I buy groceries, cook and eat three nutrient-rich meals a day, and do it all as involuntarily as my heart beats. I have plenty. More than plenty. And I take it for granted. I don’t think twice about adding more vegetables and fruits to my shopping cart. And lately more of the produce in my cart displays the organic sticker on its exterior, totaling my bill a little higher. I have plenty. But that’s not true of everyone—nearly 48.8 million Americans “lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.” (source)
A couple weeks ago, I got an email from Nicole, of Eat This Poem and The Giving Table, asking if I would be interested in participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger. In my head I said yes and then I read further. “Buy and cook a meal around $4.” Four dollars—the average amount an American on food stamps receives per day to supplement their food budget. (source) It sounded too difficult. And it was.
I decided to make sweet potato tacos (inspired by Naturally Ella), something we make nearly every week, knowing it’s fairly inexpensive and stretches over several meals for us. However, my total quickly added up. Two sweet potatoes $0.42. One can of black beans (BPA-free) $0.89. Half of a sweet onion $0.25. One bell pepper $1.00. One lime $0.29. One avocado $1.00. I was already at $3.85 not including the other ingredients I had sitting around the house like the taco shells necessary to hold that sweet potato goodness together.
I get the problem. Nutrient rich food is expensive compared to the processed food the government subsidizes. My husband works with children of a low socioeconomic status (SES). The stories he comes home with are no different than the ones you’ve probably heard or the ones told in the A Place at the Table documentary. (Check the website for a viewing near you. It’s coming to my neck of the woods this week.) The nutrient-rich food I so often take pride in serving around my table is a distant idea to my neighbors on food stamps. It doesn’t have to necessarily be this way. We can petition the government to allocate more funds towards the existing nutrition program rather than cutting funds, as is currently proposed. It takes less than 30 seconds to send a letter to congress. It’s already written, just fill in your info. Join with the other 150+ bloggers taking a stand. To learn more about the issues surrounding child hunger, check out the Share our strength website.
It’s times like these I am reminded—to whom much is given, much is expected.
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained (BPA-free cans sold at Trader Joe’s)
1 tbsp. honey
juice of one lime
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. dried cilantro or 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
blue corn taco shells
1 avocado, diced
spinach, finely shredded
In a large saute pan, add in pepper, onion, and olive oil. Cook on medium-high heat for about two minutes.
Add sweet potatoes and broth. Allow to cook for another 2 minutes. Salt to taste.
Add remaining ingredients—beans, honey, lime, chipotle, garlic, and cilantro. Stir well and continue to cook on medium-low heat for another 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes have just softened. Taste and add more salt as needed.
Bake taco shells according to directions.
Garnish with avocado, spinach, and salsa. Serve.
• Leftover taco mixture is great on salads, quesadillas, and nachos.
• Cut sweet potatoes as pictured and then dice. Be sure to cut them around the same size so that they cook evenly.
• To maximize the amount of juice from your lime, try this tip.
I just had to tell you that these were so SO good. We are trying to eat mostly vegetarian in our house and I think we’ll be cooking this recipe over and over again. I turned leftovers into a salad for lunch today and all my coworkers were asking about it…I quickly emailed everyone the recipe 🙂 Thanks, lady!!
These tacos were my gateway into (mostly) vegetarian eating. Leftover salad is thee best! I think you might like the Vegetarian Tacos too! Thanks so much for writing. Made my day!
Awesome recipe and great images. I just want to confess I love sweet potato and all sweet potato recipes – http://www.knorr.com/recipes/detail/11635/1/super-easy-sweet-potato-mash
I am adding this recipe in my other sweet potatoes recipes.. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you for sharing the letter to Congress link and info about The Giving Table and A Place at the Table. While the state of our socioeconomically stratified eating habits are disheartening, it’s inspiring to see so many people galvanized to make a change!
I love this post and have added that movie on my list of watch!
Thanks so much for using your voice to speak out against hunger in America. Oh how quickly the food adds up and an avocado feels luxurious when planning meals for $4.
I saw this movie at Sundance and few years ago and loved it. It portrays so well the realities of hunger around our country and speaks of the unseen or unknown injustices going on. Glad you are helping promote it!
“To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Could not have said it better; we all have much, and we can do much more. Thank you for this. I’m so humbled to be part of something so huge and meaningful. Having been at the other end, the end that cannot afford good food, or even much food at all, it was a pleasure to commit a post to this. Having that in my background means I never take any food for granted, but I know not everyone has that experience. I’m here to say I’m so glad that you don’t.
It’s crazy to thing how easily one half an onion can put you over your daily budget. One onion. Like you, I rarely think twice about what goes into the cart. But its something I’m setting to be more aware of thanks to posts like yours and info from folks like A Place at the Table. But I will be making these tacos, rest assured.
I could eat these tacos 5 hundred billion times a day. Yumz.
4$ equal 3€. That’s a serious challenge. We try and eat as well and as cheaply as possible, but 3€ for a meal is a challenge. People with that little money cannot shop in bulk to make cheap meals. Very impressive post that has got me wondering.
Sweet potatoes are an awesome taco filling! These look crazy good and what an awesome cause!
What a great recipe, and an even greater cause!
Great post, so glad to meet you through Food Bloggers Against Hunger!
You are so right. We just eat what we want. No thoughts about it. We are indeed very fortunate. Thank you for the reminder.
I love sweet potatoes, what a great taco filling!
First off, we love sweet potato tacos in our house as well. Delicious and nutritious, and yes, cheap (for most of us). Good choice!
Ok, now to my real comment.
A few years ago I took a class while working on my masters of education — Advanced Health Education. Basically, it looked at how nutrition impacts the body/brain/learning processes, and we did this huge study on how low-income families struggle with this because of exactly what you said above. It is a shame that in the land of plenty it is cheaper for families to feed their children McDonald’s than it is to buy real food. Top Ramen and so on, much cheaper than healthy veggies. And so many people around America — many children in our schools — are lacking the necessary nutrients they need to be able to really live and learn.
My husband is from Brazil and he pointed out that in most third world countries (Brazil as our main example) the lower-income families eat the real food (beans/rice/veggies) and the wealthier families eat the fast food/etc. It is a LUXURY there. Here it is the opposite. Lower income families can barely afford to eat real, healthy food, and then we have this kind “oh, look at how uneducated you are” attitude, when in reality, yes, that plays a part, but even the educated cannot afford to put kale and sweet potatoes and free-range chicken on their plates without the money to do so. It is mind blowing to me that we have come to this place. (I remember with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution they found out chicken nuggets were cheaper than a chicken. WHAT?!)
Thank you for talking about this and bringing up ways we can do something about it.
That is so interesting about fast food being a luxury in Brazil, but it does make sense. I’d read an article about people living in the southern part of Italy (heel of the boot, I believe) and how their diets had changed for the worst as the area became more prosperous, which brought in chains and more processed foods. Two steps forward and five steps back?
Such a lovely project and these tacos look lovely!
Beautiful photos, as usual! Great information and I loved to hear your shopping story.
Thank you for being a part of such an important event! These tacos look amazing!