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land of plenty

Do you think you could survive on only spending only $25 a week on food? Imagine the stress and frustration if you had to stick that small of a food budget. Sadly, this is the weekly budget that many families live on in the United States. While some people consider $25 worthy of a small appetizer at a fancy restaurant, some of the lower income homes in America struggle to feed their families on that budget. 

Thinking about these people who endure hunger both physically and emotionally, I feel extremely guilty because I couldn’t imagine being denied eating what I want when I want. No fresh fruit, no fresh vegetables. Just loads and loads of highly processed foods that leave you feeling hungry after a couple of hours. 

The Illinois Food Bank Association partnered up with Feeding America with hopes to shed light on the hunger crisis plaguing the state of Illinois. 35% of the people the IFBA feeds are children and 15% of them served are seniors who live on fixed incomes and rely on this organization for food. I don’t live anywhere near Illinois but I believe that this issue is a global concern. Families from California all the way to Florida are dealing with how to feed their hungry families. 

According to their website, “IFBA is encouraging community leaders and all Illinois residents to take the $25 Challenge, during the week of September 22-28. $25 is the average amount an individual food stamp recipient struggling to make ends meet has for a week’s groceries.” Local citizens started posting on a blog, and reading through the numerous posts on the blog, the $25 Challenge, everyone seems to feeling the same sentiments: frustration, desperation, and hunger. Their menus consist of countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, rice, beans, granola bars, ham, fatty beef. Unless you lived near a farmer’s market, I don’t think you could provide a range of cheap fruits and vegetables to your diet. 

One of the scariest things I realized while reading through this blog was that alot of them were eating diets lacking any nutritional value. The overly processed carbs and quick-fix meals ridden with saturated and trans fats can lead to weight gain. One of the bloggers Dennis said this, “And we wonder about obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health issues. We can’t blame the fast food restaurants for the growth in the percentage of people suffering from food related issues when our federal food assistance programs are as much the culprit as anything.”

I couldn’t have put it more bluntly or more accurately. How can you raise healthy children on pre-made dinners? Wouldn’t it break your heart to see your children riddled with weight-related issues? I’m getting teary eyed just thinking about it. While I am scouring the local food banks in my area, I find myself getting more and more worked up. How can we live in this country while some of our future generations are going hungry?! I encourage everyone out there to check out your local food banks, make donations, or volunteer some of your time. I’m looking forward in participating in the Annual Run To Feed The Hungry in November, which will be my first time but definitely won’t be the last. 

In honor of all those out there who struggle to make ends meat literally, here is a simple and quick peanut butter cookie recipe. It uses only 5 ingredients (without the candy), and if I could, I would ship these delicious cookies to all the food banks in California. It uses simple ingredients and is very cost effective due to the lack of butter in it. But don’t be fooled, these cookies pack a mean punch. They are dense and hearty, and will bring a smile to your face.

Every child deserves a chance to eat some yummy cookies instead of processed and fake food. I think it’s time we take care our of country because deep down, we all have the same basic needs. Color, sex, income. None of that matters in the end.

Big Time Peanut Butter Cookies
Origin: The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge
Yield: 20 cookies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
● 1 1/3 cups smooth or crunchy peanut butter, (10 ounces or 284 grams) at room temperature
● 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, (6 ounces or 170 grams)
● 1 large egg
● 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
● 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, (1 ounces or 28 grams)
● 1 cup mini candy-coated chocolates, (6 ounces or 170 grams) optional

Directions:
Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Preheat the oven to 350 ℉. Line 2 cooking sheets with parchment paper or baking liners like Silpat.
In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and brown sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just until blended. Pour in the flour and beat on low speed just until blended. Stir in the chocolate candies, if using. The batter will be quite thick and using an electric mixer will crunch the candies to bits so use a wooden spoon.
Using a small ice cream scoop or 2 tablespoons, scoop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and using your hands, shape into balls about 1 1/2 inches. Arrange on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Using the tines of a fork, press on each ball to flatten slightly. If necessary, lightly coat the tines in flour to prevent them from sticking to the dough.
Bake one sheet at a time (make sure to use a cooled sheet for the second batch until the cookies) until the cookies look dry on top, about 12 minutes. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Using a patula, lift the cookies form the sheet onto the rack and let cool completely.
Layer the baked and cooled cookies between parchment of waxed paper in an airtight container. They can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months

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September 30, 2008 - 7:13 am

twofish4 - Hello, stumbled upon your blog looking for yummy cookie recipes my first grader could make. Read through your beautiful blog and got all choked up. Thank you.

September 30, 2008 - 8:37 am

Lori - I’ve actually been in that position before – I was a single mother of 3 kids, I was going to college full time and working two jobs, and I had no help of any kind. It was truly awful, and it left me grateful for every small luxury. We made everything ourselves, even the rare luxury of a bagel. This recipe would’ve even worked for me!

September 30, 2008 - 12:40 pm

nicole - Amanda — this is a wonderful post; thank you for writing it. I shall have to try these cookies, too.

September 30, 2008 - 7:31 pm

Caroline - Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Hunger is a sad and scary issue that is right under our noses.

September 30, 2008 - 7:41 pm

Megan - this post was so thoughtful and shed a great deal of light on a topic very few people know about. thank you for sharing, you certainly opened my eyes.

September 30, 2008 - 9:07 pm

andrea - I had no idea that some folks food budget was so low. Makes me sick, especially thinking of all those people I’ve seen in front of me in line at the grocery store, buying beer and cigarettes with their gov’t issues welfare card, instead of heatlhy and filling food for their family. How can the system be SO messed up?
Thanks for a great post. I want to try these cookies!

September 30, 2008 - 10:49 pm

FFichiban - $25/week would be death for me >_< I guess thats why so many families have to eat fast food chains and hence the weight problems :( These cookies look great thought.

September 30, 2008 - 11:21 pm

Renee - Clicked to your blog through TS for the cookies; stayed and read your story, and now have tears in my eyes and a heaviness in my heart because you’re right; too many in our country are living this reality. I’ve been there too, and could be, frighteningly easily, again. You’ve written a very powerful message, and one that everyone in our society needs to be aware of – perhaps, most of all, those who worry about it the least.

Good luck to you in the Annual Run To Feed The Hungry in November!! And, btw, great cookie recipe, too! *smile*

Keep spreading the word – maybe YOU’LL be the one who makes enough noise to help make a difference…

October 1, 2008 - 4:15 am

Kate - gosh thats not easy ! i wouldnt survive a day !!

October 1, 2008 - 11:49 am

Amy C. - Just a response to a previous comment: government food programs do not pay for cigarettes, alcohol, or any other non-food items (even things like feminine hygiene products which women legitimately need). The vast majority of people on government support will try their hardest to provide for their families with nutritious food that is available to them.

October 1, 2008 - 5:35 pm

andrea - No, I agree, Government FOOD programs do not pay for cigarettes or alcohol, however, the welfare system in MY state DOES pay for these things, I’ve been behind too many people in grocery stores, ringing these things up with their groceries, on the welfare card, NOT separate from their food items, to think otherwise. Are they able to put their own money on these cards? Because if they are not, then it’s the funds from WELFARE. I have been in a position, when my youngest daughter was a newborn, to be on W.I.C. (Womens, Infants, Children), which provided us with certain kinds of milk, cereal, peanut butter, etc. It was very restrictive and in such a way that you could only purchase healthy cereals, etc. So I’m not against government food programs in the least. I’d hate to think ANYONE would go hungry, man, woman or child. However, in my area, we see abuse of the welfare system all the time and all I was saying was that it made me sad to think of some people going hungry because some others in the system abuse it.
Maybe some states have better restrictions that others?

October 7, 2008 - 10:45 am

Olivia - i live on $30/week, and can squeak by on 20-25 every other week…hooray for college students putting themselves through! i am blessed to live in walking distance from a (very small) farmer’s market that i can get fresh produce at, but that closes at the end of the month…:(

June 15, 2009 - 4:43 pm

a letter to the lawmakers « Slow Like Honey - [...] recipes, but there is something about this one that I think you will enjoy. They aren’t the simple 5 minute cookie; they have a little more class. They will be perfect for your late night budget hearings and [...]

August 16, 2011 - 10:15 am

Linda - I agree that most people have no idea what low-income actually looks like, and I love the idea of the $25 challenge. I get so tired of these people who say, “Oh, it is so easy to eat cheaply and healthily!” I can’t help but think that they’ve never lived in poverty while trying to feed a family. There are other factors as well besides the money — lack of availability and access to fresh food and ability to store it. As well as the instant comfort factor designed into highly-processed foods and their packaging — when you’re struggling to make ends meet you’re likely to be depressed and that is a huge obstacle to making healthy choices, especially when the means to getting to them are not easily available to you.

I do have to say though that I find it a bit ironic to see this cookie recipe in a post that rails against the ills of processed foods — refined sugar and refined wheat flour + what is certainly for a low-income family peanut butter with the worst kind of oil in it (cheap, long shelf life.) The irony underlines the strange, damaging conflation of fatness and the consumption of processed foods. I eat whole foods, organic and often raw, little in the way of grains, and healthy fats, and I take green supplements. I move my body, use my muscles, and I get out in the sun and fresh air. I’m healthy. And I’m fat. Certainly, malnutrition can lead to being an unhealthy kind of fat, as it can, for some bodies, lead to an unhealthy kind of thin (and for that matter, an unhealthy kind of “average”.) We need to stop focusing on the supposed horrors of being fat in itself, and stop assuming that if everybody had enough to eat and access to real food, that fatness would disappear. It wouldn’t, because fat is a much more complex issue than that, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. To make it an issue is to make a smokescreen that serves only the industries that make a profit off of people feeling bad about the way they look. The real issue is ill health due to malnutrition, and that applies to people of all body sizes.

December 6, 2011 - 6:02 am

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