Friday, April 29, 2011

SNAP! Two Great Causes Come Together

What if I gave you $16.00 and told you that you could spend it anyway you see fit? Would you spend it on a nice lunch for yourself? Maybe buy an extra latte and surprise a co-worker? How about a couple extra gallons of gas in your tank? Now, what if I changed that and told you that you could have that $16.00 only after you filled out an 11-page application with all of your personal family information? Oh, and by the way, that $16.00 needs to be used to buy food for that week since the basket you just received from the food pantry may or may not stretch as far as you'd hoped. Sounds crazy, right? Well this is the reality for many families as they try to make ends meet right now. It's a balancing act and unless we’ve walked in the shoes of that person, how can we truly understand what they face?

Last year, I took part in my first food bloggers’ challenge where I got an inside look at my local food bank, the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. It was through this project that I was able to re-educate myself and truly put to rest the stereotypes that I had held to be true about who the actual face of hunger was, and more importantly, still is. Something I will never get my head wrapped around is how wide-spread hunger is in this "milk & honey" country. Like so many others, it’s my heartfelt desire to see an end to this and I will continue to educate myself and try to make a difference.

Making a difference seems to fall right into place with this next bit of news. I am proud to say that I’m now a member of an amazing new non-profit, the The Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA), which was formed to bring our local food bloggers together and where one of our tenets is to support our community through social, educational and philanthropic outreach events. I have accepted the role of Philanthropy Committee Chair and consider it both a privilege and honor to work closely with local charities in our community.

For the AFBA’s first Philanthropy event, it made perfect sense to return to the CAFB one year later and do an Anniversary Challenge Project. This time we are focussing on the Texas SNAP initiative (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), or more commonly referred to as food stamps. SNAP provides qualified applicants with a minimum of $16 per month and the average family of four receives $306 per month in SNAP benefits.. The only problem with this program is that it's not at all a snap to get. Though changes continue to happen, it seems more and more that clients need to rely on other sources, like the food banks, to help them get through all of the application paper work. Hopefully, in time, this will change along with the growing number of children that leave for school hungry and end up going to bed hungry as well.

Another amazing resource that our CAFB offers is a CHOICES Nutrition Education Program. From after school snack classes with kids to adult education healthy choice classes, the food bank is showing clients that they can take that $16.00 SNAP money and make healthy "stretchable" meals. As AFBA members, our challenge was to come up with some healthy recipes that the CHOICES group could add to there reprotoire. Since breakfast seems to be the meal that is all-so-important to get our brain functioning in the morning, I thought I would start there. Cause after all, if you’re in a hurry, at least breakfast should be a SNAP... I'm jus' sayin'!

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Shake
1 cup milk
1 packet instant oatmeal
1 banana (the riper the better)
1 cup orange juice

Cut banana into chunks.
Place all ingredients in blender container.
Blend until smooth.
2 servings

Breakfast Cookies (a cross between banana bread and warm oatmeal)
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 ½ cups quick oats (Gluten free Oats work well in this)
1/3 cup honey OR ½ cup sugar
1/3 cup oil OR applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet, flatten into cookie shape.
Bake for 20 minutes or until brown.
About 3 dozen cookies.
VARIATION: Add 1 cup of chopped dates & reduce the oats to 2 cups.
TIP: If your kids like to eat raw dough, this dough is yummy and it’s safe to eat this way (no eggs)

Cinnamon Orange Yogurt
4 oranges peeled and sliced
1 carton of plain or vanilla yogurt
2 tbs. Orange Juice
2 tbs. Lemon Juice
1 tbs. Sugar
1/4 tsp. ground Cinnamon
Combine the juices, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Toss the syrup with the oranges. Arrange in individual bowls and serve with plain or vanilla yogurt on top.