a place at the table + sweet potatoes with curry-spiced lentils

by Megan Fleiner in


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Have you ever been hungry?

Not in a "I can’t wait to get out of the office to get lunch today, I’m starving!” kind of way, but truly, and seriously, hungry? Imagine having only $4 a day to buy the food you need to live, and making good choices while doing so. And then imagine someone telling you that the $4 you have been given is being cut in half. I don’t know about you, but I am certain I would be in a state of panic.

When I first read about the documentary A Place at the Table, and heard about all of the food bloggers joining together on this day to donate their posts to the cause, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. The film (from the same studio that brought us Food, Inc.) follows three families struggling with food insecurity, and sheds light on the very real problem of hunger in America.

It is so sad (and scary) that the cheapest foods available in our country are the most unhealthy – soda, chips, processed foods, etc. Participants who rely on government-sponsored food stamp programs receive only $3 or $4 per day to buy food. This means, more often than not, that they are coming home with the cheapest sources of calories available, which are putting them and their families at risk.

The nation’s food stamp program (SNAP) is at risk for severe cuts that would impact millions of families. While there are many private sector programs and charities out there that strive to help with this effort, the only sustainable solution is for government policies to change. So, what can you do to help?

1. Use this link to send a letter to congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation. It only takes 30 seconds!

2. Check out the film A Place at the Table in your city or on demand through iTunes and Amazon.

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Now, what’s this blog post all about? Well, I took the challenge quite literally and set out to my local grocery store to try to cook a healthy, inexpensive meal (that was also delicious). It was not easy, but I tried to use fresh ingredients that didn’t need much to really shine.

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In total I spent $6 on a meal that could feed a family of four. I thought the meal was tasty, satisfying, healthy, colorful (bonus!) and full of flavor. The trick, I found, was to shop the bulk section of the grocery store. Buying just the amount of lentils and spices that I needed was extremely cost efficient. This is definitely a meal that I would be happy to eat again, even when not under a monetary restraint. I feel so lucky to have this be my choice, and try to treat food with respect – never taking it for granted.

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Sweet Potatoes with Curry-Spiced Lentils

4 sweet potatoes, washed and thoroughly dried

1 cup green lentils

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon paprika

salt and pepper

1 handful fresh cilantro

6 ounces plain yogurt

¼ cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Poke a few holes in each potato with a fork, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes, or until tender in the middle. Set aside until needed.

Meanwhile, cook your lentils. I used this method (with no spices added during the cooking process). After draining the cooked lentils, stir in the curry powder, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until needed.

In a food processor, pulse together the cilantro and yogurt. While its still running, pour in the water slowly until the desired consistency is reached.

Assemble the potatoes. Slice each potato down the middle, being careful not to cut all the way through the skin. Using a fork, lightly mash the sweet potato in the shell. Scoop 1/3 cup lentils over the potato, and drizzle the cilantro-yogurt sauce over the top. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Serves 4.