Food (a Diet Update)


In my first week on my medically supervised diet, I lost 2.5 lbs. To those of us who are used to fad diets, and starvation diets, and quick-weight-loss programs that may seem like too little. But I’m assured by my physician and my dietician/counselor that I won’t immediately regain that weight. And at this point in my life, I’m trying to focus on the long-term.

I’m also told that I am/have been dehydrated (who knew) even though I’ve been drinking plenty of tea, diet soda, etc. every day. I’m trying to fix that by being sure to drink at least 64 oz of WATER every day (I wonder what I would do if I were unlucky enough to live in one of the places like Kentucky or Arkansas whose safe water supply has been recently compromised).

I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times today by Mark Bittman, entitled Abundance Doesn’t Mean Health. Here are some of the salient points he made. His facts were reported in Oxfam’s recent report on nutrition and food in 125 countries.

  • We rank first in food affordability; food is cheap compared with other things we buy, and prices are relatively stable. We also rank highly (4th) in food “quality,” which is measured by (potential) diversity of diet, though access to good water is shockingly low (tied for 41st, about a third of the way down the list).
  • When it comes to healthy eating as measured by diabetes and obesity rates, we’re 120th: sixth from the bottom, better off only than Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Fiji and our unlucky neighbor Mexico. (Canada fares a little better; it’s 18th worst.)
  • We’re also in a tie (with Belarus and other powerhouses) for 35th in “enough to eat.”
  • Much of what’s grown with the potential to become “food” is actually turned into edible foodlike substances — in short, junk food — that produces the opposite of health.
  •  While we generally manage to keep the neediest quarter of our population from actually starving, we do not reach everyone who could use help; for example, only half of those Californians eligible for food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) actually get them.
  • The budget for food education in the United States pales compared with the marketing budget for junk food, and much of that education is either unconvincing or ignored in the face of the barrage of “fun to eat” ads for the food that is worst for us.
  • Part of the problem lies in oversight…we do not have an official government policy or agency responsible for coordinating and assuring that the nation’s investment in food and agriculture is for a nourishing and healthful food supply.
  • In the long run, what’s needed is not a Farm Bill but a national food and health policy, one that sets goals first for healthful eating and only then determines how best to produce the food that will allow us to meet those goals. It doesn’t make sense to tell people to eat vegetables and then produce junk; that leads only to bad health in the face of evident abundance.

All of this was brought home to me yesterday as I trudged around the supermarket stocking up on fruits and vegetables – the staple of this diet that I’m on. I filled my basket with the “good” stuff (zero canned foods, zero meat, zero cakes, cookies, snacks, etc.), and checked out to the tune of $54.65.

I swiped my rewards card, and came up with a savings of $00.00.



No rebate/perks/encouragement for buying and eating the stuff that’s good for you.

And is it any wonder that folks on SNAP are reluctant to spend their small amount of available cash on the “good stuff”?



Big Al and I got up early this morning and went to breakfast at Knapps down in the Proctor district. It’s a fine little family style, plain home-cooking restaurant. The excuse was to talk to Representative Derek Kilmer, who is our representative to the House of Representatives. (Do you think I could fit one more “representative” into that sentence?) He’s a first-term congressman and is really trying to do what his constituents want. It’s helpful that most of his constituents are also flaming liberals, like me.


Anyway, during this recess he is holding “Conversation with Derek” at various coffee houses and venues around the district, and there was one scheduled for this morning near us – so we went. It was very nice, because he came around to each table and sat with us and just visited – asked about what our hot-button items were and told us what he was doing. We said we were primarily concerned with the erosion of military retirement benefits, with SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), and with the attack in various parts of the country on voting rights. (We told him we were eternally grateful that we no longer had to apologize to the rest of the country for being from Texas.)

He serves on the Armed Forces Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, and all the Navy bases on the Kitsap Peninsula are in his district, so he seems intimately familiar with the status of military pay and benefits. He promised he would do what he can to assure the benefits that were promised to us for many years are not further eroded. Unfortunately, he is pretty junior, but he’s willing to go to bat for the service people in his district.

I told him I was on the Board of Pierce County Hunger Advocates, and he said he remembered meeting with Herman Diers (the chair of PCHA). He thanked me (blush) for my involvement, and I told him we were aware of his support for SNAP and for a fair and balanced budget. He said he was appalled at the rhetoric during the debate on SNAP, and he related how “mean” (his word) the Republicans seemed about the issue. He said he was embarrassed at them wanting to require employment for eligibility for SNAP, as if they didn’t know most people on SNAP either had a job already or couldn’t work because they were elderly, disabled, or children. He’s trying his best on this issue, and I asked if we could do anything to help him. He said the best thing to do is to spread the word to all our friends and family and set the record straight.

He has joined Rep. John Lewis in an effort to restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and will be co-sponsoring a bill to that effect. This to me is one of the most important issues currently in our country. We told him the story of the Texas precinct that had moved its polling place to the whites-only country club, and he just shook his head. He said he will try to do what he can to see that this is put right.

Of course, I ate too much breakfast while waiting for our turn with the Congressman, so I spent the rest of the morning in a semi-comatose state.

Then I had a lunch appointment with a lady from the Nominating Committee at Bethany Presbyterian Church. She asked me if I would be willing to serve on the Session for the next three years, and I agreed. I miss having my fingers in the church pie, and you all know, I’m the ultimate presbygeek, who reads Roberts Rules of Order for fun, and has the Book of Order on my bedside table for a little light bedtime reading. 😉 I was so full from breakfast that I wasn’t able to eat much lunch, but we had a good time talking about politics and church and generally getting to know each other better.


I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. It hasn’t been because I didn’t have anything to say. It’s been because I maybe had too much to say.

It started with the House of Representatives being so terribly short-sighted, nay, even unto say, MEAN, about the Farm Bill and the support of SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). You know hunger is one of my hot-button issues. Yesterday, Paul Krugman, in his column in the New York Times, put his finger on what I had been feeling.

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

And then, just like the middle bars of a drum riff, came the stories of the out-of-bounds actions at the Texas legislature, when Capital Police searched women’s handbags and confiscated their feminine protection, because the senators were afraid they might be embarrassed by a demonstration using tampons and maxi pads during the draconian vote to further restrict women’s control over their own bodies and lives. As Rachel Hackenberg said on her blog,

It goes without saying that super plus tampons and winged pads pose a threat to the safety of Texas state senators. Licensed guns, on the other hand, are still acceptable accoutrement for those attending the legislative session.

And then, just to prove to me that the world had really gone mad, we got word of the verdict in Florida. I went to bed Saturday night with my stomach in knots and my eyes full of tears. I still don’t know what to make of a world that fears black boys, hates women, and mocks hungry children.

So I’m still mulling. I vacillate between discouragement, rage, sadness, and despair. I know – these are classic symptoms of grief.

And I grieve for our society, for my community, for the parents with dead children, for the parents who can’t feed their own children, for the woman who is forced to give birth to a child that she can’t afford to feed, for the political representative who would rather WIN than do what’s right.

And so, I haven’t been blogging recently.

Because I really don’t know what to say.

My Life Right Now

I promised I’d give you a peek at what my life is like here at Franke Tobey Jones.


I take a shower, get dressed, fix my tea, load any leftover dishes or glasses into the dishwasher, eat a breakfast bar, feed the birds, water the flowers, check my email, read all the blogs I’ve received in my RSS reader, check the bank account, do a Curvy puzzle, work a jigsaw puzzle on-line, check to see if anybody has posted anything interesting about any of the ancestors, check Facebook to see what’s happening, read the New York Times headlines, the Huffington Post shorts, updates from Knitting Paradise (and read the whole article if it interests me). By that time, it’s probably 11:00 or 11:30 and time to think about lunch.

We eat our dinner at noon and each fix our own snack-type suppers – soup, sandwich, fruit and cheese, nachos, etc.


About 5:30 or 6:00, Big Al and I meet in the living room to watch the news and Rachel Maddow. If there’s anything on network or cable that we want to see, we watch that (not often); otherwise, we watch something on Right now we’re watching the British series, “M-I 5“, and “All Creatures Great and Small.” We usually get one or two episodes a night of each. Followed by the local news, and Jay Leno’s monologue, and finally – to bed.


Bethany Presbyterian Church worships at 10:30 and Sunday School is out for the summer. During most of the rest of the year, Sunday School is at 9:00.

Big Al and I go out to lunch after church, often on the waterfront.


Many Sundays we take a ride after lunch, sometimes through Point Defiance Park, sometime exploring.

Old Growth Forest

Because I probably didn’t get anything from my daily routine done except the shower and the tea and breakfast bar, I spend a couple of hours in the afternoon catching up on my on-line reading. By that time, it’s 4:00 or so, and I go over to the Wellness Center to spend 50 minutes on the recumbent cross trainer (my personal preference for exercise torture). I try to get in three sessions a week of exercise, so Sunday is my make-up day if I’ve been a slug otherwise. If I don’t have to exercise, I spend an hour or so enjoying the porch and reading in my rocking chair.


Every other week I get together with other residents and a genealogist who gives us tips about how to get past the roadblocks in our research and where to find more information. She also helps us with presentation of our research and encourages us to include stories rather than just facts.

Every week, Big Al and I go to the Gamers Club and play bridge or some other game over in the Tobey Jones building. We only stay for an hour, but we enjoy the folks who make up the foursome – a retired federal judge, and a retired school teacher.

Once a month, the chef has a program on nutrition, or some other interesting topic. He also brings goodies to sample. Recently he has talked about protein, the difference between shrimp and prawns, diabetic diets, etc.

I try to fit in my 50 minutes of torture at the Wellness Center on Monday afternoons as well, sometimes before Gamers Club, sometimes, after.

Once a month I have a meeting of the Pierce County Hunger Advocates – part of the Ministerial Alliance.


Big Al and I eat lunch in the Bistro (think Starbucks or local coffee shop) here on campus. They have sandwiches, soup, and salads, and we usually each have a chef salad.

Then, I scurry off to my Tai Chi lesson, while Al finishes his lunch and reads the newspaper.

After Tai Chi, we go over to the Garden Apartments where we play bridge with a foursome we have been playing with ever since we lived there.

Then, it’s back to the Wellness Center for an hour or so of Brain Games. We play word games (like Scattergories) as teams, have paper games to work on, and have some social time. It’s fun, and a way to stretch my mind, and hopefully fend off the on-set of Alzheimer’s a little longer.


Wednesdays are the least structured of my week.

Wednesdays are often the day for trips. So far (since the weather has turned decent this summer), we’ve been to a winery, and the Wildlife Park. There’s a lunch cruise scheduled for next week.

Big Al volunteers at the FISH Food Bank once every six weeks. He also has a luncheon meeting of the state Safety Association in Tukwilla once a month.

I try to get in my 50-minute work out on Wednesday afternoons.

Wednesday is also the day we go to the commissary, about once every 6 weeks.

If you have a birthday or anniversary during the month, you are invited (with your significant other) to a lunch either in the Tobey Jones dining room, or the Lillian Pratt dining room on the last Wednesday of the month.

Often there are interesting programs on Wednesday afternoons, from the Tacoma Historical Society, a gardening expert, or on some other topic. Once a month, we have a program on wines.

Once a quarter, all the independent residents are invited to a dinner, usually on a Wednesday evening. There’s one coming up in a week.


Once a month, the CEO hosts Coffee with the CEO on Thursday mornings. Anyone who wants to can come and ask questions and air grievances. Generally everyone is pretty happy with how everything is going.

On Thursdays at 12:30 I have my second Tai Chi lesson of the week.

There’s also often a program from Senior University on Thursday afternoons.

At 4:00 is the All-Campus Wine and Cheese, where we are invited to lift our glasses and socialize with other residents and the board.


Friday morning at 11:00 I scurry over to Lillian Pratt for the Knitter’s Club. There are 5 or 6 of us who get together and chat while we do some kind of handwork. There’s a retired college president who is learning how to knit to keep his hands and brain busy, as well, and we can ask the others for help if we run into a problem. They always provide us with coffee, tea, and a goodie to stave off starvation until lunch time.

Friday is one of our lunches out. Once a month, the community takes the bus to a local eatery with whoever wants to go. We’ve been to a Japanese place, a Mexican place, an Indian place, an Italian place and a seafood place. If the Lunch Bunch isn’t going, Big Al and I find our own place for a nice lunch out.

The community has Ice Cream on the front porch at Lillian Pratt every Friday afternoon in the summer.

The Garden Apartments have Happy Hour on Friday afternoons. Everybody brings a little snackie-poo, and they provide wine and hard liquor (and soft drinks). We like going because it gives us an opportunity to catch up with the folks from the Garden Apartments.

Once a month, they have “Chef’s Table” that you have to sign up for. Chef Tim plans a specially nice menu and prepares it table-side, while he talks about the ingredients and preparation. It’s limited to 12 people, so it’s a nice opportunity to visit with other residents over a wonderful meal (with unbelievable desserts).


For the most part, Saturday is a day of catch-up. This is my day to work out (so I won’t have to on Sunday afternoon). We also go to the grocery store, hit the garden shop, buy more bird feed, etc.

So that’s what I do all the time. I’m just as busy as if I weren’t retired, but I really love it.


I’ve spent the last several days getting my social media on for Pierce County (Washington) Hunger. If by some stretch of the imagination I haven’t asked you to check our blog, “like” our facebook page, or follow us on Twitter (@PCHunger) it was merely an oversight. Do that right now. Thanks.

I’m out of this for today, but I’ll be back later.

A little less discouraged

I went to a workshop this morning put on by Bread for the World. They are a group that is dedicated to doing away with hunger here at home and in the world. Our current focus is on An Offering of Letters – a way for churches to effectively lobby congress for government programs to help with hunger of all kinds, but especially childhood hunger.

There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet 1 in 6 families can’t afford enough food.

“Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when [we have] the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all [hu]mankind with the basic necessities of life? … There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will.”

Martin Luther King Jr., in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture.

Check out this little 4.5 minute video by Hans Rosling.

WOW! Huh?

So what can we do about the poverty and hunger and illness in the world? You’ve seen and/or heard me say that there is enough money in the world for every single person to have $1,000,000. How can we distribute it more equitably so no child goes to bed hungry and no parent has to make the choice between eating decent food themselves and feeding their family?

We support the local food bank in Pierce County, Washington. My sister and her husband tend a community garden that gave over 1,000 lbs. of food to hunger projects in Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas, last year. I usually give donations to organizations like Heifer, International, as Christmas gifts to my family.


I know that it would be impossible for private sources to make up the difference if the government should cut back – even 6% – on the food support the government gives. And the sequester forces a 10% cut in things like Food Stamps (SNAP) and school lunches. Food banks supported by the community and private donations from churches, synagogues, and mosques are already stretched to the limit. There’s no way to make up the 10% cut from the sequester.

It seems to me the only possible way is for the government to get pro-active. Unfortunately, legislators are like teenagers. They want to do the right things, but they need to be constantly reminded what the right thing is. That’s where we come in, by writing letters and making phone calls and visiting our representatives.

One further thing you/we can do is go see A Place at the Table when it comes to a theater near you. Or you could see it on iTunes.

But I beg of you, gentle readers, get involved and DO something. Little kids are going to bed hungry – right now – on our watch – in our country.


Expecting the Word – Advent Two – Thursday

My Advent series this year will follow the Words Matter Advent study from the National Council of Churches. Download the whole booklet if you’d like, and follow along with the writings for each day. I’d love to discuss them with you. Also, here is a link to the Advent readings from the Inclusive Bible. I prefer the more inclusive language here, than the NRSV texts used in the study booklet (be sure to read the note on page 6).

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

I’m struck by the way Peace doesn’t come except when paired with Justice.

When will we learn that?

G-d’s steadfast Love and Faithfulness only comes to fruition when led by Justice.

Where is the Justice in the world when some children go to bed hungry, and others refuse to eat what’s put before them because they dislike the taste?

Where is the Justice in the world when some children sleep on park benches or in homeless shelters, and others complain because they don’t have a new toy?

Where is the Justice in the world when the elderly are reluctant to go to the doctor for fear of the cost, and government workers have only the best health care?

I understand that I can’t right all the wrongs, but just because I can’t do everything, doesn’t mean I can’t do something!

G-d, forgive me for doing less than everything I can.

Problems and Setbacks

Do you think a person needs to first overcome serious setbacks or challenges to be truly successful? – I don’t think it’s necessary, but it certainly does help in the maturation process. It’s probably better if someone has practice in overcoming small disappointments early (like when she is a child). Understanding that things aren’t always fair, and also that you can still be happy even if you don’t get everything you want as soon as you want it is the result of long practice in not having things always go your way. One of the worse things a parent can do for a child is not let them fail occasionally. When they are allowed to fail in small things they learn how to overcome challenges.

In what way is it important to know your limitations in your life or career? – Again, understanding that you can’t do something and either figuring out a different way to accomplish your goals, or readjusting your goals, is very important to your mental well-being and happiness. Accepting your limitations frees you up to explore different avenues and paths.

If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why? – I would ensure that no one – man, woman or child – had to go to bed hungry. We have enough wealth in the world to solve this problem – if only we quit hoarding what we have, and shared it with folks who don’t have enough.