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40 Days of SNAP: When Potlucks Become a Problem

'potluck' photo (c) 2009, Heidi De Vries - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The Herman family, members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) living in California's Central Valley, have decided to follow a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food budget during Lent. They will be blogging about their journey and sharing their stories on the Bread Blog.

By Susan Herman

Our second grader, Camilla, will cap off a project about ancestry with a dinner at school. Each student is to bring a family artifact to display at the dinner, as well as two dishes to share: a main dish and a vegetable or dessert. Each dish should serve 8, says the assignment sheet.

Well, this is awkward.

It’s not a huge expense—we are putting maybe five extra dollars into this meal from our SNAP grocery budget—but it was just sort of assumed that each family could afford to buy and prepare food for this special event. What if we really couldn’t spare it?

 

Camilla’s school is an “open enrollment” public school, which means that students from outside the neighborhood boundary can apply to be in the admission lottery. Generally, parents who choose this school know that they will be in for a few extra expenses, as the school emphasizes experiential learning (read: projects and field trips). And there are fundraisers—man, are there fundraisers—so that every child can attend the trips. But for something seemingly small like sharing food? It may not merit an all-out fundraiser, but there could be a little more sensitivity.

In her oral report, Camilla chose to focus on Denmark as her country of origin (though more of her roots are in England and Germany). Seven generations before Camilla, in 1860 or so we surmise, the Peterson family sailed from Copenhagen to Britain and thence to Boston where they quickly made their way west to Nauvoo, Ill., and traveled the Mormon trail—possibly with a handcart company—to Utah.

I thought maybe ableskivers, a spherical Danish popover-like bread, would be good for the dinner. Perhaps a savory version, with a bit of cheese inside. But we’ve never made them before, so I worried that experimenting and probably burning a few batches would cost too much in wasted ingredients. I wouldn’t have worried about that before.

So we’re making ham biscuits and greens, to celebrate her North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas roots. I suppose you could say buttermilk biscuits are akin to the English scone? Or something like that. We know how to make it, it’s cheap, and if the kids don’t eat the greens there are some eggs and a pie crust waiting for the leftovers back at home.

Susan Herman is an independent editor and coordinates the Northern California chapter of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

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