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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 03:44 PM
Original message
Poverty, nutrition and choice.
There appear to be two primary schools of thought on the topic of nutrition for the poor;
1) Obesity is common among the poor because the poor (despite food stamps) cannot afford nutritious food. The example of this phenomenon I saw used the other day was a $19 jar of "organic almond butter". :eyes:
2) Addressing malnutrition among the poor by providing either a constrained set of items (such as is done by the Women Infants and Children program) or by direct food delivery is undesirable because it forces poor people to feel poor, and presupposes that they aren't able to make reasonable choices for themselves.

My family lives in a very rural area and we feed our family of five on a moderately constrained budget (about $450/month), but with good nutrition. (no steaks or $19 bags of tomatoes). Granted, it does help that we grew about 75# of tomatoes last summer and froze the surplus.

Nutrition on a budget can be done. Then why is poor nutrition so common among the poor? It is not because the dolphin-safe, free-range, fair-trade organic garlic is expensive, but because people eat the way do because that is the way they learned to eat. Also, people are either disinclined or don't have the time to prepare meals. Normal food is costly, but it is not prohibitive. Beans, rice, potatoes, bread and canned fruits and vegetables are perfectly adequate nutrition in the winter. Fresh produce is a nice change in the summer.

I don't think it does anyone any good to pretend that the poor always make good nutritional choices. I also don't agree that the feeling of being poor which occurs because they can't buy the Cap'n Crunch which their kids want (instead of the cheerios which are on the list) is a worse outcome than the poor nutrition which obviously results from unrestricted choice.

I would rename the WIC program and open it up to everyone on public assistance, with a corresponding decrease in other food aid. I would then go a step further. I suggest that the next cost of living adjustment for social security recipients would be payable in WIC-style food vouchers. Too many elderly people are getting inadequate nutrition.
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Jed Dilligan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 03:48 PM
Response to Original message
1. You should visit a city sometime
Specifically, a ghetto. You will find none of the items you mention available in local stores and housing units that mostly don't have functional kitchens.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:01 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. I spent my kindergarten year in an LA project.
I have been to lots of grocery stores. I've never seen one that doesn't stock beans, canned vegetables, potatoes and rice.

If that were true:
1) making food stamps redeemable for staples would result in staples being made available in "the ghetto".
2) it is a strong argument for direct delivery of commodities.
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Arkansas Granny Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:07 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. I've never lived in a big city. However, in the town I live now, there
are many poor neightborhood where the only grocery store for miles is a convenience store. We have limited public transportation here, so if you don't have a car, getting to a large, well stocked grocery store can be difficult or costly.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:09 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Absolutely true. It's hard to be poor in a rural area. n/t
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Jed Dilligan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:19 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. Good luck finding a grocery store these days
What you find are liquor stores with a few rotten bananas by the cash register.
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angstlessk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 03:59 PM
Response to Original message
2. I lived in a poor neighborhood and they had major food market
in the neighborhood and the EXACT SAME FOOD IN THAT STORE WAS 10% cheaper if you drove about 20 miles to a rich is expected that the poor and in many cases it is true are not as mobile a class as the non poor. I AM SORRY you will never convince me the poor are fat cause they eat too much good food or because they just CHOOSE TO EAT FATTENING FOOD...YOU ARE POOR OF SPIRIT
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:06 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Then why?
Instead of assuming something about my moral flaws, why not convince me (as well as the AMA) about the root causes of obesity among the poor?

The working poor like Caballero often have no time for cooking, little money to buy fresh vegetables, and a long walk to the closest supermarket with a good produce section.

"We have been pretending that it is easy to replace a diet of soft drinks and fast food with home-cooked meals, fresh fruits and vegetables," said Adam Drewnowski, a University of Washington epidemiology professor who has studied the problem.


Although being overweight is usually associated with eating too much rather than with hunger, a growing body of research is showing that they people who have gained the most weight in the last decade tend to have the lowest incomes, and often go without the kind of food or the amount they need.

Caballero's neighborhood mini-market in the isolated farming town of Cutler offers a full array of processed foods in colorful packages -- and battered apples selling for 50 cents.
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etherealtruth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:13 PM
Response to Original message
7. I am very glad that you have the opportunity to feed your family ...
... that you are able to feed your family well on a limited budget.

Hopefully, YOU are grateful that you have nutritious foods available to you at affordable prices, that you have the time and the means to prepare that food, that you have the ability to store that food and that you have been provided the education/ life experience to understand many of the intricacies of good nutrition.

Quite often "the poor" are lacking one or more of the aforementioned.

Certainly there are people that are poor that simply make poor choices ... just as there are people that are affluent that make poor choices. My life experience has taught me that a truer version of story is that nutritious food is not readily available (at prices the "rest" of us pay) in areas with large concentrations of poor people.

Be grateful for what you are able to do ...and less judgmental about what others may not be able to do.
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Sal Minella Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:33 PM
Response to Reply #7
11. Beautifully said.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 05:25 PM
Response to Reply #7
12. I am absolutely grateful for the life I have.
Edited on Sat Jan-26-08 05:25 PM by lumberjack_jeff
Suffice to say, it is 180 degrees different from my early childhood.

The purpose of this post is to discuss the chronic problem of malnutrition among the poor. As several posters have indirectly pointed out, cash (without restrictions) to spend at the local convenience store is not solving the problem.

It is my belief that providing incentives for neighborhood groceries to stock the staples of good nutrition is a good start. One good way to provide that incentive is to primarily provide vouchers redeemable for nutritious fare. A few cans of soup or vegetables don't take all that much space or exotic preparation facilities. For that matter, homemade bread only takes flour, an egg, some yeast an oven and a pan.

The primary nutritional asset that "the poor" lack is knowledge.

It isn't excessively judgemental to note that nutrition is lacking among the poor, nor to observe that a typical food stamp stipend adequate to provide appropriate nutrition. New solutions need to be developed.

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RayOfHope Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #12
49. Have you LOOKED at the ingredients in a can of soup lately
its not all that nutritious (loads of sodium, and in the case of tomato based soups, high fructose corn sugar) or filling, if you buy the inexpensive soup.

You're also assuming poor people have the time to prepare quite a few things from scratch. Many are working more than one job, and when one is tired or doesn't hae the time, its much easier to whip up a box of mac and cheese than prepare a loaf of bread from scratch.
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zalinda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:21 PM
Response to Original message
9. The poor are obese for a number of reasons
First and foremost is that a 35 cent box of macaroni and cheese is going to fill the stomach more than that 35 cent fresh tomato (if you could get a 35 cent tomato). Any cooking that is done is minimal, after working 2 jobs, coming home and fixing a big meal is not something that is high on the agenda. Many forget that the poor may not have working stoves or refrigerators, and the only thing they have to cook with is a cheap microwave or hot plate.

And yes, eating habits may be different, because they come from poor parents who also ate high on the cheap starch food chain. These cheap starches and sugars do not provide much energy, and besides after working for 10 or more hours a day, 7 days a week, exercise is not high on the list of things to do.

Being poor on a farm is much different than being poor in the city. Being poor in the city means you can only get to places that in on a bus line, whether it be for a job or getting groceries. On a farm you can grow most of your food, in the city, not so much.

There are a lot more reasons, but to denigrate them because YOU'VE been able to eat healthy is really in bad taste.

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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 05:33 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. Is the observation that obesity is a chronic problem among the poor "denigration"?
If so, it's small wonder that there is no solution on the horizon.

Being rural poor is, if anything, more risky. Not only does the bus line that takes the urban poor to the grocery store nonexistent, there are very few (if any) places in this country where a poor person can afford a piece of property adequate to grow everything needed to be independent of the (several miles distant) grocery store.

The reality is the rural poor are just like the city poor, but with fewer friends and resources.

If you think that my solution is in bad form, then what's yours?
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zalinda Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:20 PM
Response to Reply #13
20. You post was in bad form
You denigrate them because YOU have been able to make "healthy" decisions. And your post is very condescending. My advice is, mind your own business. Let those who actually know about the situations deal with them. Your thread wasn't helpful, just smug.

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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:37 PM
Response to Reply #20
24. Like it or not, social policy is my (and your) responsiblity.
It is up to us to decide how our money can best be spent to promote the most just, fair, healthy and beneficial society.

I did not intend to denigrate the poor - that's why I didn't.

There is an epidemic of obesity resulting from malnutrition among our poor, and it is because of the social policy we've put in place. The primary reason that this policy is in place is, as you've illustrated, the widespread view is that it's someone else's problem.

If you think the problem is nonexistent, then my advice is get out of the way of people who are inclined to look for solutions.
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frankenforpres Donating Member (763 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 09:53 PM
Response to Reply #20
59. those in the know
are doing a pretty shitty job for the last 40 years. dont know why outside input is scorned.
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 04:22 PM
Response to Original message
10. First off, congratulations on having a garden to supplement your food budget.
If everyone who had the space grew some of their own food, that would be a good thing. You mentioned that you had 75 lbs of tomatoes from that garden -- was that all that you grew, or were there other vegetables and fruits to supplement your seasonal diet? Any wild berry patches? If so, you need to adjust your food budget estimate upward to account for the grocery store value of those items (or the foods that you would have eaten without those available.)

Second, is your food budget constraint a choice or the upper limit of funds available? That's important because if you have some flexibility in the spending then you can take advantage of sales and warehouse shopping to stock up.

Third, how do you buy groceries-- are you able to choose your grocery store based on price rather than location, and choose to buy in larger economy sizes because you have a car at your disposal?

The reality on low income people's food choices is they make similar choices to the rest of America in terms of percentage of their budget spent of fruits and vegetables -- they just are constrained by other factors in terms of type. You have home grown tomatoes, their choice is cheap canned.
We have as a nation lost our way in terms of smart food choices.
See here for link to USDA research on this topic

One final note: very low income seniors already can qualify for Food Stamps type assistance.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 05:50 PM
Response to Reply #10
16. Simplicity is mostly a choice.
To the extent that my experience is relevant to this topic, our predictable income is modest, and a $450 grocery budget is based on that income. We also have irregular income which pretty much offsets any unexpected events.

Although our income is significantly below $50k today, it was once significantly more, and we restructured our lives and assets to accommodate that change. We live comfortably.

I am not poor. You make a very good point that frugality and poverty are not the same thing. Stocking up does help. My experience is only relevant to the observation that having only $450 or so for food is not in itself an insurmountable barrier to good nutrition.

This year we grew squash, carrots, cucumbers, green beans and cabbage, but the tomatoes were the most beneficial. Because time permits, we intend to have a much larger garden this year. That said, gardening is not a money-saving enterprise. One does it for fun, for exercise and for the benefit of getting better produce than can be purchased.

The nutritional value of food is mostly retained in the process of canning. There's nothing wrong with canned vegetables. Even the surplus vegetables here get canned. Fresh vegetables are a seasonal luxury.

Given the constraints facing the poor, and assuming that we consider chronic obesity is a societal problem, what are some solutions?
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:35 PM
Response to Reply #16
23. The USDA report has one good suggestion
Adding earmarked vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables. The research suggested additive vouchers rather than reassigning current allotments because as a "bonus" it wouldn't be seen as a tradeoff for dairy, cereal, et cetera.

Some states have encouraged the location of farmers' markets in urban neighborhoods and low income communities and also issued modest vouchers to income eligible families, thus matching people to products and helping the small farmers to boot.

In Oakland CA some industrious people created a rolling green grocer stand-- a truck that showed up at the same time every week and sold fruits and vegetables at decent prices. This was in a very low income neighborhood that lacked a full service grocery store. Most residents had to take a bus to go grocery shopping.

That touches on a larger initiative, which is community development agencies encouraging full service supermarkets in areas where predominantly low income people live. Generally when it's been done effectively, the CD has tied development approval in a coveted location with some deal to develop in the less desirable one.

There are other barriers to good eating for some low income people like lack of adequate cooking facilities and reliable refrigeration and storage but addressing those would require a return to a national commitment to provision of adequate housing for all -- that's a completely separate topic.

Finally, nutritional education for everyone, not just poor people, could help revert people's attitudes about diet. Public education campaigns in mass media have helped many understand things like watching sodium and saturated fat intake, for example. More can be done in that regard.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:40 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. The rolling grocer stand is a good idea
I think that fresh vegetables are a good summertime treat, but canned vegetables have more nutrition than 99% of what can be found at the local convenience store.
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #25
26. Yes, the biggest problem with canned vegetables is added sodium.
The low sodium ones cost more most of the time. Canned vegetables are good too for people with limited cooking and storage facilities and for those who don't know how to cook. When my mother volunteered at a food bank she learned quickly which clients would look for the canned stuff and avoid fresh food because they had no clue how to cook it.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 05:45 PM
Response to Original message
14. Nobody always makes good nutritional choices.
Rice, potatoes, and bread (and pasta) are relatively "empty calories," and while they are depended upon by the poor because they stretch a meal and fill bellies quite cheaply, they are not "good nutrition." A little, yes, but not in the proportions that people on tight food budgets may depend on them. The cheapest bread also tends to be the least healthy.

Canned fruit may be better than no fruit, if it comes without added sugar, but it is certainly not the nutritional equivalent of fresh produce; nor are canned vegetables.

Beans? Yes. Peanut butter? Yes, if it is a natural peanut butter that doesn't contain added sugar and other harmful junk.

I lived most of my life on "poor food." Some of it may have been from "habit," eating what my single blue-collar working mom was familiar with. It wasn't all habit, though. By the time I was 10 years old, I didn't invite friends over to the apartment any more. Hungry friends would decide to raid the fridge, and be shocked to see nothing in there, at all, except a very small jar of mint jelly someone at work gave to my mom with a basket at holiday time.

I lived for the first 12 years of my adult life the same way. Two weeks after my first "wedding," which was done for free at the in-law's church, no decorations or pomp, reception at their home with a salad and a homemade cake, we were eating the bag of rice that didn't get thrown at us. For 3 days, with nothing else to go with it.

We always had a pot of beans or lentils on to go with whatever else we scrounged. We had oatmeal. We had peanut butter sandwiches, and cheese sandwiches for variety. We had canned fruits and vegetables, and fresh when we could. Still, it wasn't "healthy." Too many of us struggled, and struggle, with insulin resistance.

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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:07 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. Grains are the biggest piece of the food pyramid.
For my height and weight, the USDA recommends 9 oz of grains.

"Empty calories"? I don't agree. Enriched bread (e.g. wonder bread) is not a good example of really destructive food choices. There are far worse.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 07:33 PM
Response to Reply #18
29. The food pyramid
Edited on Sat Jan-26-08 07:34 PM by LWolf
is not really a guide to healthy eating.


What Should You Really Eat?

More than a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created a powerful and enduring icon - the Food Guide Pyramid. This simple illustration conveyed in a flash what the USDA said were the elements of a healthy diet. The Pyramid was taught in schools, appeared in countless media articles and brochures, and was plastered on cereal boxes and food labels.

Tragically, the information embodied in this pyramid didn't point the way to healthy eating. Why not? Its blueprint was based on shaky scientific evidence, and it barely changed over the years to reflect major advances in our understanding of the connection between diet and health.

With much fanfare, the USDA recently retired the old Food Guide Pyramid and replaced it with MyPyramid, a new symbol and "interactive food guidance system." The new symbol is basically the old Pyramid turned on its side.

The good news is that this dismantles and buries the flawed Pyramid. The bad news is that the new symbol doesn't convey enough information to help you make informed choices about your diet and long-term health. And it continues to recommend foods that aren't essential to good health, and may even be detrimental in the quantities included in MyPyramid.

This is from the Harvard School of Public Health. They prefer the "Healthy Eating Pyramid:"

Note where the wonder bread belongs on this one. It might not be destructive in small quantities, but it hardly qualifies as "healthy." Whole grains are still at the bottom.

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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #29
30. Thanks for this
I think it may be a bit reactive. I'm a bit skeptical that a candy bar and a potato should be considered equivalent, and that vegetable oil should form the base.

White rice is has been the primary caloric source for asians for centuries, yet their obesity rates are minor.
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El Pinko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 08:05 AM
Response to Reply #30
42. Too much white rice & noodles and too few vegetables has spiked Asian diabetes rates in recent years
I obviously don't think processed starches are the same as candy, but too much processed white starches can be problematic, even without obesity.

Beriberi was a common disease little over a century ago because so many Asians were subsisting on vitamin-depleted white rice without the variety of foods needed for adequate thiamine intake... (If only they had know that eating brown rice instead would have prevented beriberi, too...
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 09:24 AM
Response to Reply #30
46. There are many interconnected factors.
When you look at one group of people who seem to eat something without harm, you have to look at how they are eating it, and everything they eat that goes along with that. I was just reading an article this morning, for example, discussing the health effects on some indigenous tribes when the kind of oil they used changed, and they no longer processed the food that made up the rest of their diet as efficiently.

Insulin resistance and diabetes is increasing at a significant rate in the U.S.:

The common contributors in our country are over-processed foods and not enough exercise.

Having lived my life with insulin resistance, I learned that blood sugar is better controlled by eating plenty of green things, whole fruit in moderation, and small amounts of lean protein. The carbs that have the fiber removed, like in white rice, pasta, many breads, etc., play havoc with blood sugar levels. Most of the foods that the poor use as "filler" for hungry bellies are just that. A lifetime of those foods as the "staples" in a diet are part of what is fueling the rise in diabetes.

Of course, that's not just limited to the poor. Many of those who are doing fine financially also depend too much on convenience foods. Unhealthy foods have become part of the food culture of the nation.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 01:49 PM
Response to Reply #46
51. I recently read the book "South" by Ernest Shackleton
His sailors were marooned for two full years on a piece of rock off the coast of antarctica. After the first few weeks, their entire diet was composed of penguins. That is all they ate. They all survived, without apparent malnutrition.

No, I'm not suggesting that food stamps should be redeemed in penguins. ;-)

I am agreeing with you that proper nutrition is a complicated web.
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LWolf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 09:42 PM
Response to Reply #51
58. Redeemed in penguins

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nadine_mn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 05:48 PM
Response to Original message
15. Have you ever carried bags of beans, potaotes, and canned goods home?
I can't even begin to complain - I was lucky...when I was in school, I at least had a bus nearby to the grocery store.

Nothing like trying to carry canned goods, sacks of produce, and a gallon of milk on the bus. Then haul them up the 3 flights of stairs. I was thinner when I was poor - had to walk everywhere and carry everything, and the poverty diet of hmmm what can $10 buy is freeing. My food wasn't healthier - I was just having a lot less of it.

Now I have a car and I am a lazy fat ass, and my nutritional choices still suck.

Thanks for the laugh about making the home made bread...that helped, because really after working all day we all have time to bake bread rather than hit the 7-11 for some cheapass Wonderbread.

Oh and when my mom and I lived in a trailer park...we didn't have a refrigerator - only an ice cooler - eggs and non-powdered milk were a luxury. Eat it all and eat it quick - no leftovers.

I get your poorly made point - you can make good nutritional meals on less money - but it takes a lot of ifs:

:if you have a access to a grocery store
:if you have access to working appliances
:if you have skills to cook (ummm seriously...this is not a given)
:if you have time and energy to prepare food rather than hurry up and eat what you can
:if you don't latch-key children (sorry that is an outdated term, but I was one) because you can't afford child care, and you really don't want them cooking home alone
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:02 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. Are you suggesting that the working poor are obese...
... because they have to walk a long way carrying heavy groceries?

Obesity is a problem among the poor to a far greater degree than can be explained by lack of kitchens. The biggest deficits are education and incentive.
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nadine_mn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:18 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. Are you daft?
You mentioned that one can purchase canned goods, potatoes, beans and rice on little money and eat nutritiously.

I agree.


Sorry...but I have been in grocery stores and have tried to figure out what to buy based on how heavy it was, whether or not I had a car or bus, and did I have a place to store it. It is easier to spent 99 cents on a cheeseburger than to buy the ingredients: pound of hamburger which is around $3-5, buns $2-3, cheese optional. Then carry the groceries home either on a bus or when the bus wasn't running, walk the 2 miles. Then go home, hope the electricity hasn't been shut off, put groceries away and cook a meal.

My incentive for crappy, high in fat food was that it was easier to buy pre-made stuff w/ extra calories or go out to fast food because it was cheaper.

Oh and I had the education, I was in college (then law-school) full-time, working full-time and fucking tired as hell all the time. My incentive was to eat and sleep, not so much whether it was healthy.

I can't imagine how hard it is for a parent to have the energy to do all this homecooking for a family after working all day.

And fatty food, high caloric food - makes me happy. And when you are poor and you don't have much - a little happiness goes a long way
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:28 PM
Response to Reply #19
21. If good nutrition among the poor is rare because bad is easier and cheaper...
Then my solution has much to recommend it.

The experience of ones college years are only moderately relevant to the experience of those for whom poverty and obesity are a fact of life.
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nadine_mn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. I grew up poor, was homeless
and lived without appliances - as a kid. I have been poor as an adult as well.

College was my only way only way not to be on the streets.

I know first hand how hard it is to struggle, buddy...all too well.

And I am more obese now than ever before and I make more money now than ever before.

Poverty does not equal obesity. It is a contributing factor - because good nutrition is a luxury. Its a matter of quantity and quality.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 07:03 PM
Response to Original message
27. I am glad you have the tools you need to survive.
Edited on Sat Jan-26-08 07:33 PM by demgurl
I have been a part of these threads before and tried to help those who needed it with tips and such. These wonderful people treated me with respect as I did them. They explained, to me, different obstacles they have to doing helpful things like going to a farmer's market. I trust these people since they have been in a place I thankfully have not. They have no reason to lie to me and have told me many reasons why they can not afford to eat healthfully. Unless you think they are lying (Why would they?) then perhaps you should take it at face value that they can not afford to eat properly and start looking for an answer from a different angle.

The definition of a fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. You seem to be repeating yourself (and banging your head against the wall) over and over without different results. Perhaps a more understanding and supportive approach is in order, yes?

By the way, the last thing someone who has to do without wants to hear is how much you have and how you make things work. Well that is fine but they are not living your life. When you can live their life EXACTLY and still make it work, perhaps then you can offer tips and hints. This is a really cold thing to be saying to those who try hard but do without. We, as Democrats, try to help others. We find answers, we do not criticize those with problems. That is who we are. If that is not who you are then perhaps this post will help you change.

You know, these days people who have some money have a hard enough time getting by. People who were secure just a year ago have a hard time paying $5 for a gallon of milk and $10/lb. of meat. Groceries have gone way up even for those who used to be able to afford it. And there are news articles out there that state healthy foods cost far more than food with junk calories. This is fact.

As a Democrat and a member of our board, please look out for those more needy. This is who we are and we can not be the best Democrat possible if we are handing out tips and closing our ears. Let's listen, evaluate and help.

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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 07:32 PM
Response to Reply #27
28. I don't think the goal of finding a solution is served by pretending to have no opinion.
... or that one's own experience has no portability.

The fact that I paid $2.99 for a gallon of milk just this morning, and $2.89 per pound for 12% fat ground beef last week is germane to the conversation.

The barriers to adequate nutrition among our poor do not appear to be primarily due to insufficient food allowances. The observations that grocery stores are not proximate to poor neighborhoods and that adequate transportation, storage and cooking facilities are not universal are good.

I think the conventional DU wisdom misdiagnoses the problems;
a) "organic" and "fresh" are not synoymous with "nutritious". Because it is possible to pay $19 for quasi-peanutbutter or $18 for tomatoes does not mean that it's impossible to get adequate nutrition for less.
b) the spirit in which this is intended is exactly as you suggest; looking out for those more needy. Clearly one of the principal needs which our poor face is the twin (and not mutually-exclusive) problems of malnutrition and obesity.

I've been criticized for belittling the poor. That is not my intent. If anything, I'm belittling those who buy $10 garlic from the upscale grocery boutique and use that experience as somehow explanatory of why the poor get inadequate nutrition.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 07:53 PM
Response to Reply #28
32. The fact is that no matter what you are buying....
Edited on Sat Jan-26-08 07:55 PM by demgurl
you will find different prices all the way across our country. It could be anything from milk to gas and it can even vary from different locations within a city but if you have no real way of getting to the items then it does not matter.

I am not sure your prices are germaine to the conversation when they are not the ones facing the poor who are struggling. All conditions are not equal.

Have you read "Nickeled and Dimed"? If not, I would suggest you do so and then come back being very well educated on the issue of the poor in our country. If you have read it then you know about the disadvantages that many have in the country and how some are lucky to just have a roof over their head let alone a 'healthy' meal. This is a very important book to find out how the poor are trying to survive in our country and it pretty much wipes out many arguments you have made. In fact, all of the arguments. Read that book and then tell me how these people have a choice.

Hell, I even posted after I read the book and talked about all of the misconceptions I had had. I was truly sorry for judging people on what I could do versus what their situation was and what they could do. What a bitch I was to assume everyone could live my way and if I could do it they could but they just didn't want to or didn't have the motivation or any of the many other reasons there were in my mind. What a fool I was talking out of my ass on something I had not even experienced.

Maybe in talking about obstacles we should be talking about all the culprits. If minimum wage were raised so that single moms could make a decent living on ONE job, that would sure give them more energy and more money to spend on healthy food.

We could also raise the amount of WIC that people get. I bet it has not increased even with the cost of living.

A lot of homeless people do not have ways to cook so we could petition our government to amend our constitution the way the French did last year to say that everyone in France was entitled, under the Constitution, to a home. Wow, that would be great.

The poor do not have a lot of tools or even time at their disposal and so maybe we should start with what the government can do to improve living conditions in this country.

I have not seen anyone buying $10 garlic (does such an animal exist? Ouch! ) on this board and explaining that is why the poor can not afford to eat. I, however, have talked to these people and listened with an open heart and mind. I have heard their obstacles and listened to people in the know - people who are experiencing it first hand.

You may not have meant for your posts to come across as belittling but that, from the replies, is how it did come across. It seemed as if you kept coming up with counter points as to how the poor can make it rather than posting an earnest post asking the poor (by the way, we do have a poverty board here) what obstacles they have and going from there trying to figure out how to solve them. Unless you are experiencing it (or researching it) then you are just throwing out answers that are not germaine to the subject.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 08:09 PM
Response to Reply #32
34. My bad, it was $11 garlic.

It was not my intent to place the responsiblity for solving this problem onto the poor, but rather onto us.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 08:51 PM
Response to Reply #34
35. Wow! I had no idea that garlic could be so expensive!
Ouch and double ouch!!!!!

I think the approach to solving ANY problem is first analyzing what all of the problems are for a certain situation and then trying to come up with answers.

Perhaps your quest would be well served letting this thread sink and then starting a new one questioning what all of the actual problems are. There are many people here who would be more than happy to talk to you about the situation. Once you have evaluated it then you can have an interaction with folks and discuss what the possible answers are.

We already know, from the press, that healthy food is much more expensive than junk food. You also know that transportation is a huge issue. I know some families live in hotels with no way to cook or refrigerate. Others can not afford to replace appliances they do have.

There are even many more problems. How do you come up with a solution for someone who is uniquely American working two jobs and trying to come home and take care of their family while getting enough rest before going back and doing it all over again? Well, as I mentioned before, get on the government and get them to raise wages so that people can actually have living wages - you know, ones people can actually live on!

Anyway, I believe you will come to find there are many varied reasons why poor people are not eating healthy. And, yes, some are too lazy but a majority (a large majority) are not. When you read the struggles in "Nickeled and Dimed" a light will appear and you will see how much of the system is set up against the poor. I think there is not one single answer as to a solution. We need to find all of the problems and see if we can work on all of the solutions. It is not right people in this country must struggle so hard.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 09:08 PM
Response to Reply #35
36. One of the problems I see
is the absorption of the idea "you get what you pay for" into our fundamental nature. A potato is only worth so much. If you call it carbon-neutral fair -trade and organic, it can be worth much more.

- but it's still a potato.

Analogy mode: We also know that a really good car is a lot more expensive than a crappy 'ol Dodge, too. Since the BMW is soooo expensive, we despair of ever finding a transportation solution. It's a pity because the Dodge will get the job done if it were not dismissed as being beneath consideration.

Rice, beans, $2.50 hamburger, cheese, oatmeal and canned fruits and vegetables can form the foundation of perfectly adequate (if not exciting) nutrition.

The fact that off-season fresh argentine strawberries are $5.00/lb should not be used as evidence that it's impossible to buy "healthy" food on a normal budget.

There are numerous other barriers to adequate nutrition for the poor. For me, solving problems is a process of elimination. The use of organic almond butter as proof that healthy food is unobtainable for people of normal (or less than normal) means suggests to me that the magnitude of this barrier is overstated, and allows us to concentrate efforts on things that stand some chance of helping.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 09:34 PM
Response to Reply #36
37. I do have a confession.....
I buy organic milk. It is about twice as expensive as regular milk but I make sure I get the kind that says there are no hormones added. This is important to me because when I gave birth I could not breastfeed at first because they said that I had had drugs during the birth (c-section) and they kept giving me pain killers. They really stressed to me how things would pass through to the baby through my milk.

I never remember children being as developed as they are, now, back when I was growing up. If drugs are passed through my milk then I am sure they would be passed through a cow's milk. I truly believe the growth hormones effect our children and I realize I am fortunate enough to be able to afford this and do so out of concern for my children. Sometimes a label is not just a way to make money. A lot of times they do mean something.

I would put forth that if people are saying their $5 Argentine Strawberries are an example of why poor people can not eat well then that is their fallacy and does not mean poor people can actually eat healthy. To take one person's mistake and hold that up to mean the truth must be the opposite would be wrong. They may be overstating how they see it but that does not allow you or I to close our eyes because one person is wrong in their overstatement. A lay person saying such things does not prove anything except that they are overstating. Nothing can be said otherwise.

I used to have a friend whose family was very poor. I remember her telling me how she went next door to ask to borrow a teabag just so she could have something, anything for dinner. This is not someone who was lazy. This is someone whose father had to quit work when he was diagnosed with a heart problem and told if he continued to work he would have less than a month to live because it would be too much strain. Her Grandmother was too old to work and her mom was certifiably crazy. It would be nothing for me to go over to her house and her mom would just be sitting there having imaginary conversations. This whole house rested on my friend's 20 year old shoulders. She got the best job she could but she was supporting her whole family, their mortgage, car payment, insurance, food, etc.... on one small job she had acquired out of high school. She could not even share her feelings with her mom because she was incoherent or with her Dad lest he have a heart attack. Sometimes she just had to choose between gas to get to work so that they could keep all of their belongings or food that would keep them full for one night. The job/car/keeping a roof over their head won out.

For a while I gave her my card number so they could order pizza and eat that off and on so they would not starve. Yes, I could have bought her real groceries except for the fact she lived in a different country, she would have needed the credit card at the checkout of the store. And I honestly could not help support another family in addition to my own. At least with a credit card she could give the number over the phone and she did not need the card in hand.

I guess what I am trying to say is a lot of people barely make ends meet. What about all of those people whose houses were foreclosed? Do you think an apartment building that checks your credit will rent you an apartment when you defaulted on a house? Perhaps have some friends or family but some of those, too, are barely getting by. And if they are like me, they do not have family they can turn to.
Then you turn to the scenario that is in "Nickeled and Dimed". You end up with low paying jobs like a maid or waitress. Those jobs do not even pay minimum wage. When I was a waitress I earned a little over $2 an hour thanks to the wonderful laws set forth by our government. In order to even get an apartment you need good credit and you need a deposit as well as rent and then you do not have furniture, etc..... Once you are down at that level it is a vicious financial circle and you are lucky if you get out but you definitely can not afford healthy food and you have no way to prepare it.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 09:59 PM
Response to Reply #37
38. good point
I would put forth that if people are saying their $5 Argentine Strawberries are an example of why poor people can not eat well then that is their fallacy and does not mean poor people can actually eat healthy. To take one person's mistake and hold that up to mean the truth must be the opposite would be wrong. They may be overstating how they see it but that does not allow you or I to close our eyes because one person is wrong in their overstatement. A lay person saying such things does not prove anything except that they are overstating. Nothing can be said otherwise.

Yes. At risk of oversimplification, because they're wrong doesn't mean I'm right.

There are a number of barriers to good nutrition. I find the examples used to support the argument that inadequate money provided for food assistance is a primary barrier to be less than compelling. This view is also colored by my experience.

I think other barriers are far worse, and society can better benefit those who need the help by removing them.

I also don't agree with some of the posters who think no strings should be attached to food assistance. From my standpoint, it is my hope that the assistance I give won't kill the recipient. Some people choose to see that as a punitive "no ding-dongs for you" approach, I see it differently.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 11:29 PM
Response to Reply #38
39. As I said before.....
sometimes there are many problems/obstacles for one family and not just one solution but many that must work together. So I think it may be also oversimplifying things to say that money is the primary barrier. There are many other things as well and all must be taken into consideration. And in order to fair and not judge people or let them down when an "answer" is found, we should assume the situation is the worst one for each person because a lot of people are living the worst scenario and we need to address those that need the most help and not neglect them.

We must assume that the family is homeless/living in a hotel/living in a car. They do not have a way to cook which basically means they must buy cooked food from some fast food place. (this was one of the biggest barriers I came across when trying to reason out what would help people have a healthier lifestyle) We must assume that it is a one parent 'household' and that the parent works two jobs leaving very little time for cooking, housework of any kind, doing homework with kids and sleeping.

If you work two eight hour jobs and are an only parent, who wants to spend time with their children, you are doing a night job while the kids are in bed asleep so that you are there in the early evening to actually be a parent. So you go to work around 10 at night and work until 6 the next morning. You change into your next uniform, get a bus and start work at 7 AM. You work until 3 PM. By now you have been on your feet since about 9PM the night before when you caught the bus to go to your first work. You thank the good Lord for the Hardee's down the street because you know that even if you had a stove at this point you could not cook. At this point you are counting down the hours. It is 3 PM, the bus will not get you to your hotel until 4 PM and at that point you have five hours to do everything you need to do INCLUDING SLEEP before you must do it all over again. What you must do can include feeding the kids, sleeping, laundry (a single parent working two jobs get no days off for rest and laundry), homework and whatever else is on your plate. Oh, and did I mention sleep? YOu start wondering what you can cut. The kids are old enough to do their homework and perhaps if you spot clean your clothes you will not have to waste time on that. Sleep is very important if you are to survive to keep the family going but sleep is hard when you are crammed into a single hotel room. THe kids fight, the TV is on and of course there are the neighbors screaming at each other next door. Thank God you do not have a stove because where would you fit the time on a bus to go shopping, get that extra bus back to the hotel, cook the meal and do the dishes.

I will have to respect your view on conditions on WIC and hope you will be open enough to hear mine. I will start off by saying I think the government has no right to tell me how I should run my personal life. For instance, it drives me nuts to think my government could arrest me for what my husband and I do privately in the confines of our bedroom.

A long time ago I came to the conclusion that I do not let others mold who I am and how charitable I am. I give a lot of donations to people on the street. I realized what a control freak I would be if I expected those people to abide by my ideas of how they should spend my money. Once it leaves my hand it is not my money any more and who the hell am I to judge them when I have heat, lights, a clean shower, a safe place to rest my head at night and food on my table? I have no idea the hell they go through. Do I think some of them use my money in a manner I may not if I was in their position? Hell yeah. Am I egotistical enough to think that I, with the many health problems I have and no insurance, may not change my habits if I were living out on the street and maybe even turn to alcohol to forget the pain of my health problems? No, I am not that egotistical because there but for the grace of God go I. I am not but a simple human being and who the fuck am I to think that I could possibly know what one homeless person goes through in a single day and who am I to be a control freak and only give money to them if they will use it the way I think is most appropriate? What kind of fucked up control freak does that to the homeless?

Now I understand many people have differing opinions on this because even on my Buddhist forums they have fights over this and it is hard to get a fight going on those forums! It is hard to find one person not talking civilly.

For my opinion once I give money to someone it is not mine any more. The money is theirs to do with what they want. I will not let them make me be a less charitable person by not giving because I think someone MAY spend it on alcohol. Either my intentions are pure or they are not. I can not have it both ways. I figure if someone is out on the street and a little something like a beer brings them happiness then so be it.

This brings me to your statement about control over what the poor eat. These people, in my eyes, are grown-ups. They are parents making a decision. I understand the government has certain conditions anyway but when it comes to junk food then I think the decision is that person's. The poor have seen the way they are looked at on the street waiting for a bus. They have been sneered at for using WIC. They know they are looked down upon and by God if one little Twinkie makes them feel normal for a few minutes and possibly makes their shitty life more bearable for a short period of time then who the hell am I to say how they should live when they are going through so much already?

These are people who are able to live on their own. They can vote, they can work and they have families. How dare we take them by the hand and act like mommy and daddy? Hell, I have been bulimic and anorexic, are people going to now pass laws as to what I can eat since I seem to have problems with that? Where the hell does it end? If they want a fucking Twinkie what the hell harm is it in that? THEY ARE ADULTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!IF this is one of the only respites they get, who am I to deny them? It is not as if they go out gambling, drinking, going on trips, buying multiple houses, etc..... This 'luxury' is a twinkie and I really do not get where it is any of our business.

My goodness, I did not realize how passionate I was about this subject. Sorry if I went off on a rant.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 01:09 AM
Response to Reply #39
40. I see charity and public policy as different things.
I don't want the government telling me what I can do either, but if I am accepted for a Pell grant, I'd better stick by my promise to use that money for education. The fiddler calls the tune. They're giving me a pell grant because it is in society's interest to have an educated citizenry - not because it's fair or I'm a nice guy.

I see food aid for the needy in the same way. It is in society's interest to have a citizenry who do not suffer from malnutrition.

Also, I don't see the primary purpose of welfare programs in general as cash for the poor, or minimize suffering, or dignity or other similar personal virtues. I see those programs as part of a holistic concept of public policy - of trying to create the best possible and most just society. Is the next generation better served by providing guidance to recipients on how to spend the resources they have been granted? In my view, yes.

That twinkie was purchased at the expense of something else. It is demonstrable that significant public health harm has come from using it as a replacement for real food. The root cause of that poor choice and the solution is an unanswered question.

The Republican solution to this problem is to say that welfare is necessarily and inherently counterproductive. The liberal solution to this problem is split. Some feel that more money without restriction is the solution, I think that providing better guidance to how it is spent is appropriate.

"How dare we take them by the hand and treat them like mommy and daddy?" In many cases, they had no mommy and daddy teaching them appropriate life skills. How are they going to impart the skills they lack onto their own children? I know that this sounds paternalistic, and I have to concede that to some degree it is. Nevertheless, I want my own kids to be independent, but until they have the skills to do so, I attach strings. At some point, they will become frustrated by the restrictions to seek independence in their own right.

"When you live in your own house and have your own money, you can eat all the damn twinkies you want." Sound familiar? ;-)

I don't want to get all Clintonian, but I think that they have something of a point about dependence.

Thank you for your rant, I appreciate it. :hi:
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 10:26 AM
Response to Reply #40
48. See, your arguments were exactly why I was confused at first.
At first I was going to explain my philosophy on giving donations on the street and then say that while I truly believe that, this argument has me a little stumped because I know the government already has certain stipulation on money. (ie. how much you can earn and still get WIC)

But as I wrote out my own philosophy and I wrote out the scenario of the single parent who has five hours of "free" time a day to do what they want, I thought if that person who is living in hell, and sees no way out, wants a Twinkie then I would even gladly buy it for them.

Courses could be given on healthful eating but I think they should be voluntary and I do not feel there should be stipulations on what people can buy. The catch here is that if we say they can only eat healthful foods, which include x, y and z, first of all, who is making up the rules of what x, y, and z are? AND if the wrong person makes those decisions then the poor and homeless could actually suffer and die for it! Just think about it, you only get so much WIC and you have a lot of time to stretch that small amount. If you are purchasing more expensive things (as mandated - the recent article states healthful foods are more expensive so we do not even need to debate this one, it is a fact) then in essence you can not buy as much food and some families are already trying to make the food they were getting before to stretch. Depending on who makes the decision about what is healthy and may be bought it could lead to families starving and having to do with even fewer meals than they already do now.

Sure the whole thing of getting out of someone's house sounds infinitely familiar, but the government is not our parent. I understand conditions on Pell grants especially since I had to look them up a few days ago to counter a right wing email that said foreigners were coming over and getting all that free money and then going back home. It is great to have guidelines to see who gets how much money. In fact, it is needed. I do not even mind things like grants having restrictions on how the money is spent because ultimately that would not cause you to go to bed hungry at night.

I am a very picky eater and can easily imagine others being so as well. My Mom wanted to take me to Greece when I was ten but I turned her down because I told her in all honesty I might die of starvation because I am so picky. It is not just being choosy, it is also a matter of getting sick. For instance, when I even smell fish I get literally sick and run for the toilet. I get sick if I am given dark meat instead of white. This is not just a psychological thing since I threw up in a restaurant bathroom once when I started to eat a turkey sandwich. When I returned to my table I opened it to find dark meat. And, yes, I am picky sometimes just to be picky such as when I order Coke in a restaurant and they bring me Pepsi. I can honestly tell the difference between the taste of the two. Also, if I take a sip of my husband's ice tea by mistake, there has not been a single time where i have not violently thrown up afterward!!! I have tried to like beans but I honestly hate them and can not eat more than a bite or two before I am repulsed. (I have not thrown up yet) I can not imagine being a poor person trying to work two jobs and having restrictions of what I can eat put on me so that I have to get the strength for two jobs on a spoonful or two of beans.

There are much better reasons on why the rules should not be in place but I can truly empathize with people who may not be able to live by the rules you have suggested.

Thank you for being so understanding that my rant (all expletives included) were not aimed at you but rather the frustration of how our country is letting these people down. I will say that the school I go to has a lot of poorer families that attend. I sometimes go to a nearby grocery store and see a ton of people using WIC. I have never seen any of them with more than possibly one piece of junk food and most of the time there is not even that. I consider junk food Twinkies, chips, etc....
I am not including things like mac and cheese and hamburger helper, etc....

How would these rules work? Since I believe there is a difference between junk food and unhealthy food, how would that wording go because it is the unhealthy food that is really effecting everything. It can not just be listed as "unhealthy' or "junk" food. Would we now be saying they may not buy any pasta or starches? Would we tell the poor they can only buy from the food pyramid in exact quantities and anything above the quantity would be rejected? What happens if a family can not feed themselves on such a low quantity of healthy food because it is more expensive?

I still do not believe in the rules but I was just wondering if you had thought them out at all.

Anyway, now it is my turn to go grocery shopping......I hope you have a nice day.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 01:42 PM
Response to Reply #48
50. Reasonable people may disagree
You bring up some very good points.

If I were creating "the WIC program for all" (Call it MWIC), out of whole cloth, I would try to devise a system whereby a person is given a certain number of "units" of sugar, grains, dairy, nuts, meats and vegetables, to a monthly cap of say $200/person.

If a person has 10 units available of meat - let's call it 10#, they could in theory buy 10 lbs of $20/lb copper river salmon and, regardless of the amount of units of the other food groups still remaining on their card, have expended their entire monthly allowance.

It seems like this would encourage purchasing (if not eating) a balanced diet while still allowing people to make their own choices.
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demgurl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 02:46 PM
Response to Reply #50
56. I really (honestly) do not want to appear to be a contrarian here....
and it almost seems to me I am asking you questions that would build your case and make it solid but here goes nothing anyway:

There would still need to be a definition under your belief. Just because they can buy meat or such does not mean it will be healthy. As much as hamburger meat has been talked about on this and many other threads, chicken is still much healthier and has much less fat. Cooking up hamburger 7 days a week is about equivalent to gong to McDonald's 7 days a week.

And not to get away from your topic of restrictions but it must also be addressed how much good restrictions are going to be when a family is living out of a hotel room (with no appliances) or a car. We just can't let the least among us fend for themselves and starve.

I am not sure about the $200 cap per person and I do understand that is an amount you were throwing out off the top of your head. I also understand there has to be a cap of some kind, I am just not sure what that cap would be. With the ever rising expenses, even with pooling the families capped amount, it would surely run out.

As much as I am against saying what the struggling can and can not buy, I do sort of like your subscribing so many lbs of this or that to each person in the family. I like this better than the system right now because they could buy amounts rather than worrying about the cost of the said amounts. They could use the pyramid and some sort of equation to figure out the age of people and what amount they will need per day and do that calculation for families to figure out how many lbs. of fresh meat, veggies, etc.... they can get in a month.

All of that being said, I still think there should be some money for miscellaneous items, yes, such as Twinkies!

I am still against restrictions and such but I do think you have a valid idea for our current system in trying to stretch it out for poor people who really need it. It would be wonderful if folks could get the cuts of meat and anything else they wanted and it would not be greatly different from the system they are used to now.

Just my two cents worth.
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 07:53 PM
Response to Original message
31. $450 budget for groceries is not the same as $600 per month budget for EVERYTHING
Edited on Sat Jan-26-08 07:55 PM by pitohui
i don't think you know the size of the monthly assistance checks that some of the people i have known are actually receiving

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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-26-08 08:04 PM
Response to Reply #31
33. That is correct, I don't know.
What is the current (noncash) food assistance for a family of five where you live?

What I read suggests it averages somewhere around $500, but I could certainly be wrong.

As Demgrrl has pointed out, the intent of my post has been either lost or poorly communicated.

My experience leads me to believe that the dollar amount of food subsidy for the poor is not as big a barrier to proper nutrition as are other factors.

Do you agree with this? If so, what do you consider other barriers? Others have suggested proximity to a full-service grocery, lack of storage, transportation and preparation skills.

If not, how does society assure that their increased investment has the intended effect?
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kineneb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 12:23 AM
Response to Reply #33
60. from CA Dept of Soc. Services:
The amount of food stamp benefits a low-income person or family can receive is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Thrifty Food Plan. The plan estimates how much it costs to provide a household with nutritious, low-cost meals. The estimates are revised every year to keep pace with changes in food prices. The average amount of food stamp benefits received per household is about $200 per month.

At the time of your interview, please bring verification with you of your income and expenses. If you cannot get all the information together by your interview date, still come for the interview because you will have additional time to provide this information. If you need assistance in obtaining this information, please discuss this with your food stamp worker at the time of the interview. The following are examples of what to bring:

Proof of identity (driver's license, etc.), alien status.

Social Security Numbers for all household members.

If employed, proof of income (wage stubs, earning statements, etc.) for the past 30 days.

Bank statements for checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, credit union accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, etc.

Proof of shelter costs (rent or mortgage payment, lot rent, household, real estate, taxes, utility bills - heat, electricity, water/sewage/garbage, telephone, etc.)
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 02:44 PM
Response to Reply #60
63. Thank you for this.
According to the USDA, on the "thrifty food plan", our family should spend $741.50 for food.

It is unclear if the FDA ponies up the entire amount, or if benefits are determined on a sliding scale.

According to the Seattle PI

A family of five can have up to $28,644/year in income and be eligible.
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allalone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 07:21 AM
Response to Original message
41. back up a minute
A Pell grant? so you're sucking off the public teat and lecturing us?
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 01:50 PM
Response to Reply #41
52. No. You missed the "if".
But you may consider this a lecture in proper reading, if you wish.
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Vinca Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 08:18 AM
Response to Original message
43. There's a big difference between city and country.
It's not just the gardening, but the loyal bands of locals who fight the hunger problem on an ongoing basis. Maybe free classes on how to cook on the cheap should be offered. It can be done, but sometimes you need someone to teach you how.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 01:50 PM
Response to Reply #43
53. Fully agree.
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El Pinko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 08:24 AM
Response to Original message
44. Somehow the topic of obesity rates of the poor being a problem for us wiser folks to solve...
...seems a little bit condescending.

In the areas that are not served by proper grocery stores, well, obviously that should be addressed, and free info in multiple languages on nutrition should be available at offices that serve low-income people, but in the end, there is a matter of choice involved, and the obesity problem is not limited to just poor people.

We got WIC when our kids were small, and I definitely think some adjustments could be made to that. For example, you can use wic to buy "Juicy Juice", dry beans, eggs, Milk, cheese, certain cereals.

I suppose cheese would be nice if you were starving, but it wasn't something we needed a lot of in our house - maybe it would be nice if instead of cheese, they would let people get tomatoes, broccoli, etc. some sort of high-nutrient vegetable instead.

I dunno - I only make 30k per year, and I do my best to buy LOTS of fresh veg and very little processed foods and chips, etc. We can't afford organic (or the exotic foods that one poster was grousing about), but we do all right.

Eating healthy on a budget is difficult, but not impossible. The poorer you are, the more you'll have to lean on things like the dry beans, etc.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 01:54 PM
Response to Reply #44
54. I think it's up to society to solve.
As someone who has some experience with WIC, what do you think of the suggestion in post #50?
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El Pinko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 08:37 PM
Response to Reply #54
57. In essence I don't think it's a bad idea
...but in general, the government's choices as to which foods are included in the program - especially in the case of WIC - are influenced by the price of said foodstuff, whether or not that food is subsidized, etc. I suspect salmon might not make the cut as far as fitting into the government's budget, but maybe tuna and chicken could be a possibility.

I do remember that we always had more big blocks of cheese than we knew what to do with, so we would give it away. But the beans were a healthy and useful addition to our diet, and they allowed a good selection - pintos, lentils, blackeyes, several others. Recent studies suggest that an egg or two a day is not as much of a contributor to cholesterol problems as trans fats and sedentary lifestyle, etc. and they are a good inexpensive source of protein, too. I really just thought that the amount of cheese was out of whack. Maybe some people eat 3 lb of cheese a month, but not us.

We looked into food stamps at the time, and dound that we were too "rich" to get them. As a matter of fact, to get food stamps, I believe the income cutoff for a family of four was something like $14K! That's basically destitute. It seems to me that the threshold for food stams should be raised, at least in some of the cities like LA, SF, NYC - places where the cost of living is so high. I know a lot of people say "just don't live in an expensive city", but there are a lot of people who were born and raised there, have no transportation or family support out of town, whouldn't have a clue where to find another job, etc. A lot of this stuff is easier said than done.

WIC is a good program, though - you don't have to be destitute to get it and the paperwork is less involved than with food stamps. I wouldn't be surprised if it has saved a significant number of small children's lives.
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distantearlywarning Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 08:31 AM
Response to Original message
45. Rice, potatoes, & bread.
Cheap, yes. But also starches. Eating too many starches vs. veggies or protein causes sharp increases in weight gain, at least in some individuals (like me, for instance, a person with a metabolic disorder and a family history of insulin resistance). This is doubly true when you consider that most bread these days cpntains high fructose corn syrup. It's not "healthy" to make the largest portion of one's diet starches, despite what the USDA food pyramid wants us all to believe. Also, there is evidence that canned vegetables don't provide nearly the same nutritional value as fresh veggies.

And that doesn't even touch on the difference between living in the country where you have space and time to grow fresh produce and being poor in the city where you might have a 14 hour a day job and (maybe) a small concrete patio and very possibly no transportation to places like seed stores.

I agree that $11 garlic is excessive and not representative of what poor people should eat. But consider this: in my large city, we also pay upwards of $3/lb for apples. Not organic apples or fancy apples, just regular apples at the regular grocery store. Having one apple a day for a week for one person could cost over $10. Just for freakin' apples. (And yes, I could probably drive 10 miles somewhere and find a farmer's market for cheaper apples, but if I worked 2 jobs and had kids, how much time could you reasonably expect me to spend driving around comparison shopping????) If you have $20 to feed yourself and 3 kids for the week, are you going to spend half of that on apples for 3 days, or are you going to buy boxed mac & cheese at $.99 each?

I'm lucky now, because I can afford to spend the same amount as my mortgage payment every month on groceries (and that's literally what it costs these days to feed 2 people with 4 servings of fruits/veggies, fresh meat, non-HFCS bread & so forth). But I once was working two jobs without transportation in a very high COL town, and I remember vividly what I could afford to eat. Ramen, mac & cheese, and yes, some potatoes and rice. When I went on food stamps for about 3 months once, it was a serious luxury because for the first time I was able to afford fresh meat and veggies on occasion. Yes, I suppose I could have eaten lentils and beans, but when you have such a shitty life otherwise, the last thing you want to do is spend your 1 hour a day of free time cooking tasteless food and then eating it. Not to mention finding the time to learn how to cook lentils and beans. (How dare poor people experience ANY happiness in their lives, even if it's just a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese at night! Those lazy bastards! They should be eating bark and twigs until they learn to grow their own veggies on their concrete patio in the ghetto!)

Until you live that life for a while, you'll never understand. But perhaps you could at least try not to judge if you really don't know how it works.

BTW, since some people here seem to think that anyone who buys organic food and then bitches about the cost has invalidated their own argument, consider this: a few weeks ago, the husband and I each took a copy of our typical weekly grocery list to two grocery stores. No $11 garlic or special items, just fresh meat, veggies, dairy, etc - basically a high-protein, low starch, high fiber fresh food diet for two people for a week. One grocery store we went to was Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) and the other was our neighborhood grocery store, a chain store which is in a relatively low-income neighborhood. We wanted to know if we were overspending on groceries by buying organic "fancy" stuff at Whole Foods. We comparison shopped the exact same foods (e.g., non-hormone meat at Whole Foods vs. regular meat at chain store; non-HFCS bread at Whole Foods vs. regular bread at chain store, etc.). We wrote down the cost of everything and then tallied it up when we got home.

You and others may be surprised to know that Whole Foods actually came out lower by about $3. So essentially there was no difference in cost between shopping organic at Whole Foods and our local store. And actually, we figured that we actually come out more than $50 ahead monthly by shopping at Whole Foods if you factor in the fact that the green produce and meats that we typically get from Whole Foods is typically MUCH fresher (non-moldy strawberries, day-old vs. week old fish, etc.) and thus we can actually eat more of it and it stays around longer.
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lumberjack_jeff Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 02:05 PM
Response to Reply #45
55. The price differential does surprise me.
Although the "local" (about 20 miles distant) farm stand does have prices much less than any of the grocery stores in the region, but I doubt if much of it qualifies for the label organic (whatever that requires).

Your experience with food stamps is precisely what I was getting at when I suggested that social security recipients be given food vouchers. Too many elderly poor are forced to make a choice between nutrition and heat, nutrition and meds, nutrition and transportation. Nutrition always loses.

I only offered up the fact that we grew some vegetables last summer to put our grocery expenses in context. I understand that this is not a useful suggestion for most food stamp recipients.
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VotesForWomen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 04:32 AM
Response to Reply #45
62. i LIVE on rice, potatoes, and bread and am in excellent health; weigh the same as in H.S.
i don't know why 'starches' get such a bad name. i have been poor for a long time and have been eating the same stuff for a long time - rice, bread, potatoes, milk, green peppers, onions, oranges, bananas, popcorn (not microwave), tea (cheap), etc. this stuff is cheaper and better than processed foods. i also take some whey protein powder every day.
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Scout Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 02:47 PM
Response to Reply #62
64. you probably don't have metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance
that's why starches don't seem to adversely affect your weight.
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flvegan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-27-08 09:35 AM
Response to Original message
47. What kind of nutritional training do we give the poor?
Or anyone else for that matter?

As I've stated before, time and again, if we educated folks on proper nutrition as part of the food stamp/WIC assistance, the folks using that assistance would probably be much better off.

One might also suggest that the truly poor use the food they get as assistance as a pleasure center. If a single mom (or dad) works two jobs, and can't afford a Wii, then using food for family time and the kids' enjoyment isn't very far fetched.
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VotesForWomen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-28-08 04:23 AM
Response to Original message
61. good points; most people eat the way they did when they grew up. nt
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