About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conversations at a Bar: Food Made with Love

This week I have been doing a lot of my eating with people I love. I am thinking more about how the energy that goes into food preparation affects our bodies, and about the social dynamics of healthier eating.

Last night I was out with a group of close friends, and the conversation took a turn that is particularly relevant for this blog.

We began talking about the similarities between quitting smoking and quitting eating crappy food. I have made the comparison between poor eating and smoking before in the context of voluntary behaviors that cost our health care system a good deal of money. In this case, we were talking about the "tipping point" when choosing not to engage in a unhealthy behavior (like smoking or eating a gallon of ice cream) changes completely. At a point it stops being about holding yourself back and resisting doing something you are craving to do, and it starts being about listening to how your body feels and actually being grossed out the by unhealthy behavior.

Getting to this point clearly takes some effort. You have to slow down, and you have to listen to your body. Those are two things that many Americans find hard to do, especially in the context of food. We are really attached to the idea that food is quick, cheap, and easy. Listening to our body after we eat it would require a change in our food culture, which tends to revolve around packaged food eaten on the fly.

Stacey said, "I keep hearing that how you eat is almost as important as what you eat."

Hm. The conversation was getting good. We all decided to go for another round of the $3 Syrah and dig a little deeper.

My friend Tera was in Paris last year, and she made the inevitable comparison between how Americans eat and how the French eat. One thing she said she noticed while in France was that the food seemed to be alive. People interacted with it in a really special way. They made it for each other with fresh, live ingredients. They ate it slowly, and often with their hands. The food and the food experience was all about life.

In America, she said, food arrives in front of us in a package, like a carcass. It is a dead, scientifically modified and factory produced product. Listening to that comparison, I had flashes of the type of futuristic nightmare world you read about in sci-fi books: food looks like astronaut ice cream. It only comes in a box. Maybe even just as a pill. Wow. All of a sudden the current American packaged food system seemed a bit like a horrific sci-fi book to me.

Who produced that sci-fi looking packed food? No one seems to know.

What kind of energy went into the production of that food? We started to discuss the difference between packaged food and food made by someone who loves us. We all seemed to agree that food that was alive with the energy of loving preparation was much better than the factory produced alternative.

Everyone knows this is true. The idea that "mom's home cooking" is the best food there is is pervasive in America, ironically. We all agree with this fact, but instead of looking to our mom's to cook and teach us how to eat we have begun looking to companies like Stouffers that market "home made family style macaroni and cheese - just like mom's!" Trust me, if the link between mom's home cooking and quality wasn't heavily ingrained in the American mindset, Stouffer's a similar companies wouldn't have bothered to hijack it.

The trouble is, Stouffer's type food is not just like moms. It wasn't prepared by someone who loves us. It was prepared in a factory by people who have no problem making us fat. It was made with tons of weird ingredients. It was frozen and shipped across the country. It isn't particularly healthy for us, but it is engineered to make us want more after we finish eating it.

Some might think this point is too abstract, but I think the energy that went into the preparation of food is a pretty big deal because it impacts how we consume the food as well. When someone makes us something with love, we eat it with love. We eat it slowly, we express gratitude for the food, and we focus on it while we are putting it into our mouths. That level of presence in the moment while eating leads us to register what we have eaten and therefore eat more sensible portions.

At the close of our conversation, my friend and I vowed to start eating dinner together on Sunday nights. We have decided that we are all in agreement that the energy that goes into food preparation is really important. We are all trying to be healthier, and we all want to support each other in this effort with some healthy pot-luck dinners full of lovingly prepared food.


  1. This post makes me yearn for a replay of the many "Idea Parties" I have attended. Everyone brings a healthy, hand made dish to share and then they discuss their vision for their life and how to create it while supporting one another. It's like a Mastermind group with good food for body and mind. THAT feeds the soul.
    Thank you for yet another delightful, uplifting post!

    Mother Connie

  2. Connie, love the "Idea Parties" concept!