Food for Thought: Give and take

It's all about giving. For those of us who have asked the question "Who am I? Where do I fit in?" or "What's it all about?" - giving is the answer.

It's all about giving. For those of us who have asked the question "Who am I? Where do I fit in?" or "What's it all about?" - giving is the answer. Every day, we give to others. We give of our resources, our time and our energy. In recent months, it seems that giving has become trendy. Bill Clinton just penned a book entitled Giving. Warren Buffet handed over his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Oprah has a whole series called "The Big Give." Why the trend? Why the "ecotrendygivingness" of it all? In the past, much giving had been motivated by self-interest; but today, I believe it's about the price of rice. Rice is among my top 10 favorite foods - not just to eat but to cook. Easy, fast and always delicious, with no adornment other than some salt and oil. My kids - notoriously picky - also love rice. Considering our loving relationship with this hot commodity, it is no wonder that when realizing that my favorite brand of rice had doubled in price, I felt as if I had been betrayed. I figured this would be temporary and, a tad disloyally, looked further down the shelf for a cheaper brand. But the entire rice community has doubled its prices on me; even the generic brand, which I had always been too snobbish to purchase. That is when I finally took a look around. I saw people, rather than tossing food into their carts mechanically, thinking about their purchases. Not only had the price of my expensive rice doubled, so had the price of sugar, milk, flour and other staples. In the last six months, food prices have doubled, and the money of welfare organizations worldwide now purchases 40 percent less food. To make matters worse, 100 million people worldwide who didn't need help six months ago are now hungry. Pundits say the crisis will get worse before it gets better. One of the many reasons that food prices have gone up is that fuel prices have risen. Transporting food incurs a major amount of its cost. My favorite rice is grown in India, packaged in England and then makes its way to my store in Israel. Another problem is the amount of food we throw out. A study by the US government estimated that America throws out 27% of its food. That means, using its garbage alone, America could feed another 75 million people a year. But according to a recent Channel 10 report, Israel is just as bad. At home, cook less or don't shy away from leftovers. There is a plethora of problems in the world today - rising fuel prices, the use of agriland to plant biofuels, global warming and severe climate changes - many of which are contributing to the food crisis. It's not hard to get involved. Caterers and restaurants, or you at your next simcha, should contact a food rescue organization. In Israel, such work is being done by Table to Table ( Start using the green bags at the supermarket. Buy a lightweight carry-all and stick it in your purse. Check out your carbon footprint and see what you can do to offset your carbon emissions ( Albert Einstein said, "It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it." Food problems are not new in Israel. During the tzenah (belt-tightening) of the 1950s, when families couldn't buy rice, David Ben-Gurion asked the people at Osem to come up with some carbohydrate substitute that would fill people up. Petitim, the rice-shaped spheres, were the answer. Inexpensive and filling, generations of Israelis were brought up on them.