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rice & beans

We’re entering the months of feasting. We’ll be noisily gathering around  our Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas tables, crowded with gorgeous dishes brimming, celebrating the season of harvest and abundance. Many of us will be attending holiday cocktail parties and New Year’s celebrations.  Homes will be filled with the seductive aromas of pies and cookies baking. Many will complain of their widening waistlines, unable to resist the temptations found in candy jars, on cookie plates, on platters piled with rich foods, and swimming in gravy boats. It’s a season of feasting, and for many of us, it’ a time of too-much-of-a-good-thing.

Sadly, in the starkest of contrasts, it’s also a time when one out of five Americans is living with food insecurity or in outright hunger. A third of these are children, and many are our elderly. (Tragically, in 40 of our 50 states the food-insecurity rate among children is a full 20-percent!) During these wintry months, many of our neighbors are faced with an impossibly difficult choice: to try to warm their homes or to ease the aching emptiness in their stomachs and those of their children. This is the season of dire want and un-met needs.

It’s with these contrasts in mind that our family has decided to put a little something extra on our table. It’s a simple mason jar.

During the next two months, once each week in this season of plenty, we’re opting to eat a dinner of rice and beans. Whatever we calculate we’ve saved on such a meal, we’ll drop into the jar. We’ll empty our pockets of change, and add extra to it as we’re able. And together with our children, we’ll take our jars full, along with extra canned foods, to our local food bank or shelter.

For any of you interested, please consider this an invitation.

~ ~ ~

We can do this. We can feed another.

It’s only a small sacrifice, and not at all a hardship.

Fortunately, cultures all over the world have shared their delicious traditions for combining these humble (and highly nutritious) ingredients. Every Wednesday during the next two months, I’ll be posting a different rice and beans recipe borrowed from various traditions, some from very close to home, others half the planet away. The first of these will appear tomorrow.

If any of you have a favorite rice and beans dish, I’d be so grateful to hear about it. You can write me at

And if you or your family have a tradition for helping to feed the less fortunate among us – won’t you please share it? We could all use a little inspiration!

Thank you so much!



P.S. If you know anyone who might be interested in joining us, will you please extend the invitation?

22 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mama, this is exquisite — so meaningful, so needed. Thank you for putting your voice and images to this cause. We are so glad to be doing this together!

    November 1, 2011
    • Means so much, Ashley. Thank you! xo

      November 1, 2011
  2. What a lovely idea! I have just made the decision to work at a seniors home/hospice where I can bring baking and bread…

    November 1, 2011
  3. Elizabeth #

    SPREE (Sabin friend of Ashley’s here). I am interested in your post and in the action you are taking. Can you share some more information on how you are determining what the cost of a dinner WOULD have been? Are you costing out a high end dinner for your family and a low end dinner? Thanks for any details.

    November 1, 2011
    • Elizabeth, I’m grateful you asked! It’s an inexact science isn’t it? The easiest way would simply be to divide your weekly food allowance by 7 and stuff the jar with that amount. However, it’s not quite accurate because you haven’t yet factored in the cost of the beans & rice dish. If you’re not a stickler for little details, you could simply ignore that fact – beans & rice dinners tend to be inexpensive which is obviously largely why I chose as I did. It saves the most so you can give the most. Another way of determining what will go in the jar would be to pick the most expensive meal you might have for the week. Think extravagant! : ) So I guess it’s not really about science. On this one, let’s just put the hearts in charge! : ) They’ll get it done! Thanks so much for the question – and I loved your idea of limiting how many times we travel to the grocery store in a week and putting the gas money in the jar too!

      November 1, 2011
  4. This is such a wonderful idea. I shall add it to the food bank donations I make. Am looking forward to the recipes to come 🙂

    November 1, 2011
    • Thanks so much Jacqueline!

      November 1, 2011
  5. Ali #

    Thank you for this post that is truly reflective of what this season should be. We are honored to share in this tradition with you. How about Gallo Pinto for a beans and rice debut?!

    November 1, 2011
    • Love the Gallo Pinto! You’ll definitely be seeing it!

      November 1, 2011
  6. spreesgratefulguineapig #

    Spree, this get’s to the heart of your whole enterprise. This is about putting love on everyone’s table! Oregon Food bank will help.
    The humble portly rodent could use a little humble food. 6 out of 5 on the Portly Rodent scale!

    November 1, 2011
  7. What a great idea and I am quite confident that no one will suffer–either nutritionally or taste-wise–from the substitution of a rice and bean dish for something more expensive. On the contrary, rice and bean dishes with their accompanying spices and often bright colors–red, yellow and orange peppers, for instance–can be so deeply flavorful and such a delight to the eye.
    Now, I must say a word about the photography which is always a delight to the eye but this time is even more striking–the color of the Mason jar, the delicacy of the “Feed Another” sign, the composition of the seemingly casual arrangement of the beans and grains in their containers, I’m so impressed!

    November 1, 2011
    • Thank you, Joe! So kind of you.

      November 2, 2011
  8. Beautiful reminder. The holidays often wiz by and all we think of is what WE are cooking or have eaten. I try to do little community things throughout the year and since beans and rice are among my regular rotation, I think the jar will stay all year as well. Thanks for good ideas for doing good.

    November 2, 2011
    • I agree – now that the jar is there, I can’t imagine retiring it. I so appreciate your comment, Lulu.

      November 2, 2011
  9. deb #

    What a lovely way to begin the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, with hearts of gratitude for all we have. Rice & beans . . . a gentle weekly reminder. . . Thank you for the inspiration. I love the visuals, too, with your creative photography.

    November 2, 2011
  10. carolyn #

    My heart gets so well fed coming here. Spree, this is such a simple, elegant system for families to focus on the needs of others. I can imagine children wanting to share their piggy bank extras from time to time.

    And I must agree with Joseph. Those tender photos depict a rare, everyday, often overlooked beauty. I keep scrolling up to bask in it.

    November 2, 2011
    • Thank you so much Carolyn! My heart’s been warmed by your words!

      November 2, 2011
  11. Joy #

    I’ve only just caught up with this – what an absolutely lovely idea. So simple in design, so powerful in outcome. Thank you for sharing!

    December 3, 2011
  12. Very wonderful idea…good for you and your family!

    December 14, 2011

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