This is week four of the Hunger Challenge, and we’re praying for the issue of hunger as a community, as well as praying as individuals and families about becoming involved in the six broken places that we have been discuss the hunger challenge: in review ing for the last six weeks.

I learned a few surprising things from the first few weeks of the Hunger Challenge. Most Americans, even low income ones and those on food stamps, aren’t eating rice and beans every day (although their health might be better if they were since I’m guessing many of them are eating fast food several times a week, but that’s a story for another day…); however, the rice and beans week gave me a very small glimpse into global poverty. For two billion people (at least), one meal of rice and beans each day is their normal. And I complain about eating leftovers for more than two days in a row.

What is most frustrating to me about global hunger is that it isn’t a lack of food that causes the problem. Furthermore, we don’t need industrial agriculture to feed the world (and wreak havoc on the environment). The United Nations estimates that it would take around $30B a year to eradicate global hunger. A lot of money, yes, but we spend over $40B a year on our pets in America alone. Eradicating global hunger is actually an attainable goal with some minor reallocation of resources (as households, organizations, and governments).

The thing that surprised me most about the second week – living on a food stamp budget – is that we live at or near the food stamp budget (when we eat at home). We eat really well on a food stamp budget – mostly organic, all local meat and poultry, and as much local produce as possible. I have argued for some time that Americans should be spending more money as a portion of their budgets on food (and I’ll still argue that point!), but I didn’t realize how well we’re able to eat on a fairly low food budget. This revelation led me to two other related conclusions:

  1. buying in bulk makes a huge difference, and
  2. spices, recipes, and the know-how/energy/ability to cook make a big difference between eating well and boring eating

We belong to a few co-ops or buying groups, so we buy most of our food in bulk. We buy mostly organic and local, but we get a substantial discount because we buy it in large quantities. We have the resources (and space!) to store it, which isn’t available to many people obviously. However, this experiment was a great eye-opener for me in terms of what we could be doing to help our neighbors gain access to better food (both for them and for the environment).

In addition, I learned that I take for granted my very large pantry of spices and seasonings that can take a meal from average to great when employed correctly. I also was reminded that finding pleasure in cooking and having the time to do so is a luxury that not everyone has. With that said, I think with a little practice and guidance, good, real food can be prepared simply, quickly, and deliciously. We just need to do a better job of sharing our tips and tricks with other cooks!