Diaspora

Color Us Connected: Food for thought on hunger – Seacoastonline.com

This column appears every other week in Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News. Given that this is mostly what the world is focused on right now, Guy Trammell, an African American man from Tuskegee, Alabama, and Amy Miller, a white woman from South Berwick, Maine, write about food and hunger.
By Amy Miller
I ate at a Haitian restaurant last week in the charming downtown of Milford, New Hampshire. It meant a round trip of about 100 miles and $20 in gas. The meal for six of us was $128.
A month earlier I was in northern Haiti, where more than half the people live on less than a dollar a day. The country ranks fourth in the world — third by some estimates — for hunger. One out of every two people there has a food intake insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements continuously.
In the United States, 2.5 out of every 100 people live with this level of undernourishment. It’s hard to say what the numbers are in our own community, but South Berwick, like most neighboring towns and many U.S. cities, has a food pantry for people who may not have money for food. Last month I spent an evening at the South Berwick Food Pantry. Fewer than 10 people showed up, which is about average. The shelves were stocked full with donated soups, beans, fruits, pasta and rice, among other things. A nearby Hannaford supermarket had sent in its weekly overstock of baked goods and volunteer shoppers had filled out the shelves with needed items like coffee, clothes and dish detergents, and toiletries, for instance.
In total, an estimated 60 families have been certified by the town as eligible to use the volunteer run soup kitchen, according to program director David Stansfield. But the pantry is relaxed about this and folks who show up are rarely turned away.
The number of people using the food pantry has not changed much since it began operating about 15 years ago. Neither the pandemic nor recent inflation seems to have affected turnout, Stansfield said. He estimates that the operation serves some 20 families a month, but he believes others who are in need are not being reached or for some reason are not coming in.
Even one hungry family is too many, especially in a country like ours with such abundance. An entire nation of hungry people is unfathomable.
This fall, for the first time, Haiti’s tragic food situation, unimaginably, got worse. According to the latest analysis of IPC, an international system for classifying hunger worldwide, 4.7 million people in Haiti face acute hunger and, for the first time ever, tens of thousands face famine conditions.
The name of the Haitian restaurant in New Hampshire is Ansanm. This means “together” in Haitian Kreyole. The eatery’s name elicits the idea of a place to gather. It also reminds us that all of us are sharing the same planet, together.
By Guy Trammell Jr.
Booker T. Washington arrived in Tuskegee on June 21, 1881, and walked Macon County’s roads for 30 days, meeting colored farmers, sharing meals of fatback and cornbread as they planted cotton up to their door steps. (Reader, have you enjoyed fried cotton fritters with sweet and sour sauce, or a bowl of savory cotton stew on cold winter nights…No! Because we don’t eat cotton!) Farmers saw cotton as their only cash crop, not recognizing they could grow greens, squash and sweet potatoes to feed their families. So Washington began teaching this.In 1911, after Washington spoke at a Chicago event hosted by Sears owner Julius Rosenwald, he asked Rosenwald to consider joining Tuskegee Institute’s Board of Trustees, or making a donation. Rosenwald said no to both, but gave Washington a tour of the Sears operations. Washington then arranged for Rosenwald to visit Tuskegee, where he toured the 47 trades programs as Washington “wined and dined” him with foods produced fresh on campus. Rosenwald later wrote that “if a white industrial school could be that good, TUSKEGEE IS BETTER!” Rosenwald not only joined the Board of Trustees, but became a major fundraiser.George W. Carver, after teaching farmers to plant soy and peanuts to replenish the soil with nitrogen, was contacted by a Black farmer who had followed his instructions and had barns filled up with peanuts. She asked, “What can I do with all these peanuts!” Carver prayed about it, and went to work in his lab. He invited the woman and other farmers with the same problem to Tuskegee for dinner. They had salad, soup, chicken with gravy, beans, hot rolls with butter, cookies, cherry punch and a cup of fresh coffee.Following the meal, the woman stood up, hands on hips, demanding, “But what do we do with all the peanuts??!” Carver responded, “Your entire meal was made from peanuts.” Those products, synthesized from the peanut and sold, solved their problem.Carver was the nutrition advisor to Tuskegee’s Athletic Director Cleve Abbott. My father, a Golden Tiger football player, told me of their getting a half head of lettuce at dinner. Confused, they asked what this was, and Coach Abbott told them, “It’s lettuce. It’s good for you. Eat it!” So with a sprinkle of salt, they did. Carver helped them eat healthy and win games.
Southern hospitality involves sharing meals at holidays and throughout the year. Two Tuskegee women used this tradition to improve the lives of many. During the 1950s and 1960s, Tuskegee Extension Agent Elnora Hines changed Black Belt cooking habits, replacing fatback with smoked turkey necks in greens. In the 1970s, Dr. Ivy Brooks of Tuskegee’s Veterans Hospital pioneered a diet to reduce high blood pressure. (So please, don’t pass the fatback.)
Amy and Guy can be reached at colorusconnected@gmail.com

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