Recent cuts to SNAP benefits have left 47 million people with $36 a month less to spend on food. That cut (based on a family of four) is a 5% reduction to an already stretched budget. Millions of others who don't qualify for benefits, but who still struggle to feed their families, are finding the aisles of their local food banks more crowded with fellow shoppers than ever before.
We asked our readers, via our comments and Facebook, to share their strategies for making the most of their limited food funds. Here's what they had to say.
Cook without a kitchen
His name is The Bitchy Waiter and he'll be taking care of you folks this evening. Earlier this week, the popular blogger served up five ways that customers get in the way of their food arriving in a timely fashion.
And a whole lot of folks bit back, with more than 1100 comments about the role of waitstaff in getting meals to people in a timely fashion - and even their value in society. Here's a sampling menu of some of the most popular sentiments.
Things are not always as they appear to be. Our recent story "The waitress, the autistic girl and the broken hamburger" shared the experiences of Anna Kaye MacLean, a young woman who was deeply touched by the kindness of a Chili's server to her seven-year-old sister Arianna, who has autism.
While many people interpret Arianna's behavior - sometimes involving violent tantrums and grunting - as uncontrolled brattiness, her older sister will take the time to explain the condition if asked. Occasionally, fellow restaurant patrons will ask to be moved to other tables, give dirty looks, or criticize MacLean's handling of the situation. While the family has never been asked to leave a restaurant, they're keenly aware of other patrons' comfort and will leave of their own accord.
Scenes like this play out in public every day, as evidenced by the over 650 comments that poured in when we posted the story. In observance of National Autism Awareness Month and April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, we're sharing insight from some of our commenters who have experience weathering the minefield that is a restaurant meal.
Even the most adventurous eaters often give their inner food warrior the day off on Thanksgiving – nothing but the same turkey, stuffing (or dressing!), cranberries, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie they've been eating since childhood. If one of those dishes goes missing, the whole meal just doesn't feel right.
Other families stray away from the standards (some friends of ours have to have collard greens, whiskey sours and banana pudding for the day to feel right, while another family dives into duck) and develop their own must-indulge traditions.
Yesterday, we posted a plea to get consumers and farmers talking to each other, and by gosh, they did. This comment by a farmer named M.A. really stood out to us, so we're sharing.
Who needs farmers? All we are is a bunch of dead-beat, lazy, filthy loons. Some of us sporting big goofy hats that work all of our dreaded lives sacrificing time with those we love only to be condemned.
The weeds are getting bigger as are some folks pocket books. Bugs are getting stronger too. Vegetables aren't as nutritious as they once were and the meat does not even taste the same. Not to mention the salt and sugar laden foods we're all being presented with. We need more hormones, antibiotics and chemicals! Just to "keep up."
Chef John Currence's recent essay on the use of immigrant labor in restaurant kitchens sparked a debate that's still raging in the article's comments section. Hundreds of people weighed in, and over 1000 comments later, several themes emerged: work ethics of immigrants, why Americans don't seek restaurant jobs, and who bears the cost in the end.
But first, the results from our poll, which received over 21,000 votes:
If you knew a restaurant hired undocumented workers, would you still eat there?
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
Some of the biggest talkers in the news last week were stories revolving around food that might make you look at your menu a little differently.
Lots of our readers have been talking about Paula Deen's type 2 diabetes revelation. The popular foodie has had the disease for three years, and is now a paid spokesperson for a diabetes medication. Andrew Weil issued her a challenge to change her eating. Some folks were outraged.
Here's what readers had to say - "Overheard on CNN.com: Paula Deen's diabetes, chocolate slavery, food stamps"
Our commenters are on a bit of a roll.
Last week, our colleague Jo Parker extolled the virtues of her childhood sandwich favorite the peanut butter and Vidalia onions sandwich. She wrote in part, "The cool, crunchy sweetness of Vidalias pairs terrifically with the peanuttiness. Smooth or crunchy – up to you. I remember eating these as a girl in Illinois, but I really don’t know the sandwich’s pedigree."
In response, more than 200 readers served up love letters to their favorite non-traditional ‘wiches. They ranged from strawberry preserves paired with mayonnaise to peanut butter and…well, everything under the sun, stackable between two buns.