Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sesame Street's Puppet of Hunger

'Sesame Street' unveils muppet to teach kids about hunger"

The iconic kids show is set to unveil a new impoverished puppet named Lily, whose family faces an ongoing struggle with hunger issues. Lily will be revealed in a one-hour Sesame Street primetime special, Growing Hope Against Hunger, which is being sponsored by Walmart. The special will star country singer Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly Williams Paisley, as well as the Sesame Street Muppets.

“Food insecurity is a growing and difficult issue for adults to discuss, much less children,” said the Paisleys in a statement. “We are honored that Sesame Street, with its long history of tackling difficult issues with sensitivity, caring and warmth asked us to be a part of this important project.”

The special will share the stories of real-life families to raise awareness of hunger issues in the United States, as well as strategies that have helped these families find food. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 17 million American children — nearly 1 in 4 — have limited or uncertain access to affordable and nutritious food. Walmart is sponsoring the show as part of a $1.5 million grant toward the initiative and holding screenings in select communities.

I watched "Growing Hope Against Hunger". I thought it was a well done show. The ideas about gardening in the city were good ones. I wish community gardens were part of the landscape. I tried to grow tomatoes this summer at my apt complex but it just didn't work, them sitting outside on the landscaped lawn with the landlord's permission, I think they got a shot of weed killer, because the plants while they grew didn't make one tomato. It's hard when you are trying to work with no patio or real outdoor space of your own. When I moved here, I need a first floor apt, with no stairs and that was hard enough to find. My attempts to grow food indoors, have failed as well. I planted a row of pots, of different things, and only 1 out of 15 seeds sprouted. Still haven't figured that out. I used good soil and everything.

Food insecurity ironically is part of my fat life. A friend helped us with grocery money even this month, which sadly seemed to run out way too fast. There is a lot of time I open the refrigerator and it is empty, some old oranges, and old condiments, pickles, sometimes can be all that is in there. We have better months and shorter months considering husband's wavering freelance employment and the short ones can be difficult.

Sometimes when I am at some people's houses and see the lavish display of snacks, fruits, vegetables and meals that include even two choices for vegetables, it can be weird. I think why am I so fat and not them? Well as I have said before, my weight issues are better the more food I have access too. Less carbs? More choice? Who knows?

I think Sesame Street did help in terms of the severe economic issues out there, and showing families even previously middle class one's that are now poor. This was one rare show that was honest about it. While most shows on TV outside of the news showing the disaffected people holding demonstrations and a lot of that news was censored, very few are talking about the poverty in America. It is like the hidden elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about it.

I found myself thinking well at least during the first Depression, they admitted a depression was going on! I have books from that era, there were people writing President Roosevelt, and using the word "DEPRESSION". Back in those days, they started programs for jobs, where little people actually got some benefits. Now they just hand more billions to bankers.

Now we have the bread and circuses and Dances with the Stars and told the recession has "ended" when evidence of jobs or a real change is nil. And Obama is still sending jobs overseas signing a new NAFTA like deal with a few Pacific nations a few weeks ago. Still do not know why the liberals haven't put those dots together. I don't think much of the Tea party clan either that yells about all the "dead beats" and blames the poor of America, for the dying economy.

With the food pantries though I found Sesame Street idealistic. I have often wondered can beggars be choosers and have thought is there someone to write a letter too about the poor quality of the food pantries around here? I know they are hurting, but one wonders who is getting all the decent stuff warehoused at this one main center, and you show up and they give you cans so dented, you do not dare open them up, because you fear botulism. Still remember the soup can, that was basically smashed half way in. It was like the lady passing that stuff out was saying "Go away!"

The food is so bad, that sometimes you think what is the use? Why so many cookies and sweets too? It's not exactly the best stuff for a diabetic diet.  Often times, the food pantries have a lot of junk food offered to them instead of the good stuff.

Mary Flynn, a nutritionist at Brown University, says the rate of obesity is higher in the low-income population because of what she calls the hunger/obesity paradox. High-calorie, low-nutrition foods tend to be relatively inexpensive, so it's not unusual for hungry people to also be overweight, she says.

Flynn says food banks do no favors dishing out the same cheap fare available at a corner store, particularly soft drinks. But even as a board member of a food bank in Rhode Island, she can't get the organization to completely refuse soda.

"I was told that, 'Well, we give it out because if we don't take it, we won't get other food from people when they're distributing it,' " she says.

I had a good small close-knit country church help us out that I belonged to for years with it's own sharing pantry among the congregation but had to move away from there due to economic forces.  Many who have read this blog long enough know it was very painful to me to lose my last community, but what else can you do when homelessness looms and your household wouldn't be able to pay the rent? We would share each other's food. That is way it should be done, but that was a working class community facing poverty where they got it, not a place of indifference and eyes staring down from upturned noses just going through the motions.

The churches here, well, the whole system is centralized and not independent where it's caring and personal, and there seems to be no place where the dented cans and bad food doesn't prevail except one or two. Still remember our time at one large charity center being told because we dared to show up a third time [that year!] that we would have to take a budgeting class. My husband said, "How do you budget nothing"?

There is always that implicit stuff, that you are poor due to your own shortcomings. It gets insulting, but in a country where they are covering up what is happening, it's each individual at fault, instead of people looking at the bigger picture. What is sad even Angel Food Ministries has gone out of business via corruption. Over time you do figure out what places are helpful and what ones are not.

What is sad, in our case, we really only need occasional help. Maybe a few times a year at most, maybe once or twice now. There are people far worse off. Our need for the pantries has overall diminished, and the treatment we got in some places wasn't so good. You would think we had been outside with a begging cup every day. You learn to smile and keep your mouth shut to get what you need. By the way, we are people who "did everything right", went to college, worked hard. My husband works hard now. How many families are there now, hitting the food pantry circuit for the first time because of all the jobs that are gone?

Anyhow while I loved the sweetness and the true desire to help in the Sesame Street show, I laughed at the boxes of lavish fruits and vegetables passed out among the food pantries to the poor people by the puppets. This is the way things SHOULD be, but I never have seen it. It was a nice fantasy, but for most food pantry people, its heavy on the carbs, and lean meat and fresh fruits and vegetables are nonexistent. You are fortunate to get some cans of undented green beans and maybe some rice and spaghetti with spaghetti sauce that you can make a meal with. Well again beggars can't be choosers. What are you going to do complain when the cupboards are empty?

It was a good effort by Sesame Street and got the word out there. I sometimes think in communities, and churches, the best bet may be doing what my old church did, sharing extra food among yourselves, but you need to be in a closer-knit community where people share in the same socio-economic problems and just do not see a food pantry as needed "somewhere else". Community gardening is a trend that should grow. Landlords should provide community gardening space at apt. complexes. Share your extra food with those who need it. Sometimes one can find people handing out food on Freecycle. Look for deals and learn to cook. Cooking skills help when things get short, knowing how to make biscuits from scratch or using a crock pot to cook a piece of lean meat can save the day.  Food prices are skyrocketing.

No one should be going hungry in the USA, you think of all the trillions spent on useless wars, the now "hidden" depression where the real unemployment rate has hit 25% [check out the website Zero Hedge, to read some of what is really going on] and it is sad and pathetic, there are children going without food out there, and families facing empty refrigerators or even worrying about keeping the rent paid. What is sad, is the problems are hidden, a large number of the country, and the rest has got those with still a little, downing "all the lazy deadbeats" when the simple fact is globalization and the de-industrialization of America, has taken the jobs away. That is something the ones in charge, do not want Americans even talking about.

The fact the food insecurity is going to be growing as a greater problem. There must be someone at Sesame Street who relates or went through poverty as a child. You know something has changed in America, when they have a new puppet facing poverty and food insecurity.

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