When there was an unprecedented time of need … food banks across America met it with an unprecedented response.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Until Red & Black started taking some interesting detours, Red never thought about food banks and didn't understand everything that they do; and although Black did, it wasn't until the pandemic that she fully appreciated how many people face food insecurity (in 2021, it could be over 40 million people, including 13 million children).
Red's perspective changed when we started doing speaking engagements across the country for the Morgridge Family Foundation back in 2014-2015. Their conference not only attracted K-12 teachers but also educators teaching at organizations, such as food banks. At the Orlando event, we were introduced to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and after a tour of its facilities and conversations with its innovative President and CEO and the Life Skills Education Manager, Red quickly realized how little she knew about food banks,
Who knew that food banks provided so much more than just food? Well, I certainly didn't! How was I to know they provided life skills classes (including learning about money) and taught technical skills to help prepare individuals for a successful career (not just a job) in the food industry? Which reminds me of that quote, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."
Black, on the other hand, was already familiar with the Feeding America organization (approximately 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries across the country), often being a lifeline for those in need. So, she wasn't surprised that when the pandemic struck, they were there on the front line as the need for food skyrocketed. But still, she was caught off-guard,
What I find disheartening is the number of people who were first-time food bank recipients – people who in the past might have been donors or volunteers. Just look at the pictures of the cars, some very nice cars, waiting in line for hours, hoping to get food for their children, their neighbors, and, possibly, themselves. We have not seen food lines in America since the Great Depression, and they are a frightening reminder of the devastation of the pandemic. Yet, at the same time, we are reminded how critical food banks are to the well-being of communities. And, dependent on the generosity of others.
If you feel that you've been fortunate during the pandemic, please consider reaching out to help others that are less fortunate by donating – money or time – to your local Feeding America Food Bank.
This may be one of the corniest things you’ll ever read.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It’s just a vegetable, so how can it possibly elicit such a strong reaction from Red, while, for Black, it’s more a source of amusement and even, it turns out, admiration?
Corn. That’s what immediately came to mind when Red started receiving emails from Dewberry Farm about its annual fall festival. It was a family tradition when the girls were growing up, and between the fun but often frustrating corn maze (she and the girls were lost for a few hours one year), the corn cannons, and all the other activities, it was a marathon day that always seemed to be the unofficial start to fall (even if the day meant 90+ degree temperatures since, after all, it’s Texas). Of course, enjoying all the incredibly delicious food, like freshly popped kettle corn, from outdoor stands made it even more special.
And Black’s reaction to all these corn-related memories? Red was expecting sarcasm, but not this,
I knew I would get an ear-ful from you but am glad you did not send any corny jokes. Given how much you love fall, and everything associated with it, I expected many kernels of truth in your sentimental memories. However, I have one question, I am sure it was ear-ie when you got lost in the maze, but did you feel like you were being stalked?
The funny (not punny) thing is that Black’s comments, although somewhat out of character, reminded Red of our dad and his endearing sense of humor. So, when Black added that as long as Red had brought up the subject of corn, she might be interested in the Corn Kid, Red thought she was referring to a goat that ate corn. Until she discovered the best corn story – about how a little boy who simply loved corn became a viral sensation. (Red also loved his appearance in a Chipotle video because she, too, loves their corn.)
And Red could relate to the Corn Kid’s love of corn,
I never realized how much I love corn, not only for its taste but for all the memories associated with it. Whether turning a can of cream corn into soup (just add a little milk) when I was recently sick and realizing that I hadn’t had it since our mom made it for me as a kid. I know food triggers many memories; for me, it’s corn (including candy corn), although my love of popcorn is about more than memories!
Are you familiar with Hispanic Heritage Month? If not, maybe it’s time.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: It seems like every month has a “national celebration”, and although we both agree there’s so much to celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month, Red initially focused on the strange timing (starting mid-month) while Black focused on the lesser known (yet significant) achievements of the Hispanic community, as well as a name-calling incident that she can’t forget.
Red will admit that she only first heard of Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021, which is pretty surprising given that she loves history (ok, Tudor England is her area of interest) and has lived in Texas (which has a large Hispanic population) for over twenty years! With her first question being,
Like any good straight-A student, I can memorize that it’s celebrated from September 15 through October 15, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. So, I’ve got to ask Black’s favorite question, why?
Well, after a bit of research (by Black, of course, who believes homework never ends, you just call it research when you grow up), Red learned that the unusual starting date of the month-long celebration is in honor of the anniversaries of independence for many Latin American countries. Which led to her next questions,
It’s called Hispanic Heritage Month, but it also seems to cover Latino achievements and contributions. Or is it Latinx? What’s the difference? Is there a difference?
Black wanted to avoid these questions as the answers aren’t black and white (no pun intended, especially as she didn’t want to get into the topic of why AP News decided to capitalize “Black” but not “brown” or “white” when referencing people by the color of their skin). And although “Hispanic vs. Latino” is easier to explain, there’s controversy over the “Latinx” term. Plus, the “labeling of people” reminded Black of an ugly – and infuriating – incident where a friend was questioned about not being “brown enough”. So, she decided to focus on what is far more important,
Are you aware of the contributions Hispanics have made to American history? Or, the breadth of their accomplishments, including patents). Not only are they impressive, but they have had a far-reaching and lasting impact on the country.
Everyone should celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, whether by attending a festival, a concert, a parade, reading about notable Hispanic Americans, or even watching a movie or documentary. Or, if you’re like Red, comparing “In The Heights” to “West Side Story.”
Can we agree to disagree? No, we’re not talking politics – we’re talking pumpkin spice.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Fall has become the season of pumpkin, or more specifically pumpkin spice; which Red absolutely loves for various reasons while, for Black, besides the fact she doesn’t like the flavor, it just screams, well, MARKETING.
Yes, Red will admit that having pumpkin, one of the strongest symbols of fall, appear in August (thanks Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Cup Noodles, yes, pumpkin spice flavored noodles!) while we’re still in the midst of sweltering summer heat is a bit much. But she loves how it reminds her of growing up in the northeast, with the first crisp mornings and the onset of early and chilly evenings. With childhood memories of raking mounds of leaves only to jump in and scatter them, and then repeating the process. (Which Black has pointed out is now deemed dangerous, something Red plans to conveniently forget when she travels down memory lane).
But mostly, the sight of pumpkins reminds her of picturesque pumpkin farms and the brilliance of fall foliage, which, now that Labor Day weekend is behind us and her thoughts turn to fall, is what she misses most. So, short of jumping in the car to take a road trip to see fall foliage, she’ll have to settle for the tastes that remind her of fall, which won’t be difficult given all the pumpkin spice options.
Although this year, there’s one that has special meaning for Red,
When the girls were growing up, even though it was in Texas, one of their favorite fall “treats” were pumpkin spice Oreo cookies. But they stopped making them in 2017, the year that Natasha moved overseas. So, when I learned they’re coming back this year, it made me smile. I’ll be stocking up on them so I can send them to the girls, although I have a feeling I’ll have to ration them.
Black appreciates how much all of this means to Red, and even tracked down some of the new limited-edition pumpkin spice graham crackers Goldfish (a partnership between Dunkin’ and Pepperidge Farms) before they were publicly available as a surprise for her 60th birthday. But that doesn’t stop Black from rolling her eyes at all the people who have succumbed to the pumpkin spice marketing machine, and the seemingly endless list of pumpkin spice products (besides food and beverage, there are air fresheners and candles, but hair color?!).
I am not going to get into the science of why people are obsessed with pumpkin spice or the fact it is a $500-million-a-year business. Interestingly, it started in 2003 when Starbucks introduced the pumpkin spice latte, now commonly called PSL, although pumpkin spice has been around for over 200 years. So, it is not a new concept, but does show you the power of marketing.
P.S. – Given all this talk about pumpkin spice, you might be surprised to learn that it doesn’t even have pumpkin as an ingredient.