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To Amanda -- Do you really believe that hunger is not a problem in America?

Last week at Benaroya Hall in Seattle you answered "no" when you were asked, "Does any part of the "Food Revolution" deal with the fact that many people in this world do not have enough to eat?" You also indicated that hunger is not a problem in America', that our country's food problem runs in the opposite direcfion(i.e., obesity). Please understand that here in Seattle we have 2,600 people sleeping on the streets, without shelter, and families living in cars. By some counts, 1 in 5 children in the US goes to bed hungry every night. Ms. Hesser, do you really believe that hunger is not a problem in America?

asked by Fran Abbott over 4 years ago
19 answers 2684 views
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Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 4 years ago

Fran, had I been asked by the audience member if I thought hunger was a problem in America, I would have said yes; all the statistics you quote are certainly troubling and underexposed. But I wasn't asked that. I was asked what you say above in quotes. The answer to that question is mostly no. And I simply made a follow-up quip that often the discussion in America is not about not having enough food but about having too much food -- a la Supersize Me. I don't mean to sound cranky but it seems unfair to attack me here, when that q&a was fairly light-hearted, and was not the venue to deeply explore hunger issues. I was there talking about food media.

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added over 4 years ago

Amanda
SHAME ON YOU! A venue is a venue and you should answer and stand behind your beliefs. This is where public speakers get into trouble. Don't expect to be loved by everyone. Make a statement and stand by it. If you don't believe it then don't say it. If the food media can't take a stand on hunger then who can?

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Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 4 years ago

I was not there to talk about hunger and I answered the question that was asked. And I *do* stand behind my answer. As I noted above, I was in Seattle to discuss the death and re-birth of food media.

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added over 4 years ago

This is the sort of things that brings out a lot of acrimony in otherwise well-meaning, lovely people. I remember in college a professor asked a question in a class that I still haven't answered satisfactorily for myself--If a homeless person asks you for money, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt (obviously not possible, but suspend your disbelief for a moment) that he/she is going to immediately spend it on alcohol, should you give it to them?
I know that it's very dangerous and incorrect to assume that the majority of homeless people are alcoholics, and I don't (especially these days when so many are out of work and luck), but the point is that even such a seemingly simple question is almost impossible to answer thoroughly enough. It gives rise to all sorts of other questions--do we know what's best for others? Can we make judgments about people we know nothing about? What IS the best way to solve the hunger problem in America?
My point is simply that this is an ongoing discussion, and expecting any one person to have a satisfactory answer is a fruitless expectation. I agree with SKK--maybe we should be asking new questions.

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added over 4 years ago

I am surprised that my question was characterized as an "attack" or an "accusation". It was intended as an attempt at clarification, because I was very surprised at what I heard Amanda say.

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added over 4 years ago

I think that NeuB's post is the one that came off as an attack.

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added over 4 years ago

Fran Abbott, your post did seem like an attack on Amanda to me. It is difficult to convey tone over email/online though.

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added over 4 years ago

I guess I would have to ask why you didn't ask for clarification at Benaroya Hall. Asking here, at Food52, where the overwhelming majority of the readers weren't there to judge for themselves the context or tone of Amanda's response seems unfair. As unfair as you perceive the reaction to your comment.

This is what I hate about the Internet. People always assume the worst. I do not know Amanda, but I have read Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Essential New York Times Cookbook. I have watched the videos in which she and Merrill demonstrate recipes, and I know she is a mother of two. I would never, in a million years, question that she does not think hunger is a problem in America. The sole fact that she is a working parent would make me give her the benefit of the doubt. A benefit that you seemed unwilling to extend to her.

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pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 4 years ago

Well, Mittens did say that he wasn't concerned about "the very poor" because there's "a safety net" for that. Ha! And for school kids, pizza is now a vegetable. Okay, it used to be ketchup.

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added over 4 years ago

Well, while I don't think this discussion is appropriate on this type of forum (I was looking for advice), I do find it funny that someone else calls him Mittens. :)

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creamtea

Lisanne is a trusted home cook.

added over 4 years ago

Certainly it sounded like an attack. When people quote someone out of context or go out of their way to put them on the spot, or write SHAME ON YOU in caps, then yes, I would say that feels like an attack. No one criticizes your concern w/hunger, but your presentation leaves something to be desired and isn't the best way to win allies.

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 4 years ago

I would say that the answer to the question asked is Yes, part of the "Food revolution" does address hunger, prehaps not intentionally in the manner they would wish tho:
For example, my local wal-mart purchases locally produced foods from small independent farmers in season and are labeled as such. In the spring and summer, local corn, tomatoes, vegetables are available there for cheep. Often of better quality and price than the nearby a Publix.
Without awareness of locally produced foods, I doubt that they (wal-mart) would make the effort to purchase locally.
With the awareness, local small farmers benefit.
In the past I've seen the small road side fruit and veggies stands practically vanish from the landscape. Now with big box stores like Wal-mart and Whole foods, and the soon to be opened Earth Fare as customers, the local farmers are back on the scene and the fruit stands are returning. As I'm sure they're selling that 'over run' on the roadside at a better price than wal-mart pays. And the cost saving to the consumer is passed on by buying directly from a roadside stand.

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added over 4 years ago

It definitely seemed to be an unnecessarily aggressive way to pose a question.
Unfortunate as reality is, it takes everyone of us to be involved in decreasing the problem of hunger. Efficient Food distribution is something that has to be done at a local level, Trying to expand it across the world is just not feasible. As much excess food that local eateries in NYC may have AND are willing to donate it to those who need it, it is NOT going to alleviate hunger pangs of the needy halfway across the country leave alone the world. it just costs more than the value of the food to transport it. Going local is one way of ensuring that smaller food sources sprout up in larger numbers and can efficiently be put to good use, vs the big green giants who harvest lettuce in CA & drive it 500 miles across in a refrigerated truck.
I had a similar opinion on how much food is wasted on cooking shows, until I had the chance to personally ask the question to someone at Food Network. They actually donate over a TON, yes over 2200 lbs of produce & dry foods that is left over from their kitchen to City Harvest.. This completely changed my perspective of how the food media operates.

Lets look at the good that is actually being done rather that criticize what is not & what should have, could have.. positive attitudes & approaches go way further than negative ones..

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 4 years ago

A friend of ours visited us this week. He's 27 yo. A Former Marine and Iraqi war vet, partially disabled due to a IED. He's living with grandmother (87 yo with Alzheimer and the caregiver).

He has resorted 'dumpster diving' for expired foods. Talking about which stores toss produce and meats and how he has scoped them out and the time they toss stuff and that's in his routine now to gather food. When I hear this, I think maybe the "Food Revolution"
The "let them shop at whole foods" to solve food supplies to those in need is very lacking.
The City Harvest is a good org. And the food media is starting to show the waste we do, sometimes a limp carrot, is better than no carrot at all.

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added over 4 years ago

A civil exchange of views is almost always the best approach to a difficult issue. However, a pointed remark, however awkwardly put, sometimes brings us face to face with a difficult truth. The world of food media—blogs, TV shows, celebrity chefs and their cookbooks, and so on—is a small and rarefied one, worlds away from the decisions most people must make about how to put food on the table or how even to afford a simple meal. Distant too from these concerns is the world of CSA’s, preserved lemons, grass-fed beef, and piment d’espelette. There are deep issues of class, social and economic, that seem to be growing worse, not better, despite the increased interest in sustainable agriculture, eating well, and so on among those who can afford to take an interest in cooking very well. Whatever was said, in whatever spirit, in Seattle, it’s clear that the initial post raises a troubling issue that is bigger than its failure to be properly “nice.”

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creamtea

Lisanne is a trusted home cook.

added over 4 years ago

Beautifully stated.

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added over 4 years ago

Getting the good food that we are lucky enough to celebrate every day here on Food52 to the masses is a downright arduous slog -- a necessary one that full-bellied, knowledgable cooks need to take on daily if we are going to make any dent in the hunger issue in the US. It's about being the loud mouth at PTO meetings when the local McDonalds offers up 1,000 breakfast sandwiches for middle schoolers' "healthy meal" on standardized testing days and then treking out to the farm to get 1,000 local apples instead. It's about taking the time to answer the cashier at the grocery store when she asks "Kale, huh? How do you fix that?" It's about contacting your food pantry to find out what good foods aren't moving and offering to do cooking classes or demos that feature those foods. There are a million opportunities for us to dig into this problem whether or not it's part of the popularized food revolution.