Thursday, July 24, 2014

It never occurred to me: Food Pantry Edition.

I've blogged a lot in the past about food pantries, what you get there, and the problems related to the food in the pantries.   Today I took the morning out of class to go to the pantries with my children.  The idea is that a pantry says they're giving you food that should last a week for your household.  The problem is that most of what they consider a healthy diet consists of various carbs.

The morning started out with a 6am drive through: one of the only food pantries that the average working poor can get food at.  You get a bag handed to you through the window: Two artisan breads, a dozen eggs, a can of peas, two potatoes, and some pasta noodles.   It's one of the few places you can get a protein.  For me it's tough, because I am allergic to the antibiotics they use to clean eggs and to feed many of the hens in most eggs, and they don't appreciate you asking for organic.

Because I'm low on food, I decided to risk the eggs this week, and one of the little breads.  Because of my sugar issues (I'm hypoglycemic, and can't use a lot of starches because my body doesn't moderate blood sugar well) I passed on the noodles and one of the potatoes.

The next pantry was also a little rough.  They often package up fruits and veggies in a white plastic bag.  You can't see what's in each bag, and it varies.  Today there were bananas and onions in all the bags (I can eat a banana on occasion) as well as apples (that I can't eat ... which is a shame because I LOVE apples and berries) and a lime (which I'll use in cooking) and more potatoes.  Next was bread... and while they had flat breads and low carb tortillas, they didn't have a lot this week, while they had table after table of other breads made by local bakeries... most of which are too many carbs for me.  Then the sweets table (which was very small this week, which is very unusual) which I also passed on.  I picked up something highly unusual (this week was a WIN when it came to pantries) a can of Trader Joe's Chicken Chili.

Then another grab bag, which varies week to week, this week a WIN:  peanut butter, a can of peaches, and two cans of chicken breast meat.

and the last pantry had meat (unusual) but I haven't thawed it yet... about 80% of meat I get at pantries is spoiled.   I also got some wraps/tortillas... but they were moldy... so I'm not sure if anything from that pantry is edible... except the two onions.

So I was pretty happy I'd gotten some proteins, a couple veggies, and I took a chance on some small quantities of bread, fruit, and the possibly anti-biotic laden eggs (which I promise to be very careful when I eat) and I headed to school...

... where I met up with a friend who had often worked the food pantry distributer.  At some point I'd mentioned that Tay was often concerned about the pasta, which is never in a sealed bag, but is always repackaged... and she was shocked.  When she donates or works, everything has to be sealed.  I explained to her that cereal, rice, beans, lentils, pasta, and sometimes baked goods are repackaged into plain clear plastic bags with twist ties.

It never occurred to me that people donating these items didn't know that what they donate gets broken up and repackaged.

She also was surprised that we could get pasta but no sauce, since she always donated those items together.

So she asked me about other items.  She donated boxed mac and cheese.  I let her know that many people had to make it with water, because although it's meant to be made with milk and butter, and generally those things aren't available to those picking up food at the pantry... and if they're out of money or food stamps, they aren't likely to be buying those things.

And it never occurred to me that people who donate food don't know about the condition the food is distributed in... that much of the fruit is distributed moldy or rotten... that the pasta and beans are in unsealed bags after being repackaged, that you have to be very careful about bread mold.  There's one pantry in town... which I'll no longer go to... that had everyone sign a release that said if we got sick eating the food from there that we couldn't sue them, and that we were aware that they couldn't guarantee that safe food handling protocols had been used with any of the foods.

So here's (once again) some information on how to donate food that is usable and given to the clients in the original packaging (a list of items that are both)

  • vacuum packed quart cartons of milk
  • mac and cheese that has canned our pouched cheese sauce
  • complete box meals (with canned meat if the recipe has a meat product)
  • cans of soup, chili, or pasta, or beans
  • peanut butter (a staple at most pantries!)
  • dry milk, egg, or meat substitute
  • single serve rice or flavored rice, cereal, and pouches of instant potatoes
  • Things pantries always have enough or too much of:
  • bread
  • sweets.

  • Many people think they're giving poor children something "special" by donating baked goods, but supermarkets donate massive quantities of baked goods (not just breads but pies, cookies, cakes, pastries, doughnuts... anything that's left over from the "day old"rack), and many pantries have more carbs and sweets than any other food (I went to a pantry in Clearwater that, for a long time, gave out nothing but carbs and sweets).

    There are times I've gone to pantries and come away with nothing edible (or unspoiled) but a can of beans.  There are times I have to throw out large quantities of rotten or moldy veggies and fruits.  There is NEVER a time when I've gone to a food pantry and been able to eat everything I've been given.  

    Other things you can do to help:

    There are a large number of people at the food pantries who have health issues... I'm not alone.  There are people who are gluten intolerant, diabetic, have food allergies... and having foods available to them would be an amazing gift.  Consider donating gluten free or sugar free or lactose free products.   Hopefully it will become a movement among those who are helping... and more people with health issues will find the kinds of foods they can eat at these pantries, rather than risking their health eating whatever they can get.

    Monday, July 21, 2014

    The Capitol Collection

    One of the interesting things about Santa Fe is it's obsession devotion to art. It makes for some interesting situations:  art galleries and art for sale just about everywhere.  You can buy a painting off a wall in a restaurant, or you can view some of New Mexico's best artists in the capitol building.

    Recently my abstract art class went to view abstracts in the Roundhouse.  I've previously posted about some of the art collection there, but focused more on the things I liked, like the buffalo head made entirely out of found/trash materials.  During this last visit, I noticed something I hadn't before, that the newspaper pieces in the sculpture are all from the Buffalo News, or are about Buffalo, NY:

    Of course, I was supposed to be focusing on the abstract art in the collection (it took about 2 hours just to see the smattering of paintings our instructor wanted us to view. I imagine you could take all day viewing the entire portion of the collection that is currently on display!)

    (the photo of this doesn't do it justice.  It looks like it's all beaded.  Close up, you can see it's all tiny dots of paint.)

    (one of our instructor's pieces) 

    (detail of one of the paintings) 

    Photographing the art in the collection is difficult, because most of the art is protected by clear plastic shielding, because the buildings are open to the public, and people love to touch. The aforementioned buffalo sculpture is not in a case, and people tend to pull off bits and pieces as "souvenirs".

    Regardless, I hope these photos can at least show the diversity of style in the abstracts on display.

    I think I'd like to go back at some point, and take several photos, dividing them into posts for sculpture, landscape,  surrealism, realism, photography, and weaving.  I noticed that the collection was completely devoid of colcha, while other New Mexico arts are represented... hopefully that will be remedied.

    Sunday, July 20, 2014

    Los Voladores de Papantla.

    Today there were a lot of questions about los voladores (the flyers).  I thought I'd share some of the information here on my blog.

    1. Is the Caporal's flute and drum one, connected instrument (he holds them in one hand)?

    This was the subject of a lot of debate in the Placita today, with people offering various opinions.  When he puts the instruments away to climb or change position, I noted he reached down twice, which made me certain they were separate.  This afternoon I blew up some photos to look, and this is what I found:

    in this photo (blown up WAY to far to be clear) you can make out a band around the hand holding the flute.  The band apparently is connected to the drum, allowing the Caporal to hold the flute and drum at the same time with one hand, while the other hand strikes the drum.

    2.  What is the origin of this ritual?

    I lifted the answer to this directly from the Los Voladores de Papantla's website:
    A Totonaca myth tells of a time when there was a great drought, and food and water grew scarce throughout the land. Five young men decided that they must send a message to Xipe Totec, God of fertility so that the rains would return and nurture the soil, and their crops would again flourish. So they went into the forest and searched for the tallest, straightest tree they could find.

    When they came upon the perfect tree, they stayed with it overnight, fasting and praying for the tree's spirit to help them in their quest. The next day they blessed the tree, then felled it and carried it back to their village, never allowing it to touch the ground. Only when they decided upon the perfect location for their ritual, did they set the tree down.

    The men stripped the tree of its leaves and branches, dug a hole to stand it upright, then blessed the site with ritual offerings. The men adorned their bodies with feathers so that they would appear like birds to Xipe Totec, in hope of attracting the god's attention to their important request. With vines wrapped around their waists, they secured themselves to the pole and made their plea through their flight and the haunting sound of the flute and drum.

    I did manage to take a few more photos today than I did yesterday, however, even after charging both batteries, I was unable to get more than a few shots and a brief video, with a horrendous sound and loss of focus when I changed my zoom:

    Most of the rest of the photos were comparable to the ones I took yesterday.