In "the nation's salad bowl," as California's Central Valley is often called, fresh produce grows in abundance.
But for many area residents, healthy food is out of reach.
"Here we are in this agriculturally rich area and yet people who live here and work here are hungry, are impoverished," said Sarah Ramirez, an educator who grew up in the area.
"(Some) are working in the fields that feed the entire country and then they don't have the resources to support them and their health. It's heartbreaking."
For the last two years, Ramirez has been on a mission to build a healthier community in her impoverished hometown of Pixley.
This Women’s History Month, CNN set out to highlight the efforts of 10 women who are helping other women find success, self-esteem and sometimes a safe haven. The women represent diverse fields: technology, fashion design, policy, activism, literature and skilled labor. What they have in common is a mission to empower their fellow woman. See the full list at CNN Living.
Saru Jayaraman wants you to eat with your mind full. The 38-year-old co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and author of “Behind the Kitchen Door” has spent her career fighting for service workers to get a fair wage in a respectful, safe environment. Most of those workers are women.
In an essay for Maria Shriver’s “The Shriver Report,” Jayaraman plainly laid out the facts: “Restaurant servers are three times as likely to live in poverty and use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. work force. In a terrible irony, the women who put food on the tables of restaurant-goers everywhere are struggling to put it on their own.”
Last week, dozens of children at a Utah elementary school had their lunch trays snatched away from them before they could take a bite. Workers at Uintah Elementary School removed the already-served food because some students had negative balances in the accounts used to pay for lunches.
Kenny Thompson didn't want to see that repeated at Houston's Valley Oaks Elementary School. KPRC reports that on Monday, the longtime mentor and tutor paid off the negative lunch account balances of more than 60 students.
This year, the Southern Foodways Alliance celebrates women, work, and food. Today's subject is Karen Barker, who was happily co-proprietor and pastry chef of the Magnolia Grill in Durham, North Carolina (1986–2012). Now, happily, she is not.
I grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, where there was a very strong corner-bakery culture but little actual home baking. People tended to purchase their breads and desserts rather than produce them out of cramped urban kitchens.
I was lucky that my maternal grandmother, an exception to this rule, lived upstairs. She was a Russian immigrant who barely spoke English, had no written recipes, and never used standardized measures. Bubby Fanny turned out an amazing array of Eastern European specialties and taught me that homemade sweets were a tribute to one's family and always included the ingredients of time and love.
Beth Howard pulled up to Newtown in her 24-foot-long camper, loaded with 240 apple pies.
She dished out pie to kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School, grieving parents and anyone who asked.
She describes herself as an attaché for grief, with her greatest gift being pie “made from love.” Most people simply call her "the pie lady."
“Pie is meant to be shared,” she said. “It’s meant to be given away.”
The smoky aroma of chicken and sausage gumbo fills the air inside Café Reconcile. A moist, tender pot roast emerges from the oven while the timid hands of novice knife holders chop onions and peppers.
It’s two hours before lunch time inside Café Reconcile and Chef Joe Smith sounds like an old-gospel preacher filled with the Holy Spirit teaching a small group of young men and women how to bring New Orleans-style food to life.
“It’s called soul food because there was no measuring, they just knew how they felt,” Chef Joe tells his captivated audience as they prepare the day’s lunch menu. “I feel it!”
But this isn’t your ordinary New Orleans kitchen. Chef Joe isn’t just teaching the mechanics of cooking. This is the kitchen of life.
Knoxville, Tennessee (CNN) - Helen Ashe experienced many hardships growing up in Abbeville, South Carolina, during the 1930s and '40s. Her family's first house had no lights or running water.
But even during tough times, she and her twin sister, Ellen, were taught to be selfless.
"My daddy taught us not to take the last piece of bread from the table; somebody may come by that's hungry," Ashe remembered.
Since 1986, Ashe has been leaving a whole lot more than bread on the table.
As the founder of the Love Kitchen in Knoxville, Tennessee, she has helped serve more than 1 million free meals to those in need.
FULL STORY: 'Love Kitchen' delivers for Knoxville needy
In the shadows of Disneyland, often referred to as the "happiest place on Earth," many children are living a reality that's far from carefree.
They are living in cheap motels more commonly associated with drug dealers, prostitutes and illicit affairs.
It's the only option for many families that are struggling financially and can't scrape together a deposit for an apartment. By living week to week in these cramped quarters, they stay one step ahead of homelessness.
"Some people are stuck, they have no money. They need to live in that room," said Bruno Serato, a local chef and restaurateur. "They've lost everything they have. They have no other chance. No choice."
While "motel kids" are found across the United States, the situation is very common in Orange County, California, a wealthy community with high rents and a large number of old motels. In 2009, local authorities estimated that more than 1,000 families lived in these conditions.
When Serato learned that these children often go hungry, he began serving up assistance, one plate at a time. To date, he's served more than 270,000 pasta dinners - for free - to those in need.
We get food crushes sometimes. It might be a chef whose stracciatella makes our hearts sing (that'd be you, Missy Robbins), a winemaker with a barrel-sized brain and wit to match (cheers, Randall Graham), or a writer out of whom we'd just like to hug the stuffing (we're coming for you, Francis Lam).
This go 'round is Addie Broyles, food writer for the Austin-American Statesman. We had a chance to swing into her orbit during our trip to Austin for our SXSW-centric Secret Supper, and while we'd long been impressed by her mastery of the Austin food scene (the Austin Chronicle named her the city's top "food celebrity") and feminist take on food culture, one more thing quickly became evident.