Food Yoga- Food Deserts

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Living on less that $35 weekly (for food) in the middle of Hunger Action Month helped me understand what it means to live on an near impossible meal budget.

In this fast paced world driven by instant gratification it can be easy to consume processed foods because that’s what’s readily accessible. Compound that with the stresses of everyday life and healthy habits can take a back seat.

I made a conscious effort to find foods that could support a vegan lifestyle and met the budget restrictions I was under.

But, there was one thing I didn’t have to worry about. Healthy food was outside my doorstep. Across the street there’s an ethnic grocery store that had fresh bok choy for 2 bucks. More Thai basil than I know what to do with for 1.50. Peeled garlic that will last a week for 1.25.

And I haven’t even mentioned the large grocery store that is within biking distance.

Or the green markets on Wednesdays.

You get the picture.

But if I lived 1.5 miles away, it’s an entirely different story. There are parts of my hometown that don’t have the bus service that I have or the easy access to the markets and stores. Have a craving for Mickey Ds, KFC, Wendy’s, White Castle, or Taco Bell. Well then my friend, you’re in luck. You will need to hold onto that luck to find some decent veggies and groceries that are marked up (If you can find a grocery store)

Welcome to a food desert. A food desert is defined by the USDA as :

Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

Check out the map below, all over the country there are areas where people in both urban and rural settings don’t have easy access to fresh food.

no car and supermarket

So now let’s take another look at that $4.50 a day that many folks can spend on food. If you can’t get to the store and you are surrounded by fast food a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese off the Dollar menu seems like a viable option. The next part of the story is fairly obvious, no?

Teaching Tolerance has done interesting research on obesity and access.

Studies show that certain racial groups are disproportionately affected by obesity. These problems may be worse in some U.S. communities because access to affordable and nutritious food is difficult. This is especially true for those living in low-income communities of color and rural areas with limited access to supermarkets, grocery stores or other food retailers that offer the large variety of foods needed for a healthy diet such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy and lean meat products. Instead, individuals in these areas may be more reliant on convenience stores, fast food or similar retailers, or they may not have enough money to afford the higher prices. These areas of limited access are called “food deserts.”

But there are groups of people out there that are taking steps for change.

Yoga has a place in all of this. when you move your body, learn how to breathe and take time to connect you start to make better decisions. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a chain reaction can happen in the other direction.

September is Hunger Action Month.

Namaste y’all.

*Do you live in a food desert and maintain a vegan lifestyle? I’d love to hear how you make it work- send me an email or leave comments.

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Vegan Diaries 21 Meals $5 Day (Days 8-12)

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Week 1 is done. Some hits, some misses. But all in all I was pleased with what I got out of it.

Applying what I’ve learned is on the menu this week. This is not as easy as it seems (see past mistakes), but I will do my best.

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I have decided to lean on my pantry more this week (I’ll note the cost per serving).

A pantry building post is on the way.

But first let me do a rundown of the groceries I bought this week with my $35

  • snow peas (2 servings)
  • scallions
  • iceberg lettuce
  • onions
  • soba
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes
  • split peas
  • black eyed peas
  • vegetable stock (this was on sale wee ha!!!! I bought 2 quarts for 3 smackers)
  • popcorn kernals (this was my splurge item at 1.79, but I miss a snack)
  • apples (Trader Joe’s on sale a bag for 2.29 10 in the bag)
  • tortillas
  • oatmeal
  • 2 lemons

I have 8 bucks left that I will use midweek. Leftover from last week: brown rice, white beans, chick peas, kale

Since I had chickpeas left I made a big batch of hummus. I think this is my biggest win so far. Hummus is full of protein, filling and frankly, freaking fantastic on everything. Throw in lettuce and have it on a wrap. A big bag of carrots on sale will cost you $1.59, paired with hummus perfect for snackin’ and relaxin’.

Day 8

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal (why didn’t I think of this last week?)

Lunch

  • Hummus wrap

Dinner

  • Veggie Stir Fry with Soba (Snow peas, scallions, onions garlic)

Day 9

Breakfast

  • Apple (leftover)
  • Oatmeal

Snack

  • Popcorn

Lunch

  • Leftover soba noodles (I had them cold and they were oh so, so good)

Dinner

  • White bean and kale soup (This was only meh. I would have added lots more veggies or some pasta or even some ‘shrooms to give it some umph but I didn’t want to spend the money to beef up this recipe).

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Day 10

Breakfast 

  • Oatmeal

Snack 

  • Popcorn

Lunch 

  • Leftover soup (didn’t finish it. But Dakota liked it over her kibble)

Snack 

  • Popcorn

Dinner

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Another win. I have a tried and true recipe that I love. I was worried that it wouldn’t be so great. I was hoping that eating on a very tight budget could be tasty, but it’s been less that successful in my opinion.

Bah! This version was 6 ingredients and freaking awe-some. Do you hear me? Awe-some.

This recipe made dance inside (also on the outside, I couldn’t help but bust a move when I slurped my first sip. My apologies to the people across the street who may have seen me)

Ingredients 

  • One Eggplant cubed (keep the skin on)
  • Large can whole crushed tomatoes (Cento was on sale, score .79)
  • 5 (peeled) cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes (this is optional- but if you’re from Jerz…you should still have a few) cut in quarters
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Place all veggies and garlic on a cookie sheet. Toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Roast for 25 minutes in a 425° oven.

3. Place veggies in a large pot or dutch oven with remaining olive oil.

4. Sauté for 5 minutes and then add stock

5. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes.

6. Carefully transfer soup in small batches to a blender and blend.

That’s it. It had an elegant taste but hearty feel. And it freezes well (whoop!)

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Day 11

Breakfast 

  • Oatmeal 

Lunch

  • SOUP! Whoop!

Dinner

SNAP pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Another easy peasy (you see what I did there?) recipe.

So good. In fact, after I made it I forgot to take a photo for this post. No worries I thought, I’ll just get another bowl, take a photo and save it for tomorrow.

Cut to: Oneika slurping. Camera app open but off to the side. Yikes! I’m supposed to take a photo.

I managed to get it *wipes mouth*

Ingredients 

  • one bag split peas
  • small onion- chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic minced
  • 6 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • smoked paprika or smoked chipotle pepper* (this is a pantry usage)

Preparation

1. Saute onions and garlic

2. Add split peas

3. Add 4 cups of water

4. Bring to boil then immediately reduce to medium low

5. Add 1/2 cup water after 20 minutes

6. Stir frequently for another 35 minutes adding water if soup is too think

7. Transfer in batches to blender **

* I debated whether to use this or not. I opted to used it for a few reasons. First, smoked paprika adds richness and meaty flavor to vegan dishes and gives them depth. Second a little goes a long way, so it’s worth getting.

** You could skip this, but I was feeling silky smooth. I’ve also had made split pea without blending and it’s still just as bad ass.

Day 12

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal

Lunch

  • Leftover soup

Dinner

riceandpeas

This second week has been a lot easier on the palate.

I know, you’re saying can  this chick really eat soup every night for dinner?

The answer is yes, yes I could. I still had a few bucks left so I guess I could have grabbed a roll or some fresh bread. There’s a bakery across the street that sells fresh whole wheat loaves for 1.50.

But honestly the soup is plenty. I think a lot of American eating habits are too heavy, focusing on the size of a meal as an indication of success rather than the quality and flavor.

It takes a bit of work. But it can be done.

I felt short changed last week. I kicked rocks a few times. Yeah, yeah, non-attachment.

But I shopped this second week with a determination to make some meals that I could stand behind and say, these are things you can get everywhere.

With two days left, I feel that I’ve done that.

It’s still pretty sobering to know that this is the budget many families have every single day, year after year. This was no game to me. However, next week if I feel like grabbing a green juice after a hot yoga class, I can.

There’s a lot to think about and so much more that we can do to end hunger.

Stay tuned for the last few days (recipes) and my final thoughts about the whole process.

September is Hunger Action Month.

Namaste y’all.