Do you remember what your school lunch was like? I can break it down by grade – elementary school had the best food. A hot lunch with vegetables, fruits, healthy protein, and milk. Friday was the best because of the salad bar. The line would back up so long, we’d run to the cafeteria just so we’d have time to eat the salad we carefully crafted. Middle school was worse and more people brought their lunch. High school was by far the worst, with la carte options so that a kid could literally eat french fries with nacho cheese every day for lunch if they wanted to. But at $1.25, how could you resist?
My mom put my lunch bag together, and I know she spent more than $1.25 on my meal. I am lucky to have a mother who knew the health benefits of good-for-you food, so I was drinking Rice Dream and eating fruit leather wayyyyyyy before it was cool. While school lunch was available, I rarely ate it. There was that time where I battled with being “cool” and buying my lunch, but after eating that for a few days in high school I quickly retreated to my trusty lunch box.
Many kids don’t have this option. 1 in 4 children in the US doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
So why is access to food a problem?
- Food deserts – many areas of Indianapolis do not have readily accessible food (or unprocessed food) located near them. I know, it was a surprise to me, too, but think about it – if you have a 15-minute drive or 30-minute walk to the nearest grocery store, in the rain/snow/sleet/heat, you’re going to think twice about what you REALLY need. And that’s not fair. Even some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Indianapolis are food deserts.
- McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches are cheaper than buying the ingredients to make it yourself. Why would a family spend $20 on a meal to feed their family at the dinner table when the drive-thru at McDonald’s can feed them for under $15?
- Food stamp participants are allotted $4 a day – A DAY. That puts shame to the amount that I’ve spent on some meals in this house.
What can YOU do to make a difference?
- Support your local food bank with a donation of food, time or dollars to assist them in their fight against hunger. My local food bank, the Gleaners, is participating in a voting contest where they could win $45,000 from WalMart for assistance – VOTE FOR THEM HERE!!
- Serve meals in a soup kitchen – a very rewarding experience that I’ve done before
- Think about the last time you were scrapped for cash and hungry. What did you do? What could you have done to make a healthy meal, if you didn’t? Blog about this, update your Facebook status or send a tweet with #takeyourplace
- Head to GivingTable.org and read about the Food Bloggers Against Hunger Project and the documentary A Place At The Table
- Watch The Giving Table’s Facebook Page see recipes from other food bloggers or check out their Pinterest board
- Tell Congress that federal nutrition programs and crucial for hungry children
That last point about food access really got to me. $4 a day? The WHOLE day? How is that possible? I took this as a challenge and decided to see if I could create a meal at home for $4 that could inevitably last the whole day.
Pizza seemed like a good bet to me, and here’s why:
- Buy a box of Jiffy pizza crust for $0.60. Rahul and I used to use it all the time when we needed a 5-minute pizza crust. You can make a fairly large thin crust pizza with one box.
- Pizza sauce in a jar was $1.00. Cheaper than buying tomato paste and mixing spices with water.
- Cheese, the most expensive of the ingredients, would have to be portioned out. At $3 a bag for shredded (at least), and $2.50 for a block, cheese is expensive and doesn’t provide much but flavor.
- I wasn’t sure if spending the money on sausage is appropriate, but at $2.50 a roll it was the best way to get protein to the table.
- It’s not the healthiest option, but homemade pizza is a quick and easy recipe that kids can get their hands dirty with. Allow them to help you roll out the dough and add the toppings. Teach them about how versatile pizza can be and they’ll be a fan for life (and realize how much better it tastes than Little Caesar’s!)
$4 HOMEMADE PIZZA
- One box of Jiffy Pizza Crust, $0.60
- One jar of pizza sauce, $1.00
- Cheese, portioned out at $0.60
- Pork sausage used $1.50 of a $2.50 roll
- Baking sheet or round pizza pan
- Pizza cutter, or knife (back in our apartment days before we had a pizza cutter, we totally used just a knife)
Preheat your oven to 425 and prepare the Jiffy Pizza Crust per directions on the box.
Meanwhile, brown the pork sausage in a skillet until nice and crispy.
Roll out into a square, circle, oblong, whatever pizza shape works for you. Place the crust in the oven for 2-3 minutes to crisp it up before applying your sauce and veggies.
Once dough has pre-baked, add a layer of pizza sauce, followed by cheese. Sprinkle the browned pork sausage on top and bake for 15 minutes or until pizza has a slightly browned crust and cheese is bubbly. Let sit for a few minutes to cool down. Cut, serve and enjoy!