The number of Americans who lack dependable access to adequate food shot up last year to 49 million, the largest number since the government has been keeping track, according to a government report released Monday that shows particularly steep increases in food scarcity among families with children.
In 2008, the report found, nearly 17 million children — more than one in five across the United States — were living in households in which food at times ran short, up from slightly more than 12 million children the year before. And the number of children who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million.
Among people of of all ages, nearly 15 percent last year did not consistently have adequate food, compared with about 11 percent in 2007, the greatest deterioration in access to food during a single year in the history of the report.
I’m going to give more money to local food banks this year than in the past. But only a glibertarian would think that personal charity is the solution to this shameful problem.
Third world country status, here we come.
I’d love to see this breakdown by red state / blue state.
My state is one of the least hard hit by the recession, and yet I heard on the radio yesterday that over one in ten Vermonters had to resort to using a food pantry this past year. Amazing.
We are not really a wealthy country. We are a poor country that happens to have some very, very wealthy people living in it.
Does anybody know which is the best (most effective, least wasteful) charity for this issue?
I’ve donated in the past to Children’s Hunger Fund in California, which seems pretty good. But I wonder if there’s some national charity that monitors local food banks and directs money where it is most needed, or some such thing.
Yeah, but they have cell phones! With built-in cameras!
As always, it is both ridiculous and appalling that we can’t at least make sure our children get enough food.
It would probably cost half a bomber, or something like that.
Pretty shocking stuff. Food is incredibly cheap in the US. You can get by comfortably on almost nothing (financially) if you put your mind to it. I suppose if you lose your job and you still have substantial debts to pay, it would get tight, but it’s hard to see how it gets so tight you have trouble finding enough to eat.
Bootstraps! bitches, Bootstraps!
land of plenty, land of fun.
The only national one I’m aware of is Feeding America (formerly called Second Harvest). I’m not sure how they rate. Their website seems very buggy to me, but that may be because I’m using Chrome.
I give to the Chicago Food Depository every year, even though I no longer live there.
But only a glibertarian would think that personal charity is the solution to this shameful problem.
No, the glibertarian solution would be, “Tough shit, get a job.”
What do you want to post stuff like this for? The economy is recovering. The stock market is up, the GDP is up, housing sales and prices are up, GM is paying back the loan. Why do you want to talk about people starving? That doesn’t have anything to do with anything.
Scouting for Food was this past weekend in our area. More food and money to buy food was donated than ever before, but the food banks say that this will probably only last them through January. It used to be that Scouting for Food got enough donations to last until March or April.
One of the local amusment parks charges a can of food as an entry fee during the winter. Usually the food banks dole this out for a month or so, now they are saying that the weekend take is gone by COB Monday.
If you don’t want to write a check to a food bank, you could host a “BYOB and a can of beans” party occasionally. My niece and her roommates do this about once a month and usually get 5 or 6 grocery bags full to donate.
no, what these people need is a tax cut. especially the kids. and more guns, so they can hunt their food the way god intended them to.
David in NY
The church next to my house has a food pantry twice a week or so, and it opens in the afternoon. Every morning when I go out between seven and eight o’clock I see a dozen or so people already lined up for it. I have no idea how many there are when it opens, but it must be a lot, since the others would not come so early, if they did not think it necessary to be at the head of the line.
Now, I live in a neighborhood that has many poor people. Still, it’s pretty appalling.
Screw that. We are a wealthy country where too many people are kept poor so that a tiny minority can hoard wealth to a degree that would shame the most profligate pharoah. It’s not a lack of resources or an excess of population that keeps so many Americans destitute, it’s the insane compulsion of our ruling kleptocrats to convert all our wealth into financial markers. People are going hungry so that Goldman Sachs and Donald Trump can use real currency as Monopoly money.
I gave more to our local food bank this year then any other, and more then every other donation I made this year times 5 or something like that. Short term that really is the only solution. People need to eat every day. Its not like they can put it off until next year when maybe Congress acts on it.
BTW saw Bruce Springsteen last week and his concert had the local food back show up to take donations and in the middle of the concert he talked for a bit about giving to the food bank and how they do such good work on a local level.
every poor country happens to have some very, very wealthy people living in it. that’s how they get to be so poor.
The Grand Panjandrum
I’m just glad the taxpayers will continue to buy b0ner pills for Medicare recipients. They don’t grow on trees, you know.
I feel that the U.S. is in gradual decline. We have a government that isn’t willing or able to make the tough decisions to move us ahead and we have a large portion of the electorate that votes against its own economic interests.
The following passage is from an article in the NY Times yesterday (about naming this decad) and it sums up America quite accurately:
Yes, having a permanent poor class is good for the rich. Hey, just ask the plantation owners of the 19th century, they had it figured out pretty well.
And who can ignore the elegant beauty of the sharecropping contract? Come on, this is basic.
Now, the next thing to do here is to figure out how to blame Obama for the failure to feed the hungry. Let’s get with it, people.
Seen the unemployment figures recently?
Good thing you’re advertising for $250 grocery cards.
But yeah, it’s total foam finger time.
Do you mean the show at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday where he greeted the audience with “Hello, Ohio!”? That little faux pas aside, for which he profusely apologized, I thought the food bank idea was a nice touch.
If you have almost no money, with much of what you have going to finding a roof over your head, not finding enough to eat sounds *quite* plausible to me.
Food, as in stuff with actual nutritional value, not so much.
Brick Oven Bill
The thing that sucks about food stamps is that they make you either cook, or eat cold food.
Well, as you know, hunger can be a pretty big motivator. This is good news for Republicans.
Brick Oven Bill
IIRC, a 50lb bag of rice costs twelve bucks. Now engage the Fourth Liberal Art of Arithmetic with these entering arguments:
1. Food stamps are around $10/person/day.
2. One serving of rice consists of 0.1 pounds.
3. One serving of rice contains 150 calories.
4. An 1800 calorie diet should be adequate for a non-working person.
Daily food stamps buys:
50 lb * ($10/$12) = 41.7 pounds of rice.
41.7 pounds of rice * (41.7/0.1) * 150 calories = 62,500 calories.
62,500 is greater than 1,800. As a matter of fact, this is a month’s worth of caloric intake. This is a lot of calories.
This might explain the images we observed in New Orleans, that have since been largely removed from public view.
comrade scott's agenda of rage
And we have a third world country currency to prove it! I don’t call the dollar this millennium’s lira for nothing!
What we are seeing is a generation’s worth of Friedmanesque Reagonomics coming to fruition.
We could start by upping both the FPL and the asset limit on food assistance programs. Both are pretty barbaric at the moment; basically speaking, to qualify for food stamps you can’t have any savings at all. I can’t imagine that the reported hungry who aren’t on federal assistance refuse it by choice.
I think the glibertarian solution goes something like Kill them all, let the invisible hand sort them out!
Yep. Add to that the costs of keeping your job: commuting isn’t free, and neither, for most people, is child care. And if you have a medical condition for which you have to buy drugs every month? Forget it.
vg: Food stamps in my state come out to something like $3 a day for food. Why don’t you go to the supermarket and do some price checking, and see if you could eat for $3 a day.
You’ll want to remember that things like diapers, soap & other cleaning products, hygiene products, etc. can’t be purchased with food stamps, so you’ll have to use whatever extra cash you have on those things instead of supplementing your food stamp allotment.
No, I actually saw him on Tuesday night where he also said “Hello Ohio” but since we were actually in Ohio it was no big deal (apparently 3 nights later he thought he was still at our show).
Not true. The basic components of food (grains, certain types/cuts of meat, certain vegetables, etc.) are extremely cheap. One can have a very healthy diet if one is willing to cook.
Fast food is also pretty cheap, but not quite as cheap as stuff you can get at any grocery store.
I went to see Steely Dan recently, they told me to drink my big black cow and get out of there.
A year ago, I arranged for our local food bank to bring a food barrel to the clubhouse of the mobilehome park that I live in in California. We’ve cycled that barrel 5 times in the past year. When I shop for groceries, I buy some extra nonperishable (dried beans, pasta, canned veggies, peanut butter, even mac and cheese) to put into the food barrel. Ten to fifteen dollars extra on my weekly shopping trips is an amount I barely feel, but I know those donations are helping someone in my community.
PS, were you at the Detroit show?
@EconWatcher: I strongly recommend World Hunger Year. Their philosophy is on the order of “teach a man to fish, but make sure he has enough to eat while he learns.”
Also, there are number of Second Harvest-type organizations that rescue usable food from restaurants and supermarkets and deliver it to food banks and soup kitchens. (I believe Second Harvest is national, but there are lots of local organizations of the same sort. Here in NYC, for example, we have City Harvest.) (Oh. Just checked, and Second Harvest is now Feeding America.)
@Napoleon: Yes, I was. My first Springsteen concert and certainly one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. I love Max Weinberg.
After his faux pas, Springsteen would yell to the crowd, “Where am I?” And the crowd would respond, “Michigan!” But there were a lot of Ohio plates in the parking lot so it was almost like the E Street Band was in Ohio.
carlos the dwarf
Generally, your regional food bank (not a specific food pantry) will distribute food to where it’s needed most.
If we don’t starve people how can we force them to work? If we keep giving everyone food we’ll be no better than socialists and lose our freedom. We’ll be like slaves, who are, um, forced to work for their food.
Or, we can all eat rice and sip corn syrup until diabetes finishes us off.
Dr Dave (a different one)
I agree with Anne. We are a wealthy country in which the distribution of wealth has become skewed to leave an unconscionable number of people without the basics so that a few (talking to you, John McCain) can own more houses than they can count.
Sadly, I also have to agree that there are many in this country who don’t know how to use the resources available to feed themselves adequately, but given our abundance that is an excuse rather than a justification for allowing hunger on the scale described in the main post.
Sorry to double post…
Ohio Mom —
Actually, I am certain you can get by on $3 a day without ever going hungry, though you will end up eating relatively Spartan fare compared to what your average blog commenter is used to. If you have a family, that’s a different story and it probably won’t cut it, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume one’s only source of funds is food stamps either.
Also, hygiene products, like soap, on an average day cost virtually nothing (unless you’re including Biore strips and the like in your calculations).
This is not to say it’s fun living without a steady income, just that there’s really no reason to be starving or malnourished.
Funny since somebody from Michigan drove to the Ohio concert and approached me about buying an extra ticket I had (I can’t imagine driving that far without a ticket).
It was a great concert.
Why is the default assumption that malnourished people are single people with no others in the household?
I was listening to NPR, and there was a woman talking about how up to 40% of people in the US have inadequate cooking skills. In order to cook cheap pieces of meat, for example, you need to know that a low and slow braise will make them edible. Many people were never taught this. And since No Child Left Behind, we can no longer take time and funds for home ec classes, since we have to teach for test scores. There is a non-profit in Portland that works on teaching people on public assistance some basic cooking skills. If you city has a similar program, this might be an ideal place to donate. I live in Eugene, OR and help with the Family Food Education program through the county extension office. Of course, the state and county are cutting all our funding. So if you live in Oregon, watch for ballot measure to support extension programs.
@gwangung: To put it another way, if you think about it, the majority of malnourished people are in families.
Why even f**king mention that? Someone tries to raise charity for desperate people and THIS is what you home in on? That’s idiotic.
Yes, but you’d be surprised how many impoverished neighborhoods don’t have a grocery store. They have a McDonald’s, though.
Brick Oven Bill
A pack of smokes costs around five bucks, or the equivalent of fifteen days of food.
A ‘tall-boy’ Schlitz Malt Liquor costs $1.89, or 6.5 days of food.
I make awesome pepperoni pizzas for $1.52.
Speaking of poor children, I saw “Precious” last night. Believe the hype, people. It is a f*cking ASTOUNDING movie, that will bulldoze right through you. The performances of the two leads alone are just so painfully remarkable. I can’t recommend it enough, but be warned: you WILL be bawling your eyes out.
And that you have the time for a low and slow braise, as well.
I think there’s a vast disconnect between the lives of various people in various classes. It’s most evident in the disconnect of the upper class and the middle class, but the middle class also have odd ideas of what it’s like to be poor.
As other posters have pointed out, other sources of funds are going in any which way (health care, rent, commuting, child care) that have nothing to do with food. You’re also assuming that the impoverished have the time, effort and facilities to cook three meals a day. It’s hard to make your family dinner when you work second shift.
Just consider that there’s a range of experiences out there that are nothing at all like what you are used to.
Thank you! What’s a gallon of milk now, 2 bucks? Hope you like milk.
Your local foodbank. Contact them and ask how best you can help, with either food or financial donations.
David in NY
“And that you have the time for a low and slow braise, as well.”
Really, pretty much everybody has that time, since, even if you work, it’s not much to throw meat into a pot, add salt onion, pepper, water, veggies if you want, leave it on low heat while you do the evening chores, take it off, save for tomorrow’s dinner.
Easier to blame the victims when your victims aren’t children.
Rice isn’t really sold in 50 lb. bags, unless you’re buying it for a horse.
Now if you bought a 20 lb. bag of rice, it would cost you somewhere between $30 and $40. So you’re only off by about 300% of what you “remember” it costing.
Never mind the fact that you cannot live on eating rice alone without developing some very serious malnutrition issues.
This has been another edition of “BOB has no idea what the fuck he is talking about”.
I recently did a little bit of blogging about hunger in Illinois, where I’m from. You’ll find some useful information in these two posts that can be applied more broadly, as well:
“Hungry kids” and “Hunger – update.”
Some of the basics:
1) It’s always better, when you can, to donate money (rather than food) to pantry, because they can buy a lot more food than you can (the second post I linked to, above, has a link in it to a comparison of what can be bought in a grocery store for $4.86 vs. what can be bought by a pantry from a food depository).
2) If you can volunteer, please do – The good folks working at food pantries are absolutely overwhelmed these days. The one in my town has seen its number double — and last Saturday, they had a 13% increase in clients over that record.
3) Write to your Congresscritters! Go to house.gov and senate.gov to find contact info, and let your people know that there is no way that hunger is acceptable.
@Notorious P.A.T.: Um, chill. It was just a funny anecdote from the concert. I was impressed that he mentioned the food bank and asked people to donate if they can afford it. And BTW, Michigan leads the nation in umemployment so we know first hand that things are pretty bad.
@Notorious P.A.T.: During the 80’s/early 90’s, at least, the southern half of Oakland, CA, home to at least 100,000 people, had precisely ONE supermarket. Everywhere else there were nothing but little corner liquor stores that sell a little food on the side. If you’ve ever bought food at one of those, you know what a shitty deal (with an appalling selection) they are. So basically, you’re fucked if you live in a part of Oakland far from the Safeway and don’t own a car.
@Notorious P.A.T.: Exactly. Also, people in poor neighborhoods tend to pay MORE for items than do folks in wealthy ones. See http://www.accessexcellence.org/HHQ/qow/qow09/qow090223.php for a rundown of this effect in various manifestations, with links to the studies showing them.
It’s probably true that most malnourished people are in families. On one hand, the assistance (admittedly, not out of this world) given to such families by the state increases in proportion to the number of people (contrary to the flat $3 figure given above). On the other hand, parents who, in spite of this, do not provide adequate sustenance to their children are mostly basket cases who should probably have their children removed from them by social services. With adequate preparation and planning, there’s no reason you can’t keep up with the expense of feeding a family, though again, your standard of living will vary considerably depending on your circumstances.
This is in stark contrast to the situation in many countries we’d use the cold war era terminology of “third world” to describe: Many people in these countries have no access to adequate food no matter how you cut it. They’re not just faced with tough choices about what to eat, as some in the US are.
Also, since someone brought up the notion that there are low income neighborhoods with local McDonald’s but no local grocery store, I would like to know more about this. Can anyone find such a place, say, via google maps?
@Brick Oven Bill:
here’s a little more math for you:
one goldman, sachs employee’s million-dollar bonus = 3,000,000 days of food.
Interesting how the problem of hunger becomes such an issue every November. I wonder why that is.
@vg: I’m tending to agree with you… There is a peasant culture that makes poverty bearable, but I think it’s more likely to survive in an agricultural context — where expenses are low, people have more time, intergenerational connections are stronger, and access to the fancy stuff isn’t so painfully obvious.
Urban poverty is a different beast for reasons certainly worth considering.
But anyone who is seriously arguing that people are starving in the United States should spend twenty bucks on dry beans and bulk rice and see how long it lasts them. I’m not saying people aren’t going hungry, or that money isn’t a serious factor, but it’s not the only factor, and since money is the hardest thing to address in our stingy society, it might be worth re-introducing the cheap foods most of the rest of the world gets by on.
Thank you John S. I was trying to formulat what was so very, very wrong with all of that nonsense, and reading your post realized that my problem was there was so much fail I was unable to put it into a comprehensible picture.
Brick Oven Bill
I buy 50 lb bags of rice John S. They sell them at Sams Club. These are the large bags. The smaller bags are 25 lbs.
If you are paying $2/lb for rice, you are a dumbass. You can buy pork and chicken for $0.99/lb. Yesterday, I bought 2 lbs of carrots for $1.39. Here is a suggestion for the food-challenged.
Put some rice, chopped carrots, and either pork and chicken in a pot, and then heat it up. Add salt and pepper to taste. This is a very tasty and healthy meal. Cabbage can also be added for not much more money.
Or put differently, “BOB thinks things are the same as he remembers them being in 1970”.
The price of rice has gone way up the last few years due to massively increased demand from China.
If you tried to live on brown rice, you’d do considerably better (tho it’d still be a bad idea), tho ironically brown rice is generally MORE expensive than white rice, even tho less has been done to it.
BOB, it’s not 1937 anymore. Wake the fuck up.
@Brick Oven Bill:
Dammit b o b, yer just messin with me now.
@Brick Oven Bill:
As a person who’s had to subsist on $37 a month of food stamps because I was crazily trying to get a degree and support myself with a job, may I just say, Fuck you, you giant sack of worthless crap.
@Anne Laurie: Uhhhh…. All I got is: This.
@ScottRock: Just consider that there’s a range of experiences out there that are nothing at all like what you are used to.
I was only trying to make a fairly narrow point, which is that whatever financial problems you have, food is extremely cheap. So cheap, that the expense is trivial to whatever other problems you might have that put you in financial hardship.
People are throwing around figures about government aid directed at food specifically between 3 and 10 USD, to which I think a lot of people would say, hell, I spend something like $10 a day on food on an average day without even trying to be frugal about it. The fact is, you can spend a hell of a lot less than $10 (to the extent that $10 is a hell of a lot in the first place) and not feel any worse for the wear. On some level, you have to admit that people going hungry in a country like this is not as much of a reflection of US society and its willingness to help as many in this thread seem to believe.
@ellaesther: Hmm! It took away my exclamation marks!
There were three. I’ll supply them here:
Food stamps in my state run a max of $200 for a single person per month. That is about $6.50 per day.
I know this because I’m on food stamps, if I shop carefully it is enough to feed me fairly comfortably.
I’m selling my blood plasma for the other necessities of life, I can donate twice a week but it’s an 80 mile round trip to the donation center which takes about half of the $25 per donation I make for gas alone in my beat up old truck.
Luckily I have my camper parked on my daughter and son-in-law’s property and I’m not paying rent or electricity., I care for my grandkids and do other chores around the property by way of recompensing the small amount of electricity, wifi and water I use. For instance, I repaired the big riding mower we use and brought my big flatbed trailer full of wood home last week and now I’m splitting it for the fireplace my kids use to heat most of the house.
A donation center only 25 miles away is opening at the end of the year, I’ll be able to ride my bicycle there since there is a rails to trails that goes over half the distance. I figure two hours each way on the bike. That way I’ll clear $50 a week.
There basically are no jobs here for someone of my age who has enough of a health problem he can’t be completely reliable at work. I’m strong enough to split wood like Abe Lincoln many days but I have days when I can’t even crawl out of the bed except to walk my dogs thanks to a stomach problem that haves me dry heaving for hours sometimes.
Life is good, I did a little star trail astrophotography last night, unfortunately I didn’t realize my lens wasn’t stopping down like I thought it was so I shot this one 30 seconds at f1.7 and ISO 80 on my A100 but my old screwmount Yashica 50mm is about as sharp as a bag full of wet mice wide open. This shot is Orion’s belt and the blurry streaks really, really show off the gorgeous colors of the various stars. The yellowish ones are usually F or G type, the white, bluish and greenish ones are O, A or B and the reds tend to be K or M.
For example the end stars of Orion’s belt are both type O and the middle one is a B.
If it’s clear tonight I’ll try again with the lens stopped down, it’s quite sharp at f4 but I’ll have to up the ISO to 800 or so and do a few dark frames, an offset frame and a flat frame to get it to look decent.
Face + palm. What I said to B.o.B. I dare you to make a weeks worth of food, all meals, all snacks for $21.
@ellaesther: Huh! Not there, either!
The system doesn’t like multiple exclamation marks! I protest this clear case of anti-vehemence discrimination! (And what if I wanted to write about that band the name of which is three exclamation marks in a row, hmm? What then?)
What if I separate them, like s h o e s?
! ! !
vg — many other poster have already made most of the rebuttals I would have (thank you, gwangung, N. P.A.T., ScottRock, JohnS & LD50), except for your comment: “hygiene products on an average day cost practically nothing.” For a start, you have oviously never bought diapers or tampons, or tried doing without either. And don’t tell me about cloth diapers, it’s hugely expensive to keep washing them in hot enough water (and how often would you be dragging bags of wet diapers down to the laundromat, you wouldn’t have anytime left to braise all that meat).
*Junk* food is cheap. Fresh fruit and veggies somewhat less so. And just try finding them at all in south central chicago or hunters point.
And why for fucks sake does anyone respond to BoB, EVER?
Ok, I’ll cease going off on this tangent.
My point, I swear, was to tell Anne Laurie @ # 16 that she had expressed herself eloquently and made a point of great import in the process. As she so often does.
Brick Oven Bill
I really am messing with you jefferyw. You also have to add water or else the rice does not properly cook.
As of the 13th of February of this year, if one wanted to treat himself to a tasty pepperoni pizza, this would cost one dollar and forty-seven cents.
These pizzas are a pain in the ass though as you need to knead the dough, assemble the ingredients, and bake it.
You can’t assume that the poor who run out of food every month have Sam’s Club memberships, BOB. (Not that he in particular is worth responding to, but there’s a tendency in these discussions for people to assume a well-appointed kitchen staffed with a knowledgeable cook who can drive the SUV to the suburban supermarket before calculating food costs.)
I know for a fact that you can eat all week on a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread.
But I would not recommend that for children.
Ummm – not where I live. Milk is 3.75 a gallon.
It’s a shame that people can’t even make enough money to feed themselves adequately, but I’m sure there are plenty of food pantries and soup kitchens for them. Besides, the lucky duckies are not only paying no income tax, but they can probably also qualify for the welfare.
[BTW, should “lucky duckies” be added to the lexicon?]
Well goody for you, BOB. I couldn’t find it on Wal-Mart or anywhere else in larger than 20 lb. size, but you’re still overlooking the fact that
PEOPLE CANNOT SURVIVE ON RICE ALONE.
And you just increased the cost of each meal by a LOT OF MONEY, thereby destroying the original premise of your argument of how “cheaply” one could live off rice alone.
You’re not very good at this game, BOB, just in case you were wondering. But it sure is fun watching you make a fool of yourself.
Ugh, some of these comments. I wrote a lengthy article on food insecurity and it’s issues, so pardon me if I find it irritating when people thinks it’s just all buying food.
Part of the problem has been touched on-lack of cooking skill. I had to learn how to make anything I could get my hands on when I was super poor. I had the time, thanks to major illness, so I learned how to make bread, cook whatever I can find in an asian farmer’s market and enjoy lettuce & butter sandwiches. Or at least tolerate them.
Biggest issue is no decent grocery stores. If you have to travel to get food, you need car, fuel or public transport to bring it back. This also means you need time and lots of it. If you have to buy at little bodegas or tiny corner groceries, you can pay a lot more for something like a can of beans than if you go to a super kmart or a lucky’s. Forget about fresh fruit & vegetables.
The other big issue there’s no where to cook. Many families live with inadequate access to cooking facilities, no decent or working stove, shelters or rooming that doesn’t allow hot plates in rooms or just plain homeless. Sure, for $21 bucks, I can buy a lb of wheat flour, packet of yeast, 5lbs of pinto beans, 5 lbs of rice and maybe 2 cans of tomato paste and some apples. Maybe. But if I have no stove, no oven, no utensils, where the hell am I gonna make this week long feast and if my fridge is tiny, or broken, where am I gonna store it?
If we even had community kitchens at social service centers, some sort of hi-tech match for the village bakery, we’d be resolving a large problem right off. Hunger in America isn’t half as simple as “just buy the right food and cook it”.
And re: whoever brought up Sam’s Club. Many, many poor people do not have cars and cannot get to Sam’s Club. The bus, where there is a bus, doesn’t go everywhere. Plus, isn’t Sam’s one of those places that charges a membership fee, and doesn’t that, er, cost money?
I’m definitely getting the feeling that the commenters who think it’s possible to survive on next to nothing are: 1)single, that is, don’t have children and have no idea how that changes the calculus; and 2) are very unaware that a good number of the very poor are also disabled. Not everyone is able to do all the things you can in order to make do with nothing.
Yeah, you can get good prices at Costco and Sam’s Club and BJ’s IF you can afford the membership, can get to a location easily (mostly by car) and have space to store the large size of packages. I live in NYC and was a member at a Costco for two years. I found it difficult to get to and impossible to get large purchases home by bus. Calling for a car service wiped out the savings. As a single person in a small apartment their package sizes were too big for me to use up or store. I do much better to buy fresh food more frequently — I waste less that way.
BTW, my last post was snark. I meant to put a
but the editor eated it. BTW, has anyone mentioned that there’s no edit or preview anymore?
The Moar You Know
@David in NY: That is, unless your mother is working double shifts, seven days a week and the only ones at home are a pair of kids, ages ten and seven. Who preps the food? Who gets the food stamps together and buys it? How the hell do you get to the store and back? Who cleans up? How can you tell when the food is cooked properly?
I learned how to do this all the hard way. I was the ten-year old.
In reading this thread, it seems you people have no idea what the reality of poverty is. None at all.
It takes a lot of presence of mind to actually cook those slow foods of brown rice. If you have two jobs, three kids, poor access to transportation and grocery stores, and maybe an attending substance abuse/mental illness problem, you’re damn right it’s going to be hard to keep the shelves stocked; the question here is “what’s the best way to deal with this problem?” There’s obviously a lot more than food to food insecurity. In other words, I’m seriously not intending to be a callous dick.
On Cheap Rice – You can also get big bags of cheap rice at a lot of ethnic food stores — asian, hispanic, indian. I’d recommend the indian stores, though, since they have yummy rice (jasmine or basmati). Health food stores also have bulk bins that can be a bargain, though the health food stores in my neck of the woods are too expensive.
@Hiram Taine: I’m kind of in the same boat, but living with my parents. I find that what I really need to survive and be happy is housing security, ability to see my friends, some food, and an internet connection. It’s not horribly expensive, but if I didn’t have friends and family to help me, I’d be forced into some horrible housing and forced to live in a crowded unsafe place dependent on near-useless bus transportation and probably without a wifi connection or a laptop. There’s something about being surrounded by family that makes all the difference to my mental state. If I was living by the whim of a government bureaucracy, I’d be even more anxious than I am already.
Well, the wingnuts don’t even eat what they shoot these days:
Ummm, no. They are obviously claiming that, well, his brother went back out later and looked for the deer, so no sloppy hunting to see here. Just move along. But as anyone who hunts will tell you, if you shoot an animal you know you haven’t killed and then go back to camp for breakfast, you will most likely never see that poor, suffering animal again. What a responsible hunter does is keep tracking the animal from the minute you shot it so you can find it and kill it. A responsible hunter that really just wanted to shoot and not eat the animal donates the meat to the local food bank.
The comments about access to food, access to a working car, access to a cheap outlet like Sam’s Club, etc, have me thinking, as I so often do, about how damn expensive it is to be poor.
All these hurdles that the average middle class American, even lower-middle, wouldn’t begin to know how to navigate — hell, we don’t even see them.
I help run a small food program in my church. Tomorrow we’ll assemble groceries for 40 area families. We live in a nice college town, but more and more people are struggling. Last year, we had only 25 families on our list.
Until recently, my own sister was getting food from her local pantry – her husband was out of work, her salary is small, they have five kids, and a mortgage, utility bills, doctor co-pays, and what have you. And yes, she does cook from scratch a good deal, but it still adds up.
I’m glad folks are talking up cooking skills – it’s crucial. I’m only learning now, at 43. I got my hands on one of my grandmother’s cook books. I’m trying to only bring ingredients into the house that were in existence when she was young. (It’s not easy to find natural lard these days.) I’m teaching my young sons. I want them to economize and be healthy. (Yes, lard is healthy! If it’s real lard.)
Brick Oven Bill
I have just counted the number of large carrots in the 2-lb bag I purchased yesterday. There are fourteen carrots. This is almost exactly ten cents per carrot. Although there is no nutrition information on the side of the bag of carrots, let us assume that the single serving size is one large carrot.
We know that onions can be purchased for cheaper than carrots, and cabbage for slightly more. For the purpose of this model, we will assume ten cents per vegetable serving, and know that we are supposed to eat five veggie-servings per day.
Pythagoras did not eat meat, but if we wanted to add one-half pound of meat (a lot of meat) to our meal, this would cost fifty-cents.
Therefore, here is our meaty frugal meal for the days when we do not eat pepperoni pizzas:
Meat: fifty cents
Carrots / onions / cabbage: fifty cents
Rice: twenty-five cents
Salt and pepper: zero, you can steal these from all of the McDonalds (‘I’ll have a number six.’) which are found throughout poor neighborhoods.
Therefore, one dollar and twenty-five cents can feed a person well. This is more expensive than the rice-only diet that the Japanese fought large parts of WWII with (around thirty cents), but we are Americans, and deserve meaty meals. So one dollar and twenty five cents.
You know, I can think off-hand of five families I know that had to rely on food pantries for a while, and none of them were basket cases, and they definitely shouldn’t have had their kids “removed” from them. You’re a dick.
You also clearly don’t know any social workers. You think they have unlimited money for that sort of caretaking? The kids in that system don’t go to heaven or to a nice reformatory. They go to foster families who are only marginally better prepared to provide “adequate sustenance”.
You will nitpick this to death, since you are so clever and know all about the lives of poor folks, but here is 61st and State, Chicago, IL. It is just across the invisible line separating Hyde Park, the President’s neighborhood, from the rest of the South Side. I used to teach there.
Click through the “more info” tabs and look at the street views of these places that call themselves supermarkets. These are not supermarkets. They do not sell anything fresh, nor anything really cookable other than convenience foods at exorbitant rates (seriously, $1.50 for a can of beans, $3.50 for a can of soup, but 3 for $1 on big gulp Pepsi, etc.). Mostly they sell liquor. I went inside one of those places once (I believe it was Sally Foods) and was told, straight up, that I should leave immediately because it was on the turf of such-and-such a gang.
Is it anything like the grinding poverty of, say, sub-Saharan Africa? No. But it’s still pretty fucking bleak. Especially in the winter, when you’ve got to keep paying that heating bill.
@Ohio Mom: The commenters who believe it’s easy to find/retrieve/prepare/store semi-healthy meals for next to nothing have never done it.
And I also agree with you in that if those commenters stopped to contemplate not only the actual energy it takes to provide for the well being of others who can’t provide for themselves, but the mental energy of “how the fuck am I going to do this?” and being shit-scared that you will not be able to – if those commenters had ever done that they would not be making these comments.
“Junk food is cheap. Fresh fruit and veggies somewhat less so. And just try finding them at all in south central chicago or hunters point.”
Jesus Christ. Do the vegetables have to be organic too?
Dry legumes are not junk food. Grains are not junk food. Hell, canned and/or frozen vegetables are not junk food — and the truth is, many fresh vegetables are quite cheap. Cheap cuts of meat are (usually) not junk food. Eggs are ridiculously cheap and not junk food.
If you buy these sorts of things, bearing their cost in mind, you can absolutely make enough hot meals for a week on $21. I’ve done it myself, although not since I was a poor undergraduate. You can do it without spending much time cooking either. And don’t tell me about people who work double shifts and can’t afford to eat — there’s no way food is a significant financial problem if you’re working two shifts of a legally sanctioned job in the United States (though of course, you could, if you wanted, spend a significant amount on food — but this is purely optional).
Finally, Ohio Mom, I guess this the part where you pwn me because I don’t know the exact prices of diapers or tampons (having never purchased either myself). If this were the Price is Right, I would be in quite a pickle, but I do think I can guess the actual retail price of both items on an average day (accounting for the fact that tampons, as I understand it, are only necessary a few days out of a given month) if you will allow me to go over. I would wager that one can keep a single infant in clean diapers at a cost of less than 2 USD a day and that one can stay feeling fresh every day of the month for an average of under 30 cents a day. Am I far off?
These costs are not zero, admittedly.
I don’t have any excuses for what the Gov did. But anyone I have ever hunted with that shot, but did not drop, a sizeable animal like deer sat and waited for a bit to give the animal time to run off the adrenaline and fall. If you chase a wounded deer they will run for miles until they are absolutely not able to run anymore.
Going back to camp and eating is bogus though.
licensed to kill time
One thing that I remember learning a long time ago is that when you shop at a grocery store you should only shop “around the edges” – buy vegetables, fruits, meat, milk, cheese etc and stay out of the center aisles that have the processed crap. It’s good as a general rule.
Everybody else has already made all the good points, that’s all I’ve got.
I haven’t read the above comments so forgive me if this is redundant…
Since this recession started I’ve been giving a small monthly donation to my local food bank. But I’m not sure that’s the real problem here. I see plenty of people shopping with food stamps and the stuff they’re able to buy is just what a growing kid needs. The program is very well funded and it also happens to be the best form of stimulus that there is. $1.00 in Food Stamps converts to something like $1.77 in GDP.
Most of these hungry people probably qualify for food stamps (which is actually a smart debit card system these days.) But how many have applied or even know how to apply for the program? I personally have no idea where to go or what to do to apply. And then there’s the stigma of using food stamps that keeps proud people on hard times from checking it out.
I think what’s needed is for the Dept of Agriculture to do a major ad campaign to educate the general public about who qualifies for assistance and how easy it is to apply (if it is easy, I have no clue – but it should be.) Maybe also have brochures/applications at all grocery stores that accept food stamps. Just a thought.
It’s such a shame to hear of kids in this country going to bed hungry at night. Unacceptable.
I find your insight very interesting.
The Moar You Know
@vg: One person, no problem. Whole family, different story. Let me refer you to you to my post above and tell you in the nicest possible way to go fuck yourself with a chainsaw.
From some of the comments here, it would seem that many glibertarians don’t think it’s even a problem, no less a shameful one. Of course, a shameful problem to them is a restoration of the estate tax for Paris Hilton.
The average monthly food stamp allotment is about $90-100 per person. To counter some of the crap being dished in this thread, here’s some more actual info from the FDA:
* 49 percent of all participants are children (18 or younger), and 61 percent of them live in single-parent households.
* 52 percent of SNAP households include children.
* 9 percent of all participants are elderly (age 60 or over).
* 76 percent of all benefits go to households with children, 16 percent go to households with disabled persons, and 9 percent go to households with elderly persons.
* 33 percent of households with children were headed by a single parent, the overwhelming majority of which were headed by women.
* The average household size is 2.3 persons.
* The average gross monthly income per SNAP household is $673 ($8,076/yr.).
* 43 percent of participants are white; 33 percent are African-American, non-Hispanic; 19 percent are Hispanic; 2 percent are Asian, 2 percent are Native American, and less than 1 percent are of unknown race or ethnicity.
Has anyone asked themselves why access to good food is so fucking scarce in poor neighborhoods? I’d like to offer that people don’t know what good, cheap healthy food is in a lot of those places, and so they wouldn’t buy it, and so nobody is going to sell it.
In the poor hispanic communities I have worked in (Fair Haven and Bridgeport, CT) there are two stores that stock the entire Goya line of rice and beans, as well as all the less-popular parts of the pig and cow that you just boil to get the fat or make stock. These stores are always busy.
I know there are a lot of first-generation immigrants shopping at these stores, and eating the way they did back in their original country. They brought a culture of food, and they’re willing to buy it, and so people are willing to sell it.
But there’s a whole culture behind that food, including training women to cook from childhood. After a few generations living in an urban setting, they might very well be as screwed as any other group entrenched in poverty. Who knows? The black food that I’m familiar with all comes from the south — again, a rural area… and it dies when you get to urban areas in the North East…
I also think we need to stop subsidizing grains and do more to bring down the price of fresh fruits. (And yes, vegetables, too, but my four year old won’t eat them, except for carrots, which are already cheap.) Adults can choke down anything, but kids tend to generally like fruit.
(And we need to get serious about food safety, re: ground beef, but that’s another topic.)
Randy H: The food stamp program is good but it does not solve all the problems. The money for food stamps comes from the federal government but the rules/criteria for eligibility are made at the state and local level. Besides income restrictions, there are rules about what assets you can have (car, house, savings, etc.). Some classes of people are just not eligible: in many areas non-disabled single male adults (without custodial children) can’t get food stamps no matter what. In NYC an adult must take part in a work-readiness program (please, I’ve worked for 34 years, I know something about working) and besides if you get the maximum amount of unemployment you have too much money to be eligible. This is not personal complaint, but a statement of the facts/situation.
Since we’re just going straight to angry ranting, yes, they do. I too enjoy fireworks more than rational debate. Fuck me for suggesting people eat like they do in most every other country in the world that isn’t undergoing a famine.
But having actually been poor, I can attest that food isn’t the problem, rent is.
You have no clue what you’re talking about. An apple in a corner grocery is $1. Not organic, not anything, just a plain apple. A bag of apples can be $3.50. This still means someone has to get to a market.
Eggs are cheap? Out here 1 dozen anywhere but an outlet store is $2-3. Not organic either.
Thanks for the info. Maybe that’s why I know so little about it. Shame it’s not a streamlined, nationwide program with simple rules. But it seems when you have states or counties administering it, it’s going to vary too much to make it easy. And of course when we make these programs, we often forget that the target audience is usually also the least educated among us.
@The Moar You Know:
Look, I have no hostility toward people who find themselves in a bad situation, as you say you did. My point is very simple and very narrow: There are many things that can put a family in a crunch, but food is not one of them. Food is extremely cheap, even if you’re ordering in every night on two shifts’ pay — and food can be prepared without hours or even a half hour of preparation, as anyone who’s thought about it would know. Rent costs money, especially in a reasonable neighborhood. Health and other forms of insurance, depending on how you get them (arguably however you get it) costs money. Food costs a nonzero amount of money, but it is small compared to these other expenses. If you’re skimping on feeding children to deal with these other expenses, you’re doing it wrong.
I’m not sure what the hell your point is or if you have one, but that is my only point in this thread. There’s no reason to be malnourished in the United States.
Btw, I checked into Ohio Mom’s diapers and tampons gambit — They’re even cheaper than I thought.
Leaving aside the fact that you’re a complete asshole for this piece of wisdom alone (says the daughter of two loving people who worked and couldn’t afford to buy much food for about eight months in 1983), what exactly do you think happens to those kids when they’re removed from their “basket case” parents by social services? Do they go to heaven, on a cloud of scented incense, or maybe to an austere but orderly group home with soaked lentil soup on the menu? Social services aren’t exactly flush with cash. They go to foster homes which are frequently only marginally better equipped to provide “adequate sustenance”.
I’m telling you about it: people working two jobs for minimum wage who also have housing costs, health costs, childcare costs, and commuting costs to meet (not to mention the $8/day cost for formula and diapers if there’s a bottle-fed infant around) frequently find it hard to feed their families. So they go to food pantries to free up more cash now and then in order to keep a roof overhead.
Check this out: here’s 61st and State in Chicago, where I used to teach. It’s just across the invisible line that separates Hyde Park, President Obama’s neighborhood, from the rest of the South Side. Click through that list and look at the street views of some of these places that call themselves supermarkets. They’re not supermarkets. They’re liquor stores, mostly. You won’t get a bag of rice or lentils there for under $2, even if your shitty public housing offered you a decent place to cook it in.
Also, there are unwritten rules about who can go into which stores. Kids from my school were closest to Sally Food, but many would avoid it depending on the gang affiliations (or lack thereof) of their family members. So they have that to contend with.
Then there is the actual physical task of shopping, which is tough if you’re physically disabled or have small kids to herd around. I knew one family that would schlep all the way up to the Jewel/Osco at State and Roosevelt, but it took them 45 minutes each way on the EL, and they could only do it a few times a month, depending on the mother’s work schedule.
I lived on cheap red beans and rice or homemade bread and homemade peanut butter myself for the first year after college. But I only had the one job, albeit one that ate 12 hours a day even before my M.Ed. classes, and no kids.
What truly poor families in this country have to face is a whole other order of magnitude. It isn’t comparable to the grinding poverty of, say, sub-Saharan Africa, but it’s pretty fucking bleak.
Go volunteer, vg. You’ll see. And you’ll do some good for those poor basket cases before social services come along to break up their families.
vg, I’ll admit I don’t know what those things cost either, I’m middle-class and don’t sweat every penny at the supermarket. My kid’s long out of diapers. But I do know that food stamps don’t cover those things, any other personal hygiene item (toilet papaer, deoderant, shampoo, etc.), or any sort of housecleaning supply.
After the half of the commenters here who-don’t-have-a-clue finish braising their meat and vegetables, they’ll need some sort of sponge/rag/brillo-type thing and some soap to clean the pot for the next time. And here’s also where not knowing about having kids comes in. They are walking/crawling filth-producing machines. You ever clean-up after a baby who is perfecting his/her pincher grip? Food everywhere. Little kids go through clothing and produce laundry like crazy. Bigger ones aren’t much better. Which all costs money.
Assuming your numbers for diapers are correct, that’s $60 a month on diapers if you only have one kid in ’em, not counting some sort of wipes/papertowels and some ointment to keep away the diaper rash (bad enogh diaper rash and you have to spend even more money on treating it). That’s well over $700 a year, a lot of money for a poor person.
Yes, you were a BROKE undergraduate once. A lot of us were, it’s almost a rite of passage. But being broke and being poor aren’t the same thing by a long shot. As many other commenters have tried to explain.
Funny thing. Some people experience deprivation, and it makes them more empathetic to those without. Some people experience deprivation and it makes them clueless. Wonder why that is.
@R. Porrofatto: Dude, I’m not saying this isn’t a problem; $100/mo for food is a really tight budget. I’m just saying that money not be the biggest problem when it comes to food insecurity. Access might certainly be a problem, but giving people more money for food isn’t going to help them if they can’t buy it, unless we give them enough to buy a car. And if it helps to tell people to make their own soup instead of buying Dinty Moore, then what’s the harm in saying that?
But there are problems with the eligibility requirements for food stamps that mirror everything that’s wrong with the poverty programs int he United States. To apply for anything you basically have to be homeless, carless and have no money. And if you do manage to make some progress on the economic front, you lose your benefits. And if you slip back down again, you have to apply all over again. It’s bad on so many levels.
Your point is also totally wrong, and you keep ignoring the simple, narrow points that disprove them.
Three bucks for a dozen eggs is still pretty cheap. But let’s dial it down a bit more: it’s extremely possible to afford food, IF you have anything at all left after paying rent and car expenses (try seeing how many cities outside of the biggest ones have public transit that will take you to a night job). Oh and of course if you make any money at all from any job, you’re outright ineligible for a lot of assistance.
I guess it’s just 20% of parents haven’t figured out that they don’t really have any problem at all, right?
@Ohio Mom: But being broke and being poor aren’t the same thing by a long shot.
Best point of this entire thread, and probably the source of all the contention.
This is about poverty, not about food. Some people are sensibly answering the food question and upsetting the people who see it as poverty. The food people are annoyed because the poverty people who seem to be saying that living on $3/day for food is impossible.
It is if you don’t have the $3. And we are pointing out that many don’t, or that, for many, the $3 is simply not adequate.
Am I really reading Corner Stone and B O B insisting that poor people just aren’t shopping correctly, am I?
Wow. So people who can’t afford to feed their kids properly should have the government take their kids away. I’m speechless.
R-Jud already addressed most of what I’d say about this, but may I ask why it’s better for the govt. to spend thousands of dollars (and yes that’s what it costs) to remove children from their families and lodge them with foster parents, versus the govt. spending far less money to relieve the actual hunger?
@chuck: More than $3,000 in assets will sink any hope you have of receiving any kind of assistance. It’s a bit tragic, actually, because being poor is expensive (as someone else pointed out) and having money on hand buys you immediate solutions to long term problems which would others linger on in your life like a parasite sucking you dry. Insulation and storm windows are an easy example. How much do you think installing new storm windows costs? Do you think the government is going to pay for that? Nope. But they will help you pay your heating bills. This country’s social support system is fucked up, no doubt.
“I’m not really reading”, etc.
Department of redundancy department, reporting for duty.
Well, having been a hunter and coming from a family and region of hunters, we track what we have shot, especially if there is a blood trail. Tracking doesn’t necessarily mean crashing through the brush and chasing. And we certainly don’t go back for breakfast and contemplation of the next move.
Of course, we also don’t shoot from 200 yards away because it’s too far to see where the animal went when we wound it and have to go and find it to kill it.
This, Pawlenty’s, is the type of “hunting” that Dick Cheney does. I don’t know any hunters who have an ounce of respect for that.
@LD50: I don’t know if the person you are responding to was saying this, but I have seen glibertarians state in print that you do not have a right to have children. Why this person also chose to hitch his political wagon to the “no abortion or contraception” for anyone party is beyond me. I guess that glibertarian probably thinks you don’t have a right to have sex if you are too poor to have the right to have kids.
@R-Jud: Only BoB is explicitly saying you can live on less than $3/day, and since when does anyone take him seriously?
And for those for whom $3/day is not enough, access seems to be the biggest problem; in which case it’s not a food problem, but a transportation problem (or a commercial siting problem, or a cultural problem driving commercial siting). The question is really how to address it.
Food is one of the basic, bedrock issues that can tell you a lot about the society — what is grown, how it’s grown, how its transported, how its sold, how people get to market, etc. I’m afraid the United States isn’t doing too well on any of those measures.
Good news for farmer’s markets fans, btw. I understand that a lot of them are now accepting food stamps. And I’ve read at least one article some super intensive hydroponic farms run in cities to bypass the grocery chains (and these are actually home-grown, profitable, working farms)… so I think society is in part adjusting to what is probably a long slide back into a more traditional relationship with food.
@LD50: I second your wow. And you know one of the things that I find most fascinating about the people who demand that the government take children away under circumstances that basically boil down to the sin of being dirt poor?
These are usually the same people who don’t trust the government to run health care, or try terrorists in our courts. But give ’em the poor kids! No problem.
That’s pretty funny coming from people who under other circumstances insist that they have the ‘right’ to do anything they want.
Simple — because they assume the “no abortion or contraception for anyone” party will cut their taxes the most. In my experience with libertarians, when there are conflicting interests, selfishness trumps all the others.
Brick Oven Bill
Behold the Jack in the Box Big Cheeseburger. You can buy these for a dollar. This is the best food deal I have found if you want to have servants prepare your food. They really taste good and contain six hundred and forty six calories.
@gex: Heck, I’m still trying to get “drive-through vasectomies” added to the Democratic Party platform.
Glibertarians can be callous, but there’s a reason single mothers are the poorest people in the country. Children are expensive. If people can’t afford them, they shouldn’t have them. We should do a better job of making contraception available, as well as taking care of the children who escape from the ovarian bastille.
@Brick Oven Bill: Does the cheeseburger come with a side of Lipitor?
@Brick Oven Bill:
And so BOB, noticing that people weren’t paying attention to him anymore, hastens to rectify the situation as swiftly as possible…
Lipitor? That would probably jack the price up to at least $5. They just give out do-it-yourself stents instead.
I think the problem is that there are all sorts of issues that are involved with being poor. It may make sense to treat issues in isolation in some cases, but in other cases, it most certainly does not–there are all sorts of other issues that come up that impinges on the question, and they can’t be ignored in real life.
I am all about helping folks grow stuff too…local food is where its at. Bad timing during winter I know, but in some parts of the south, greens such as kale, broccoli, spinach, many lettuces grow well in winter …
The whole dried bean family from kidney to black beans are cheap, high protein meals for families around the whole world… throw in a little rice and you get your starch, but even without that, you can do well with just the beans and peas and a little bread
Summer is full out garden time. Around this country in the urban and rural areas there is land that can be used in a pinch for gardens for folks. Everything from potatoes, squash, peas and many other things. We have lots of wild apple trees just out here along the roads that once fruited can be harvested.
We eat too much meat anyway and it uses way more energy and resources to produce per unit than veggies and really screws the environment overall.
We can do this for ourselves and our people. We can bring ourselves back to where food comes from and our attachment to its production. Food banks are ok, of course, but we need to bring folks back to gardens that they control too
@R-Jud: You’re right. I think Foxfire! 57 has a do-it-yourself heart surgery practiced in Appalachia. It’s also mentioned in Chapter 8 of the “Little House on the Prarie” books.
FYI – For all those homesteader, the Ingalls were receiving gov’t assistance and Thoreau was visiting his mum for Sunday dinner.
I read the comments, and I think some of the disbelief might be because we’re not appreciating how many poor people there are.
Here’s some numbers:
35.8 million redeemed food stamps (it’s a debit card, not “stamps”) in July of this year.
” In 2004, the most recent year for which Census data on income and poverty are available, 37 million people were poor, an increase of 17 percent since 2000. The number of Americans living in deep poverty — with family income below half of the poverty line — rose even faster, by 24 percent from 2000 to 2004. In no other economic recovery of the past 45 years did poverty increase between the second and third full years of the recovery.”
“Despite recent gains in the number of people who receive food stamps, USDA’s most recent estimates find that only 61 percent of people who are eligible for the Food Stamp Program actually participate. The Food Stamp Program serves only about half (51 percent) of eligible people who live in working families and only about a quarter (28 percent) of eligible seniors.”
First of all, why is it so important to eat apples? I haven’t eaten a fresh apple in years (though not because I can’t afford them, obviously). I am not malnourished. No one needs to eat apples at all. And surely, if you insist on an apple a day, you still have 2 USD to play with after you’ve wasted one on something you don’t need to be eating. If you really want fruit in your diet (which I would say isn’t necessary), orange juice is, yes, incredibly cheap. (And no, I’m talking about not from concentrate, grovestand, organic orange juice that comes in an attractive plastic caraffe.)
Eggs are less that 2 USD a dozen where I shop, though I don’t buy them that often, so I don’t recall the exact figures. How many eggs do you eat in a given day? I’m thinking probably not more than three.
A days worth of a good food to buy is less than 50 cents. A day’s worth of a stupid food to buy on a tight budget is more, but still not insane. What are you trying to argue, exactly?
R-Jud: I agree there are places that are bad to live in. You called my bluff: I’m not going to look around that neighborhood. I’ll take your word for it that there are places with such a crime problem that it’s not safe to go to a grocery store or where the grocery stores suck even if you can go to them. I grew up in New York City myself, but I never really ran into the kind of thing you talk about. I’ve also lived in Chicago for a while, but nice parts of Chicago. It seems to me that if you’re working and have access to transit, you can still grocery shop even in that scenario, though of course it’s not ideal. I’m sure there are aspects of urban life I’m not familiar with, but I don’t believe that people living in this neighborhood of yours truly have limited access to affordable, nutritious food. If you’re only surviving on government assistance, it does sound like you’d be in trouble though. It does strike me, though, that it should be possible to escape this sort of situation. Also, it sounds like the real issue there is crime, not society’s commitment to keeping people well-fed.
Ohio Mom: I’m being accused here of a position I never took. From what I can tell it’s more like $40 a month for diapers, but my point is that’s small compared to rent or health insurance. Very small. More broadly, yes, I think people who’re calling this business of increasing malnourishment in 2007 “shameful” (i.e. an embarassment to American civil society) are really looking at this wrong. On one hand, people made less money that year, so expect anything that correlates with poverty to go up, which doesn’t make it okay, obviously. But look, the amount of money one has available if they avail themselves of the aid offered by the state should, if nothing else, provide you with food of sufficient quality to keep you healthy (barring other circumstances). This is a fairly modest proposition, I think, and it’s really indisputable given basic assumptions (access to grocery stores, water, electricity, and rudimentary cooking equipment). Now some people have poked holes in the grocery store part of that and I am skeptical on that, but fair enough.
and ruemara again:
I just noticed another one of your comments where you continue to go on about fresh fruits and vegetables and, amazingly for someone who professes to be interested in these sorts of things, go on to talk about cooking expertise and flour (!!). Why in the hell would you, with limited time and resources, even think about using flour? If you can boil water and put stuff (legumes, raw grains, meat, eggs, you name it, salt and spices — again, surprisingly cheap — to taste) in it, you can cook well enough to get by. Now sure, some people just can’t put that together, but what’re you going to do? That guy is not a victim of society.
@inkadu: Oh, don’t get me wrong. I all for planning for children and a huge part of that is to make sure you can afford children.
I definitely would have supported that glibertarian’s concept of “don’t have kids if you can’t afford them” if he hadn’t supported the “abstinence only sex-ed, pharmacies don’t have to sell birth control prescribed to you if it violates their conscience, and no abortions for anyone” party. It’s not just that he’s callous about the problem. Hell, we all can be callous about someone else’s problems. It’s that he’s a part of making sure there IS a problem.
You know what also has a lot of calories? Pie.
The fuck is the point of the pie filter if people just keep responding to this asshat?
I know that you are right. I see it here..
I live in rural northwestern WA. People have a lot of pride. But there is a lot of suffering and a lot of hungry kids that cant pay attention in school…
Its important of course, to recover the economy. That said, we have to help people help themselves. We could have community kitchens and gardens.
Gives me some ideas on some things to do…you just have to start it…the demand is there and having involvement in your own food production brings pride and freedom from handouts…
People like you set nutrition policy and essentially murder people.
@chuck: Also, feeding trolls lessens the amount of food available to the rest of us. Also.
@inkadu: So I’ve just spent ten minutes looking for a Far Side cartoon. It shows a guy elbow-deep in his wife’s chest with a copy of “Time-Life Home Surgery” nearby. Caption was something like “Darnit, Edna, stop squirming!” Since I couldn’t find it for you I will link to this one instead.
@chuck: Why eat vitamins and fiber when you can drink sugar instead?
I suspect this is a an accurate description of every third world country. I know it is accurate for the ones I have been to.
@Brick Oven Bill:
Great idea, a cheeseburger every day for a buck. What are those poor pickaninnies bitching about?
And let me tell you, nothing will taste better after about two weeks than the 15th one dollar cheeseburger in a row. That’s making my mouth water right now, Bill!
Oh wait, that’s the watery feeling you get in your mouth right before you throw up. Sorry! my bad.
Anyway, for three bucks a day a person cannot stay nourished, and clean. Can’t be done consistently. So I don’t know what the controversy is on that subject.
What’s really of concern in this country is that there are not only a lot of hungry people, and really poor people, there are a lot of working poor who don’t have basic necessities and who can’t get health care, can’t get preventive medicine. What’s of concern is that we have built an underclass in the United States that persists year after year and drags down the future of the country, fosters crime, ends up costing more in support down the road than it would have cost to feed and doctor and educate these people in the first place. And we have the wealth and resources to solve these problems but not the courage and the willpower to do it. I blame you, Bill, the finger-wagging scolds of the world who are always telling other people how to live. Get off your spoofy ass and get out there and do something useful for people less well off than yourself. Vote for a Democrat, for example. Start a food delivery service to get necessities to the poor. Use your brick oven to bake bread for the shut ins in your neighborhood. Turn off the computer. Go do something useful.
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that this problem exists or that we have dimbulbs like vg and brick oven bilbo who insist it’s the fault of the poor because they’re not shopping at the proper big box outlets/fast food chains.
I mean sure, a big part of it is their desire to pat themselves on the back for being smarter than folks unable to feed themselves, but there’s some real disconnect going on there.
licensed to kill time
@chuck: I have been restraining myself mightily, despite several right outa the park setups. dang.
@Brick Oven Bill:
I know it’s pointless to interact with you, BoB, but since you say it only costs $1.25 a day to eat, can I assume your weekly food budget is $8.75?
If not, why not? How much is it and how do you account for the difference between what you spend per week and what it supposedly costs to eat?
It’s not all that easy to get food stamps, actually. It’s not that they put up deliberate barriers, it’s that you really have to commit to letting an Agency into your life in a big way.
In my experience, poor people operate in sort of a constant panic mode. They pay the bill that is the most pressing, and they’re always, always between a rock and a hard place.
For rural poor, transportation is HUGE. They have cars that break down, or are uninsured, and they have to drive 25 miles to work. There’s this horrible ripple effect, where the battery dies and then things go all to hell, and it’s so hard to get back up.
I don’t know that telling them to stock up on legumes for the one day at the end of the week where they run short is all that helpful.
That’s what “food scarcity” means. No one claims they’re starving. They’re turning to a pantry because they’re coming up short.
The great thing about the $1 cheeseburger every day diet is then you can get Megan McCardle to explain exactly why you don’t deserve health care.
I’m going to have to move to the right, politically, I think. They have all the best solutions to all our problems.
Just look at the stats. It’s right there. We’re in total denial about having a lot of poor people.
I understand they’re not poor like sub-sahara Africa grain-aid poor, so no one has to correct me, but the fact is we have a lot of poor people, and that’s why these numbers are so huge.
I hear you and there are two issues. People need immediate food when they run out and are hungry, no dispute at all there. That said, even in cities, there is room to help people learn how to meet their ongoing needs to some extent, as well. I
am definitely not saying that community gardening is doable for the entire solution, just that it is under emphasized and really can help folks. Without a doubt though, it requires some leadership and teaching to bring it to communities. That is some effort, for sure. Carting food to folks or food bank systems are also not without problems. This is an issue that can and should be met a variety of ways…
Let’s try this a little differently.
A little game.
For 2 weeks you get to spend $50 per person in your house to feed yourselves. You have to account for every dollar you spend, all food, gas, car, insurance for the car or what ever transportation costs you incur. Won’t count shoe leather if you walk. You can eat anything you want, you can eat out, whatever.
When the $50 is gone you don’t get to eat until the 2 weeks is up.
Post back on an open thread and let us know what you think.
You up for it? Or do you want to just keep ragging on those who have or have had to get by on crap food and money, a lot of times due to absolutely no fault of their own?
America has a preponderance of cheap calories. Most of those calories are cheap because they’re factory farmed and the waste stream is subsidized by the American tax-payer and future generations. I’ve been to a Wal-mart, and this may sound mean, but there are a shitload of fat poor people. Why is this?
Maybe because they don’t have access to a grocery store, work 2-10pm, are up at 7am to get their kids to school and it’s just fucking easier to feed themselves two double cheeseburgers and a large coke for $4.50 instead of taking the bus 5 miles to a grocery store, spending $50 on groceries, and trying to find time to cook, clean, look for jobs, raise their kids, etc. This person then develops type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and can’t walk up stairs. Not surprisingly, they have a job that doesn’t provide medical insurance. They’re addicted to cigarettes or alcohol because it’s the one small pleasure, in addition to salty/fatty food, that makes them keep getting up in the morning.
True, some impoverished people are lazy. And the government is encouraging lazy behavior by subsidizing industrial agriculture in the name of cheap food. Cut farm subsidies and watch the gliberterians go fucking ape-shit spouting talking points endorsed by Monsanto, General Mills, and Con-Agra.
Calories /= nutrition.
I dont think that I said anything about food stamps. That said, did you see how many Americans had used that program over the last x number of years? I cant remember the statistic but it was a huge number of folks. That said, I am sure its bureaucratic. But that could be fixed to some extent with the right leadership and want-to.
Possible, of course– my parents did it, eventually. But very very difficult. Please see what other people have written above about how broke you have to be even to get on government assistance, and how you stop being eligible for it just before you are able to survive without it. This is part and parcel of “society’s commitment to keeping people well-fed”. The policies that ostensibly support people are not based in reality.
I am coming at this from experience and you are coming at it from what you believe. They do truly have limited access. It is there, sometimes, but only to those who have the money, the time, and the ability to procure and prepare it. Which ain’t many. And the will/money to provide education and financial support also isn’t there, because these people simply do not matter to society at large.
Case in point: your comment about “basket cases” needing to have their children removed from them. This was a callous, ignorant remark that devalues your fellow humans and their families. I think you, and anyone who thinks like that, should go volunteer somewhere and see what urban poverty is really like nowadays. Also, learn to say “I am wrong and I do not know what I am talking about” once in a while. I do the former once a week and the latter a few times a day. Very cleansing.
Regarding this social services thing that shocks everyone’s conscience…
First, I maintain that there is no such thing as someone who can’t afford to feed their children. People who fail to do so do it out of incompetence or negligence, not out of sheer poverty. We’ve all pulled together as a society to bring this situation about: If you take the aid offered by the government and you shop smart, you can afford to feed a family.
Surely, there will be other things they can’t afford, but the threshold needed just to adequately nourish children is met.
Secondly, the conservative position would be that you can never remove a child from his or her parent(s)’ custody for such a reason. I would think the more socially progressive point of view with respect to children who’re getting scurvy or wasting away because of poor nutrition would be to get the them the fuck out of there. But no, it seems some people in this thread had parents who did just that and it would’ve been a damn shame if they’d been removed from that situation, whatever brain damage and so on they may’ve suffered. And yes, I imagine children taken this way would end up in situations many of us middle class folk would find unenviable, but then, so is having parents that don’t feed you.
And you know, my grandparents tell me they once had a lean month in which they fed the kids pancakes and hotdogs for a whole month to get by. Not exactly a well balanced diet, but for a month kids are resilient. That shit’s not what I’m talking about.
What the fuck are you talking about?
Quoted for truth. Nevermind that every libertarian that follows this point will argue that they do not support these subsidies. Glibertarians dislike distributions to the poor and to the corporations, but they can’t address both of those subsidies with one party. So they always pick the one that cut subsidies to the poor and they always end up preserving the MARKET DISTORTING corporate subsidies. They love them some free (as in no rules, not “free” as in competitive) markets.
Sorry but that also applies to a lot of third world countries as well. Oil, diamonds, metals, timber, produce such as palm oil, coffee, and cacao, rich fisheries — in whose hands does the wealth for these resources, abundant in a number of third world countries, end up?
Its not for lack of resources or an excess of population that keeps people in many third world countries destitute. It’s the ruling kleptocrats. Same as here.
CornerStone: I meant vg. I’m having a rough day. My apologies.
Shit, they don’t even need to cut subsidies to get these freaks fired up. The shitstorm from trying to regulate the waste from these feed lots would generate enough Reason energy to power the US for 6 months.
“WHAT?! REGULATE?! BUT FOOD WOULD COST MORE!”
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
vg (in response to all your posts):
The first thing to tell you is that children are expensive. A healthy child runs about 10-12K per year. I’m pretty sure if you want to stunt your child’s growth and learning abilities you could spend less, but if you’re that kind of person, then you don’t need kids.
I was going to whine about all the things my family and I had to do because we didn’t have enough money to feed three growing teenagers, but instead I’ll just tell you that it is no fun when you have to keep thinking about how you are going to eat your next meal. If you haven’t been there, count yourself lucky, and try to help those who aren’t in your position.
No, you’re not reading me correctly. I’m sure most poor people are smart shoppers.
The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion
@vg: Sorry not to have read the rest of the posts, in which this point may already have been made, but I have to respond to this bullshit before my head explodes.
Try cooking something other than fast food in the microwave which is the only thing resembling a kitchen in the hotel room that you’re forced to pay for because you can’t put together the money for a first and last month’s rent deposit on some shitty roach-ridden apartment full of toxins and filth that contribute steadily to your declining health that you can’t afford to do anything about because you’re scrambling to put a roof over your kids’ heads. Oh, and try BUYING anything other than fast food and convenience store crap when the nearest grocery-store is miles away from the ghetto which is the only place you can afford to live, and you have no damned car! You’ll find that crack is a hell of a lot more readily available in most inner-city neighborhoods than are vegetables, you complacent putz!
And guess what, asshole? As far as the other necessities of life are concerned (diaper, cleaning products, etc.) “almost nothing” isn’t even remotely close to being “nothing” when “almost nothing” is all you have. @David in NY: and everybody has that time? Really? Ever been homeless? Or so close to it you wake up with your heart pounding in your throat every morning trying figure out how you’re going to hold it together one more day? Whatcha gonna throw that meat in when you don’t own a pot? Whatcha gonna cook it on when you don’t own a stove? How much of your “free time” between hours on the bus and in various agency offices begging and being treated like human filth, are you going to spend gathering those ingredients?
Honestly, I understand that I don’t know you people. You might be perfectly lovely human beings who are the very souls of Christian charity in your day-to-day lives, and if you are living out the lifestyle of Mahatma Ghandi in your offline time, I salute you for it, I truly do. But since you’ve obviously never been truly poor for one split second in your entire sanctimonious, narrow-minded glibertarian lives, why don’t you shut the fuck up, because you sound like assholes?
And I mean that with all the love of Jesus, I swear.
Wow. You really are full of yourself, aren’t you?
From all your remarks here, I could wish the poverty and desperation of an urban single mother with two or three children upon you if I weren’t a nicer person than that.
Since I can’t muster up enough glibertarian or wingnutty callousness to wish the misery of the urban poor upon you, I just want to say that you have no fucking clue as to what you are talking about. Not a fucking clue. You have never been poor, you have never met any poor people, and you don’t the ones that exist all around you.
You really should just shut up at this point. Really.
I don’t think vg and others of his ilk get that for many poor folks, food is the only flexible expense they have room to cut. You need a roof over your head, and there are utilities that go along with that, even if you rent. Others have pointed out transportation issues the poor face, and remember a great many of this nation’s poor are rural, not urban; so without a car they get nowhere. A basic sustenance lifestyle for a lot of my rural neighbors consists of paying for a home and electricity, and they use space heaters for heat when they can’t afford propane. They have wells for water. The weather was terrible here and there was a lot of garden crop failure due to blight but hunting season just started so some of them will at least have deer meat.
Costco? Sam’s club? Bulk buying to whip up nutritious meals in the slow cooker? That’s a different universe.
We have so many poor because they are politically not aware, number one, and that leads to their being invisible politically. Our capitalist means of production keeps them oppressed, stupid and very far away from organizing anything in their own behalf. I would say that many of our poor people are even less empowered than many of the immigrants (illegal and legal), who make their way here to find work and a new life.
Many of the poor white people are further burdened by their need to feel they are superior to other groups, so align themselves with folks that are going to make sure that they stay poor and stupid forever.
We live spread out on a vast landscape instead of tucked together efficiently in high density places where folks can use public transportation to get around or walk. Out in the country, you suffer alone and isolated and getting to work is a huge problem, along with getting the kids to school and health care.
As you all know, lots of reasons why. Lots.
I was heading down to write an answer to vg, but I see the Very Reverend has taken care of it. Thank you, sir or ma’am.
@Jody: No problem. I’m generally a jackass but I was as dirt poor as someone can be and still have a roof over your head til I was in my 20’s.
I know what it’s like to have two young pre-teens and a divorced mom search every inch of the house and come up with $1.19 to feed all three of you.
So I don’t bang on people who’re scared to death they won’t be able to feed their child, and don’t have shit for a support network to assist cause everyone they know is in the same damn boat. Asking to borrow $20 was like asking to borrow $10,000 because the chance they’d have either amount to lend was equal – nada.
And I certainly don’t need some commenters here telling me that a lack of food wasn’t (or shouldn’t have been) the biggest issue in my life. That food is a nonzero amount but not the real issue.
To this fucking day the first thought in my head when I sit down to eat is “that’s not going to be enough”, no matter what it is.
So it’s definitely not me, and no worries.
@Brick Oven Bill:
$8.30 unless I get them at the indian reservation (that saves about $1.50). Good thing I’ve drastically cut down and am only smoking about 5-6 cigarettes a day now.
They are also utterly adorable viral vectors.
For toddlers slobber, boogies and coughs are meant to be shared.
@Elie: Not always stupid Elie. Misinformed, often deliberately, by a corpratist media, but not stupid.
And glibitarians also don’t believe they should have to pay for public education.
@The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:
Very Nice Rant! Absolutely spot on.
But the last line. The last line is priceless.
@The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:
The interesting thing about cities is how close neighborhoods like you’re describing are to nice neighborhoods of the kind I’ve lived in, where anyone can walk into the local supermarket without being attacked or asked to buy crack. Walking distance in many cases. If not, then certainly within transit distance. If you live in a hotel room and you think the microwave is all you have available to you, I don’t know what to tell you. Crockpots and hotplates can be obtained surprisingly cheaply. You can cook a hell of a lot of things in a crockpot, as I’m sure you know.
What’s at the bottom of all these rants about the inner city and so forth is not an assessment of the actual situation, which even those here who claim they know something about it seem only know vicariously, but rather an aggressive self-righteousness which emphasizes the personal virtue the person ranting. What is typically posited is that there are millions of people who’re just so down and out they don’t even think of buying a crockpot for their hotel room (they don’t have the ten to twenty dollars that would cost!) or find a reasonable grocery store within a two mile radius. More likely: They have enough to eat, but they show up in this study pointed to by the Washington Post because they elect to eat crap and feed the same to their children. And the problem is, we hear, that they just can’t buy fresh fruit (which everyone needs to eat a lot of) because it’s so damned expensive and corner markets in cities sell malt liquor, not apples (which is probably true in some neighborhoods — this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to buy them in a major American metropolis or even that it’s particularly difficult).
As far as transportation for people who don’t live in cities, sure that can go wrong and if you don’t have any friends or family to help you out in can be a serious and expensive problem. And though it might make it harder to get decent food, the transportation’s the problem, not the food.
Eh whatever… This is silly. Food is cheap. No one can deny that.
Time for some numbers:
federal minimum wage = $7.25 per hour
40 hours a week @ minimum = $290 (before taxes)
2,080 hours annual (40 hpw x 52 weeks) = $15,080
monthly before taxes = $1,160
Sounds/looks like a lot, right? Now say you pay half of that for rent/housing, now figure in all the other things you need to cover: Utilities, transportation, etc. It doesn’t go very far. Now add in that you have a couple of kids. Say you work part time, and you need to have two or more part time jobs. Travel time costs you money and you don’t quite get to a place where you don’t worry about how to survive.
vg, honest to God I have lived all my life in the belief that every evil you do or wish comes back to you tripled, so I am not going to wish you where you should be, you self righteous ignoramus. But I am going to express a wish, hoping that I phrase this right: may God teach the error of your disgusting ways the hard way.
Little Macayla's Friend
“This is about poverty, not about food.”
Thank you. Living on rice for a month vs. living on rice for the rest of your shorter life.
Is America reduced to food survival strategies for the long term for tens of millions of people?
And for mockBOB, any cooking tips for the homeless, the poor in cheap hotels, people living in their cars, my elderly neighbor who lives alone and depends on meals-on-wheels because her cooking is limited by her health?
Consider it denied, you ignorant putz. What everybody else said to you, squared.
Ironic- there was a time when it was the liberals and socialists who refracted every social problem through the lens of their ideology-
“If only we had socialism, povertywouldn’t exist” and so on…except they could never back up their arguments with real world examples of a socialist utopia, but instead found it only within the confines of a book.
Today we have the glibertarians and Tea Partiers who assure us, that “if we only had free market capitalism, poverty wouldn’t exist!”
Never mind that this treats capitalism, which was a simple description of how markets naturally behave, as a prescriptive religion, a dogma that must be revered, no matter what.
Never mind that there is no real world purely free market society except Somalia. Or that every industrialized First World nation has a mixed economy offering capitalism and social welfare as a backup for when the markets collapse- which they do with regularity.
VG’s position is borne out of this religious faith in markets- if someone is poor and hungry, it must be personal fault- the markets cannot fail.
@gex: You nailed it in another comment, and I think it’s a perfectly fair question to ask libertarians: You say you believe x and y, but always choose the party that believes in x and not y. Why do you not choose the party that believes in y and not x? Is it because you a callous greedy bastard? Fair questions all.
@Elie: Oh, dear, Elie, I’m afraid you’re betraying yourself as not a very serious thinker. Good luck getting on the teevee with that attitude. The real solution to unemployment (and therefore poverty) is to send more people to jail, preferably black people who don’t vote anyway (not that it matters much, because once you send people to jail, they can’t vote — win, win!).
Which really doesn’t make a difference, does it, to the person involved in the situation?
Self-righteousness is YOUR gig, not mine. Stop projecting to others. Your blindness is staggering. “Oh. well sure if you don’t have any friends or family to help you out, it can be a serious and expensive problem.” You condemn yourself with every word you write.
When I was growing up, I lived in a very small rural town. It was me, my three brothers, and my mom. My grandparents (living) had moved to FL to live on their tiny retirement money. We had little or no extended family support. My mom didn’t have a drivers license (She was a woman and didn’t need one, was apparently how the thinking went). So she was stuck with churning through the various part-time jobs within walking distance in a town of 800 people. This was in the 80s. Most of them were 24-30 hours at minimum wage.
After the mortgage (my dad, kindly, left us with the house when he skipped out, though only after he had refinanced it every two years to pay the back taxes), utilities, and heat, she spent what little money she earned on groceries at the little corner store in town to support us. I was on free lunches at the public school, the source of most of my nutrition. We ate mostly spaghetti and sauce or chili, or one-dish casseroles at 7or 8 at night when my mom got home from whichever shitty job she was working at. Other times it was just easier to spend $16 on two large pizzas.
The failure with most gliberterians is that, for whatever reason, they still think that people are rational. Obviously, after my dad left, my mother should have applied herself and got a drivers license, saved her dimes and nickels by not buying us kids pizza twice a month and bought a car, then she should have went to a nearby community college for a vocational degree, the she should have got a well-paying job outside the little community that had seen what jobs in the area vaporize when free trade started pushing through, then she could have fed us kids.
But she didn’t. Why? I don’t know. Probably because she found it was easier to grind through a shitty life than take a gamble.
I hear that there is this thing called karma, ever heard of it? I also hear it’s a real bitch! Tread carefully vg, you could end up in circumstances that could be way beyond imaginable to you one day soon.
Just a note SAMS club and COSTCO do not accept food stamps, so any savings gained by buying in bulk is out
And then you store the leftovers … where? In what? You seem to be assuming that all of these places without a kitchen that don’t provide a crockpot or hotplate all have refrigerators.
licensed to kill time
@Little Macayla’s Friend:
I believe his Protip was get a crockpot or a hotplate. The homeless can plug those into their shopping carts and push them really fast. If you’re in a cheap hotel you’d probably get thrown out for using one, so you might have to get a shopping cart like the homeless. I don’t know if they make crockpots that plug into the cigarette lighter thingies that are no longer in cars anyway. Your elderly neighbor will just have to keep waiting for those meals-on-wheels, I guess.
What a sad piece of humanity vg is. It’s all poor people’s fault, doncha know.
Anyone who think the bulk stores are applicable to the situations we’re talking about just doesn’t have their head screwed on straight (Um, time, transportation, storage?)
It’s Barbara Bush “beautiful mind” syndrome at it’s most astounding.
I would respond more in-depth to some of the comments here, but I have to go to my $8.30/hr job that I keep only because the union provides health benefits.
Instead, you get links.
The $40,000/yr Poverty Trap
ChrisS — Probably because she found it was easier to grind through a shitty life than take a gamble.
No, I think she was too tired at the end of day, too anxious about survival and providing for her children, too depressed to concentrate on a future which she couldn’t see or envision in some way. You need to have a picture in your mind of the future to find the inner guts take a gamble. (I’ve tried it a couple of times myself.) I’d say she probably did the best she could considering her time, place and resources.
@R-Jud: Gary Larson is a intellectual property Nazi; it’s really hard to find Far Side cartoons on the web. I don’t think he’s doing himself any favors. The Far Side is exactly the sort of comic that can live forever on the internet. Nobody’s buying the books anymore, that’s for sure.
“Yes, gentlemen, they are idiots. But the question is, what kind of idiots?”
Food is only cheap if you have the money to buy enough food. If you don’t then all the talk in the world doesn’t change a goddam thing.
And it is dishonest to talk about any food product as if it can be purchased for the cheapest price you have seen. In order to take advantage of sale prices, one has to have the resources to stock up on the item when it is on sale. Otherwise, it is going to cost its regular everyday price.
Food prices have declined slightly during the recession, but the prices listed here are pretty typical of what they are all over the country for frugal shoppers.
Note the toasted oat cereal at $2.90 for a 9 oz box. That used to be a 12 oz box, and it used to be $2.00 not that long ago. That’s a big damned increase over the last 2-3 years, and that’s not untypical for food prices around here.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
vg, one more thing, try living on $.60*number-of-people-in-your-family. See how long this lasts.
It’s funny how far you can agree with people like the commenters in this thread and still be an evil person.
The original post and the first few comments attached to it suggest that America has a real hunger problem comparable even to what’s happening in the poorest countries in the world and that we all share the blame for not providing enough government aid in this democracy. I suggest that, no, actually, food availability is quite good here and that you can get enough to eat for almost nothing (a point on which I’m pretty obviously correct, posts complaining about liquor stores notwithstanding), and moreover the government aid available, while lean, will get you by. But no, in fact, I’m completely wrong. The bourgeois grocery stores I’m used to are nothing like what you see in the inner city, they say, and what’s more how dare you expect working people to cook? Don’t you realize how hard it is to make bread these days? Or worse, how dare you expect someone to take public transit a few blocks to a real grocery store? Or worse still walk there?
My God, they say, you think children should be taken from their parents just because their parents feed them too many hotdogs? Or because they answer affirmatively to any of the questions asked in the study the Washington Post survey??
And yes, I’m insensitive to the real problems of the poor because I want to separate the issue of food from other kinds of financial strife for the purpose of discussing the post. You can’t talk about how cheap food is without discussing the crushing costs of everything else people have to pay, including, but not limited by any means, to rent, utilities, insurance, and transportation, none of which have any sort of elasticity. By God, only food is elastic!
And when I say, yes, under some circumstances, transportation can be a huge burden, I’m not conceding anything. An evil son of a bitch like me must be being sarcastic! I would never support a government program that would help low income folk keep their cars in repair, because I must be a Republican. Who else would think that results of a study like this, in which people enrolled in government anti-hunger programs show up automatically (“Can you afford to eat nutritionally balanced meals?” “No, strictly speaking I can’t afford any of my meals because I buy them with food stamps.”) doesn’t indicate the rot at the core of our society?
Sure, more food stamps, since of course providing funding for them is ridiculously cheap. But don’t start talking about the corruption of the American civic spirit. Most of the problem isn’t about money or availability of food at all. (Which is of course the narrow point I tried to make.)
You’re right, this is silly.
The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion
@vg: Gee, somehow I suspected what kind of neighborhoods you might have grown up in. Transit cost money, fucktard. Crockpots and hotplates might be cheap, but they’re not free, now are they? And why “surprisingly”? I’ve a very strong intuition that, on any random stroll outside the nice little neighborhood mommy and daddy bought your way into, you’d probably go home having gotten a good many more surprises than I.
Here are a few more surprises for you. My knowledge of what it feels like to be poor, and even homeless, is not, in fact, vicarious. Like many other posters on this blog, (and unlike, obviously, you) I grew up knowing what it was like to do without food, new clothes, heat, etc. So your assumption on that one is as misplaced and unwarranted as all of the others you’ve displayed on this site. And that’s the basis of my passionate response to superficial assholes like you who are so busy trying to distance themselves from the possibility of ever suffering that they’re blind and dismissive to the suffering of others. It’s not the simple fact that you’re wrong on every conceivable count of your ill-informed and self-absorbed simpering that bothers me. It’s the fact that people who think like you do actively contribute to the suffering of others through your obstructionism and willful ignorance.
I’m not willing to spend a lot more time on the breathtaking ignorance you’ve displayed here. Just to hit the high points: Yes, there are people who don’t have ten-twenty dollars on a regular basis. Yes, there are neighborhoods that don’t have a decent grocery store within a two-mile radius. And yes, the obstacles to buying decent food in poor neighborhoods do mean that it’s “particularly difficult”. That’s what an obstacle, is, honey. Honestly, try cracking a “Webster’s”, since sociological literature (or even the occasional newspaper) is outside your intellectual/empathic range. And guess what, asshole? Assigning the problem to “transportation” as opposed to “food cost”, doesn’t change the end result that you’re still too damned poor to get the food, now does it?
There was a moment, there, in the next to the last paragraph, where I thought you might be stumbling toward something resembling a faint echo of humanity, but no. Just as it sounded like you might be getting the idea that people might be suffering in circumstances beyond their control, you retreat into dismissiveness, and dogmatic quibbling, because really, it’s more important to be correct than humane.
But sooner or later, veg, my pal, you’re going to find yourself in need of someone else’s help, for one cause or another, ’cause that’s the way life works. When that day comes, and you’re casting about for someone to lend a hand, would you rather find yourself surrounded by people who think like me, or like you?
Hey, no good deed ever goes unpunished here, vg. And don’t whine, the dogs will bite your legs off for that.
If you want to comment here you have to swallow your pride and play with pain. Just stay focussed on the issues and stay on message. Just be sure of your facts and keep your sense of humor. Or, just do what I do and tell somebody to go fuck himself once in a while.
Also, be sure to crap on Brick Oven Bill regularly.
Wow. That really sums up this thread for me. Wow.
“So, fine, you’ve made enough to eat for several days for practically nothing. I grant you this much. But where are you going to keep it? Huh, wise-ass?”
How about in the crockpot? It’s not going to spoil instantly. Trust me, I know.
I suppose the next question would be “what about side dishes?” And how many apples are you eating with that (those things are one dollar a pop, you know)?
Yes, you are. Because the way you separate them out shows a staggering non-comprehension of reality.
I sell shovels around here. You’re wearing yours out at an astounding rate.
@The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion:
Son, I never lived in a nice neighborhood I didn’t pay for.
@AngusTheGodOfMeat: Shredded cheddar cheese? Who buys that? The only shredded cheese that is acceptable to buy is mozzarella, and then only if you’re putting it on pizza.
The Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion
@vg: “Son”? Don’t flatter yourself. We’re done here.
You can tell the people arguing that food is really expensive have never even thought about what they’d do if they had to eat on the cheap. Shredded fucking cheese? Exactly: Who buys this shit?
It seems to me that if you’re working and have access to transit, you can still grocery shop even in that scenario, though of course it’s not ideal. I’m sure there are aspects of urban life I’m not familiar with, but I don’t believe that people living in this neighborhood of yours truly have limited access to affordable, nutritious food.
Sadly, your disbelief doesn’t change the fact that in many neighborhoods there is limited access to affordable, nutritious food.
When I lived in Allston, MA, there was exactly one grocery store within walking distance, where walking distance = six blocks; not bad for me, because I was able-bodied and in good health. It was called “Purity Supreme”, but everyone called it “Poverty Supreme” because you only shopped there if you had no other choice. It was filthy, the meat was frequently on the edge of going bad, the freezers and refrigerators were usually all or mostly out of order, and the produce generally looked like it had been sitting out in the sun for days after being picked.
A couple of years after I moved out there, a shiny new Star Market was built. And it was awesome–as long as you had a car. Without a car, you could get there on the T, but then you had to schlep your groceries on a crowded Green Line car and in many cases drag them up three or four flights of stairs. Since it’s hard to buy in bulk, you end up going to the store every other day. For a single 20-something with no kids, it was a minor annoyance. For a family of four–a lot more difficult to manage.
Also, your thing about how cheap good food is? Bullshit. I live in the California Central Valley now. The difference between the produce here and in Boston isn’t price–it’s quality. Stuff tends to be a little fresher because it doesn’t have to travel as far, but the price Safeway charges isn’t appreciably lower here than anywhere else.
The shopping list is a standardized reference that is used as a way to compare prices over time. The items are the ones that low income people typically buy. It’s not intended to be a shopping recommendation. They built a standard basket of items and shop it over time to establish trend lines.
Please direct your complaints to the Arizona Farm Bureau.
No wonder nobody around here can carry on an argument.
IT’S A COST-MEASURING SHOPPING BASKET of standardized items. Not a menu recommendation. The items were picked by looking at what the target audience is buying in real life.
Never mind, you are too fucking stupid to discuss this topic with. Can you actually consider a point at face value without trying to upstage it? The point is, as I stated, that these are real food prices. Calling them “cheap” doesn’t mean a fucking thing. The prices are what they are. If you can afford them, fine. If you can’t, then you are in trouble.
Ooh, someone is angling for street cred!
Yes, in an urban area, you can walk or take the el to nice neighborhoods and go to the safe, clean, well-stocked grocery stores and buy your lentils or whatever– if you’re physically capable and have the time. And yes, in America, we do have an abundance of good cheap food, compared to, say, Britain, where I pay a good 20% more for a shopping cart identical to the one I used to get in America.
The point the posters arguing with you in this thread make is that a convergence of circumstances for people make regular, reliable access to that good, cheap food extremely difficult; that there are costs above and beyond the food– the transportation of the food, the time spent not working to be able to get at the food, the time spent not working to prepare the food– that many people find insurmountable, namely:
1) Money for food is what’s left over after everything else is accounted for.
2) Money for food, for a number of reasons, is so limited for a growing number of Americans that even the good cheap stuff doesn’t go far enough.
3) There are a load of mitigating factors (mostly bad policies, but sometimes bad luck) that prevent people from getting out of the cycle of poverty and/or food scarcity. This is not a moral failing on their part, or an addiction to crappy food, or solely an issue of crime, or a lack of crockpots, or whatever.
Telling people in this vicious cycle to buy a crockpot for the hotel room and walk ten blocks to and from the Dominick’s in Hyde Park isn’t really going to solve the problem. Taking away their kids when they fail to provide adequate nutrition on a regular basis isn’t going to solve it either. Going to the food depository for the occasional basket of free stuff also doesn’t solve it, either, but it provides much more tangible, accessible relief. It makes scarce food resources available to them. This is what you fail to get.
I didn’t get this either, until I went and saw for myself, walking six blocks to and from the 63rd Street El every morning (I also took two grad-level courses addressing poverty, nutrition, and student performance, so this is not just me “living vicariously”– not an expert by any stretch, but not talking completely out of my ass, either). Hence my rather nastily-toned suggestion that you go volunteer, for which I apologize, sort of, but, seriously? Go see. Or at least read more on the subject.
I am a long-time lurker here, never posting, but someone has to thank you for your link to “Being Poor” at comment #194. I hope everyone takes the time to read it. I pretty much cried through the whole thing, but it was worth it.
In other words, the problem of actually storing the food after you make it didn’t actually occur to you. Nor did it occur to you that some kind of storage device would cost extra money beyond just the crockpot. And then when it finally does occur to you, you pretend that it’s completely beside the point to mention that it’s difficult to cook meals ahead when you don’t have any way of storing them so you don’t get food poisoning.
You’re right. This really does sum up the thread.
I have a friend who grew up extremely poor in Detroit (think 8 Mile) and since her parents worked two jobs apiece, they were able to buy food for the family.
Of course, they would often get mugged for it on the way home, but they were at least able to buy it before it was stolen from them, so that proves vg’s point that the only reason people go hungry is that they’re stupid.
@vg: You may believe that you are safe from poverty. You may also believe in the tooth fairy. Don’t write about what you don’t know.
Food is not cheap. Poverty is painful and exhausting.
@AngusTheGodOfMeat: Mine wasn’t a serious criticism, more of an aside… I don’t buy shredded cheese because it seems silly, almost always turns green before I get to it, and is more expensive. But, what the heck, if we’re going to help people buy food we should consider, you know, what kind of food they’re going to buy.
Thanks for posting that list. It’s not a bad food basket, actually.
Glad to see potatoes on there, but wondering where the rice and beans are, godsdamnit.
@vg: I’m not really sure what’s going on in this thread; I’m kinda confused. People ARE going hungry, and money is definitely the issue … I’m just not sure the problem is at the grocery store cash register.
Is what we’re doing petty sniping? Probably. But I think at the same time it’s important because if we’re trying to figure out what the real problem is, it’s important to do a fair evaluation of how much it actually costs to keep yourself alive without being malnourished. If people are getting enough money to buy the food, then the problem lies elsewhere, and we should focus on that. So far we’ve come up with transportation, access, time, and education as other problems — and I think those are more significant.
I also think people are overstating the “homeless” case for food. Of course it’s really difficult to eat when you’re homeless, or living in a hotel, but I think the bulk of people who are going hungry do have stable places of residence. I haven’t been in a housing project yet that doesn’t have a working kitchen.
And, I mean, come on… bagged salad? Really? I’m not starving or impoverished, but I’m not buying bagged salad when there’s fresh red leaf and romaine right next to it. And I’m not convinced that’s a a suburban conceit, though; I’m not convinced though. If there’s markets out there as crappy as that, I’m not sure they’d even have bagged salad.
Besides, salad is a nutritional scam. If it wasn’t for salad dressing, nobody would but it.
But whatever the truth of the matter is, it’s way more interesting to talk about what to buy at the grocery store than the best way to address the hunger problem, which is way more complex than most people can properly address in a blog comment.
I think I understand what you’re saying, Elie but I just don’t think it’s practical. Poor people rent. They move all the time. They work different shifts; or different sets of hours every week. Poor people with children have to do all of the grunt work associated with children.
I have a friend who homeschools and bakes her own bread and shops locally and gardens. She’s like a pioneer. The thing is, she owns 5 acres and she doesn’t work outside the home. Her life is a full time job.
Why didn’t your mother stop working for a while to go to community college so she could get a better job? Maybe because she had to feed herself and her kids from her small earned income EVERY day?
I haven’t read all of the comments so I do not know if one of my fellow Canadians pointed this out or not, but 49 million is more than the entire population of Canada. Truly sad, and it breaks my heart. The far-right likes to state that they are the most charitable in your country, but I would love to know if it is simply in monetary terms for the tax write-off. How many of them actually donate donate time and usable items?!?
Wait, what? Every housing project you’ve ever been to has had a fully functioning kitchen for every resident? Where are these luxury projects that you’re visiting?
Corner Stone: I know the feeling. I am currently working two jobs and living on mac and cheese. Which is why I’m a bit frazzled. It’s also why arrogant proclamations from douchebags such as vg tends to get my dander up. Actually, it would probably get my dander up anyway. But then I’m not a sociopath like vg, so there’s that.
“Food is incredibly cheap in the US. You can get by comfortably on almost nothing (financially) if you put your mind to it.”
I’m sure vg won’t believe this, but the poor neighborhoods of Chicago do not have supermarkets. To get to one with decent food at decent prices, the poor person can’t just stroll or drive to a nicer neighborhood. What they’re stuck with is a trip on two buses each way, but only if they have 2 – 3 hours and $8 for the fare. Or they’re stuck with the overpriced junk at the corner liquor store.
Saying ‘food is cheap in America’ because it’s cheap where he shops assumes that America is homogeneous, with equal access to the same food at the same prices to everyone. It’s not.
Let me say, I’m skeptical in part because we live in a nice part of town paying $1400 a month in rent and we still have a stove with only two working burners that our landlord won’t replace. I find it hard to believe that it’s a problem that only people in good neighborhoods have.
An amazing post – “Being Poor”.
The person who wrote this has been or is poor.
I heard somewhere a few years ago that a lot of poor people did not stay poor forever, but worked out of being poor. But then there is your other post from Megan Cottrell. The woman worked her way out of being poor but it didn’t actually help. As the story points out, making $10k per yr more cost her more than that. But she was no longer a statistic, no longer poor. A not very successful story if you look at all the details and not just the stats.
@R-Jud: Hope you’re still reading.
From your link:
The only argument we’re having here is what the percentages are for the answer to this survey question. Vg and I are saying that “not enough money for food” is not a big issue, and a lot of people are yelling and saying, “but numbers two, three, and four!!” I think we’re mostly arguing percentages.
Fortunately, there is this survey. Unfortunately, I don’t have SAS installed, and, frankly, have forgotten how to use it. So if some sociologically minded BJ user could go download the data set ( http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/FoodSecurity/CPS/ ) and tell us what the stats for question SS1B are this issue could be resolved rather neatly.
@Mnemosyne: I’ve been to projects in New Haven and Bridgeport, Connecticut. They are pretty posh. I haven’t ever been in any of the high-rise type of project.
@Luthe: Thank you for posting those links. That “poverty trap” chart is extremely depressing and very enlightening. I wish it would get posted on the front page.
Yes, I knew that, which is why I assailed vg but not you.
One thing you have to keep in mind about the blogs is that no point is too mundane or obvious to be misunderstood by the people you are talking to.
The standard shopping basket is not a menu recommendation for poor people. It is a small list of items that people commonly buy which is handy for tracking food prices over time. That is it, period, dot. The reason why supermarkets have twenty feet of shelf space for bagged salads and sliced/grated cheese products is that people buy this stuff by the carload. It’s what sells. And it tracks a whole class of items in price. When cheese goes up, all cheese products go up. Large blocks of cheese, and small bags of sliced or shredded cheese …they all rise and fall together. So you are tracking a whole class of products with one or two items.
Tracking food prices over time is a way to keep track of what your groceries are going to cost you. The real story of the standard basket is that it has just about doubled in price over a short period of time (even allowing for recent small declines due to the recession). Package sizes have shrunk to hide many of these big price increases. Breakfast cereal is one of the most egregious examples. The packages contain less cereal, and go up in price, so that a moderate price increase at the package level masks a large increase of the contents’ unit price.
One way to judge this is to look at the price of store-brand cereal. A 9 oz box of Safeway brand cereal now costs as much as a 12-14 oz box of Kellogg’s cereal cost just two years ago. The savings we used to get by buying store brands have been eaten up by cost increases.
Dairy has leveled off or declined a little but for a while there the prices were off the charts. Cheese has not settled back down as much as milk has done.
Anyway, the grocery store has got to be a scary place if you are poor. I am not poor and the store scares me.
@AngusTheGodOfMeat: Thanks. I do feel like a bit of an asshole on this topic, and realize that I’m making a lot of assumptions — that people have at least $100/month for food, and that they have the time to think about what to buy, and have access… those are all IDEAL conditions that just don’t exist in the real world. I remember times when I was working and so depressed that all I could muster up for dinner was a pint of ben&jerry’s ice cream. Could I afford it? Was it nutritionally sound? Did I care at that point at 8pm on my way home pulling into a gas station in my beat up honda civic? Did I want to spend an hour cooking? Did I have the presence of mind the night before to put something in the crock pot?
Tending a $100/month food budget requires emotional and time resources I’ve never had, so maybe I just stfu about it as anything other than a hypothetical situation.
I’m still not buying bagged salad, tho.
@AngusTheGodOfMeat: Oh, and thanks for letting me know about cheese prices. I’ve actually been wondering why cheese prices were so high. I used to live on that stuff, and just learned not to buy “America’s Best” cheddar. It’s crap.
(and one more mea culpa — a lot of people don’t even have the $100/month for food. I was assuming food stamps, which people might not qualify for merely because they actually have jobs and cars and pay rent)
Again, you’re an idiot.
My wife is on SSDI. She tried to get food stamps back when she first became disabled, and was getting $700/month. She wasn’t working and didn’t have a car and rented a room in a house for $300/month.
They told her she made too much money for food stamps.
Also, we’re talking Sacramento. Not the highest cost-of-living in the state, but not exactly cheap either.
@Darkrose: Wow. That’s incredibly depressing. I’m applying for SSDI now, in fact… Thank God I have parents.
As it happens, I just got back from a quick trip to the grocery store. With this conversation in mind, I took a look at some prices. I noticed that a head of regular, non-organic lettuce was going for $1.99. A half-gallon of non-organic, store brand 1% milk cost me $3.29; a gallon would have been $4.19.
I didn’t have time to check all the staples, but my extremely non-scientific sampling suggests that a) $3/day doesn’t go very far, and b) vg has no clue what he’s talking about.
@Darkrose: I know someone in Australia who has enough money from his welfare payments to buy a ton of heroin. This country really is the pit of hell. I’d move to Europe in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the fact they’d never let me in and that I’d lose my local support network. I really don’t know why anyone would be proud of this country. Where’s my heroin?
Brrr. I have. But they’re not there anymore. I wonder where all those people went. They can’t all have qualified for Section 8.
Mmm. The vibe I was getting from vg is that, regardless of the percentages, these associated costs (in time or money) of preparing and accessing food do not exist, or that they are negligible and could be surmounted simply by walking or buying a crockpot. Hence what people are yelling about: if you can’t afford to get at the food in the first place– and many people in lower-income areas demonstrably can’t– it doesn’t matter how cheap the sticker price is. It costs too much for you.
Good luck with the process–seriously. I understand it can be rough.
The one good thing is that you can almost always count on getting at least a cost of living increase each year.
@R-Jud: More people live on the waiting list for section 8 housing than actually live in section 8 housing. Who shut down the projects? Reagan? Bush? Clinton? Did they collapse under the weight of their own misery?
I’m not sure vg missed the point about access; but he sure does like saying food is cheap. It is distressing in a conversation like this.
@Darkrose: Except COLA went down this year due to deflation. Huzzah.
I’ll be waiting patiently to be rejected so I can begin the appeals process. It’s about $900/month for me, which is almost not worth the hassle. But I understand that I can work after getting on it (as long as I don’t make too much money). I figured it out. If I work part-time doing what I usually did while receiving SSDI, I’d be making about what I used to — except that I wouldn’t be spending six months to a year not being unemployed every three years… so, on balance, I’ll be much better off. Thanks for your support. Really.
(And yes, there was a rumble of thunder when I thought the man’s name.)
Inkadu: Around the country I believe there have been a number of public housing projects demolished. The most famous one may be Cabrini-Green in Chicago. The development experienced a number of extreme social problems (gang activity being the worst over time), along with physical deterioration of the buildings themselves. It was decided to replace the whole complex with different types of buildings and make it mixed income. (I do not know the current status of its replacement.) For a number of years the Section 8 program of housing subsidies has experienced repeated reductions in funding from the federal government.
well we will have to agree to disagree (though I definitely hear and accept that what you are saying is true for a large number of the poor). There are however empty landscapes in urban and rural areas that could serve even temporary folks to provide additional food during the summer…that these gardens could indeed be something of anchors for the community…
But anyway, I am a dreamer about some things. I always believe that we want to be together and try these sorts of things and have them work. I just think we have been told that we can’t.
I will say this — relatively speaking, our food is cheap, thanks mostly to massive agricultural subsidies by the government that keep prices low compared to other places. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to get by as a country despite stagnant wages for the past 30 years — the prices of consumer goods have stayed low, which gives us an artificial feeling of doing all right.
However, “cheap” and “affordable” are not necessarily synonyms, especially when it comes to people who are living hand-to-mouth and to whom a 10-cent change in price is the difference between affordable and unaffordable.
I read most of the posts before I got home from work and am catching up somewhat after I finished shopping for groceries.
I grew up in a more than comfortable middle class family in a quite nice neighborhood. Poor never entered my mind though I should made more notice of my Dad’s support to those of lesser means then. I digress.
There came a time in my life when I had to worry of survival due to diminished means for our own family ( 2 adults and 4 children – from 5 years old to an infant) Basically we needed the fruits and vegetables. It became a learning process to which in later years was hard to let go. I know I had more advantages than others. I would never say what I have read in some of the comments about the poor for there is no equality in being poor. Each case is unique. Still, in these years after my rise from those bleak days, nothing feels as good as being able to contribute to someone less fortunate now.
For myself it was never giving up to have to depend on the state. No lawful job is too menial if it means survival. I have worked them as late a 1985. I have double shifted from midnight till 5 the next day many times and came home to work at being a mother and to the unfinished tasks attached to it. I lived on about 4 hours sleep for many years. It was necessary and it was not a road to any sainthood.
I wish I could offer some assistance from my own experience. I cannot for as the saying goes one size does not fit all in this debate.
Actually, no, you won’t get food poisoning if you make only two or even three days worth of food at a time and if you stick to vegetables for things you want to keep. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from cooking everyday. Honestly, I don’t understand what you think you prove by posting stupid shit like this.
And to people going on about super markets, I never even used that phrase in this thread. I’m aware that there aren’t super markets comparable to the ones you see in the suburbs in every urban neighborhood. Nevertheless, they are in town — I’ve been to ones in Chicago — and even if your own neighborhood doesn’t have a suitable grocery store, there is always one within a mile. One that sells eggs and so forth, maybe not at the rock bottom prices of Walmart, but not insane ones either. This is as true in Harlem as in Alphabet City as in the south side of Chicago. I know you guys think you’re super gritty folk with lots of knowledge about the urban life, but if you are willing to go as far as most people do for groceries, you can get everything you need in the city — this really the point of cities in the first place. It’s ridiculous that people are still claiming otherwise. If it’s not convenient or whatever to get fresh fruit, fine, but don’t pretend you just can’t get it. You can. And to the extent it is inconvenient, it’s not the fault of the voters. If for whatever reason a decent grocery place doesn’t set up shop in some neighborhood, what’re you going to do? (Other than go to the next neighborhood over, obviously…) I mean, we’ve got people in this thread going nuts over the notion that someone would have to walk TEN WHOLE BLOCKS to pick up some produce. Come on.
Also, to the clever person who decided to bring up food prices in California then compare them to food stamp allowances in Ohio, well, what can I say? You’re right. Similarly, if we looked at food prices in Japan and compared them to what the state gives people in Ohio, we’d find a shocking disconnect between the expectations of the Ohio legislature and the gritty reality of Japanese supermarkets (assuming you live near one that doesn’t just sell sake). Also, I guess that person likes to drink a gallon of milk every day.
Since a few of you recommended them, I’ve just read the two fabulous, heartbreaking, eye-opening links provided by Luthe @194, and all I can say is WOW. Those stories will stay with me a long time, as will pcbedamned @221’s observation that the number of Americans lacking dependable access to adequate food last year — 194 million — is more than the population of Canada. That really drives home how many, many people we are talking about. A nation’s worth within our own.
If you’re still around, I’m going to try one last time to sway you. You are obviously an extremely smart, resourceful, determined, energetic, creative, savvy, tenacious, knowledgeable person. To amazing degrees. Not too many people are like you. So don’t hold it against the people who aren’t like you if they can’t be poor with the same panache you were/are able to. Okay?
Also, a quick google search shows that the state of Ohio actually gives more like $6 a day for a single person and $20 for a family of four. Certainly not great, but a lot higher than the made up figure given by the commenter upthread.
It was me who said $3 a day, and that was based on what I read in the latest issue of my synagogue’s newsletter. Someone from the local foodbank took the junior high school aged kids to a supermarket with the instructions to pick out food for themselves that would equal $3 a day, because that’s the food stamp allotment, or so they said. But I also remember a newspaper article last year on some social workers trying to live on $21for food for a week, because that was the food stamp allotment — it was in the Living Section. But I didn’t google it like you did, vg.
Anyway, if there was any justice in the world vg, you’d be walking home those 10 blocks right now with a hungry, tired, tantruming two-year old. Because that’s what two-year olds do after being dragged 10 blocks to the supermarket, being told No, you can’t have that a zillion times and being dragged 10 blocks back home.
Yes, yes, yes. Those damn lazy poor people who aren’t willing to walk 10 blocks every day to get fresh produce so they don’t need a refrigerator.
You must have a lot of leisure time on your hands if you’re walking 10 blocks to the grocery store every day.
That would be just, because he wouldn’t be also saddled with a cranky six year old as well, pulling off the same behavior with four more years experience.
vg, let’s get back to the original post for a moment:
Are you arguing that the number cited above is wrong? Or are you stating that those 49 million people who find themselves and their families without sufficient food are solely to blame for their situation, because it is impossible to have difficulty affording food in the US?
Uh, that princely $6 a day is the maximum allotment, according to the USDA. That’s the amount you can get if you have no assets and no income. Every dollar you have gets calculated against that amount and subtracted from your allotment, including the value of your car. A family of four in the USDA’s example would get $321 a month, which works out to less than $3 per person per day.
In the last 5 years I have lived both in Ohio and Calif. Someone up thread pointed out what I found as well, that food prices were not much different in the midwest and northeast but the quality is better because the food is fresher. Especially for fruits and veg. The thing that is most noticeably different is housing, and gas. But that’s part of getting the food and having a job. And wages were lower in Ohio so it all seems to work out. You don’t seem to get that point, you keep railing on about how food is cheap and you don’t see what the problem is. We know you don’t see what the problem is that’s why we keep trying to explain it to you.
Let’s try one more time
When you don’t have enough money to get in your SUV and drive to the store, purchase whatever you want to eat, food is expensive. So is rent, so is gas, so are clothes, so is everything. Maybe think of it as a matter of perspective, you have enough, maybe even more than enough. A lot of people are in that position. Many, Many are not. A lot of the people in the position of not having enough are not there by there own doing. Life happened to them, not the life that is happening to you, but life none the less.
None of this matters except that if you don’t have enough to pay housing, food, clothing, transportation, utilities it does not matter that food is cheap to VG it is not cheap to them. I have cut my food budget back pretty far because I don’t currently make enough to pay at the level I’d like and this is the only place I can cut. For me food is expensive, gas is extortionate, rent is humongous, and liquor is out of the question. I walk and ride a bike as much as I can. For someone less “fortunate” than me expensive is not a descriptive enough word.
I don’t qualify for food stamps, SSDI, unemployment, or any other government program that I know of so I just have to suck it up and if I end up living in the park in your town now you know why. Life happens. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s OK and sometimes it sucks donkey dicks. Glad yours is great, some of us don’t have it so well, we work hard, we do all the stuff we are supposed to and it still sucks. But at least we don’t have our heads in the sand with our hands over our ears screaming lalalalalalllalala….
I’ll accept that the laws of mathematics confirm that $6 is more than $3, or $0 — but I’d argue that $6 is not a *lot* more than anything.
BOB, you numbskull, did you never learn basic nutrition?
Oh wait, that would explain a lot..
On the location of large food stores: It took a long time for NYC to get a large supermarket into East Harlem. A Pathmark opened at 125th St & Lexington in 1997 or so. It was the first supermarket in 30-odd years. Before this store opened the neighborhood depended on smaller markets and bodegas which did not have as large or fresh selections of food. The local shopkeepers fought a big supermarket for years, fearing it would put them out of business (as it actually did to many). My point is that all these smaller stores combined could not offer the selection of food that Pathmark did. (And it took tax deals and aid from the city to get the Pathmark.)
Another example of problems buying food would be Peekskill (Westchester Cty, NY). In and around Peekskill there are numerous small delis and markets but they don’t carry extensive selections of food. The one supermarket I remember was on Route 6, on the fringe of town. No bus ran by it. When I needed to go there, if I was pet sitting for friends, I had to have car service to take me there and back home. (When my friends were in town, we drove out of town to the supermarkets in other areas.) Having to use car service cuts into your money for food.
I spy with my little eye a dumbass who either never took basic food prep or failed it horribly.
You’re acting like kidney bean poisoning is a real thing that’s especially associated with cooking them in crockpots. For shame. Clearly vg knows far more about food safety than the FDA.
Brick Oven Bill said:
A pack of smokes costs around five bucks, or the equivalent of fifteen days of food…A ‘tall-boy’ Schlitz Malt Liquor costs $1.89, or 6.5 days of food…I make awesome pepperoni pizzas for $1.52.
5 bucks is 15 days of food? Maybe dog food. $1.89 is 6.5 days of food. Nope.
You make awesome pizza for $1.52? If you cook like you think, nobody wants to eat it.
Read Orwell’s “Down And Out In Paris And London”. You can’t understand unless you’ve been there- judging from this thread.
Anybody who thinks going out shopping for raw ingredients for each meal (because particularly if you’re single and really tightening the belt, fresh stuff doesn’t KEEP in bulk quantities) and then cooking meals from scratch is a costless, effortless activity, is contemplating it over a belly that’s had NORMAL food for at least several days running.
When you really get tight with the food budget, particularly if it’s a subsistence diet that’s all starch and filler, the ability to get up and run around shopping and cooking like a damn soccer mom really falls apart, and you turn to, “I have a buck and I’m exhausted and hungry and can’t think straight. Gimme a mccheeseburger and that’s a big time savings over the soccer mom preppie Mother’s Little Helper trip.”
The mccheeseburger is all starch, filler and corn syrup, so it gets you high briefly and turns directly to fat and more hunger and weak poverty-ness, lather rinse and repeat.
Right now I’m on the road, going to a con, and damn if I’m not also seeing similar problems. A lot of the cheaper food where I’m at is garbage. I have a tiny fridge and microwave in my motel room. Don’t exactly see a farmers’ market on the corner. And I could go and get a decent REAL meal for ten bucks and an hour of time, or a fancier one for like 16-20$ and an hour and a half of time… or get something delivered for about that much and gain an hour.
I’m gonna eat some vitamins and really think about whether I want to let Domino’s pretend to be feeding me just because they’ll save me time and not make me think about food prep and selection. I could get in the car, at a cost of gas and time, and drive around and probably see- McDonalds. Or I can make my GPS hunt down something less full of corn syrup and filler like Outback. Steak and salad, about $12 including tip. Cost of GPS alone, $130. Cost of internet access from this motel room, probably about $10 a day. Cost of laptop, a couple hundred…
It costs a lot of money to be poor gracefully with your health. It can blow at any seam and when you start to get behind the eight-ball, you’re seriously fucked. Talk of the cost of bulk rice is likewise seriously fucked…
And I will note that the clearheaded analysis of the situation that lets me take advantage of resources like dietary information and a GPS is likewise coming from somebody who’s spent the last week able to afford fresh produce, fresh hamburg from a local butcher, vitamins, fruit juice, time to prepare these things into reasonably sized meals a couple times a day… hell, my income is low but I’ve fought very hard to develop a healthy lifestyle and I’m way more wealthy than most people in time and other resources. There’s a REASON I can make sense of this stuff. In a very real sense I’ve been paying for it for years, working full time to get into a situation where I can get ahead of the game.
You can’t just switch from mcliving to that, it took me more than a few years to get my shit together and ducks in a row. I wouldn’t be up to it on a diet of rice and beans.
Ohio mom: Actually, I do walk a bit more than ten blocks home everyday, but that was another very clever gambit on your part. I’m not deprived, I just prefer to walk when I have the option. Boy, and it is exhausting. But I can only imagine what it would be like after hauling concrete slabs up the sides of the capitalists’ pyramids for 14 hours a day for a slim 30 cents an hour (as I understand it, that’s the minimum wage in Chicago). I’m just doing my part in mankind’s heroic battle with climate change, I guess. I suppose people you’re talking about, though, could only dream of being so lucky as to have an option, what with those $8 subway tickets I’ve been hearing about.
Also, if you can believe it, I almost never eat fresh fruits (which are absolutely unnecessary for a balanced diet and fairly expensive as food goes) and I never buy them at the store at all. But I suppose if I got in that giant SUV of mine and went to the store like that sheltered, bourgeois son of a bitch I am I could buy them. And without having to take a $20 dollar cab ride to get there, which of course would be unavoidable to anyone living in the inner city. I suppose I probably think $20 dollars is a small price to pay just to get to a grocery store! And I didn’t even mention the return trip! What kind of dumb fuck would forget to include the return trip?? HAVE I EVER EVEN BEEN IN A CAB AT ALL??? Not unless you count the golf cart at the country club, I’ll bet!
Anyway. Eating things like lettuce and fresh strawberries is not nutritionally necessary or even particularly valuable. Lettuce has essentially no nutritional value at all, yet in the infinite compassion of our commenters here, this is held up as evidence of the injustice of our society: My god, a head of lettuce costs nearly three dollars alone, so in the Brothers Grimm’s Ohio, a poor fellow can’t even get a head of lettuce to eat for dinner. After all, I never have a dinner in which I don’t give each of my children a head of lettuce to chew on. A head of lettuce a day keeps the doctor away, my mother always said.
The basic innumeracy of the comments here is astounding. We hear about how much a gallon of milk costs, as if a gallon of milk does not last a person several days. We hear about heads of lettuce as though you need to eat them, which you don’t, and as if you’d eat the thing in one day. Yes, it is true, $6 a day is not enough to eat like your average middle class person. That sucks, I guess, but what you’re really bemoaning is not that they’re boxed into poor nutrition on that budget (as they certainly are not), but rather that they would need to eat in ways you or I might prefer not to.
Also: On refrigeration. Small refrigerators can be gotten quite cheaply in a variety of ways. But I suppose, I’m assuming that poor people have access to, you know, anything. For example, electricity (which is subsidized for low income folk in every state of the union) or whatever… I’m sure someone will think of a really good reason that it’s impossible for the urban poor to get refrigerators.
And again, I’d be all for increased food stamps and so forth, but the truth is, hunger has everything to do with how people work with the resources they have, which though they’re not extensive, if they’re taking advantage of what society offers through the state should be enough for food at least (again, this is all I argue). Not sushi or even fresh fruit every single day, but enough to have a diet much healthier than most people eat. I suppose you could assign a social worker to everyone living below the poverty line and try to coach them on what to eat and so forth. But still, the existing programs at least provide the opportunity to maintain a sensible diet — it’s not really society’s job to provide any more than that.
Finally, on the nutbars freaking out about storing food in crockpots, kidney bean poisoning, and most laughably food preparation courses, I’m not talking about setting USDA guidelines here. It’s odd how someone who disagrees with the concensus is expected to provide an exhaustive and meticulously accurate account of every odd and end anyone can think of, while everyone else gets off with something along the lines of “I don’t know how much the state offers people or how much people take advantage of it, but it should be more than whatever it is by a whole lot, whatever I mean by that. In fact, people who run charities say it’s only three dollars a day, for reasons passing understanding, but I sure as hell trust them more than some asshole on the internet. Moreover, I know something about the inner city and in the inner city all you can buy is crack and malt liquor and transportation costs $8 each way and you can’t walk across the street without being beaten by gang members and you work so hard everyday there’s no way you can grocery shop even for malt liquor because the store is 10 blocks away and that’s really far. But you can eat at McDonald’s. But not those McDonald’s things with fruit in them. They have malt liquor instead of fruit.”
But I digress. If you insist, just don’t make more than you need for a single meal, though in my experience you can get away with being significantly more slovenly about it (oh, there’s my experience again, my experience in fancy land where the air is laced with antibiotics instead of botulinum — it’s like I’ve never even seen The Wire). Cooking time is twenty minutes. Preparation time is five. It cooks more or less unattended. No one is so busy they can’t spare that. Certainly no one who has trouble scraping together enough money to eat.
@vg: Eat shit and die.
I guess that 4% of the population spontaneously became too stupid to shop correctly between those two years. Cuz the way I hear it, only an idiot could ever go hungry from a lack of money.
Sure is a funny coincidence, though, how 4% of the US population became lazy and shiftless right around the time the economy was falling apart.
Funny, that’s the first time I’ve heard the US Department of Agriculture referred to as “some asshole on the internet.” You did see the link I provided you that showed the USDA calculation with food stamps under $3 a day per person, right? Or are facts not something you like to bother your beautiful mind with?