Kitchen Think: Fed Up With Congress Ignoring Hungry Kids


Could you feed your children on one dollar per child per meal?

I don’t know if I could. It would be a struggle. But millions of American parents may have to tell their kids “there’s nothing to eat tonight.” Hard to believe, but it’s true.

Here’s a little background:
• Last week both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees passed separate versions of the Farm Bill.
• Those proposals would cut more than $20 billion dollars from SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), the program that feeds millions of hungry people in this country and used to be known as food stamps.
• One in five Americans receive food stamps, most of them working-poor families with children.
• The full Senate will debate the bill next week.

The number of children who go hungry has grown dramatically over the past several years because there are more people facing poverty and unemployment due to the recession and an economy slow to recover.

Food stamps have always been a contentious issue because of the misperception that many recipients are just taking advantage of the system. But here’s what’s interesting: SNAP does what it is supposed to do… feed the hungry.

Cutting these benefits won’t do much to help the nation’s long-term financial issues. It will only keep hungry children from being fed. And that’s tragic.

Here’s a great idea: Before the vote, every member of Congress should take the “Food Stamp Challenge”. For one month, each of them must eat on a budget of about one dollar per person per meal.

THEN let’s see how many of them want to cut SNAP benefits.


The Kitchen Think: Top Box Foods and the Fight Against Hunger


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead


There’s a small non-profit organization in Chicago that is making a big difference in the lives of many who live in areas where grocery stores are non-existent or are overrun by fast food restaurants… it’s called Top Box Foods.

Top Box Foods primarily helps families who live in low-income neighborhoods buy nutritious meat, fresh fruits and vegetables at much lower prices than what’s offered in grocery stores. This isn’t charity, but a way to get high-quality food to where it is needed the most.topbox

This is how it works: Top Box buys food from distributors and local suppliers and boxes it in several different ways (for example, the Garden Box is loaded with 10 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit). Then once, a month, the boxes are delivered to participating churches and other groups where they can be purchased. The boxes cost anywhere from $19 to $39 (and Top Box also accepts SNAP cards). Click here to see an average delivery day.

Could you live on $4 a day? That’s the amount food stamp recipients must live on, and there are more than 50 million people in this country who require food stamps to survive. Top Box Foods is directly addressing the issue of hunger and food deserts by offering access to foods many of us take for granted.

Top Box Foods isn’t really trying to change the whole world… just that part of it that goes to bed every night hungry  in America. That’s enough for now, isn’t it?


Today, food bloggers across the country are dedicating their posts to raise the awareness of hunger in this country. We need to make anti-hunger legislation a priority. Click here to send a message to Congress. There’s a great documentary just out that really sheds light on the problem of hunger in America. Here’s the trailer for “A Place At The Table”. 

Kitchen Think: Farmer’s Markets… Only For the Select Few?


Have you ever been to a farmer’s market?

Many vendors at this market accept food stamps.

Seems like a lot more of us are buying our seasonal fruits and veggies there than ever before. But the farmer’s market boom is not reaching those who could really benefit from fresh produce… food-stamp users.

The USDA says there are almost 8,000 farmers markets sprinkled around the country, with half of those markets concentrated in 11 states. California, New York and Massachusetts have the most.

But market vendors are struggling with how to serve the poorest customers. Just 1 in 5 accept payment via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The reason, simply put, is bureaucracy.

In order to accept SNAP cards, a farmer’s market vendor must:

1. Get approved and receive a Food and Nutrition Service authorization number from the USDA. This can take anywhere from 45 to 90 days.

2. Purchase or rent a “point-of-sale” machine so that the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards (EBT) can be swiped. The EBT card is the only approved way to accept food stamps.

3. Wait for reimbursement from the government (!), and maintain a system of back-end accounting to ensure proper compensation.

Most farmers (or at least those I’ve met and worked with) would love to participate in a program that would help get fresh produce on the tables of the poorest consumers and those living in so-called “food deserts.”

And while the USDA says it’ll spend about $4 million this year to get the payment processing machines into markets, will this really solve the problem? Farmers, who already live on razor-thin margins, need to be reimbursed quickly.

Reimbursed quickly by the government. Is this doable?

To find a farmer’s market in your area, click here. But don’t forget to double check the location and hours before you venture out!



I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: