Monday, September 17, 2012

September - Hunger Awareness Month - Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Happy Monday all.  This is a continuation of a series on hunger awareness in the United States.  Since the onset of the Great Recession as it is called, need for assistance in obtaining food has risen drastically.  Here are some statistics from FeedingAmerican/Second Harvest concerning the SNAP program, or Food Stamps as many call it.

SNAP (Food Stamps): Facts, Myths and Realities

SNAP is targeted at the most vulnerable.
  • 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 84% of all SNAP benefits.[i]
  • SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of SNAP households have income well below the maximum: 85% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($22,350 for a family of four), and 62% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($16,762 for a family of four).[ii]
  • The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $731, net monthly income of $336, and countable resources of $333.[iii]
SNAP is responsive to changes in need, providing needed food assistance as families fall into economic hardship and then transitioning away as their financial situation stabilizes.
  • Because SNAP participation closely follows unemployment, SNAP responded quickly and effectively to the recession. As the number of unemployed people increased by 110% from 2007 to 2010, SNAP mirrored that growth with a 53% increase in participation over the same period.[iv]
  • The average length of time a participant stays on the program is 9 months.[v]
  • As the economy slowly recovers and unemployment begins to fall, SNAP participation and costs too can be expected to decline. The Congressional Budget Office projects that SNAP will shrink nearly to pre-recession levels as the economy recovers and need abates.[vi]
SNAP has a strong record of program integrity.
  • SNAP error rates declined by 61% from FY1999 to FY2010, from 9.86% to a record low of 3.81%.[vii] The accuracy rate of 96.19% (FY2010) is now at an all-time program high and is considerably higher than other major benefit programs, for example Supplemental Security Income (90%), Medicare fee-for-service (89.5%), and Medicare Advantage Part C (85.9%).[viii] [ix]
  • Two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error.[x] Nearly one-fifth are underpayments, which occur when eligible participants receive less in benefits than they are eligible to receive.[xi]
  • The national rate of food stamp trafficking declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits redeemed in 1993 to about 1.0 cent per dollar during the years 2006 to 2008. As you may have read in local news, USDA is aggressively enforcing individual cases of trafficking, but while there are individual cases of program abuse, for every one allegation of fraud, there are hundreds of stories of heartbreaking need.[xii] 
The need for food assistance is already greater than SNAP can fill.
  • SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year.[xiii]
  • The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $130, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal. [xiv]
  • Only 55% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP, and 29% are not income-eligible for any federal food assistance.[xv]

Categorical Eligibility
 Categorical eligibility allows many people to automatically enroll in SNAP who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for the program.
  • Categorical eligibility does not allow households to enroll automatically; they must still apply through the regular SNAP application process, which has rigorous procedures for documenting applicants’ income, citizenship, work status, and other circumstances.
  • Categorical eligibility allows states the option of aligning SNAP eligibility rules for gross income and assets with TANF to reduce administrative costs and simplify the eligibility determination process. While three-fourths of SNAP households were categorically eligible, almost all would also have been eligible for SNAP under standard rules.
  • While a small number of households would not have met gross income and asset eligibility rules without categorical eligibility, SNAP families are still among the poorest households:
    • SNAP rules limit eligibility to households with gross income under 130% of poverty and net income at or below 100% of poverty. The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $731 and net monthly income of $336. Only 1% of SNAP households in 2009 had monthly net income above 100% of the poverty line.
    • SNAP rules limit eligibility to households with assets of no more than $2000. The average SNAP household still has assets of only $333. [xvi] Additionally, the SNAP asset limit of $2,000 has not been adjusted for inflation in 25 years and has fallen by 48% in real terms since 1986.  
Food insecurity is a real and serious problem, especially for America's children.  Do what you can to help food pantries in your area.  By donating to FeedingAmerica/SecondHarvest, you can increase your buying power 4 fold due to arrangements they have for purchasing food and distributing it to pantries and those in need.
The East Nashville CoOp Ministry, where I volunteer preparing healthy and nutritious meals, receives food from Second Harvest for food boxes.  We feed anywhere from 50 to 100 people a day on a budget of only $50.00.  That is a true challenge when it comes to feeding that many people.  
Today was a rainy Monday and it makes for a hard day for shelterless people.  They come to the CoOp to get in out of the rain and enjoy a healthy dinner prepared by a staff of volunteers.  We make our menus in advance and little did we know when we decided to make delicious home made chicken noodle soup that it would be a really great day for enjoying a bowl of steaming, delicious soup.  We also served jicama lime tuna salad sandwiches with lettuce and tomato garnish and fruit salad.  I make every effort to incorporate fruit and greens in our clients diets several times a week so that they receive proper nutrition and fiber.  
To make our soup, we cooked 4 whole chickens in a gigantic pot and used LOTS of ingredients that you would not use for making soup at home (same ingredients, different portions).  I like to make at least one "marrow" soup a week so that everyone receives the added benefits of the marrow which aids digestion and adds lots of muscle and bone building nutrients.  Besides that, it tastes wonderful.  This is how you can make a nice pot of delicious home made chicken noodle soup to enjoy.

1 whole chicken (innards removed)
1 large onion, halved and cut into thin sliced "moons"
4 carrots cut into "coins"
2 ribs celery, halved and diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 bag egg noodles (I like Aldi's)

Place the chicken in a large soup pot and cover with water.  Boil until the chicken starts to come off the bone, or leg and thigh separate from the chicken body.  This should take 30-45 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot.  Add the vegetables to the broth (don't skim the "foam" that is the marrow).  While the vegetables cook, let the chicken cool down and remove the skin and discard.  Pick all the meat from the bones and set aside.  Cook until the carrots are getting soft.  Add about 8 cups of water to the broth, or enough to make sure the noodles will be covered.  Add the noodles to the broth when it begins to boil.  This keeps the noodles from sinking to the bottom and sticking to the pan.  Let the noodles cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once just to keep them from sticking.  Add all the chicken meat to the pot.  Stir to incorporate all the chicken.  (too much stirring will cause the noodles to disintigrate).  Let the noodles finish cooking, add salt and black pepper to taste.  If you want, add 4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme which has been removed from the stems or 2 tsps. dried thyme.  Your soup is ready to serve.  

This soup is soul and body satisfyingly delicious.  Serve with a sandwich or nice crusty bread and you have a complete meal.  Personally, I like the soup all by itself.  

Remember to think of all the shelterless people there are including children.  Remember all who may have a roof over their head but live a life of food insecurity.  Do what you can to make a difference.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

When you have a good stock, you can make a good soup.
Martin Yan 

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