Most likely Bill Gates, worth $18 billion and change, doesn't wonder where his next meal is coming from.
But the rest of us, for whom the Fortune 500 might be as well be a stock car race, usually have to stre-e-etch those food dollars to make them last all month.
What we need is someone to guide us through the grocery store, helping us shop wisely, someone to show us what to cook when we don't feel like cooking -- someone, in fact, like Maryan Gresham, Bobbi Hucek, Pat Blake or Norma Maiden, who all help run the SuperPantry program at Dorguth Methodist Church in Southwest Baltimore.
SuperPantry was devised by the Maryland Food Committee to help families stay well-fed. Besides teaching its students how to cook simple, nutritious meals, it also bolsters self-esteem, explains how to make -- and keep -- a budget, and offers information on nutrition and community resources.
One recent day, Maiden, a retired professor of nutrition at Morgan State University, was talking to SuperPantry students, who tend to be women ranging in age from young adults to seniors, about the USDA food pyramid, explaining what a serving is, and extolling the virtues of grains and vegetables.
"Remember, we are not born with taste. We learn everything," she said, commenting on how bad food habits get started. "Do not assume the baby will like mashed green beans with sugar on top."
Her students nod; they have some grasp of nutrition already, knowing that too much fat is bad and that lots of vitamins are good.
Maiden hones their knowledge. "Yogurt is great. Yogurt is made from skimmed milk products. Cheese -- most of the ones we like are high in fat. You can buy low-fat cheese today. The harder the cheese, the higher the fat content. Any animal foods -- like beef, pork and lamb -- are going to be relatively high in fat. Dried beans are great. Mix dried beans with something from the grain group and you have a protein that's as good as an animal protein."
Economical eating begins with economical shopping, Maiden tells the students. "Read the labels. They will tell you what you're buying and how much you're getting [of nutrients]. Then another little tool you can use: the cost labels on store shelves." Checking the cost per serving, on cereal for example, may prove that the "giant economy size" is not always the best buy. "And don't go to the market hungry."
Earlier, Gresham helped the students figure out how much money they must plan on for necessities -- rent or mortgage, transportation, clothing and laundry, prescriptions, utilities. "This is how much you have to put aside," she said. "You can't spend it. You have to pretend it's not there."
When she gets to the category of savings, the students laugh. "Well, how much would you like to be able to put away every month?" she asks. They settle on $10 to $15. "Just to get your Christmas presents in [the budget]."
The course lasts eight to 10 weeks and classes are small, usually eight to 10 people. The program is open to anyone who thinks they could benefit from it, and not only is it free, but students are sent home with the ingredients to make at home the meal they've just learned to cook. Child-care and transportation are provided.
The program was developed after a report by the Maryland Food Committee showed that more than half the people who turn to community food pantries in emergencies have been there before. So the committee looked for a program that would help people avoid food emergencies.
Douglas Miles, program director of the food committee, said, "Initially, [the program] was borrowed from one in Philadelphia, one they called Super Cupboard. We took the concept and expanded it" to include life-skill training as well as cooking and nutrition.
Over the past four years, Miles said, the food committee has operated more than 60 SuperPantry programs all over the state. Currently, 16 programs are running or about to start; 10 of those are in Baltimore. The food committee actively recruits students from community centers, churches, schools and community clinics.
Although each program has a community sponsor, Miles said, the food committee funds almost all of them. (Of the current 16, the food committee is funding all but two. The Dorguth program is one of the exceptions, being funded by the United Methodist Church.) Miles said it costs about $1,300 to $1,800 for each eight- to 10-week session.
The SuperPantry program is part of the food committee's three-step approach to battling hunger, Miles said. The first step is answering emergency food needs through food pantries and soup kitchens. The second step is working with people to move them toward food self-sufficiency, and the third step is to help them become economically independent.
Back at Dorguth, it was time to move from the classroom to the kitchen. On the menu were chicken Parmigiana, orange-roasted carrots, garlic bread and baked apples with raisins and walnuts. Anyone who equates inexpensive food with bland food is in for a surprise.