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Conscious Moment Today About World Hunger & Rationed Food

(Mi Tia’s neighbor fetching coconuts)

I’d be so wrong and would be renounced of my Latinhood if I ended the day without mentioning it’s been Hispanic Heritage Month for the last 29 days, ending tomorrow. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve failed to honor it somehow, but better late than never, so they say.

Yo soy Latina.

As I perused food blogs over the weekend, one recurring message I saw was World Hunger awareness.  Like a sumo wrestler in his moment, it hit me. I wanted to be an open book for one day and speak my mind on something so important. Somehow it relates to HHM, so please bare with me. I’ll be quick and to the point.

One reader at someone’s blog stated how thankful she was for always having food at her table. I think it was Jen over at A2EatWrite. I agreed. But that’s not always been the case for my parents. As I child, I remember my parents always making sure we ate every.single.bite.of.food.on.our.plate.

I didn’t understand the incessant demand, but I finally learned.

You see in Cuba, as in other single standing Communist regimes, food is rationed. It was 40 years ago when my parents where young adults, and it still is today. Disgusting, but it is. I really couldn’t wrap my brain around someone telling me how much food I could eat. But sure enough, each month, Cubans receive their federal libreta, a small notebook bearing the family name, and itemizing what foods and how much of each, the respective family was entitled to.

Here is an example of what my parents received when I was a baby:

  • 3 oz. coffee per person
  • NO milk unless you had kids under 4
  • 8 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk for child up to 10 yrs of age
  • 2 lbs. cooking oil per family
  • 1 whole chicken every 45 days per family
  • 1 lb. beef every 45 days per family
  • 6 eggs per person
  • 1 lb.black beans per family
  • 3 lbs. rice per person
  • 1 dish washing tablet per person

There were a few caveats and exceptions. As a baby, I was entitled to a weekly formula called Bazal made up of filet mignon, plantain and malanga. How nasty, but okay. This was possible because my mother told “them” I was lactose intolerant.

How smart.

My cousin, who now lives here in the States recently told me of her rationed amount per month, as recent as 8 years ago:

  • 6 lbs. of rice per person
  • 7 eggs per person
  • chicken would come every 2-3 months
  • meat was not available

Keep in mind that you still have to pay for this food. It’s not a handout by the gov’t. However, if you have American Dollars, you are allowed to go to the “American” stores and purchase an unlimited amount; that’s if you even had USD.

Can you imagine only having 6 pounds of rice and NO meat? No meatloaf or burgers! And 7 eggs?

I sure can’t.

But before my cousin immigrated here, I was in Cuba with her and my maternal family. Having been “briefed” on how life was, I was prepared (seeing as though conditions had worsened since my 1st trip 2 years prior).

So I thought.

I saw my frail aunt hustle our lunch and dinner everyday for two weeks. That meant bartering, selling panties, jewelry, socks, etc..or even agreeing to work a colleagues work hours, things we take for granted, in exchange for food. For 8 months before our visit, my aunt went as far as buying and raising a PIG in her backyard so that we would have pork to eat. I don’t need to tell you how I didn’t partake in the killing or eating of the poor little thing.

And then, I won’t even get into the unfathomable meat substitutions for dishes like croquetas or fried rice I saw all over the place. Nonetheless, mi abuela and tia were able to offer us food.

The image of my equally as frail grandmother, upon her return to Havana after her last visit with us here in States, was painful. She had gained 60 lbs. during her 12 month visit, all to lose it within 2 months on the island.

As an adult now, I have a deep-rooted issue with leaving food on my plate. I almost feel bad when I harass my friends for throwing food away or not finishing everything. I deem it an insult and make no apologies for it. If you’ve never experienced hunger, suppression, not having all the food you wanted to have or were subject to someone else telling you what you were going to eat, you might not understand.

I fully recognize that food goes bad and we are unable to use it all due to the demands of life. But if for a moment you can place yourself in the shoes of someone in Cuba or any 3rd world, impoverished country, where people are starving with NO ration system (ie, Haiti, most of Africa) (at least ration implies there is supply), maybe we’d re-evaluate our time, consumption and use of food. At minimum, the donation to a needy person, if we personally can’t get to use it all.

Just a thought to ponder.

So in light on Hispanic Heritage Month, I claim my pride for being a Cuban born Latina! I come from real poverty (food not being the only deprivation) folks, but am thankful for the incredible fight my parents fought (and still do!) to offer my 5 siblings a rich life, full of laughter, shelter, clothes (cute I might add), puppies, cello lessons, a white picket fence, a car at 16 for each of us, an extraordinary college education and good ass food, E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y.

And I send a shout out to every other Hispanic ethnic group in the world, for being resilient and beautiful.

World Hunger Must End. I’ll do my part in my lifetime to see it does.

What are you going to do differently?

Feel free to visit Jen’s site for a list of organizations that support and lobby for the end of world hunger.

PS: I know I said I’d be short and to the point, but I got carried away. And I could have kept going! 🙂

Be blessed!


Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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0 thoughts on “Conscious Moment Today About World Hunger & Rationed Food

  1. Good on you for bringing the point right home.  My mother is of Native American heritage and although I never really knew hunger in the sense that you did, I know her family struggled…they didn’t get help from the government either, in fact the government in the USA took most of what the Native Americans held dear…their land, food supply, religious beliefs, and their children.  I am lucky (and grateful) I didn’t have to know the suffering of my mother or her parents years ago, but I try to teach my daughter about good stewardship of our resources…one never knows if or when it might not be available any longer.

    Sorry for blogging on your blog, but KUDOS to you my friend!

  2. Wonderful post, Bren.  Sorry it’s taken me a couple of days to get here – we’ve been having some family issues this week.

    Your family has certainly been through a lot.

  3. Bren…this is a powerful piece and not exaggerated. Bravo to you for taking it on. When I was in Cuba several years ago (an allowable ‘cultural’ trip from Miami), even the restaurants had rationed supplies. We got small portions, often couldn’t get frijoles to accompany the rice, and we were paying. I just this week mentioned my experience in a post I wrote on my blog called Meandering Meals.

  4. Bren – this piece is soul touching. We do sometimes forget how good we have it – reading this I wanted to give your aunt and grandma a big hug. Family go out of the way. I am trying to bring my son to realize not to take such “everyday luxuries” for granted. It’s so important.

  5. Thanks for the story on the reality that is food shortages and rationing.  Like most Americans, I have no idea how things are in Cuba, and this is interesting, albeit also sad.  The fact that they live off of such little food is startling, when in America, we are big time wasters.  Growing up I never had food problems, but we made sure everything was eaten.  The dog didn’t have to lick it clean, because it already was 🙂  Thanks for sharing.

  6. Chica, being from a poor country myself I have also seen real poverty. I am blessed because my family owned a restaurant and we enjoyed being part of a “middle class” in Mexico where at least food was always abundant. And it is sad that in this day and age we are things like this still exist.
    I am watching the new video as soon as it finish downloading 🙂

  7. Interesting and informative.

    And to think, I thought gub’ment cheese and food stamps were bad!

    As such the glutton that I am, this is a soul searching piece Bren.

  8. This is such nice post that comes out at the right time.  Every month I bring bags of food to the local Food Bank and I was once a volonteer back in Nova Scotia.  I want to make a difference in the life of someone and I don’t want to see another kids hungry.

  9. Bren,

    When I was reading your post all memories came back to me. We had rationed food in Poland also, each person was given little coupons that you had to use in the shop in addition to money, no coupon, no food… also cigarettes and vodka were rationed so my parents were exchanging them for food coupons with someone. And on Christmas we children were getting gifts from Russia, some sweet,  fake chocolate money, they were hardly tasting of chocolate, and 2 oranges per child!! Even now I eat every bit of orange, because I remember when they were sooo precious.
    Right now life in Poland is good, my parents can’t complain but my Michael’s family is not so lucky. At the moment we are packing barrel to send over in next week or two when we fill it mostly with baby stuff and shoes… they are price of gold there.

  10. Muy bien escrito guapísima!!!! What a story Bren! I know how it is in Cuba… I went on holidays there many years ago… I fell in love with Cuban people! So open, so smart, so sweet!
    Comunist and dictatorial regimens are horrible.
    My grandparents and parents also suffered from hunger during the Spanish Civil war and right after… I don’t want to imagine how they could live with that fear and that hunger. 

  11. Thanks to everyone who took time to really read this post and share your thoughts. It’s so important to bring awareness to these issues and not just caught up in our personal abundant lives (including my own), when others don’t have, globally. It’s a real problem.

    Nuria: I’m glad you know it’s true, but sad that you understand b/c of your grandparents.
    Joan: Thanks for the linkback and for underscoring my sentiments, first-hand.
    Margot: Wow. You just taught me something. I studied Russian history in college and knew of the problems they had as well, being Communist/Socialists. Aren’t we lucky to be where we are now? But, we have to pay it forward.
    Tiffany: The Native-American is a plight that deserves more attention and respect. And it is soooo important, like you said, to teach our children how to cherish and value everything we give them. Look at our economy now–not everything we’re used to is guaranteed. Thanks for sharing ur story.

    I encourage all of you to share this post with your other foodie friends. Thanks!

  12. Hello! I love your blog! My name is Hannah Huffines and I represent Whynatte Latte (soon to launch) and Concentrics Restaurants. I want to invite you to a media sneak taste of Whynatte Latte November 13, 2008. What email address can I send the invite to? Thank you for your time!

  13. Bren, that is one hell of a real-life story. Thank you so much for sharing it with your readers. I for one, wouldn’t have known abt life in Cuba if you didn’t write about it. And to know that people there still dont have enough food is really sad.

    I may not have any first-hand experience when it comes to hunger but my parents did. They were born/grew up during the WWII and our country was invaded by the Japanese. My late grandmother used to tell us stories about how they survived on just tapioca. No rice was available. What more fish or meat. Unheard of, during those times. Growing up, my parents always scolded us if we didn’t finish our rice/food. They always say, “the rice will cry if you dont finish eating them”.

  14. Thank you for such a touching post. A very good friend of mine had everything taken from his family in Cuba in the early 60s and he’s told us many a story on life there. We have much to be thankful for and thank you again for reminding us of that fact.

  15. I think this was one of your best and most real posts ever. You told it like it was. Makes you think how lucky we are but how we still have such a long way to go in the world.. Thank You .

  16. Thank you for sharing. World hunger is definitely a major problem and I feel that the people who have the power to change it, have the responsiblity to change it. This country(U.S.) has a surplus of food that is thrown away everyday. Yes, there are some organization out there for the cause but still I see no change. We have advanced in technology and medicine but no advancement in HUMANITY. Maybe things will change when enough people start caring.

  17. I’m very appreciative of the hard work my dad put forth to get us American citizenship, let alone food on the table. Little things you don’t think about like a six pack for a family of seven, and he’d skip out & drink water. Not a big deal at all, unless you realize that’s how he’s always took care of his family; by putting himself last.

    Both of my parents grew up in Mexico, and when I was younger I used to be upset when I had to pick between toys and clothes for Christmas (I always picked toys),  and when they couldn’t afford to send me to college, but you get wiser as you get older, and you start to understand why. 

    I remember asking mi papi about his childhood, and I found it cool how he used to make balls out of bubble gum and orange peels and how he watched Mickey Mouse through a neighbor’s window.  It’s amazing how much we take for granted in the pursuit of happiness.

  18. Hi Brenda. I just came over from Maria’s site to say hi, after reading her post about your Pollo Assado.    I’m glad I did and to have read your lovely post.  You’ve said everything that needs to be said about hunger  and  although my generation never faced hunger problems our families did and that’s why we (a group of three bloggers but hoping that the number will increase soon) are trying to raise awareness by our event which began with the  WFD and this month I am continuing a second round with WFD – Time to be thankful.   Hope you’ll join us.

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