So much of my time is focused on food. What will I make next? What ingredients are in season? What goes well with this or that? I don’t ask, “Will I be able to eat today?” or even more importantly, “Will I be able to feed my children today, tomorrow, or the next day?” I’m fortunate. My children are fortunate.

One in four children in the United States do not know where their next meal will come from and one out of two children will be on food assistance at some point in their lives. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of not being able to feed my family. Programs exist, but the problem is, these programs foster the subsidization of the wrong foods. Healthier foods can be more expensive making processed foods more accessible. People need to have access to quality food that is affordable.

I am so proud to take part in Food Bloggers Against Hunger. Organized graciously by Nicole Gulotta, founder of The Giving Table and inspired by Mark Bittman, I am one of two hundred food bloggers who signed up to devote today’s post to this cause. The inspiration comes from the film, A Place at the Table, from the same studio that brought you Food, Inc.

Some families on assistance have just four dollars per day to spend on food. Feeding a family well becomes nearly impossible. I went to the grocery store with that in mind. I imagined being able to only spend that four dollars per person for the entire day. As I checked prices on everything, I really had no idea where to begin. In a store full of food, I felt like, if this were truly my predicament, my family would go hungry.

I originally didn’t want to resort to making pasta. I felt like it was an easy way out. But, while in the produce section, I noticed that the escarole was pretty affordable. Escarole is a dark green, leafy vegetable full of vitamin A, C and K. It’s a great source of fiber, calcium and potassium too. The flavor is mild and much less bitter than some other dark greens. I love cannellini beans with escarole. The creamy texture of the beans compliment the greens and nutritionally, they add protein, fiber, iron and some more potassium. This ends up becoming a really great nutritious, budget friendly dish. The whole head of escarole cost under $1, the tomatoes were about $1.50 and pasta, of course is really inexpensive.

Escarole, Tomatoes and Garlic

Spaghetti with Escarole White Bean and Tomato

1 lb. spaghetti
1 – 2 T. salt
3 – 4 T. olive oil
1 pt. grape tomatoes
1 head escarole, washed and chopped into 1-2″ slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
salt and pepper
fresh basil (optional)
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Parmesan

Fill a large pot, preferably 8 quart, with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes. Stir frequently.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and the grape tomatoes and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chopped escarole and continue cooking until the tomatoes begin to split and the escarole wilts. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper to the pan. Add the garlic and continue for another 2 minutes then add the cannellini beans. Heat through until the beans are warmed. Now, take about 1/2 cup of the pasta water at about the last minute or so of cooking (that’s when it’s full of the starchy pasta goodness) and add it to the sauté pan. Add a bit of salt and pepper, Parmesan and basil (if using) to taste.

Drain the pasta after it’s cooked to al dente, then add the pasta to the sauté pan and toss (or, if you don’t have room for the pasta in the pan, put the pasta in a bowl and pour the vegetable mixture on top).

To serve, sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan and some crushed red pepper flakes.

 

 

Notes:

  • You can substitute spinach for the escarole, but in keeping this budget friendly, you get so much more escarole per pound for your money than you would with spinach.

 

Budget Friendly Dishes:

 

Resources:

  • To find out how you can watch the film A Place at the Table online
  • You can voice your concerns to Congress here.
  • For even more information, see takepart.com
  • The SNAP Alumni – citizens who once received food stamps and are now prominent leading figures in their field.