Sunday, March 24, 2013

Off-Topic Post: "A Place at the Table," and Tackling Hunger in America

I know I usually write about fashion, style, beauty, shopping, my attempts at budgeting ... I deliberately try to keep it light, because I do deal with serious issues in life, and this blog is my haven, my little getaway from dealing with those issues.  

But there is one issue that affects all of us as Americans:  Hunger.  50 million Americans go hungry every day, including 17 million children.  One in two children will rely on Federal food programs in order to meet their needs.  

Good food, quality food, nutritious food, is expensive.  You may wonder, why is that person paying for chips and soda or convenience food with their food stamps (now known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)?  It's because they can't afford produce, they can't afford fresh meat or poultry, they can't afford a lot of fresh food.  They rely on convenience food.  

This is very clear to me in my own life.  I try to purchase fresh produce, fresh meat and poultry, and ingredients that will enable me to make nutritious meals, because I have diabetes and ironically for someone of my size, I suffer from malnutrition.  Consequently, I spend quite a bit more money on food than my roommate.  My roommate purchases frozen meals (10 for $10, usually), yogurt, seltzer or soda, and canned soup.  She also purchases crackers.  She never cooks - I do most of the cooking, and sometimes we'll share meals or baked treats, if I bake something.  My roommate spends a little over $130 a month on her groceries.  

Last month, my grocery bill came to $290, which is high, even for me.  But I spent most of it on food, which has lasted a month.  I bought some ingredients which were expensive, like shortening, and I purchased a lot of fresh meat and poultry.  That stuff's expensive!  I think I spent almost $40 on meat alone.  But, I still have some meat left in my freezer.  

I think this example from my own life proves the point that good food is expensive.  

Tonight I watched an excellent documentary, "A Place at the Table," which was produced and directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.  In their film, they went into the causes of hunger in the United States, and they followed several different individuals with families as they tried to put food on the table for themselves and their children.  

Children are most deeply scarred by hunger:  Even one day of hunger causes cognitive delays, learning difficulties, behavior problems, and health problems.  And one in two American children are going hungry on a regular basis!  SNAP benefits are not meeting the need, because the allowance for SNAP has not increased, even though food prices have increased, and the eligibility requirements do not allow many of the working class people who are struggling to put food on the table, to qualify for SNAP.  And wages have not kept pace with the increase in food and gas prices, so it's no longer the case that working at a job will even allow you to pay your bills, feed, clothe and house your family.  Many of the people who are struggling to make ends meet in this documentary are working two or three jobs, and they're still struggling.  And I think we all know people in similar situations, so this is not unusual.  

To address the irony I mentioned before, that although I am obese, I suffer from malnutrition and diabetes - this is also not unusual.  In fact, according to this documentary, a county in Mississippi which is the poorest in the nation, also has the highest incidence of obesity and diabetes.  Hmm, think there's a connection???

However, there is good news - something can be done!  The filmmakers, Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson, recommend contacting your elected officials and urging them to address the problem of hunger in America.  We tackled this problem before and beat it into the ground, and we can do it again!  This is a problem that crosses all party lines, and it's in everyone's interest to solve this issue.  It is unacceptable to me that the United States of America, the richest, most powerful nation on earth, cannot provide for its own.  

And there's a link!  Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson were on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on February 26, 2013.  I've linked to the interview.  Please watch Parts One and Two, and watch the film, "A Place at the Table."  It's available On Demand, in theaters, and on iTunes to rent for $6.99.  It came out March 1, 2013.  And then, call or write your Senator or Congressional Representative, and your State legislators.  Tell them that you want a solution to the problem of hunger in America.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Lotsa Links: It's March ... Time for Spring Cleaning!

Here it is, the beginning of March, the second week, actually, and that means that everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, people are gearing up for their Spring cleaning!  That means cleaning out our closets and getting rid of old clothes and textiles, and the other stuff laying around the house, like electronics, to prepare for the warmer weather.


This is the link from the Council on the Environment of New York City, for recycling events throughout the five boroughs of NYC:

And here's a website, Earth 911, that gives information on how to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in the United States:

They have information on Earth Day Events - remember Earth Day is April 22.  Check your local newspaper and community bulletin boards for Earth Day and recycling events in your area.


In case you have decided to donate your old clothes or other items that are still in good condition, here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau on making donations to charitable organizations:

In the United States, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Salvation Army and Goodwill are some reputable charitable organizations that accept donations of clothing and household items.  The proceeds from the sale of these items are used to fund programs that help people who have been hit by hard times to get back on their feet again, through employment, education, and job training.  They also provide housing, a key component in helping people gain independence and self-sufficiency.

In Spring, We Turn To Thoughts of ... Cleaning Closets?  

The Budget Fashionista has an excellent article on Spring cleaning closets, with links to further information.  My only complaint is that two of the links don't work, but I'll try to find substitutes.

Here's an article about the Shelf Life of Makeup, with links to more articles about best makeup brushes, mascaras, etc., and how to clean and maintain your makeup tools:

Beauty and Serendipity's Insanely Detailed Closet Cleaning Method

My favorite method for cleaning out my wardrobe (my word for my closet and armoire combined) is to use a modified version of the Three Pile method, which I believe Peter Walsh used on his "Clean Sweep" program, and which he discusses in his books, "It's All Too Much!" and the "It's All Too Much Workbook."  

You take everything out of your clothing storage areas, and sort into four piles:  Repair, Toss/Recycle, Donate, and Keep.  You can use boxes, too, if it makes it easier to transport items.  

1)  Repair:  

Check every item for stains, holes, burns, funky odors, poor fit, rips, tears, scuffs, frayed hems or seams - any kind of damage.  Try on items you're not sure about or haven't worn in a long time.  If the garment or accessory fits well and looks good on you, but needs a minor repair to be in top condition, consider the cost of making the repair vs. getting a new item just like it.  If the cost of the repair is minor, put it in the Repair pile.  Put the items that need to be repaired or dry cleaned into a bag or box to take to the dry cleaner/tailor next time you go out.  Put the bag or box somewhere you'll be likely to remember it, next to the entrance, for example.  Make sure your selections are realistic - that they really do fit you well and look good, that the repairs really are minor, that they won't put a crimp in your clothing care budget and that you'll be happy with the results.  

2)  Toss/Recycle:  

As for the items that didn't make the cut, you can either throw them in the trash, OR, if your community has a textile recycling program, you can take them to the next textile recycling event.  Check your community recycling resources to find out where and when the next textile recycling event will take place in your area.  If you're going to do this, put the items in a box and put it in your trunk, or if you don't have a car, put the box near the door, so you'll remember to get it out of the house when the time comes for the recycling event.  I usually set aside a day to go to the local household recycling event, and take a cab to the event.  Which, I must admit, is a big pain in the behind.  Be prepared to be very patient, because the lines at these events can be very long, and people can get cranky.  

3)  Donate:

The items that don't fit you or look well on you, but which still have wear in them, and are not damaged, are probably suitable for donation.  Check with the charitable organization to whom you've chosen to donate your items to find out their requirements for donations.  

Peter Walsh says in "It's All Too Much!" that charities throw away a considerable amount of the items they receive for donation, simply because they are not usable, and this actually costs the charitable organizations money.  So be a true friend to your neighbors in need, and donate only those items that are still suitable for use.  That means no stains, rips, tears, holes, excessive wear or damage.  That t-shirt  or blouse with the pit stains goes into the trash or the recycling - no one else wants it!  

4)  Keep:

You should now have a pile of clothing and accessories that you want to keep.  These items should make you feel good and look good.  Sort through these items.  If they need dry cleaning, put them in the box to go to the dry cleaner/tailor.  If they need to be laundered, put them in the hamper for the next time you do the laundry.  Sort the remaining items by type, and then by color.  For instance, t-shirts, long sleeve knit shirts, knit pants, long sleeve woven shirts, short sleeve woven shirts, jeans, dress pants, chinos, dress jackets, casual jackets - all should be separated by type.  I find it helpful to arrange everything by type, and then by color, because it makes it easier to coordinate outfits that way.  

A Place for Everything, and Everything In Its Place

Before putting everything back in its place, take some time to sweep or vacuum the floors and wipe down the closet walls and shelves, so it's fresh and free of dust when you return your clothes and accessories to the space.  Then return your items to their shelves and hangers.  

If you don't have the time to do this all in one day (I don't have a big clothing storage area, but some people do), you can break it down in steps over two days.  

Now you're free to enjoy your Spring wardrobe!  Maintenance should be easy - just pick up your clothes after you remove them, and put them in the hamper, or brush them off and spray Febreze to freshen them up so you can wear them again.  Hang them up to air out if you're going to wear them again, or put them away.  You'll look good every day!