There is a Japanese proverb from the Lord’s Prayer that translates to “a meal without rice is no meal.” Todays discussion of rice is the third piece in a series of patron reflections regarding staple foods such as pasta, potatoes, canned meat and fish, and peanut butter. On a fairly regular basis our program only has the supplies of rice to offer one 500 gram bag to families of three people or more. Therefore many families are often forced to go without rice for any meal or dish, which is very challenging.
“Hey, why don’t we get rice anymore? It used to be a big staple for me but now I can’t afford it.” – Single man, mid 50s
“Not having rice is pretty depressing…lowers your self-esteem and you don’t feel good about yourself.” – Single male, 40s
The fact that rice is a very nutritious side dish is one reason patrons stated that they enjoy having rice at home. A female in her 40s comments that rice is her families’ preferred choice for a side dish because the calorie and fat contents are miniscule. Rice is a complex carbohydrate which digests slowly in the body, so you’re able to hold on to the useable energy for a longer period of time. Rice is also low in sodium, high in protein and gluten free – it’s a healthy food that is appropriate for any diet.
Special diets are something our program tries to accommodate as much as possible. One father of 4 that I spoke to, who has his mother living with his family, is thankful for our supply rice as his mother suffers from Celiac’s disease. For his family rice is one of the easiest side dishes to accommodate her special diet while meeting the needs of his family. Most of the gluten-free foods are expensive, hard to find, and rarely donated in food drive collections. Therefore when rice isn’t available at home, “it’s difficult because you have to re-plan so many meals…try to accommodate five diets and then you’re limited on what you can do.”
“It can be easier to buy pasta and rice…When money is low fruits and vegetables fall to the bottom of a shopping list… they don’t last as long. When I buy lots of rice then I need to access food assistance for fruits and vegetables.” – Single female, 30s
“If you don’t have rice, you’re really poor. I think it’s one of the cheapest foods.” – Female, 40s
Many people accessing emergency food assistance are living with fixed incomes. Therefore it is hard to stretch the budget to find room for rice in between the need for fruits and vegetables, meat, and milk. A single mom with four children often feels like she can’t afford rice unless it’s on sale though; “It’s hard for me because I always try to make sure the kids don’t know there’s not a lot there, so I look through my cupboards and cook whatever I have.” Without rice her family has to find new side dishes and a different base for the lentils and beans they often eat.
“Well it’s not great…rice is a filler.” – Single mom with 3 kids, late 40s
Rice is an essential food to many cultures including European, Asian and Central American. In these cultures most meals often incorporate rice into stuffed peppers, casseroles, side dishes, stir-fries, and much more. For one mom of three children rice is probably the most important food to have at home, as her husband feels like he needs to have rice with at least one meal every day of his life. But he’s learning to slowly adjust to not eating rice all the time since the family cannot afford it, which isn’t easy for anyone. “My family feels very depressed. I work full-time but don’t feel like it’s worth anything since I still can’t afford food. I develop illnesses because we don’t eat well.”
“Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook” – Chinese saying