Tag Archives: #hunger

The Sweet Devil In Me

7:30 pm is here and dinner is done, dishwasher loaded, floor mopped, air freshener sprayed.

The sign is up: Kitchen Closed!

Time for my evening walk – jacket, leggings, and headsets on top of my head. Calories screaming on top of their voice: please burn me!

I finish my two-mile brisk and refreshing walk. I’m back home and I feel good, a few pounds lighter. I plonk on the couch with my laptop, a cup of warm water, and the television on in the background – chit chat with husband, kids, and around 11:00 pm, time to hit the bed. Read, meditate, and finally. lights off. Goodnight!

Tossing and turning noises, stomach rumbling, screeching again, I think I am a bit hungry. Oh, my not again! The debate in my mind starts, should I or should I not? I can’t handle the commotion going on in my belly; I finally get up and walk back to the kitchen.

Why, Monika, why? No self-control? 

I stare at the overloaded fridge with my big fat glasses, desperately trying to find something that I had hidden from my family. Where is it, darn it, why can’t I find it? Oh, ya, – it just strikes me; it’s in the other fridge, in the garage. I quickly storm to the garage, very sheepishly sneak out the white, brown box and head back to the kitchen. The frozen box lands in the microwave for two minutes; juices are flowing in my mouth. My palette having a short-fuse moment, ready to burst any second. I can’t wait – I am running out of patience! I open the box and run to a quiet corner; obviously, I do not want to be seen amidst my clandestine mission during the deep starry night.

I dig deep into it, try to gobble up the small, round, delectable, syrupy white ball loaded with nuts, and finally, it lands in my mouth. Oh my, what did I just eat?! So divine, bewitching, and nectarous – I am in heaven! 

Enough of romanticization of the smorgasbord of the savory stuff. I eat one, I eat two, I eat three, and then force myself to stop. I close the box, puppy face and glum, with fluttering hands I open it again and quickly guzzle the fourth piece down my throat. With the promise to be a good girl, I close the box, not to open it again, and I keep it back very submissively.

Thanks to my sense that kicked in, knocked me hard, and said, look, there is tomorrow also, so please slow down. Why will you in your right and sane senses overindulge? But I love Indian sweets, and this is my most favorite, Ras Malai.

Ras Malai is a combination of two words, Ras, meaning juice, and Malai, meaning cream. The dessert is also described as a creamy cheesecake without a crust. The name itself is exotic and denotes the richness of this delicate Indian sweet.

I go on an emotional roller coaster when I think about this particular dessert, my eyes light up, and the selfish in me kicks in as I absolutely refuse to share it with anyone. The box is all mine; I own it! After the wholesome sweet meal, I slept content, satiated like a baby.

A strict vegetarian, no cookies, no pastries, no cakes, so for obvious reasons I find my peace in THE ONE AND ONLY Ras Malai! Twenty-four pieces in the box and all disappear in one day.

I still wonder about the genius mind that came up with this sumptuous, zestful, and toothy dessert.

I can never forget my toddler son, now twenty-one, asking, Mom,” Can I, please have the small white balls in the thick white soup?“

What a moment! He was following in my footsteps, after all!

And the legacy continues with my son, his sweet tooth, and his love for Ras Malai.

Seize the moment, grab a piece of Ras Malai, live a sweet candied life!

Desserts are the sweet threads of the warp and weft of our lives.

-Nicolette M. Dumke.

 And, that’s Ras Malai to me!


Dr. Monika Chugh is a resident of Fremont and a doctor by profession. She has an undying love for blogging and actively shares her personal experiences with the world on different topics. An active Rotarian, nature lover, coffee-fitness-yoga-hiking enthusiast, domestic violence advocate, in her free time, you will find her reading in her Zen sipping coffee working on her writing. 

Featured Image from Wikimedia and under the Creative Commons License

Hunger Surges During COVID Crisis

Widespread hunger and unemployment drove millions of Americans into food-lines during the Great Depression of 1930; but no one could have predicted that scenario repeating itself some 90 years later, in the land of plenty, plump with the prospect of the American dream.

Today, that dream is fast becoming a nightmare, particularly for minorities, people of color, and marginalized communities.

As COVID-19 wipes out American jobs and the economy, long lines of hungry Americans arrive on foot and in cars outside soup kitchens and food pantries, desperate for handouts to feed their families. In 2020, it’s an unsettling reminder that even a powerful nation like America is no match for a deadly virus trailing dysfunction, death and hunger in its wake.

Experts say that the spike in unemployment and growing food insecurity echo Depression-era levels of job loss and hunger.

The numbers are staggering.

More than 25  million Americans lost jobs due to the pandemic and many of those jobs are permanently disappearing, dashing hopes of a swift economic rebound. Almost 57 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits even as Congress continues to debate the stimulus package. And, a Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey on food insufficiency found that almost 37 million people, including 11 million children, experienced food insecurity sometime in 2018.

That number is expected to rise as the COVID19 pandemic continues to exact a devastating toll on the American public, notes a Feeding America economic model, which estimates that 54 million people, including 18 million children, may experience food insecurity in 2020 – getting scarily close to the 60 million who went hungry during the Great Depression.

 

 

People go hungry because inequities like racism, poverty, maldistribution, and other systemic forms of oppression collide to create what Ami McReynolds of the Feeding America Network calls ‘a perfect storm’ that creates food insecurity, despite a global food surplus.

Food insecurity refers to the existence of social conditions, says the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, “that can include household members going hungry because they can’t afford enough food, as well as having to skip meals, compromise on nutrition, or rely on emergency food sources such as food banks, food pantries, or soup kitchens.”

COVID- 19 has made these inequities more visible, forcing the hunger crisis to emerge from the shadows.

Right now, farmers are dumping milk even as grocery stores ration dairy supplies, because the pandemic has disrupted crossovers between food supply chains. So, people experience food insecurity because the food supply chain cannot reorient food distribution from the food service infrastructure (schools, restaurants which are closed), to retail outlets such as grocery stores.

“Hunger has surged during the COVID crisis,” said Rev. David Beckmann, President Emeritus of Bread for the World, echoing the concerns of experts at a briefing on food insecurity hosted by Ethnic Media Services on August 28,

Individuals at risk of food insecurity tend to work in low-income professions, or the leisure and service industries which have closed and laid off staff, reports Feeding America. Families now endure hardships that will increase their reliance on charitable food assistance programs for the foreseeable future. Across the nation, food insecurity has “doubled overall, and tripled among households with children,” and remains “elevated across all states,” says a report from the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research.

Emerging data analyzed by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 38 to 46 million people including 9 to17 million children aren’t getting enough to eat now.

Families with children are being hit hardest, said Rev.Beckmann, referring to an alarming new study from the Brookings Institute which found that 14 million children ages 12 and under, are not getting enough to eat during the coronavirus crisis – a rate that’s five times higher than before the pandemic.

Lauren Bauer, a researcher on The Hamilton Project at Brookings, examined census data and found that only 15% of children from low income households who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, were getting the food they need. In many cases, census respondents stated that they could not afford enough food and lacked adequate resources to feed their families.

Bauer also found that minority communities – African-American, Latino, and Asian families with children – were “experiencing food insecurity at even higher and extremely alarming rates” than white families with children.

Advocates for food justice want to solve the hunger crisis by changing the status quo for low wage workers, communities of color and the working poor who experience ‘high rates of poverty and  food insecurity.’ That means, fighting the economic disparities and social injustices which are the root causes of hunger, to help people put food on the table. In a pandemic that challenge is even harder.

It will take a coalition of charities, food banks, nonprofits, and government agencies working to develop strategies that build sustainable food systems, to combat the hunger epidemic that people are experiencing in America.

Bread for the World recently published the 2020 Hunger Report, Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow, which examines the structural inequities within food systems and charts a path to ending the hunger.

Rev.Beckmann called for increased nutrition assistance in SNAP benefit levels and extending the pandemic EBT in the COVID relief bill now under negotiation. He also recommended making federal assistance available to immigrants by reversing recent changes to the Public-Charge rule and allowing basic assistance to undocumented people during the pandemic.  As an fillip to its policy reform efforts, Bread for the World urges people to contact members of Congress and demand policy reforms to alleviate hardships for people experiencing hunger and malnutrition .

The USDA enabled schools and community sponsors to set up drive-through pick-ups and meal delivery on bus routes at schools, and, in the summer, offered nationwide waivers that give child nutrition program operators more flexibility in feeding children, while promoting social distancing amid COVID-19 restrictions.

With millions of households struggling to afford the basics, the CBPP is recommending ‘robust’ relief measures like boosting SNAP benefits for all SNAP participants, especially to the poorest households, in order to outlast any fallout from the pandemic.

Local produce at The People’s Nite Market, San Antonio, TX

At the grassroots level, the best way forward is to give communities the power to grow their own food, suggested Jovanna Lopez, a food activist and suburban farmer from San Antonio.  It can be hard for people in so-called food deserts to find healthful food.

Lopez is a co-founder of The People’s Nite Market, a farmers market that makes local produce available to a historically disenfranchised population in the city. Vendors accept SNAP, cash or credit cards.

While food banks and emergency food assistance offer a stopgap solution during the pandemic, it will require more permanent, sustainable strategies to put healthy food options on the table of food-insecure families.

At Bread for the World, the way forward is clear. Their call to action includes “tools and training for improved agriculture,.. roads to get food to market,…empowering women to play more active roles in their communities, and government plans to educate, care, and feed their people.”

“It’s more than just giving people a meal a day.”


Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Photo by Steve Knutson on Unsplash

I’m Hungry: Shutterstock

 

When You Can’t Send Money Home

Parents of migrants live alone denied the presence of their children in times of need.

Their children, immigrants in another country, send money home to ensure their parents are not wanting for food and help. Often migrants leave their own children behind with grandparents or family members as they seek a living in a foreign land, promising to return with treasures for both parents and children.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one out of five workers are unemployed and many have their wages reduced, threatening to cut that lifeline of support between child and parent.

The inability to remit money home because of job loss or a decline in wages endangers the reliability of that support. A drop in remittance means that a migrant’s family back in their home country won’t be able to afford food, healthcare, and basic needs. As the money dries up, the pandemic will unleash unrelenting poverty and an unexpected pandemic of hunger for some families.

The number of people dying every day due to starvation will overtake the number of dead as a result of COVID-19 and the “hunger pandemic” will bring “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, warned UN World Food Programme (WFP).130 million people could be on the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic ramifications.

At a webinar on May 8th organized by Ethnic Media Services and sponsored by the Blue Shield of California Foundation, to examine Covid-19’s Impact on the Developing World, experts reviewed trends as the pandemic spreads. Demetrios Papademetriou, of the non-partisan, Washington-based think tank The Migration Policy Institute, stated that the true effects of this pandemic would be visible in the next 3 months. Unparalleled economic devastation, the kind we have never ever experienced, not even during World War II, will reveal its true form.

Dulce Gamboa, a Policy Specialist at Bread for the World, discussed the impact of Covid-19 on malnutrition and famine in the developing world and the need for a global response to a new pandemic of hunger. COVID-19 could cause extreme hunger to double, she said. Malnutrition weakens peoples’ immune systems and children who are malnourished face long-term health and cognitive consequences. Bread for the World is urging Congress to expand health and humanitarian programs, strengthen the global food supply chain and social protection programs, and allow U.S. funded school feeding programs around the world to serve children while schools are closed.

The United Nations food agency reports that at least 300,000 people will die every day over a three-month period as a result of the outbreak and its economic ramifications as the catastrophic coronavirus chokes off cash lifelines for hard-pressed households in poorer countries.

Globally in 2017, an estimated $625 billion (USD) was sent by migrants to individuals in their home countries, according to economists at the World Bank. These remittances are important economic resources in developing countries. According to a 2016 World Bank report, remittance flows into these nations are more than three times that of official development aid. For instance, Nepal received an estimated $6.6 billion in remittances, equivalent to 31.3% of its GDP, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of World Bank data for 2016. In Sri Lanka, where seven percent of the households have a migrant abroad, remittances form 8% of the GDP.

Remittances, once considered more stable than other kinds of external capital flows, are now in danger of drying up as all countries have been hit at the same time with the same pandemic.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 will be catastrophic for families and nations. COVID-19 has shown us how globalization spreads contagion of all kinds.

We have little visibility into how bad, bad is going to be, but for now, the song that once played at the Sri Lankan airport is silent.

“After much hardship, such difficult times
How lucky I am to work in a foreign land.
I promise to return home with treasures for everyone”

Ritu Marwah wrote this article as a fellow of Ethnic Media Services.