Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Working Mom’s Dilemma

by: Linda Novick O’Keefe

One of our parents works three jobs. I will say it again, three jobs. Sigh. She is a single mother with five children, who are quite particular about what they eat. I am exhausted just thinking about how she manages. She doesn’t have a car so grocery shopping has always been truly difficult. And when she is able to go to Aldi, once a month, she can only buy what she can schlep back home while managing five children. Deep sigh. Here is mom (a very tired mom) trying to get through each day supporting her family and trying her hardest to make them happy. She is trying to do her best and has had to rely on her community (as we all must do) and community businesses (McDonalds and Churches) to feed her children meals over the years, day after day. So mom’s kids, like many of the children that Common Threads works with, have grown up eating fried chicken, burgers and mac’n’cheese.

I love to see my kids wolf down food, being a food pushing Jewish Mother, it gives me deep pride. What mom doesn’t love to watch her children eat and smile and murmur things like “mmmm, delicious”? I work one job, have two kids, a husband that is a real teammate and continue to realize and affirm each day the fact that life is a juggling act and isn’t easy. For me, seeing my kids at the table each night trying a few bites of a simple healthy dinner makes me happy. If they throw a “this is delicious mommy” at me, I am over the moon.

We all could stand a lesson in moderation, in cooking healthy and eating a bit cleaner. Our bodies were never meant to eat and digest processed foods in the quantities that they are being consumed. It is easy for me to say that and then run over to Stanley’s or Whole Foods or the Green City Market and stock up on local, sustainable produce. But what about my single mother in Austin with her five kids, no car, and three jobs?

What I love about our program is that we are teaching young children, the next generation to cook, to explore and create in the kitchen. They are then more open to grocery shopping making the trek fun family time, making the trek and the schlep a bit easier for their parents. Our hope at Common Threads is that we not only teach our students and their parents how to cook and make healthier decisions but that we make it fun by learning about the world, how food connects us all and how we are all more similar than different.

There are obvious differences between myself and the single mother in Austin. We are both strong women; mothers; we share a desire to nourish and provide a loving and supportive environment for our children; we want the world for our children; and we want the world to be a better, safer, healthier place for them and their children.

Food access is a social justice issue. We all deserve the right to be healthy, to keep our families healthy and food plays an important role. Common Threads revolves around the idea that food connects us all regardless of where we are from, what race we are, what religion we practice. Our hope is that we will reverse the trend of generations of non-cookers one child, one family, one school, one community at a time.

Jamie Oliver made a really important comment about the power of parents “if we all sing from the same song sheet.” So let’s sing, let’s sing loud and strong… perhaps the politicians and the grocery stores will hear us.

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