Blog Action Day 2008: A chicken in every pot

The title of this post was one half of a Herbert Hoover campaign slogan in 1928 and we all know how well his dreams of prosperity turned out.  Perhaps part of the problem with that slogan is that Americans didn’t actually have a pot to cook the chicken in.

Today is Blog Action Day and I’ve taken up the challenge to address the issue of poverty as it relates to food.

Obesity is a huge problem in America and Australia, and there’s a lot of research that points to a possible link between poverty and obesity.  Part of the reason for this is that people who live in poverty often live in what are known as “food deserts” and don’t have easy access to good food or just can’t afford fresh, healthy food. 

Los Angeles is trying to combat the “food desert” problem in a South L.A. community by putting a moratorium on new fast food restaurants and encouraging businesses that sell healthier food.  There are other ways people are trying to get better food into the bellies of those who need it most: community gardens are springing up in lower-income neighborhoods, farmer’s markets are linked to the WIC program, and programs like Second Harvest.  These are all great– but does just providing healthy food go far enough to solve the problem?  I don’t think it does.

The poverty that leads to obesity goes beyond the inability to afford decent food.  It’s also a poverty of the kitchen tools needed to cook healthy food and a poverty of kitchen skills.  Sure, you can give everyone a chicken, but if they don’t have a pot to put it in or don’t know how to cook it, how are they going to eat?

Jamie Oliver finally figured this out when he filmed Jamie’s Ministry of Food.  He spent time in a lower income community where people eat like crap and found out they eat that way because they don’t know how to cook.  And how would they?  If they grew up eating convenience foods and fast food, where would they learn?

While food banks and other food programs do help get healthy food to people to some degree (and I’m aware of some of the inadequecies of the food stamp program), we need to go further if we want to help battle the obesity born of poverty.

This is why I want to start a foundation to work in conjunction with food banks and other food programs that will provide basic kitchen equipment and cooking classes to people on low incomes.  This idea has been brewing in the back of my mind for at least a year now, but I think Blog Action Day has made me think more seriously about actually doing something about it.   Watch this space….

2 responses to “Blog Action Day 2008: A chicken in every pot

  1. I agree, you can have all the wonderful organic vegetables and sustainably raised meats in the world, but if you don’t know how to put things together into meals they don’t do you much good.

    Very interesting concept – I look forward to hearing more about it.

  2. Good digging! Nice to see you get below the surface issue. I’ll be interested to see how this develops.

    I was recently giving a presentation at a food systems network annual general meeting. I was interested to hear that the ‘Farm Folk/City Folk’ organization is working on a campaign for getting heritage chickens to city folks. As we brainstormed, someone gave reference to Hoover’s campaign (though they couldn’t remember who it was–thanks) and decided to call it, A Chicken in Every Backyard.

    They are hoping to raise heritage breeds this way in Vancouver.

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