Monday, March 5, 2012

highs and lows and hunger in America

I am on my Spring Break. I am also on my couch. God bless Spring Break. (I do still have to go to work. But then I get to go home after.)

Last week’s highs:

At church yesterday, I held a baby. A cute, warm, good smelling baby. As I sang in the choir. Then she fell asleep in my arms. So. awesome.

On gorgeous sunny Saturday, Steve and I parked at Gravelly Point and strolled all over DC. We walked back to Virginia over Memorial Bridge (the bridge directly next to the Lincoln… Memorial, thus the name) and I discovered an astonishingly gorgeous stretch of grass, trees, and blooming daffodils between lanes of traffic. We walked in the balmy weather as the sun set. It was the best.

In my chem class, the professor couldn’t get the overhead projector to work. He gave it a look and kind of wiggled his fingers. I said to my friend, “He looks like he’s doing a Jedi mind trick”. My friend, not missing a beat, wiggled his fingers and went, “Those aren’t the chemical equations you’re looking for.” Humor in chem class is very very necessary.

Last week’s lows:

Getting talked down to. In work and academic situations. Even if I were stupid, would you increase my productivity or learning by treating me like a stupid person?

Enough about that.

Here’s something AWESOME that I got to do through work:


There is something called the Hunger Free Communities Network that does… many awesome things.

Including assembling us in the hunger-fighting business do to some learnin’ from each other. Working in rural areas, working in urban areas, working with specific populations, utilizing specific federal programs, coordinating with other nonprofits, collecting good data, etc. etc.

It was at a lovely downtown hotel in a room filled with super cool people.

And there was a BREAKFAST BUFFET, oh joy!


A scrambled egg, cheerios and flavored yogurt parfait (I used to snarf those down in college… I miss flavored yogurt… it’s just too Frankenfoody and unethically sourced for me to eat now; sad), and enough EXPENSIVE BERRIES TO FILL UP MY BELLY! I love love love buffets. I never eat enough berries to leave me truly happy. I love berries. I should really grow them.

We had a nice introductory session, where various current and former politicians reminded us (this is a direct quote): “Most members of Congress are caring human beings”.


And then it was breakout session time. I went to one that discussed data (because I am a thrill a minute) but it really WAS thrilling because it ended up starring my new HERO. Mariana Chilton. Director of Center for Hunger Free Communities.

Awesome things Center for Hunger Free Communities does:

-Pushes for food insecurity screenings in hospitals.

In a nutshell, this captures the most vulnerable people when they’re in a crisis situation: in a hospital, either because they lack health insurance, because they or their child has had a medical emergency. Perhaps they deal with issues of domestic violence (the incidence of which increases in households that are food insecure). The idea is that these people, in crisis, are asked by the doctor/nurse/health professional who admits them, whether or not they are in a state of food insecurity (a lot of the time, proxy measures are used: for example, you might ask, “Did you have to choose between buying food and paying rent this month? Or between buying food and paying for medicine?”) Last year, I thought all the time how our kids were definitely in need (they were low-income to qualify for our program, and they received food bank meals every day after school, AND they took home food for the weekend), but that in some ways they were the lucky ones, whose parents were on top of it enough to put them in an afterschool enrichment program. When you’re screening in a hospital, you’re catching the most vulnerable people you might not catch anywhere else. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here: Children's Healthwatch

- Documents hunger from the perspective of actual hungry people

Rather than a bunch of people like me who have (blessedly) never faced food insecurity, why not hear about it from the people who have? See the real environment and real challenges. Here: Witnesses to Hunger

-Combines nutrition and public health research

As someone who’s obsessed with both (and hopes, maybe, someday, to have my name followed with RD/MPH), I was hugely inspired by Mariana Chilton’s research. The latest of their organization’s impressive reports demonstrates (I’m talking to you, Newt Gingrich) that feeding the hungry, along with being the morally right thing to do, also reduces health care costs. You can read it here: The SNAP vaccine

(FYI, this jargon is really familiar to me, working at a food bank, but SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps. In general, if any of these subjects interest you, please get in touch! They’re what I deal with at work every day and what I’m passionate about. Drop me a line at

On a less deep note, I was super excited for lunch. My supervisor, Amy, had gone the previous year and spoke highly of the food.

I was immediately excited to see iced tea at every seat. I love free iced tea so much.


They made a big hoopla of asking who was vegetarian/kosher/gluten free and put stickers on our name tags… and then it was a buffet?


Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my mound of Caesar salad, roll, assorted roasted veggies (Amy and I spent an amusing amount of time speculating which veggies), potatoes, a giant vegan butternut squash ravioli with eggplant tomato sauce…


… and there were mini Crumbs cupcakes! Hugely exciting.


But then I hadn’t had a chocolate one.. and they were so small… and also so good.

The nonprofit world is so female. (Single dudes,, you are really missing out on an opportunity. Start volunteering!). We spent a long period of time at lunch chatting about cupcakes. And having to go to the bathroom a lot. And weddings. In retrospect, it was kind of embarrassing.

Breakout session #2 was a bit less awesome, just because getting food to kids in after school programs (what I do, under a federal program called CACFP) is a bit complicated. Do you send prepackaged meals? Do you do a vendor? Etc. etc. etc.

The day concluded with a candlelit, atmospheric gathering that involved chocolate fondue (!)


Random roast turkey (?)


Passed appetizers (this was a fried artichoke that was surprisingly just okay)


And an open bar!


While a speaker discussed a conference I lack the funds to attend, I tried my first Cosmopolitan. I did not like it, and was glad it was free.

1 comment:

Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon said...

Sounds like a neat event! I also am part of a hunger ending nonprofit and have attended such events before. I always find them so inspiring!

Also, I also have hopes of entering a program and getting a combined MPH/RD! Have you looked at any programs yet?!