Happiness is a Blank Dry-Erase Board

Like a lot people, we have a dry-erase board on our fridge. Through the past decade it has seen everything from chives to light bulbs written on it, and it has been an integral part of caring for our family where groceries are concerned. In the last year or so it has gained even more meaning as it became a board of expectation ("I really need..."), of fear ("I'm sorry, no $ for..."), and hope ("I promise..."). For me, it has become a symbol of what needs to be fixed not only in our pantry, but in the country's economy as well. What's cool is that about once a month I can wipe that board clean, go to bed and let out a huge sigh of relief...

But this entry isn't about us as much as it is about the country. It amazes me that anyone in the United States should go to bed hungry at all. Our country produces enough food in one year to feed all of Europe. That's fine, but we throw away enough edible food in that same  year to feed the entire world at least two times over. According to anthropologist Tim Jones, New York City alone has an annual surplus of about 50 million pounds of food. Our obsession with food, which reveals itself in both our gluttony and our waste, has created an idiotic situation where good, edible food lies rotting in dumpsters while families go to bed with their stomachs growling.

Our dry-erase board has been a catalyst for real change in our family. I throw nothing out that can be used. Those dibs and dabs of leftover veggies? Into the soup pot. Those heels of bread? Into the food processor for breadcrumbs. Years ago a friend who, after every meal threw all of the uneaten food in the garbage disposal, said to me, "Once it's on the table, it's garbage." That sounded as obscene to me then as it does now. I'd just come through a hungry spell during which I ate oatmeal for two weeks so that my kids could eat, and I just stood there, watching all that good food washing down the drain.

I may not have much, but no one in this house will go hungry on my watch. I've gotten over the pride issues. I've become a master chef when it comes to making something tasty out of nothing. And when I'm in the position to do so, I will donate to food pantries and food banks. I will buy groceries and give money gifts to friends who need help. I've done it before and I will be able to do it again.