I’m honored to once again participate in a food justice campaign with The Giving Table. Today’s post is in support of The Lunchbox Fund; our goal is to help nourish some of the world’s most vulnerable people, the hungry young children of South Africa. I hope you’ll pull up a chair and join us for lunch.
We make lunch for Jacob and Lucas almost every day. Occasionally we go out, but usually “out” means homemade picnics for our midday meal. Partly this is because hungry kids aren’t much fun at a restaurant (we learned that lesson long ago) and partly it’s because I worry – a lot – about what my kids eat. Not so much in the moment (we give them good food at each meal, and they eat it or they don’t) but in the big picture; we want them to have fresh, whole, nutritious food that is as clean and healthy as food can be. We don’t always hit the mark perfectly, but we always try. We have luxuries that fuel our efforts: money and time, yes, but also farmer’s markets and our CSA, cloth napkins and PlanetBoxes, California’s year-round supply of fresh eggs and salad greens and fruit.
I try never to take one bit of it for granted.
I’m not a fan of worrying, usually. But I think worrying about what our kids eat makes sense. It makes sense for their long term health, but it also makes sense for their day-to-day selves. Kids are so busy, learning and growing every single minute. I’m certain that they do this learning and this growing more easily, more joyfully, more effectively when their bellies are full of good, real food.
They need the highest quality fuel to power those amazing brains.
We’ve talked before about hunger, and kids. Hunger is wrong for any human to suffer from, but with children it is perhaps most deeply abhorrent. Hunger can bore a hole in a child’s concentration, can mute their enthusiastic curiosity, can prevent them from learning even when their entire being is primed for it. In rural areas of South Africa, 65% of all children live in poverty. * Nearly 20% of the country’s children are orphans, and almost two million South African children have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. A significant percentage of the poorest children are living in households headed by someone thirteen years old or younger. This is a reality so far from ours – oranges or raspberries? I’m asking the boys, while a world away a young girl tries to decide which of her three tiny siblings should be given their single remaining piece of bread, and which two will go hungry.
The Lunchbox Fund is a nonprofit that is working to bridge the gap between government funded meals and actual hunger in South African schools. Since 2005, they have provided over 240,000 meals per year to students in the country’s most impoverished areas. By providing real, healthy meals each day they are increasing the likelihood that these vulnerable young people will stay in school, learn, thrive, and find their way to better and brighter futures. And isn’t that what we all hope for, when we give our kids a good lunch?
Today’s goal is to raise $5,000 for The Lunchbox Fund. If we do it, we will provide 100 hungry children a daily meal for one year. I’ve donated $40, or about what I normally spend on a week’s worth of lunches with my kids. I hope you’ll consider joining me, perhaps with a donation of whatever amount you usually spend on your Monday sandwich or your Friday latte. If you can donate $10, you will feed a child for an entire month. It’s a month of lunches, but the meal you’ll be providing is also all too often their only meal of the day.
So on their behalf – thanks for lunch.
“It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible. And in order to learn, children need to be nourished.” – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
* All statistics, and today’s lead photo, are shared courtesy of The Lunchbox Fund.
Making lunch for the boys every day is one thing. Reminding myself to eat a good lunch is something else all together. Some days, “lunch” for me means noshing on their leftovers and gulping an extra cup of tea. But I try, as often as I can, to sit down at the table – with them or on my own – and actually eat a real lunch. It is usually some version of the same 1-2-3 salad, a greens/fruit/cheese-or-nut combo no doubt familiar to most of you – often with a scoop of my sis-in-law Kate’s lentil salad over top. This kumquat version is my current favorite lunch. I cannot remember the first time I had a kumquat – I dig back in my memory and they have always been there. But I love Susan Russo’s description of how she was “sucker punched” by the tiny darlings at her Santa Monica farmer’s market. Her salad recipe, with paper-thin slices of kumquat, is the starting point for this one.
To make a 1-2-3 salad, you need: 1 jar of dressing, 2 toppings, and 3 handfuls of salad greens. Hopefully you also have 4 (or 5) minutes to sit at the table with your dining companions, and enjoy.
#1: I try always to have my most basic oil-and-vinegar handy in a jar (one part red wine or sherry vinegar, one part olive oil, salt and pepper, plus minced shallot if I have time) for making lunches in record time, all week long.
#2: Kumquats are peak-season right now (which is why they are often used to celebrate the lunar new year, Gung Hay Fat Choy!). I love kumquats, in the same way that
I loved sour candy as a kid okay, I still occasionally love warheads: kumquats have that sweet/sour, candy/pucker, cheek-squinching goodness that I find addictive. (But without all the red#5 and corn syrup, so that’s a big plus.) Slicing them thinly actually makes them taste sweeter, since you get less of the puckery insides at a go, and they add a wonderful bright citrus note to a salad that also has a little chew to it, and a little more zesty heft than your basic salad-with-citrus (which I also love, in a different way though). With your thin slices of kumquat, I recommend either a nice salty feta or toasted walnuts. Or both if you’re feeling in the mood.
#3: I’ve been using a baby lettuce mix this week, and it is a nice delicately sweet green that works well with the slim slices of fruit. But a hardier green could also work well here, and good old crispy romaine would not be a bad choice. Whatever you can find that looks bright and fresh and ready to battle those winter blues is the green you should choose.
I like to toss everything together gently in a big stoneware bowl that my brother Gabe made, if I’m serving one, or our big wooden salad bowl if I’m serving a crowd. (This salad doubles, triples, quadruples really well, and the pretty little slices of kumquat are crowd pleasers. Pomegranate arils are pretty over top if you’re serving company, and play that sweet/tart kumquat game with aplomb.)
I hope you find time for lunch this week, time to be nourished by what feeds you. And if you do decide to join me in donating to The Lunchbox Fund, I hope that nourishes you, too.