Guest Editorial by Dennis Zaia
Growing up in an Italian-American household in the 1950s, my younger brothers and I never went to bed hungry, but we did recognize how my mother stretched her food budget every week. I remember beans and macaroni (pasta e fagioli) and egg drop soup with ditalini pasta every week. Meat-based protein was reserved for Sundays when roasted chicken or other low-priced meat was served along with macaroni and gravy (pasta and red sauce).
My father managed a grocery store, so we were fortunate to periodically get out-of-date items to add to the pantry. (Yes, even before they printed dates on products, the grocery stores rotated stock as a matter of standard operating procedures). That is how I got my fix of those highly valued but low in nutrition Hostess Cupcakes and, yes, Twinkies and Snowballs as well.
Nowadays, according to the Aug. 24 issue of Barron’s magazine, “20% of Americans with children say they can’t get enough food, up from 17% in early June.”
And the Jan. 1 Boston Globe stated: “As many as one in seven people in the state are considered food insecure, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank.”
This reality, as evidenced by these news reports about food insecurity in young families and in the senior population, along with the knowledge of meal packets from the Outreach Meal Program, inspired me and some dedicated friends to help folks stretch their food dollars during this challenging time.
The Outreach Meal Program developed a food formula comprised of pasta or rice, fortified soy protein, vegetables, and essential vitamins and minerals. My friends and I cooked up these meal packets and explored different ways to enhance and increase the taste and visual appeal of each meal. We believe we have achieved that goal with the following three meal packets: macaroni and cheese, minestrone soup, and rice and beans. We continue to work with other meal packets as well.
We packaged each Stretch Your Food Budget meal in a clear plastic gift bag, with clearly described cooking directions and the necessary additional products to enhance the flavor and appeal of the protein-enriched meal that will easily serve four good portions or six side dish portions, helping most families and senior citizens to stretch their food dollars.
The first delivery of Stretch Your Food Budget gift bags of macaroni and cheese were delivered to the Memorial School on Dec. 21, and 26 out of 30 gift bags were taken on that day. These are good signs that people are seeing these as good supplemental ways to stretch their food budgets.
This Monday, Jan. 4, we dropped off a batch of 30 rice and beans gift bags. And we will be delivering the first allotment of gift bags to Wellspring Multi-Service Center this week, containing all three offerings: macaroni and cheese, minestrone soup, and rice and beans.
Each week a different gift bag will be available at the following locations:
Aunt Dot’s Kitchen – Wellspring, 814 Nantasket Ave., 781- 925-3211, ext. 112
Memorial Middle School (cafeteria) – 81 Central Ave., Monday and Wednesday, 10-11 a.m., Jim Richman at 781- 925-1239, ext. 2
By February, we will have weather-secure boxes at locations that will be accessible 24/7 on the No. 714 bus route here in Hull.
Please remember these words from Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
Stay well, hopeful, and continue to wonder.
Dennis Zaia is principal of Focus Associates Human Resources Coaching & Consulting.