feed the kids because they are not getting the breakfast and lunch at school. I agree with Shel skrew the lawyers and feed the kids.
post #5 of 13

My opus on childhood hunger

Far be it from me to pontificate or be long winded, but here I go:

You have several issues going on here.

First, you must have a marvelous heart to care enough to fill a void in the lives of these children. That being said you do need to protect yourself. Not legally, but emotionally and financially. I speak from experience from both sides of the economic fence.

My first husband died when I was 22. There was no life insurance, I didn’t have much in the way of marketable skills and I was the only one to care for my then 2-year-old daughter. I took what I could get for her from whoever was willing to give it. I’m sure that there were people who felt like I asked too much too often. However, I only ever asked when it was for her, I did without food frequently so that she could have what she needed. (Please do not get me started on government assistance because I could not even get on a waiting list for subsidized child care or housing assistance and the food stamp office told me I was lying about how broke I was. WIC is the only government program I was able to get and even that didn’t last long.) The things I did to keep the utilities on, the rent paid and food on the table during my poverty stricken days would make you laugh, cry and maybe even curl your toes. (I took in sewing work from alterations to custom stripper clothes, read tarot cards, waited tables and cleaned houses, and on a good day I was still $20 in the hole.)

There is nothing in this world as horrible as not being able to feed your child. And I can understand a mother leaving her child at your home for dinnertime so that she is sure they are fed. However, at the end of the day you have your own family to worry about. Be wary of those who are looking for a hand out instead of a hand up. Since gaining financial stability I have always tried to help whom I can when I can, but there have been those who have done nothing but take advantage and this can be both financially and emotionally draining. Leaving you sucked dry and no longer able or willing to help those who would need the help and appreciate it.

Then there is the over arching and complicated issue as to why these children do not have access to the kinds of and the amount of food that they need. For those who have never been destitute, it can be difficult to understand. When your food budget is severely limited or your cash flow is small and weekly it changes how you shop for groceries. Anyone in the food industry will tell you that with the right supplies you can turn out delicious and nutritious meals at a fairly low cost per plate. The initial investment to stock the pantry is the expensive part. With not enough funding for the initial investment you have to buy in smaller and more expensive quantities that do not last as long and variety isn’t even an option. The same is true for household food budgets. I would also put money on the fact that these low income working mothers are exhausted at the end of the day and pre-packaged foods with little nutritional value are staples in there home. Been there done that myself. Often it is a vicious Catch-22 (damned if you do damned if you don’t) that leads to not enough food let alone the right kinds of food.

Depending on school lunch programs for good nutrition is laughable and an entirely different rant.

It is a bitter irony that fresh, healthy and well prepared is in fashion right now and that sometimes means that it is more expensive because it is chic. Leaving those who need it the most stuck, all to often, with nutritional garbage. And if the children are malnourished the parents probably are as well. Nutrition isn’t just about healthy bones and muscles. Poor nutrition leads to emotional and mental instability as well as physical problems. All this compounded with the stress of economic hardship is a recipe for disaster. Timely and helpful intervention can make a big difference in the lives of low-income families. (Emphasis on timely and helpful.)

Moving on to the educational aspect: So many people today simply do not know how to cook, let alone how to prepare a nutritionally sound meal on a stark budget. Our public schools eschew home economics in favor of computer literacy. I’m all for high tech education but if your neurons aren’t firing right because you live off of pizza rolls and microwave popcorn (no disrespect to two of my favorite guilty pleasures) the zenith of your computer skills will revolve around Super Mario Brothers as opposed to spread sheets.

Back to the bitter irony: I would have loved to have been able to turn out the kinds of yummy (and yes cost effective and nutritious) breads that you are contemplating for these lucky children in your care when I was down and out. I just didn’t know how and couldn’t afford the supplies for trial and error, let alone a cooking class. Well to do people can afford to take a class on artisan baking and then usually never put their knowledge to use. They can afford to pay top dollar at a boutique bakery.
All of my self taught pastry skills come out of the fact that my current husband earns a good living and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home to raise my brood (five children now) and afford the tools (including books and internet access) and a never ending flow of butter, flour and sugar until I got it right. In fact, I have taught cake decorating at a Community College (through a continuing education program) to scores of upper-middle class students who ended up with skills and knowledge but still called me and commissioned cakes rather than make it themselves.

A friend of mine’s stepmother makes a living teaching low-income single mothers how to prepare nutritional meals on a budget. Having eaten in her home I am a little surprised that she is qualified to do so, but the government gives her a check nonetheless. She is responsible for recruiting her own students and apparently goes for the “fish in a barrel” recruitment method and most of her students are serving time.

It is entirely possible that you could expand the scope of your mission to nourish the underprivileged and benefit your own family financially by investigating this concept. You might look into writing your own grant to the local, state and federal agencies. Just an idea. I know of a lady who has basically created her own job by writing grants to teach pottery to low-income children. Her grants get approved based on two points: first it benefits low-income children and second pottery is considered an indigenous art form (Native American) so there is grant money aplenty.

You might not need a full time job, but you might be able to create a profitable for you sideline that could literally change the lives of the people you reach. The beauty of it is that if you taught these mothers how to feed their families the impact you would make could be felt for generations.

Then there are the children in your care. Just feeding them in the manner that you have discussed will change their lives. The initial change will be in their physical and emotional health. Long range, they will have experienced good nutritional food and therefore will develop good nutritional habits. Kudos to you. You are also nourishing their souls. A well-fed child feels loved. Need I say more? Depending on their ages you might even be able to impart some of your skill to them.

Regardless of my level of financial security now, I still have to feed a family of seven and money is not available to me in infinite quantities. Easy, frugal and nutritionally perfect is the incredible edible egg. A chicken egg contains all the daily nutrition you need save Vitamin C. My kids could eat their weight in scrambled eggs and consider it a treat when we do “breakfast for dinner”. My six year old actually does the “happy dance” and proclaims that it must be “opposite day” for such a fabulous meal to have come his way. Bacon is not so cheap so we don’t always serve it but I buy eggs by the crate and homemade waffles and pancakes abound and when I’m feeling particularly fancy crepes or cheese blintzes.

Anybody else have any cost effective ideas for instant implementation?

In closing (yes I’m almost there) I have a basic food philosophy that sounds silly but sums up why I do what I do. The way I look at it I’m saving the world one cookie at a time. I’ll explain: a beautiful and tasty pastry not only feeds the stomach, it has the capacity to uplift the spirit. A hand-decorated cookie can change someone’s day, make a child feel special or inspire the recipient to a never-ending list of things. It’s the ripple effect. It’s karma. I might not be able to slay all the dragons, right all the wrongs or make the world safe for every living creature, but I can make a difference one cookie at a time. And it seems that you can do it one whole grain peanut butter icing cinnamon roll at a time.

I wish you success.
post #6 of 13
Nice post, ibznso. It makes me very sad to think there would be anyone, especially a child that would be hungry in this, a country that can afford to burn corn. I am very disillusioned with the leadership in this country from both parties that a situation like this should exist.
post #7 of 13
Kudos, Ron, for your wife and you wanting to take this on...... I think the whole grain bread idea is a great one (I LOVE whole grain yeast-raised breads). Heck, whole grain bread and peanut butter sandwiches in and of itself is a decent snack/meal ...maybe add sliced bananas (using natural peanut butter, of course.... there's no place for sugar/high fructose corn syrup in peanut butter, imo). If I'm feeling especially motivated after a long day baking, I'll even make my own from roasted unsalted peanuts at home......straight up peanuts processed into peanut butter ... MMM mmm mmm. I agree with everyone that there are an awful lot of things wrong in this country that need to be addressed before trying to "save" parts of the world that don't even want us there....<sigh>
Good luck and best wishes to you, I think your idea is a good one ..... the restaurant/lodge I bake for now also won't donate leftovers for the same "liability" issues, which is a sad joke, seeing the amounts of perfectly good leftovers (unserved/untouched) that go down the disposal and out in the trash on a regular basis.
By the way, how's MI, this time of year ?? We moved down to TN from Dearborn Hts about 5 years ago (I used to be a union baker/team leader at Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn). I miss a lot about MI....but not the winters ;)
- Shoe
Bakers - we make a lot of dough, but not so much money
Bakers - we make a lot of dough, but not so much money
post #8 of 13

I also mill my own flour just before baking bread! Do you have a convenient way to mill? You can even use a Vitamix dry jar, works great and fast for modest amounts! I love love love the taste of freshly milled whole grains, I would think those grains would be more palatable for the kids being all fresh and nutty tasting.

I now live in Canada, but have lived in American cities like L.A. It is a great tragedy the way our societies have left good people on the margins. Those people who are dropping off those kids are dropping them off to go to work, are they not, so they're working and can't afford to feed their families. There is such a mean spirit out there in some places, and many people think it's always your fault if you're poor. I contribute to an organization that provides meals for the homeless, and have been involved in many food charities in the past. I live on a farm now, and many farmers near me are happy to contribute food to food charities. Most farmers get paid so crappy for their wares, there are some nice ones who are happy to donate. Plus there's all the imperfect stuff that no one wants that they see going to waste.

First off I would say, I know you're dealing with kids and all that fast food conditioning etc., but hungry kids will eat less pickily than other kids, and those whole grains will definitely contribute much to their health. We have a non-profit organization here that puts salad bars into schools, and it amazed many people the way kids will actually go for the healthy choices over the less healthy ones. And If there's no food in the house, you will eat whatever's there. I had thoughts of on Fridays for a special treat sending each kid home with a full loaf of bread. Then you know they won't go undernourished on weekends.

Is the peanut butter an issue with allergies of any other family members, etc., that would be something I would check first.

Are there any local farms that would contribute produce to you or sell very cheaply? You can bake with "seconds". I was thinking you could make a bread with apple chunks in it and cinnamon, if you have local orchards you might get donations. Apple breads don't need to be sweet if you want to keep the sugar down. Undersized apples are worth nothing to a grower (they don't get paid for them), but are a boon to kids, maybe you could get some undersized ones for free to give to the kids fresh too, if there's a packer near you, they probably put them to juice which currently pays 3 cents a pound due to most of our apple juice being from concentrates from China:rolleyes:.

Another way of sneaking some nutrients into bread would be pumpkin bread, or squash. It doesn't have to be a sweet/spicy/pumpkin pie sort of deal. Farms that sell pumpkins for halloween have a lot leftover, also the ones where the stem came off are not saleable. Or they're not expensive anyway if you don't have time to look for bargains and freebies. Pumpkin is a superfood, it was said by a MD that wrote a superfood book that it should be a staple, the whole pumpkin/squash family.

Sunflower seeds are a reasonably inexpensive addition too, compared with other nuts.

I'm thinking you could do a whole wheat carrot cake from cheap carrots, and sneak all kinds of nutritious goodies into that too.

BTW, what a scrooge friggin lawyer to tell umoa to worry about giving a loaf of bread to the poor. Ayiyiyiyiyi! In Toronto there's an organization that picks up catering and restaurant leftovers and delivers them to social service organizations that feed the poor, and I have given loads of not used raw Arctic Char from an event in the past. I'll take a chance that someone who doesn't have a pot to piss in is going to have the means and resources and the case to sue me. Let me say something about an interesting study I read on which doctors get sued. It showed that the assholes got sued, the ones who were nice and caring didn't get sued, even when they made horrible medical mistakes. The director of the study ended up being able to predict accurately by watching 60 second videos of the doctors interacting with patients who was going to get sued and who wasn't, knowing nothing about their medical expertise, just based on whether the doctor that interacted well and seemed to care for his patients, or was a dick. BTW, I would actually be concerned with liability and peanut butter in children these days. If liability is a concern with donating food, food safety instructions sent with the food is an excellent protection, in lawsuits if you are not negligent and have gone out of your way to protect the recipient, it changes everything. Bread is really low risk anyway I would say, what's the worst case scenario... But I digress... back to feeding children!!

as insznbnso touted the egg, you could also bake bread with eggs in it. This would also give them protein, in addition to other nutrients, and slow down the release of sugars in bread when eaten. I think the comment doesn't apply to children. If a child is hungry and looking for a handout of food, there ya go.

brainstorming some ideas...
carrot (quick bread or muffin or carrot cake)
walnut-prune (just don't say prunes;))
sweet potato
leftover mashed potatoes from your restaurant?
zucchini bread
foccaccias with whatever veg on top
cottage cheese-dill bread
pear bread
cranberry bread
orange bread (whole orange pureed in there)
flax seeds are inexpensive, sunflower seeds, or any other seeds
sundried tomato
garlic bread
rye, spelt, etc., you can also do partly milled "cracked" grains, (must soften with boiling water poured on them)
I have even seen a recipe that uses black beans made from cheap dry beans. Supposed to keep the bread moist too.
whole wheat challah with eggs
etc etc.

But a just plain whole wheat bread is also amazing!!!

If you want to save money on yeast, you can get a natural starter or sourdough going. It will love being fed on a regular basis! Or there's also quick breads too.

I've got a recipe for a walnut soda bread (or raisin walnut) that uses mostly wholewheat flour that works great, and a super-easy 20-minute one-rise bread (100% whole wheat) from an Irish cooking school, I'd be glad to e-mail you the recipes if you want them.

Isn't that the best!! Ron, I read too many studies, but studies show that your generosity will also boost your own health and longevity too!!

They'd also probably go crazy for a foccaccia sort of deal, cut into triangles like pizza. Caramelized onions are a cheap addition to stretch a few other veggies on the top.

Best wishes and THANKS for doing this Ron! If we can be of any further help, keep askin'.

BTW off the topic of bread, but if you need a really cheap salad in that MI winter, grated raw carrots with grated beets, grated apples, grated ginger and a little vinaigrette... or just grated carrots, mayo, etc... A good way to get raw veggies into them maybe for the ones you're stuck scaring up a dinner for.
post #9 of 13
Perhaps other nut butters, like cashew, could be used.

If peanut butter is acceptable, a nice sandwich might be fresh-ground peanut butter (cheaper here than jarred stuff with sugars and junk in the mix), some finely grated carrot on a solid whole-grain bread. I like it ....

post #10 of 13

Fruits and veggies

I like the idea of adding fruits and veggies to the bread.. I volunteer with a shelter for homeless women and children.. its a rareity for them to receive fresh fruit and veggies, meat is also special occasion. they tend to eat a lot of pasta, rice and beans since they are cheap.




post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Your post is brilliant! Thank you so much for sharing!
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

What part of TN are you now in? I hate MI winters with a passion and we were thinking of moving to TN after a wonderful vacation we experienced in the Smoky Mountains. The problem is, I'm Jewish and in the area of TN we visited there were about a billion churches but no shuls. Temps are already dropping here and sunset is arriving earlier each evening.

Joy. So much for global warming.

post #13 of 13
Are there any food manufacturing plants in your area? I have a friend who works in product development at General Mills and he gets free food all the time for us, sometimes by the skid full. When they reformulate a product, they run a full test batch and give it to the schools and local institutions, including day cares, to test. Anything left over, the employees can have or it's donated to the local food shelves. Do you have a Second Harvest or other like organization in your area? I think the whole liability for donated food is just bogus. I think the places just don't want to be bothered. I find it hard to belive anyone hungry enough to need this food would have the means to hire a lawyer and sue. Besides, if the food is handled correctly, it's no different than what the place sold to their customers, so where's the liability? Hope you can find some resources in your area to help you. As my aunt would have said," Bless your heart."
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