Friday, March 20, 2009

Bus Driver Delivers Free Home-cooked Meals

JACKSON HEIGHTS, New York (CNN) -- Every day, unemployed men gather under the elevated 7 train in Jackson Heights, Queens. Many of them are homeless. All of them are hungry.

At around 9:30 each night, relief comes in the form of Jorge Munoz's white pickup truck, filled with hot food, coffee and hot chocolate.

The men eagerly accept containers of chicken and rice from Munoz, devouring the food on the spot. Quiet gratitude radiates from the crowd.

For many, this is their only hot meal of the day; for some, it's the first food they've eaten since last night.

"I thank God for touching that man's heart," says Eduardo, one of the regulars.

Watching Munoz, 44, distribute meals and offer extra cups of coffee, it's clear he's passionate about bringing food to hungry people. For more than four years, Munoz and his family have been feeding those in need seven nights a week, 365 days a year. To date, he estimates he's served more than 70,000 meals.

Word of his mobile soup kitchen has spread, and people of all backgrounds and status now join the largely-Hispanic crowd surrounding his truck -- Egyptians, Chinese, Ethiopians, South Asians, white and black Americans and a British man who lost his job.

"I'll help anyone who needs to eat. Just line up," Munoz says.

And at a time when food banks are struggling to keep up with skyrocketing demand, he's never been needed more. But for Munoz, a school bus driver by day, this work is a labor of love.

"When I see these guys on the street," he says, "it's like seeing me, 20-something years ago when I came to this country."

Munoz was born in Colombia and his father died in an accident when he was young. When his mother found it difficult to support Munoz and his sister, she made her way to New York, finding work in Brooklyn as a nanny. At her urging, Munoz followed in her footsteps, coming to the United States in the 1980s.

"She said this was a better future for us," he says.

Munoz obtained legal residency in 1987 and later became a citizen, along with his mother and sister. He never stood on a street corner to find work, but as an immigrant, he identifies with many of the men he feeds.

Munoz began his unorthodox meal program -- now his nonprofit, An Angel in Queens -- in the summer of 2004. Friends told him about large amounts of food being thrown away at their jobs. At first, he collected leftovers from local businesses and handed out brown bag lunches to underprivileged men three nights a week. Within a few months, Munoz and his mother were preparing 20 home-cooked meals daily.

Numbers gradually increased over the years to 35 per night, then 60. In recent months, that number has jumped to as many as 140 meals a night.

Sustaining this endeavor consumes most of his life. To his mother's dismay, his family's Woodhaven home is bursting with goods related to this work. An oversize freezer takes up most of the dining room, and the porch is lined with canned food and paper products.

Daily operations now run like a well-oiled machine. Munoz gets up around 5:00 a.m. to drive his bus route, and he calls home on his breaks to see how the cooking is going. When he gets home around 5:30 p.m. -- often stopping to pick up food donations -- he helps pack up meals before heading out to "his corner" in Jackson Heights.

"He comes here without fail," says one of the men. "It could be cold, it could be really hot, but he's here." Watch Munoz in action in Queens, New York »

On Saturdays he takes the men breakfast, and on Sundays -- his "day off" -- he brings them ham-and-cheese sandwiches. It's a relentless schedule, but either Munoz or his sister does it every night of the year.

"If I don't go, I'm going to feel bad," he says. "I know they're going to be waiting for me."

With the economic downturn, donations have slowed as the crowds awaiting Munoz's arrival have grown. But he is determined to do all he can to meet their needs.

Munoz estimates that food and gas cost approximately $400 to 450 a week; he and his family are funding the operation through their savings and his weekly $700 paycheck.

Asked why he spends so much time to help people he doesn't know, he answers, "I have a stable job, my mom, my family, a house... everything I want, I have. And these guys [don't]. So I just think, 'OK, I have the food.' At least for today they're going to have a meal to eat."

Want to get involved? Check out An Angel in Queens and see how to help.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alice Waters' Crusade for Better Food

(CBS) When it comes to food, Alice Waters is a legend.

At age 64, she has done more to change how we Americans eat, cook and think about food than anyone since Julia Child. Waters was only 27 years old in 1971 when she opened her French bistro Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., today considered one of the finest restaurants not just in the United States but in the world.

Waters has produced eight cookbooks, but she's more famous as the mother of a movement that preaches about fresh food grown in a way that's good for the environment. The movement, now called "slow food," is a healthy alternative to "fast food." You might think this appeals only to the Prius-driving, latte-sipping upper crust, but Waters' ideas have gone mainstream.

It all started at Waters' culinary temple, Chez Panisse. She still shows up almost every day, as she has for the last 37 years, to oversee the cooking with her exquisite, infallible taste buds. It's not just the cooking that has made her famous: it's the ingredients. She was one of the first to serve antibiotic and hormone free meats and insist on fresh, organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

"You started a revolution in food. How we think about food. How we cook food. But do you think of yourself as a revolutionary?" correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Waters. "I guess I do now, but when I started Chez Panisse I wasn't thinking of a philosophy about organic and sustainable. I just was looking for flavor," Waters replied. It's flavor that comes from serving only seasonal food, one of her hallmarks; say "frozen" and Alice Waters shudders.

Because all her food has to be fresh, she buys only from local ranchers, fishermen and farmers. People who meet Waters are struck by how gentle and dreamy she seems to be, and they wonder how someone like that became so successful. Truth is, Alice Waters is a steamroller, relentlessly going after what she wants.

And now she wants everyone to cook the way she does. And that has put her in the spotlight "People have become aware that way that we've been eating is making us sick," she said. She has become the leader of a movement to change how we eat. And she's getting traction. Now you can go to your neighborhood grocery store - even Wal-Mart - and buy organic. But in the process, she's become a target.

"People say Alice Waters is self-righteous and elitist. And these are words I've heard over and over," Stahl pointed out. "I feel that good food should be a right and not a privilege and it needs to be without pesticides and herbicides. And everybody deserves this food. And that's not elitist," Waters argued.

Read the complete Lesley Stahl interview with Ms. Waters here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Congratulations to Class 53!

Congratulations to Class 53 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program, who graduated on March 13, 2009.

(Front Row, Left to Right) Ella Evans, Joycelyn Curley, Keith Rivers (Back Row) Chef Conway, Matthew Ball, Robert Sanders, Larry Stovall, Adam Yarbrough

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Too Little Sleep May Raise Diabetes Risk: U.S. Study

NOW they tell me:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - People who get fewer than six hours of sleep at night are prone to abnormal blood sugar levels, possibly putting them at risk for diabetes, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

They said people in a study who slept less than six hours were 4.5 times more likely to develop abnormal blood sugar readings in six years compared with those who slept longer.

"This study supports growing evidence of the association of inadequate sleep with adverse health issues," said Lisa Rafalson of the University at Buffalo in New York, who presented her findings at the Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Several studies have shown negative health consequences related to getting too little sleep. In children, studies showed it raises the risk of obesity, depression and high blood pressure. In older adults, it increases the risk of falls. And in the middle aged, it raises the risk of infections, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Adults typically need between seven and nine hours of nightly sleep, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rafalson and colleagues wanted to see if lack of sleep might be raising the risk for type 2 diabetes, the kind that is being driven by rising rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyles. It develops when the body makes too much insulin and does not efficiently use the insulin it makes, a condition known as insulin resistance.

Using data from a large, six-year study, they identified 91 people whose blood sugar rose during the study period and compared them to 273 people whose glucose levels remained in the normal range.

They found the short sleepers were far more likely to develop impaired fasting glucose -- a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes -- during the study period than those who slept six to eight hours.

That difference held even after adjusting for age, obesity, heart rate, high blood pressure, family history of diabetes and symptoms of depression.

"Our findings will hopefully spur additional research into this very complex area of sleep and illness," Rafalson said in a statement.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Really Great Recipe!


One Happy Person

1. Take a 10 to 30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Talk to God about what is going on in your life. Buy a lock if you have to.

3. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statements, "My purpose is to __________ today. I am thankful for______________"

4. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

5. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

6. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

7. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

8. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

9. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

10. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

11. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

12. You are not so important that you have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

13. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

14. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

15. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

16. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

17. Forgive everyone for everything.

18. What other people think of you is none of your business.

19. GOD heals everything - but you have to ask Him.

20. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

21. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will stay in touch.

22. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

23. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

24. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

25. When you are feeling down, start listing your many blessings. You'll be smiling before you know it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's The True Value of Friendship?

The more friends you have, the more you earn, says a study. But modern life can allow little time to maintain meaningful relationships, so what's the optimum number of friends?

It's widely accepted that friendships are invaluable to the soul but few of us were aware that they could also boost the bank account.

A study of 10,000 US students over a period of 35 years suggests the wealthiest people are those that had the most friends at school. Each extra schoolfriend added 2% to the salary.

The researchers said this was because the workplace is a social setting and those with the best social skills prosper in management and teamwork.

Read more about the study here.