I'll admit, I'd been a little disappointed by Mark Bittman lately. The NY Times food writer used to provide simple, easy recipes as The Minimalist. The only reference source I use more often than his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is Wikipedia. His recent promotion to weekly Opinion columnist writing about a range of food and food system topics has, however, been less pleasant. He now bites off huge (and important) issues, dispatching problems like US agricultural subsidies them with simplistic solutions (subsidize veggies instead of corn!) in under 1,000 words. (Of course, I make the same complaint about Times columnist Nick Kristoff, who covers international politics and development, so perhaps my issue is with the column format in general.)
Nevertheless, Bittman just about restored himself in my mind with his most recent column, "Why We're Fasting". Earlier this week he joined activist and religious leaders around the country who are giving up food for a period of time in response to the current federal budget negotiations. Under serious consideration are huge cuts to anti-poverty programs like WIC (nutritional support for pregnant women and those with young children), Head Start (free preschool for kids from low-income families), food stamps, and international food and health aid.
I first heard about the fast through Bread for the World. I'll admit I dragged my feet on joining in, but Bittman's piece was a helpful reminder. I know from my clients how essential these services are for poor people here. In the case of food stamps, I know from my own experience how important they are. I believe these cuts are wrong. Today, I fasted.