Food for a dollar

A fascinating look in the New York Times at what $1 buys you. It’s helpful context for people who argue that The Obesity Epidemic wouldn’t be such a big deal, and Americans wouldn’t be in such poor health, if we just at more fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables — and especially specialty organic products — cost money. And if you only have $1 to spend — or only a few dollars to spend — you aren’t going to put it toward buying 10 organic blueberries, or one organic grapefruit.

165 comments for “Food for a dollar

  1. sarah
    October 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I like the concept, but the message of “well, guess it’s too expensive to buy fresh fruits and veggies!” is not a good take home message. Sure, organic produce is not feasible for your average upper-lower-class family – it certainly wasn’t even considered in mine. however, a bag of carrots at Aldi is like $1-2. you can get a 2 pound sack of beans for $1 at some stores. that bag of carrots and sack of beans is sure going to go a lot further than a mcdonalds hamburger.

    I wish there was more education showing people what they can really get out of the fresh section of the grocery store with a little forethought, because I think that would really help a lot of people out. most of it doesn’t even require a lot of time to prepare.

  2. Jessica
    October 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    While I agree that the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables (as well as the time to prepare healthy meals) is prohibitive to healthy eating, especially for someone who is working more than forty hours a week to make ends meet, I also think that organic, out-of-season blueberries aren’t exactly the best example of how far a dollar goes (nor are what looks like the sorriest grapefruits of the lot).

    I think that this blog: http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/eating-well-on-1-a-day/ does an okay job of showing how far a dollar can go and the amount of effort involved in making it work.

  3. Wiley
    October 22, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I agree that the food system prevents a lot of families from being able to buy healthy food, and that working people, especially parents, often have access issues.

    However, I agree with the first poster that it’s important to emphasize that eating healthy is not impossible, even for full-time workers on serious budgets in food deserts. There is hope, even with such massive systemic problems.

    Here’s a post my wife wrote on the fact that she and I, who both work full time, commute about an hour each way to and from work, live in a food desert (Northeast DC) and live on the salaries of interns, eat very well and very cheaply:

    http://pioneersblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/waste-not-wednesday-our-accidental-food-stamp-challenge/

  4. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    however, a bag of carrots at Aldi is like $1-2. you can get a 2 pound sack of beans for $1 at some stores. that bag of carrots and sack of beans is sure going to go a lot further than a mcdonalds hamburger.

    Yepyepyep.

  5. October 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I think it’s important also to factor in time limitations. The busy single mother or 40 hour a week worker may not have the energy to cook a meal for herself and her children that is purchased at a grocery store. I think ready-to-eat, inexpensive meals that are healthy are also needed.

  6. james
    October 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Being ‘fresh’ or ‘organic’ does not make food more healthy. Seriously, we have wonderful food production and storage technologies. Freezing food or putting it in a can or vaccum sealing it does not destroy its nutritional content. And pesticides and artificial fertilizers – they’re not anti-vitamin or fibre agents – they make no difference to the nutrition you get from a meal, in fact they mean we can produce healthy food more cheaply.

    I hate to be harsh; but this idea that healthy = fresh & organic is nothing more than anti-science ignorance. What you’re really saying is you can’t provide yourself with the diet of a medieval peasant in NYC for $1. This isn’t really a surprise, of course it would be a disaster to try, and there’s no real reason why you should want to do it.

  7. Jadey
    October 22, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Food cost also includes the cost of preparation, including tools and appliances. As someone who struggles to make adequate food (more out of living alone, being busy, and having long-standing and deeply-ingrained dysfunctional eating habits than financial destitution), one of the things that has greatly facilitated my ability to feed myself yummy, filling, and relatively affordable food is that I can currently afford to buy good cooking tools. Best example? I have learned to make most of my meals in a special (and expensive, though I bought it 40% off) frying pan that is a dream to cook with and clean up after simply because it’s so goddamned easy. I once let a combo of dried-up, baked-on cheese-and-beef-fat sit in that sucker for a week, and, when I finally worked up the energy to clean it, scrubbed it sparkling in less than a minute without putting my elbow out or wearing a hole in my scrubbie either.

    When I had to use shitty (but cheap!) pots and pans and assorted utensils and appliances, cooking was harder, cleaning was harder, and eating was harder too. I’m incredibly grateful that I’m in a position right now where I can make “investment” purchases for my kitchen, which will hopefully last me a gabillion years. But even a one-time purchase of a $100-$120 frying pan is absurd for many people.

  8. October 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t have an Aldi. A lot of people don’t. I can’t think of anywhere I’ve ever seen a bag of beans of any size for $1. When you get home, are you going to put those carrots in a food processor or do you have to chop them by hand with a cheap knife?

    “However, I agree with the first poster that it’s important to emphasize that eating healthy is not impossible, even for full-time workers on serious budgets in food deserts”

    Of course it’s possible. If you want to explain to your kids why they’re eating lentils, rice, and potatoes every day of the week. Steal some apples off a tree if they’re in season and you’re good to go! No one has said anything about how poor people are supposed to get fruit-last I checked, beans and carrots aren’t fruit, and fruit prices are what have risen the most (isn’t it something like 57% from last year? :/)

  9. Bitter Scribe
    October 22, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I think ready-to-eat, inexpensive meals that are healthy are also needed.

    Otherwise known as the Holy Grail.

  10. Mechelle
    October 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Yeah, like poor people seriously want to eat bags of carrots and beans for lunch.

  11. shah8
    October 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    A small bundle of organic beets was $4.

    That really shocked me.

    At least sweet taters are cheap as sin come the season.

  12. Jack
    October 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I think ready-to-eat, inexpensive meals that are healthy are also needed.

    Subway sells huge assed sandwiches for $5

  13. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Beans do take significant prep time.

  14. October 22, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I eat a lot of (canned) beans, rice, and frozen vegetables when I’m broke. It’s really cheap, and quite nutritious.

  15. Elisabeth
    October 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    If you want to explain to your kids why they’re eating lentils, rice, and potatoes every day of the week.

    How about: “Because it’s nutritious and affordable”? I’m not sure how your children’s opinions are a barrier to healthy eating.

    I also want to cosign with all the people who have pointed out the bogusness of the dichotomy between organic, out-of-season, and fresh vs. McDonalds. I feel like this dichotomy is mainly perpetrated by yuppies who don’t cook, who are like “omg I went to Wholefoods and it is expensive!! I guess the only alternative for people on a budget is McDonalds.” If you buy organic blueberries in October they will be hella expensive. But luckily, more fruits and vegetables exist in the world than just organic, out of season blueberries, and these fruits range in price from extremely cheap (cabbage at 10 cents a pound) to less cheap, to expensive, to extremely expensive, etc. If we applied the same logic we do to fruits and vegetables to other foods, it would be something like, “there is a local bakery that sells $6 baguettes. Therefore, bread is too expensive for most people to eat.”
    I think that inability to cook vegetables and/or a lack of experience eating vegetables makes them seem more intimidating. My guess if people were more comfortable with vegetables, they wouldn’t seem so out of reach logistically, even in food deserts.

  16. Diz
    October 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Or how about most people will avoid the fruits and veggies because with a large enough family they won’t last as long or they’ll spoil before you can do your next grocery run?

    As a poor person, it’s extremely shaming and infuriating when people are always harping at you that it’s not impossible. No, it’s not impossible to buy fresh fruits and veggies, but guess what, when you run out of them a week in and the next time you can go shopping is three weeks after the fact and you don’t have room in your budget to expand on fruits ‘n’ veggies? SOL.

  17. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    OK um I don’t have an Aldi either but I have lived in different places and I do not think those prices are unreasonable or unique to Aldi. Maybe in a really really severe food desert.

  18. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Jack: I think ready-to-eat, inexpensive meals that are healthy are also needed.Subway sells huge assed sandwiches for $5  (Quote this comment?)

    Um, that’s not all that cheap or healthy compared to the other stuff we are talking about. I used to split those with my partner sometimes, still an expense for the amount of food you get.

  19. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Elisabeth: If you want to explain to your kids why they’re eating lentils, rice, and potatoes every day of the week.How about: “Because it’s nutritious and affordable”? I’m not sure how your children’s opinions are a barrier to healthy eating. I also want to cosign with all the people who have pointed out the bogusness of the dichotomy between organic, out-of-season, and fresh vs. McDonalds. I feel like this dichotomy is mainly perpetrated by yuppies who don’t cook, who are like “omg I went to Wholefoods and it is expensive!! I guess the only alternative for people on a budget is McDonalds.” If you buy organic blueberries in October they will be hella expensive. But luckily, more fruits and vegetables exist in the world than just organic, out of season blueberries, and these fruits range in price from extremely cheap (cabbage at 10 cents a pound) to less cheap, to expensive, to extremely expensive, etc. If we applied the same logic we do to fruits and vegetables to other foods, it would be something like, “there is a local bakery that sells $6 baguettes. Therefore, bread is too expensive for most people to eat.”I think that inability to cook vegetables and/or a lack of experience eating vegetables makes them seem more intimidating. My guess if people were more comfortable with vegetables, they wouldn’t seem so out of reach logistically, even in food deserts.  (Quote this comment?)

    word.

  20. Kristen J.
    October 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Elisabeth: I think that inability to cook vegetables and/or a lack of experience eating vegetables makes them seem more intimidating. My guess if people were more comfortable with vegetables, they wouldn’t seem so out of reach logistically, even in food deserts. Elisabeth

    Have you ever been seriously poor? As in nearly homeless poor? Because I suggest you try eating on a dollar per person per day before you make such bullshit comments. I grew up this poor. I grew up eating food bank and government subsidy beans and cheese. My mother could cook. My father could cook. We just could not afford fresh fruits and vegetables. I remember going to the grocery store with my mom who had exactly 80 dollars to feed all three of us for one month. She could buy fruits and vegetables that would last us a week or she could buy bacon, some rubbish hamburger and bread. That’s it. And yes, if there was a few dollars left over at the end of the month, sometimes they would take me to sonic because I was their goddamn kid and even in the direst poverty they wanted to give me a treat.

    And FYI, cabbage isn’t very calorie rich. A head of cabbage has 180 calories. Which isn’t going to do much even if it is 10 cents a pound. So to get 1800 calories in a day you’d have to eat 10 heads of cabbage a day…at 1.5 pounds a head…that’s $1.50 per day per person…which already exceeds the $1 day statistic. So rethink your math and your logic.

    Jack: Subway sells huge assed sandwiches for $5 Jack

    Two people splitting a subway sandwich are at $5 is still not inexpensive for people who are living in poverty.

  21. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    But, I don’t disagree, with Diz.

  22. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Two people splitting a subway sandwich are at $5 is still not inexpensive for people who are living in poverty.

    LOL I have a comment in mod up above saying basically exactly that. Great minds think alike or whatever.

  23. Jadey
    October 22, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Elisabeth: How about: “Because it’s nutritious and affordable”? I’m not sure how your children’s opinions are a barrier to healthy eating.

    When was the last time you tried to get a kid to eat something that they didn’t want to? Because short of forcing food down their throat or actually starving them to the point where they will eat anything remotely foodlike*, you can’t make a person eat something they don’t want to (and I have been on both sides of this equation many times), and not all kids are open to the “affordable and nutritious” argument. So, yeah, the opinions of the kids in question can be highly relevant to a parent making choices about food buying and preparation, and they can be an obstacle. Kids’ opinions are also formed on the basis of a lot of things, not all of which are something a parent can realistically influence.

    *Not to say that actual starvation and zero food access isn’t a reality for some kids, but it’s hardly a solution to getting a kid to eat something they’ve decided they don’t want to eat.

  24. Kristen J.
    October 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Jessica: I think that this blog: http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/eating-well-on-1-a-day/ does an okay job of showing how far a dollar can go and the amount of effort involved in making it work.

    Also, this site engages in a lot of what I call coupon arbitrage which works if you are middle class and this $1 per day thing is a just a suggestion (because you can afford to buy unnecessary products to get food coupons), but not so useful if you cannot afford to even buy the sunday paper.

    sarah: I wish there was more education showing people what they can really get out of the fresh section of the grocery store with a little forethought, because I think that would really help a lot of people out. most of it doesn’t even require a lot of time to prepare. sarah

    Sarah,

    My SO and I been attempting the $1 day thing for about 2 months now…and one thing I can tell you for absolute certain…it’s a lot of work. For the most part we cheat with several things (like asparagus…which I love so pffttthhhhttt)..but even so…making your own bread, making large “bulk” batches of food, cleaning (oh.my.god…the hours of cleaning!) is a lot of work.

  25. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    That was a joke. I don’t actually think I’m a “great mind” and I don’t actually know you so have no idea if you are or not.

  26. Elisabeth
    October 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Why the obsession with fresh? Frozen and canned can last for months or years. The cost has risen, but if you can catch a sale, you can get canned vegetables for around ten cents a can. Cans of corn last way longer than bacon (bacon is also pretty expensive, as far as food goes). Fresh fruits and vegetables are merely a subset of a much larger category of fruits and vegetables. Frozen and canned fruits and veggies are almost if not as nutritious as the fresh stuff, can be cheaper, and are much easier and more convenient to cook with.

  27. Elisabeth
    October 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    And FYI, cabbage isn’t very calorie rich. A head of cabbage has 180 calories. Which isn’t going to do much even if it is 10 cents a pound. So to get 1800 calories in a day you’d have to eat 10 heads of cabbage a day…at 1.5 pounds a head…that’s $1.50 per day per person…which already exceeds the $1 day statistic. So rethink your math and your logic.

    Where did I say that the *only* thing people should eat all day was cabbage? Yes, if you wanted to only eat cabbage, you would need a lot to get an adequate amount of calories. That wouldn’t be very cost effective nor very healthy. However, you could also buy things like potatoes or other cheap starches, which are cheap and more calorie dense, and make, say, cabbage soup. This would give you vitamins and nutrients from the cabbage, and fill you up, and still feed a family for less than a dollar a person a day. (Ex. if one head of cabbage at 3-4 lbs is 30-40 cents, plus a 5 lb bag of potatoes is around $1-2, you could make probably 1-2 dinners for a family of four for under $1.20. Again, you could probably get a 10-20lb bag for a dollar or two more, and thus bring the total cost per meal down a bit, but carrying a 20lb bag a long distance on public transport is tiring).
    Anyone who takes the statement that a head of cabbage is 30 cents and extrapolates the point to mean that people should only eat cabbage all day long isn’t really engaging with the argument in good faith.

  28. October 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I hate the way these discussions are framed. So what if a blogger, or some people on this thread, could eat in a certain way for a certain cost with the other resources they have access to.

    The constant response to people who talk about the difficulties of eating in a certain way (and I reject the idea that the way the middle class have deemed ‘healthy’ in the moment is necessarily the best for people’s well being or longevity)- why are you buying bacon? Why aren’t you buying canned food? Why are your children such spoilt brats that their opinion on the food matters?

    How about treating people with the basic respect of assuming they’re making the best choices for them at the moment – particularly as you don’t know what resources they do and don’t have.

    I’ve read a reasonable amount about the history of food for working-class people. There is a long history of middle and upper class people tut-tuting and saying ‘those working class people could eat better if they tried’. But the reality is, first of all that those working class people had resources and knowledge around food that middle and upper class people didn’t even dream of. And second is what’s changed what people ate isn’t tut-tuting, or tut-tuting disguised as education, but instead the resources involved with different food strategies.

    How about we assume people are making the best choices for them with the resources and needs that they’ve got. If we have energy for a political approach to food lets focus on making it cost fewer resources, or making sure people have more resources, rather than talking about what other people should be doing.

  29. October 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Canned vegetables aren’t awesome as far as nutrient content, and they tend to have a lot of sodium. Many of the available options for canned fruit contain loads of syrup and refined sugar, making an otherwise healthy snack unnecessarily junky. Then there’s the added concern over whether is BPA in the can lining, which is potentially linked to reproductive birth defects.

    While it’s a little more expensive, frozen vegetables (and fruits) are a great alternative to fresh produce. They’re obviously not going to go bad in a week, they’re still inexpensive (you can generally buy a bag, which is 3 – 4 servings at least, for $1 – $2 at most chain grocery stores), and they retain just about all of the nutrients from their fresh state. The logistics don’t always work out– for instance, no one wants to take bags of frozen foods in a half-hour bus commute in August. But, it’s a good option for a lot of people. I’m broke as crap and frozen veggies are a staple.

  30. Kristen J.
    October 22, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    james: And pesticides and artificial fertilizers – they’re not anti-vitamin or fibre agents – they make no difference to the nutrition you get from a meal, in fact they mean we can produce healthy food more cheaply.

    http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/risks.htm

  31. Kristen J.
    October 22, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Elisabeth: Anyone who takes the statement that a head of cabbage is 30 cents and extrapolates the point to mean that people should only eat cabbage all day long isn’t really engaging with the argument in good faith. Elisabeth

    Actually I was pointing out the calorie per dollar ratio. Plus cabbage has very low nutritional value so where are these nutrients you’re referring to coming from. Potatoes while caloricly rich are still not a rich source of nutrition (like say quinoa) and you can’t live on potato and cabbage soup. What are you going to do for protein that day?

  32. October 22, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Lasciel: I don’t have an Aldi. A lot of people don’t. I can’t think of anywhere I’ve ever seen a bag of beans of any size for $1.

    For $1 I can buy 1 1/2 heads of garlic from China at my local grocery store. Why yes, I do live in rural New England, why do you ask? I can honestly say this year I have eaten the least amount of fresh vegetables that I can remember since I was a kid. They’ve been so expensive and due to food sensitivities there’s a lot I need to avoid. Like everything from the Deadly Nightshade family, so that leaves out tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant. Leeks were $1.99 each, carrots only available in 2lbs bags, so cheap, but too many for our needs, onion $3.99 for a 2lbs bag, etc, etc. So I bought frozen veggies instead, and the unpopular ones at that: brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas & carrots, corn. Oh, and I don’t eat wheat or grains, and rarely pulses as they give me abdominal issues. And what’s the food of the poor? It sure ain’t veggies.

    To feed, clothe, and house 3 people on a salary of less than $1000 month is damned hard. I really wish there was some kind of media acknowledgement of that instead of ‘poor fatties don’t know how to eat!’.

    hunh, guess I needed to get that off my chest.

  33. Miss S
    October 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I grew up pretty poor, and we still had vegetables. Not organic, fresh from Whole Foods vegetables, of course, but… vegetables are vegetables. I grew up eating corn, broccoli, string beans, beets, etc. We also had lots of rice, baked beans and stews. It was cheap, and honestly it was good. (Most of our meat came from hunting). If you can’t afford the organic vegetables, frozen and canned are a decent alternative. Canned vegetables do have a lot of sodium, but if you rinse them for a few minutes it rinses a lot of the sodium away. (I think I read that on here).

    My family wouldn’t force me to eat anything if I truly didn’t like it but they certainly wouldn’t have tolerated me turning up my nose at everything on the table and demanding something else like an entitled, spoiled brat.

  34. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    But the reality is, first of all that those working class people had resources and knowledge around food that middle and upper class people didn’t even dream of.

    I think this is what people have been saying!!

    And I for one am, of course, in favor of making more resources available/make things cost less. And I’ve actually done some organizing along those lines, so I am a little offended by your implication.

  35. RD
    October 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Well, I mean, not a lot…and many of my friends (and my partner) have done more but anyway.

  36. Kristen J.
    October 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Let’s put this in perspective okay. Typically 13-17 percent of USians live below the poverty line which for a family of 4 is about $22,000. That is poverty. A significant portion of that income must go for housing and utilities and perhaps a car if you don’t live in an urban area with good public transportation. What that leaves is about 17 percent of income for food or $3,700 for a family of four….for a year. Sure there are food subsidies which at this income level provide minimal benefits, but you still are no where near the amount of money needed to healthily feed a family of four.

    Also, the working poor eat at home more than others….so this is mainly just a bullshit judgmental argument anyway.

    Source: What Can Minimum Wage Buy You

    You might also consider watching Spurlocks Minimum Wage episode of 30 Days.

  37. Jadey
    October 22, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    No one needs to be a “spoiled brat” in order to exercise agency over what goes into their bodies.

  38. boing
    October 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Also there are things like disabilities to take into consideration. Some people simply *can’t* spend the time and effort it takes to chop cabbage or whatever. I eat crappily in large part because of my depression, not because I don’t know what kind of food is healthy.

  39. October 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Jadey,

    No one needs to be a “spoiled brat” in order to exercise agency over what goes into their bodies.

    A lot of kids don’t like vegetables because they aren’t used to them. Kids who aren’t used to vegetables are that way because they haven’t been fed vegetables. Kids don’t know their options until someone points them out. That person is usually a parent. Finding ways, if possible, to feed your kid nutritious foods, will help that along.

    Surely you’re not arguing that parents should cater to their kids’ every dietary whim, because that would be ludacrous, so, really, the issue at hand isn’t strapping a kid down and force-feeding them Brussels sprouts, but ensuring that all families have equal and affordable access to nutritious foods that don’t leave only sodium- and syrup-laced options as the most economical decision.

  40. October 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Why is this even turning into one of those “eating healthy if you’re not a billionaire is absolutely impossible so shut up about it completely” vs. “eating healthy isn’t that expensive, so stop being lazy” arguments? This is laughably predictable.

  41. Kristen J.
    October 22, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    April: Why is this even turning into one of those “eating healthy if you’re not a billionaire is absolutely impossible so shut up about it completely” vs. “eating healthy isn’t that expensive, so stop being lazy” arguments?

    Because we always talk about what marginalized people can/should do better rather than what privileged people can do to help those who are marginalized? Same song..different album…but yes…predictable.

  42. October 22, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Even if you have an Aldi’s near you, as I do–the produce section is sketchy & not very big.. at all. The Aldi’s near me often has produce that is beginning to rot or is rotting.

    So, I’ve got an Aldi’s near me but is sucks.

  43. tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Maia: I hate the way these discussions are framed. So what if a blogger, or some people on this thread, could eat in a certain way for a certain cost with the other resources they have access to. The constant response to people who talk about the difficulties of eating in a certain way (and I reject the idea that the way the middle class have deemed ‘healthy’ in the moment is necessarily the best for people’s well being or longevity)- why are you buying bacon? Why aren’t you buying canned food? Why are your children such spoilt brats that their opinion on the food matters?How about treating people with the basic respect of assuming they’re making the best choices for them at the moment – particularly as you don’t know what resources they do and don’t have.I’ve read a reasonable amount about the history of food for working-class people. There is a long history of middle and upper class people tut-tuting and saying ‘those working class people could eat better if they tried’. But the reality is, first of all that those working class people had resources and knowledge around food that middle and upper class people didn’t even dream of. And second is what’s changed what people ate isn’t tut-tuting, or tut-tuting disguised as education, but instead the resources involved with different food strategies.How about we assume people are making the best choices for them with the resources and needs that they’ve got. If we have energy for a political approach to food lets focus on making it cost fewer resources, or making sure people have more resources, rather than talking about what other people should be doing.  (Quote this comment?)

    Go Maia. Thank you. Also: “Poor” does not mean “too stupid to figure out what to eat on a budget” Furthermore, how many large grocery stores are in SE Washington DC, for example? Or even NE? Time for a MAJOR privilege check.

  44. Jadey
    October 23, 2010 at 12:05 am

    @ April

    No, that is not what I was saying at all. What I was saying that a child should be able to have agency over what goes into their body without being dismissed as a spoiled brat or have their opinions considered superfluous to the issue, as has already happened in this thread more than once and which happens all the time when kids and eating are discussed. I think I was pretty clear about that.

    Does that mean that kids will always make amazingly awesome choices that they will be retrospectively happy with for all time? No. (Does anyone’s agency work that way?) Does that mean that there isn’t a balance to be struck when one has the responsibility of helping a young human develop their agency, as we are certainly not borne independent and self-sufficient? (Of course, as human beings none of us will ever be totally independent or self-sufficient.) No, of course not. But I’m sick of seeing kids treated like their preferences never matter because it’s easy for adults to dismiss them as willful and selfish, and exert control over them, their choices, and their bodies. That is what I was responding to.

    Again, this is said by a person whose eating lifestyle and food competence are fairly dysfunctional, as least in part because of the environment in which I was raised to eat, where the only control or choice I was able to exert was a) to not eat at all and/or b) to sneak and steal food and gorge. So that’s what I did.

    Also said by someone who has been in charge of feeding kids and supervising their meals (sleep-over summer camp – and, no, they weren’t a pack of rich kids, either). You know what worked better than any other strategy when there was a kid who didn’t want to eat? Treating them with respect and working with them as partners to find something they could and would eat, and going from there. And, no, that didn’t mean stuffing them with junk food. Treating them like a “spoiled brat” was not a productive strategy.

  45. October 23, 2010 at 1:12 am

    RD:
    I think this is what people have been saying!!And I for one am, of course, in favor of making more resources available/make things cost less.And I’ve actually done some organizing along those lines, so I am a little offended by your implication.  

    If you’ve done organising and so on around this that’s fabulous. But that’s not how I interpretted Elisabeth and Sarah’s comments (which you agreed with). What’s the point of coming in and saying that carrots are a better choice for some people than cheese burgers? Of course they are – that’s why some people buy carrots and other people buy cheeseburgers. To me to say it on a thread like this has the implication that individuals should be doing better than they are. Not acknowledging that people are probably have good reasons for spending their resources the way that they do. And even if you don’t accept that as a premise, accept that it’s none of our business. So instead of discussing whether hypothetical person woudl be better off with carrots or cheeseburgers, lets figure out what structural changes we need.

    I agree that I did use ‘you’ and ‘we’ in a very universalising way that was unfair.

    April: Why is this even turning into one of those “eating healthy if you’re not a billionaire is absolutely impossible so shut up about it completely” vs. “eating healthy isn’t that expensive, so stop being lazy” arguments?This is laughably predictable.  

    Because people want to criticise individual strategies (like you did with your response to Jadey about how people should treat kids). If everyone was prepared to stop arguing how individuals should behave (which leads to 101 responses about why not everyone can do that) and instead focus on structures, we’d have different conversations. But instead, it is as Kristen J says – more of the same.

  46. Emily
    October 23, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Yes, you *could* buy big bulk bags of rice and beans and flour and everything like that, or you *could* buy frozen vegetables, but buying the food is only half the problem.

    To start off, how are you going to get those big bags of rice and flour and whatever home if you don’t own a car? (I’ve found that my limit for buses is about 4 grocery bags full of not-too-heavy stuff) How are you going to keep cold things cold if you live in Los Angeles and the nearest grocery store is a half-hour bus ride away and it’s 110 degrees out? How are you going to bake your own bread if you don’t have an oven in your apartment, and maybe only have a microwave for cooking? If you only have a mini-fridge that doesn’t even have a real freezer, how much meat and milk and fruits and vegetables can you fit in there?

    I’m not kidding. I’ve probably mentioned before, but I live in LA and I’m right on the poverty line. At that income level, there’s no way you can afford a car in the city, and even the smallest apartments that come with a full-sized fridge and a working stove with an oven are at least $200 per month more than you can afford – it seems like a minifridge and electric stovetop are the standard, but a microwave from Goodwill is probably more reliable than your stovetop, although if the power in your poorly-maintained building goes out for the third time in a month or you’re living in a cheap motel room you might not even have that much.

  47. Elisabeth
    October 23, 2010 at 2:37 am

    How are you going to keep cold things cold if you live in Los Angeles and the nearest grocery store is a half-hour bus ride away and it’s 110 degrees out?

    Actually, if frozen veggies thaw and then refreeze, it’s not really a problem. Dairy is harder, but I’ve found most things are frozen solid enough that they can survive a long commute. I often commute on public transit with groceries for over an hour, and I’ve found even ice cream at 100 degrees and 95 percent humidity will survive for the hour or two it takes to get them home. One drawback is warming up milk and then cooling it again shortens its lifespan, so unless you can get through a gallon in under a week, it’s not worth the savings to buy a larger gallon of milk, although it can often be the same price as a half gallon. (Apparently, spoiled milk is safe to drink, it just tastes sour, but you can still use it in cooking.) Strangely enough, the lifespan of ice cream doesn’t seem to be affected, however if it fully melts and refreezes, the texture is a little off. I’ve found cheese, yogurt, and butter can be left out for at least 24 hours before starting to go off.

    In terms of fresh veggies that last, I’ve found carrots can last for months–really, any root vegetable will last a long time (an entire winter, if needs be :), if stored somewhere cool and dark. This also makes them ideal if you don’t have a refrigerator. I’ve found as well that they are fairly forgiving in terms of decomposition, in that even a spongy potato or bendy carrot can taste fine when cooked, or if there are rotten parts you can cut them off and the rest will be ok. Root vegetables can also be pretty cheap if you get them in bulk bags, so since they last it’s a good way to save on veggies.

    A good solution for the carrying problems are foldable carts. These are very common in countries where cars are not common. The one I own is kind of expensive ($30), but I know people who have gotten them for much less, so you might want to shop around. Although it is an upfront expense, if it allows you to buy more in bulk it can pay for itself in the long run. (Also, it’s much cheaper than buying a car :)
    Of course, the drawback is if you are getting groceries on your way home from work, you either have to have taken your cart to work (which might not be possible for certain jobs), or you don’t have it. What I’ve found that works best is to plan ahead for a staples run every several months (flour, potatoes, sugar, rice, etc.), and get the largest and heaviest size thing, and then get lighter stuff for weekly groceries.

  48. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 4:15 am

    I am cool with however people want to live their life and spend their money. I have been homeless, and I have been poor but housed. I have been involved with economic justice organizing like I said. I am most likely in favor of the same policy stuff you are. The people mischaracterizing this argument are really pissing me off.

    What I don’t do is shape my facts or opinions to a narrative (much). Maybe that’s what some of you have a problem with.

  49. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Maia- I missed your second comment. When people say things that are wrong or just wildly out there I guess it changes my approach to something a little.

    Like, of course organic blueberries are seriously expensive. What you saw as shaming I saw as mostly a reaction toward that sort of thing. As in, oh, poor dears can’t buy organic blueberries, we must get them some!

    I think pointing out reality is generally a good thing even if not everything fits some narrative.

    Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expand food stamps.

  50. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Also the $6 baguette / organic blueberries comparison was right on, and I think feeding kids reasonably healthy and affordable meals is something they can learn to get used to. And does not preclude occasional treats.

  51. Jace
    October 23, 2010 at 5:37 am

    Lasciel: Of course it’s possible. If you want to explain to your kids why they’re eating lentils, rice, and potatoes every day of the week. (isn’t it something like 57% from last year? :/)  

    You speak like there is something wrong with that! Heck, I should be so lucky to get lentils, rice and potatoes every day of the week!

  52. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 5:43 am

    And yeah, that poor people are better than whoever wrote that article and Jill was pretty much my point, and other people’s too I would guess.

    Hence the comments about “yuppies who don’t cook” etc.

  53. Jadey
    October 23, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Jadey: Again, this is said by a person whose eating lifestyle and food competence are fairly dysfunctional, as least in part because of the environment in which I was raised to eat, where the only control or choice I was able to exert was a) to not eat at all and/or b) to sneak and steal food and gorge. So that’s what I did.

    Given the context of the rest of this thread, I do want to clarify that my upbringing is middle-class and I was in no way impacted by a lack of access to good food and plenty of it as a child. Obviously the struggles that parents and children face change as their circumstances change and my intention is not to detract from the conversation about issues of poverty and access (although I am also one of the skeptical people when it comes to issues of education – I agree with others that the knowledge is not primarily what is lacking and access is the bigger issue). My most recent comments have been in response to the ageism that always tends to crop up in threads like these and that is why I referenced my childhood experiences with food and eating – not because I was economically disadvantaged at the time.

    • October 23, 2010 at 10:26 am

      Like, of course organic blueberries are seriously expensive. What you saw as shaming I saw as mostly a reaction toward that sort of thing. As in, oh, poor dears can’t buy organic blueberries, we must get them some!

      I’m not sure how you got that from a post that said, in its entirety:

      A fascinating look in the New York Times at what $1 buys you. It’s helpful context for people who argue that The Obesity Epidemic wouldn’t be such a big deal, and Americans wouldn’t be in such poor health, if we just at more fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables — and especially specialty organic products — cost money. And if you only have $1 to spend — or only a few dollars to spend — you aren’t going to put it toward buying 10 organic blueberries, or one organic grapefruit.

      I think it’s pretty clear that the post was criticizing the hand-wringing about Teh Obesity(tm) without recognizing that the things upper-class people insist would cure all of our ills — why can’t you just eat more organic fruits and veggies? — are really not available for most people.

    • October 23, 2010 at 10:31 am

      And yeah, that poor people are better than whoever wrote that article and Jill was pretty much my point, and other people’s too I would guess.

      Hence the comments about “yuppies who don’t cook” etc.

      Must be nice to know the details of everyone’s lives based on their comments on the internet. Maybe check some of your assumptions and respond to what people are actually writing, rather than coming in with a set of ideas about who you’re talking to and what their lives have been like.

  54. October 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Seems to me a lot of decisions go into what food people choose to eat, when they choose to eat out, etc. What is perceived as healthy, quality of life – eating food that tastes good, what you have time to prepare. It is simply impossible to analyze anyone’s eating habits based on how much a bag of carrots, lentils, or beans may cost at a particular (or any) grocery store or what you may have seen someone buy or eat at a particular time.

  55. October 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

    And I think, really, people who worry about whether poor people are eating properly healthy food before worrying about whether poor people are getting enough to eat at all nay be getting their priorities wrong. You know what is presenting obstacles to that? In the US, food stamp cuts, the economy going down the tubes and jobs are harder to come by. In the UK? All kinds of benefits are on the chopping block. Perhaps there are deeper systemic problems at work here than whether anyone is eating enough goddamned beans every day, you know?

  56. conductress
    October 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Jadey pointed out upthread that cooking is not only about the ingredients, but also the tools, and those who can’t afford good cooking tools will have a significantly harder time cooking. I’d like to add to that that some people don’t have a lot of space to store things like bulk bags of flour or beans or whatever, or adequate freezer space to store large bags of frozen vegetables. My apartment has only a mini-fridge, so 1 or 2 bags of frozen vegetables is about all that fits. I can’t buy loads of produce and make large meals, because if I don’t eat most of it that day, there’s not much space to refrigerate or freeze leftovers. I’ve lived a place or two with the same problem as a child, which significantly limited what my mother could cook and store. This means I can either cook small meals every day (which involves a significant amount of time) or I can eat crap instant food.

    For those of you arguing about the prices of food itself, please keep in mind that there are numerous other factors to be taken into consideration. As others have said, why not act in good faith and assume that individuals telling you that they’re making the best decisions that they can know what they’re talking about?

  57. Elisabeth
    October 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Hmmm….RD seemed to get the point of my comment.
    As someone who has *also* worked for food justice, people are making lots of erroneous assumptions about my post. It was clearly about the sorts of people (like the photographer in the NY Times article) who perpetuate the dichotomy between organic, out -of-season delicacies and McDonalds. The only people I know who would ever buy out of season organic blueberries are wealthy people who don’t cook. (I mean, buying in season produce is the first lesson in: “Money: it doesn’t grow on trees”). So my point is that anyone who would point to organic, out of season blueberries as a way to eat healthily (compared to McDonalds) is a) purposely exaggerating a point beyond all reason, or b) probably a wealthy yuppie who doesn’t cook.
    I am firmly aware most people (outside those who write for the NY Times, and some people on this thread) are aware that there are more options between those two. I also frankly don’t care if people eat cheeseburgers for every meal. I do care that people have access to things other than cheeseburgers. But. I *also* get annoyed when these same privileged people make comments like, “I don’t own a car. How can I buy vegetables?” Like somehow, vegetable eating is only the provenance of people with cars? Or totally overlook grassroots organizing efforts by people in food deserts to grow their own produce and arrange for farmer’s markets in food deserts. Systematic change needs to happen, and I don’t see whats so great about ignoring/denigrating those who are organizing for systematic change in their own communities (and instead focusing on the Jamie Olivers in the movement) while saying, “let them eat cheeseburgers.”

    I also think America has a culture that is hostile to vegetables, and a focus on meat. This is true across all class or social strata. Many people *can* buy vegetables but feel that it would be too difficult, or don’t know what to do with them. This is a problem as well. This isn’t a class issue: wealthy people are often just as incompetent or intimidated by vegetables, it’s just they have more room to experiment, screw up, and then decide to get sushi. There is a major push in South Chicago to have African American farmers south of the city sell their produce in church parking lots in the area. These farmers say that they bring fresh, organic produce in, sell it for much below grocery store prices, and yet their biggest problem is getting customers. Some people are like, “tomatoes, what are those?” Obviously, in addition to access and affordability, ingrained eating habits are important. Exposure to food is important. If your parent cooks, you are probably more likely to cook yourself. If your parent eats lots of vegetables and makes you eat them too, you will probably grow up being comfortable with vegetables. The truth is, most people under thirty don’t cook, at any class level. This is bad for everyone, however like most problems, it disproportionately affects the poor in negative ways.

  58. narduar
    October 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    You know, movement doesn’t work without trust. We can’t always be helicopter-parenting the oppressed, like, hey buddy sure you can cook a meal but do you mind if I stick around just to make sure you make good purchasing decisions?

    Like, at some point you have to just put your faith in the oppressed, let go of the internalized assumptions that their socioeconomic position is partially due to personal shortcomings. You have to recognize that they’re just as informed, resourceful, and hard-working as you are, if not more.

    And furthermore, the little tips and lessons in the face of a machine as formidable and crushing as poverty are like fending off a horde of mosquitoes by brandishing a toothpick. “Coupons! Use those coupons!” As though poor people just need to get through the next six months and then they’ll rise into middle class and everything will be fine. But if you’re looking at spending your life poor – which most poor people will do – this is not a sustainable strategy. Because there’s no sustainable strategy. That’s what it means to be poor, you can’t live sustainably; you’re going to get sick or injured or traumatized.

    Like what these tips and “but you can!” comments suggest is, with enough spit and polish you can make poverty into a manageable, tolerable lifestyle. One with a sufficiently healthy diet, a sufficient amount of sleep, sufficient everything. You won’t have any luxuries, sure, but with enough work you can make your resources suffice. Which is total BS. By definition you can’t make a poverty lifestyle work, because there’s not enough effing money!

    If it takes something so small as “better budgeting” or “canned food” to solve your financial woes, you are not poor. Like, a lot of us in this thread are tacitly operating on the assumption that you’re going to slowly work your way out of poverty, that it’s almost the innate way of things – with the passage of time, you’ll somehow get richer. But for many poor people, especially because of this recession, you just get poorer and poorer. And a losing $20 or getting mugged or the cost of milk going up is going to blow your little penny-saving plans right out of the water.

    Like, poverty is systemically designed without any upward path you can stumble onto, without any exit routes or loopholes. You don’t have mobility. You don’t have leverage. You don’t have the assurance of knowing that eventually you’ll make more money, even though it’s “hard times” now.

    If you knew that you were going to be poor indefinitely, if you genuinely don’t have enough money to rise above subsistence, you might live differently than you’d expect. It might not involve the meticulous cutting of coupons and a montage scene with peppy music showing how hard you work and how you slowly reach your financial goal.

    Like, let the poor people have their effing ice cream. Donate to your food bank and don’t wonder whether someone is taking more than they “should”, give to the homeless and don’t wonder whether they’ll invest your two dollars in a rent deposit. Trust that they are doing the best they can do, after all, they’re the ones whose lives depend on it.

    You cannot help people if you don’t trust them and respect them, right? Right?

  59. October 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Raise your hand if you live in flyover country…not “grew up in flyover country in the 1970s before all the jobs left”. I mean, live here now or have lived here in the recent past.

    Because seriously….I hate having these conversations with folks who live in a major metropolis with 24/7 bus service. Most of the urban rust belt is filled with food deserts. There is more “food desert” out here than there is easily accessible grocery stores. It didn’t used to be this way. Neighborhoods used to have grocery stores in them, but not any more. Now, the grocery stores are by the highway interchanges—difficult to get to, especially in cities where the bus doesn’t go that far (or, bus service ends at 5:30PM, or, there is no bus to begin with). Small towns don’t have grocery stores anymore. They have a Casey’s gas station with a pizza joint and/or Subway sandwich shop attached.

    So there’s one barrier—getting to the place to buy stuff. There are a hell of a lot more barriers than that.

    I didn’t grow up poor. I grew up working class, and in a family of people with a serious love for cooking and serious skills. Food was who we were. Serious like cancer, y’know? Even when money was tight, we ate well. So it was a big shock to me to enter the world of low-wage adulthood and not be able to eat right….even having a broad repertoire of cooking knowledge and skills, and knowing how to eat cheap. I couldn’t afford to live in a neighborhood anywhere near a grocery store, and I couldn’t afford a car. Buses didn’t run in the evening. I couldn’t afford decent cooking utensils, so prep took considerably more time (and was really difficult to negotiate with no counters…just a folding card table that was the “everything” table). My sink was only four inches deep….hard to wash in. My fridge was pint-sized…bigger than a dorm fridge, but smaller than the standard apartment-type fridge…it looked like vintage 50s gear. It wouldn’t keep ice cold. I couldn’t afford spices….the spices necessary to make cheap food taste good. And the level of roach and rodent infestation in that place made food storage a really bad idea, even if I had the means to buy in bulk.

    Then I got into the apprenticeship, and started making decent money. The first thing that changed was the way I ate. My mouth no longer had cracks on the sides from vitamin deficiency.

    Now I have a car; a great collection of cooking, prep and baking ware; and a full-size, fully-working stove and fridge. I have a basement pantry to store bulk food in, and a freezer to keep cold stuff in. I even have a garden (but it didn’t do too well this year).

    But you know, I still sometimes fall down on the “eating right” front. Sometimes, I resort to convenience foods, even though they can’t hold a candle to homemade. Sometimes, we get takeout. Because even with all my advantages, there’s still only 24 hours in a day, and I’m 43 years old. I can’t burn the candle at both ends like I used to and be functional the next day. I’m a single mother who works two jobs (one full-time, one part-time, and that’s not including another occasional job). I also need time to work out (for physical and mental health) as well as set aside space for self-care….whether that’s meditation, creativity, or just plain putting my damn feet up and having downtime. I neglected my own mental health, creativity and spiritual needs for years….fuck that shit, I’m not doing that anymore. If takeout means a night for myself instead of cooking and dishes—then I’m taking advantage.

    Because of that, I’m inclined to give all the benefit of the doubt in the world to actual poor people who are working as much or more hours than I am, with more children (or other challenges), with fewer resources. Because for all the lack of grocery stores in my neighborhood, there are umpteen fast-food joints, package liquors, and gas stations with “convenience” stores (translation: overpriced frozen dinners/pizza) to choose from. Oh sure, you can get some canned peaches there….for $1.79 a can (as opposed to the .59 you’d spend at the store).

    Don’t even get me started on the farmer’s market and the boutique prices there….

  60. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Jill: Must be nice to know the details of everyone’s lives based on their comments on the internet. Maybe check some of your assumptions and respond to what people are actually writing, rather than coming in with a set of ideas about who you’re talking to and what their lives have been like.  (Quote this comment?)

    I meant “better at making ends meet/eating less expensively” not “better in general” sorry. Should have been more clear.

    And I know you cook some cuz you talk about it, but I also know you are a lawyer and grew up in a similar class, because you talk about these things.

  61. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    But, it is a good point about the food deserts. I sort-of live in flyover country right now, and have lived elsewhere in it, but not in a food desert at any point really, or never in a very bad one. So that is true.

  62. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    And I would be hugely hypocritical if I felt like there was something wrong with “falling down on eating right.” I don’t. I just, like Elizabeth, get annoyed with the way this is framed here.

  63. RD
    October 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t think anyone is arguing with that narduar. I’m not.

  64. syndella
    October 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    April: Why is this even turning into one of those “eating healthy if you’re not a billionaire is absolutely impossible so shut up about it completely” vs. “eating healthy isn’t that expensive, so stop being lazy” arguments? This is laughably predictable. April

    Omg, if you could step back from your privilege for just a second, you’d see that there is no middle ground here. How can you expect people to get to the grocery store when they don’t even have boots?

  65. Miss S
    October 23, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    If takeout means a night for myself instead of cooking and dishes—then I’m taking advantage.

    Agreed. While eating healthy takes money, it also takes time. It doesn’t always have to involve hours or preparation, but that’s still time spent that some people just don’t have. If you been at work for 12 hours without eating, the last thing you want to do is go home and cook anything. Sometimes I try to make food in advance to heat up, especially because my stomach doesn’t handle a lot of fast food well, but that still involves time.
    I read this somewhere else, but someone said that 30 minutes spent on cooking was 30 minutes not doing something else- helping kids with homework, doing laundry, taking a bath and relaxing, etc. I can understand not having the time, or having the time but wanting to do something else with it.

    To clarify my spoiled and entitled children comment: I’m not suggesting that refusing to eat certain foods is always spoiled and entitled. I am suggesting that any child who makes a habit of refusing to eat the dinner his/her family prepares and demanding something else simply because they can, is spoiled and entitled. I don’t think anyone expects anyone to eat food they don’t like or are allergic to.

  66. October 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Why are such children relevant? I was accused of such behavior when I refused to eat food that genuinely made me sick to the point of vomiting. Better to trust children when they say they don’t like something than try to dissect their motives because they exceeded their “I don’t like this” quota or some such thing.

  67. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Elisabeth,

    Look, I’ll accept that you didn’t mean to disparage the coping strategies of the poor, but you didn’t talk about structural changes in your original post. You talked about the poor needing to do better. And even in this last post you returned to the idea that some of the poor have access they just don’t know what to do with it.

    I call bullshit on how you’re framing this issue. This is not about the poor needing more education per se. They more time and money and access. Education isn’t going to shit for someone who can’t afford the vegetables, can’t store the vegetables and don’t have time to prepare the vegetables. And calling bullshit on this framing is not denying the great work that people are doing to help people. But that help is sporadic and inconsistent. It helps some people but a lot of people, including a lot of people on this thread are saying that your strategies do not work. So stop making this issue about what poor people do or don’t do, can or can’t do.

    If you want to help, awesome. But do it by giving power not by criticizing or blaming and the things you’re saying come off as criticizing and blaming.

  68. Elisabeth
    October 24, 2010 at 3:46 am

    Kristin J
    Uh no. Are poor people wealthy yuppies who don’t cook? No. Then my original post was not about poor people. What I don’t like is people with privilege (like *anyone* with internet access who comments on feministe) being like “omg!!! what about the poor peoples!!! they can’t eat organic, out of season blueberries!! therefore, the only other option is McDonalds.” (e.g: the NY Times photographer, the original post, and the people writing things like, “I don’t have a car. I can’t eat vegetables.”) Of course being poor and eating healthy is difficult. Of course there are actual people who live in such difficult circumstances that eating well is almost impossible (I would argue that is number is much smaller than the relatively wealthy people who comment on this blog think exist, but whatever.) My point is that the people who promote education are often the very same people who are from underprivileged communities who *also* are working for structural change. And for a majority of Americans, structural forces which work against both logistics *and* education/ingrained eating habits (where are all the vegetable commercials to counteract the fast food or pop tarts commercials), both of which need to be addressed. This isn’t a radical point, nor is it saying “poor people need to eat brown rice, otherwise they are immoral slobs.” Quite the opposite. As I’ve said before, if you live on ramen, or big macs, or sugar out of a sack, I really don’t care. I don’t care *at all* what people choose to eat. What I *do* care about is access to food. I care that poor people have shorter life spans. That they are more likely to die of diabetes and cancer at earlier ages. That their food choices are constrained by large corporations that don’t give a rat’s ass about health or the good of society. That structural forces work against eating healthy foods. And I really dislike corporate agriculture shilling that pretends to call people out on privilege.

    But going back to the original point of the article, I dislike how it’s framed that eating vegetables is only for the elite, because that is *exactly* the point that corporate food wants people to believe. Except for pretty extreme circumstances, it is not impossible to eat vegetables. Difficult and unpleasant? Maybe. But not impossible. And for Americans who are not poor AND living in extreme food deserts? It is much easier than people think it is. The problem is there is a huge structure, backed by billions of advertising and lobbying dollars, convincing people that it is harder than it is. Why? Because for every pop tart you eat instead of carrot, you are costing corporate agriculture money. For every big mac you eat instead of canned green beans, you are costing corporate agriculture money. *That* is why it is in the interests of those in power to perpetuate this whole “only out of touch wealthy latte liberals eat vegetables” stereotype. It is easier for the cattle lobby to somehow make beef the food of the poor and cabbage the food of the rich, and we can have an entire thread where pretty much no one calls that into question.

  69. Elisabeth
    October 24, 2010 at 3:49 am

    Uh, ok sentence fail in my above post
    Because for every pop tart you eat instead of carrot, you are costing corporate agriculture money. For every big mac you eat instead of canned green beans, you are costing corporate agriculture money.
    I mean exactly the opposite. Eating carrots costs corporate agriculture money, not pop tarts, etc. The less processed the food, the less profit can be made on it.

  70. Joe
    October 24, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Is food even a big factor in the obesity epidemic? Alcohol is terribly fattening and poor people drink a lot.

  71. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Joe: Is food even a big factor in the obesity epidemic? Alcohol is terribly fattening and poor people drink a lot. Joe

    **headdesk**

    Or not….Drinking Statistics by Income

  72. October 24, 2010 at 7:51 am

    So, I’m poor. Or at least I’m on social assistance. I live in an area where grocery stores are not exactly thick on the ground, but I can get to one with the aid of public transit (I obtained a bus pass through the university, since while I am currently not a student [due to my lack of money], I do have a small part-time job there).

    Perhaps, if I devoted a lot of time to it, I could live on fresh food. Perhaps, in fact, it would be cheaper than the way I currently live on prefab frozen meals ($1.75-$2 each) and cereal ($4 or $5 for a box at the easiest-to-access stores).

    But I can’t. It’s not a matter of not knowing how to cook–I do. It’s a matter of not having the mental energy/wherewithal/motivation to do so most days. Part of this is the energy it takes to go out and obtain food, certainly. Part of it is the energy it takes to prepare it. So, I spend more than I would if I devoted all of my time (or at least a substantial chunk of it) to figuring out the least-expensive way to eat, and am probably less healthy.

    But you know what? That’s what works for me. Of course it’s not perfect–I’d like to have money that lasts until the end of the month, for one thing–but it’s all I can do.

    And if anyone judges me for that, or tells me I just need to “try harder” (things people have done), then fuck them. They do not know my circumstances. Even if–and this is important–they are poor themselves, they do not know the circumstances of my life, specifically, and they can’t assume I’ve not already THOUGHT about the options, and concluded that this is the best I can do right now.

  73. October 24, 2010 at 8:43 am

    So, I’m poor. Or at least I’m on social assistance. I live in an area where grocery stores are not exactly thick on the ground, but I can get to one with the aid of public transit (I obtained a bus pass through the university, since while I am currently not a student [due to my lack of money], I do have a small part-time job there).

    Perhaps, if I devoted a lot of time to it, I could live on fresh food. Perhaps, in fact, it would be cheaper than the way I currently live on prefab frozen meals ($1.75-$2 each) and cereal ($4 or $5 for a box at the easiest-to-access stores).

    But I can’t. It’s not a matter of not knowing how to cook–I do. It’s a matter of not having the mental energy/wherewithal/motivation to do so most days. Part of this is the energy it takes to go out and obtain food, certainly. Part of it is the energy it takes to prepare it. So, I spend more than I would if I devoted all of my time (or at least a substantial chunk of it) to figuring out the least-expensive way to eat, and am probably less healthy.

    But you know what? That’s what works for me. Of course it’s not perfect–I’d like to have money that lasts until the end of the month, for one thing–but it’s all I can do.

    And if anyone judges me for that, or tells me I just need to “try harder” (things people have done), then fuck them. They do not know my circumstances. Even if–and this is important–they are poor themselves, they do not know the circumstances of my life, specifically, and they can’t assume I’ve not already THOUGHT about the options, and concluded that this is the best I can do right now.

    This right here. The incredibly common argument that anyone can live off of fresh produce, even those in poverty, is not just incredibly classist but also ableist. There are so many of us that just cannot cook or prepare meals on a regular basis. If I do that during the winter, I can wind up in bed for hours afterwards because all of my energy is spent.

    I enjoy cooking, I really do, and wish I could do it more often. Largely in part because I have dietary restrictions that I can only factor in with my own home cooked meals – pretty much every frozen or pre-prepared meal includes ingredients that make me physically ill and put me in pain. But often I have to eat them anyway because I just do not have the energy to prepare a meal myself. Especially if I want to stay awake afterwards. It’s less painful if I eat organic frozen meals, but those ones are more expensive.

    Also, from the perspective of someone who’s physical health is partially reliant on the availability of organic food? Also not so workable. Because sure, that food will in some ways make me feel better in the long run, but it also wears me out to prepare it in the short run. Even if I can get it for cheap(er?) (which isn’t always possible, organic groceries are expensive and not everyone has access to farmer’s markets in the wee hours of the morning when things are actually available before the rush), the pain and fatigue is its own cost. And if I’m on the floor or couch in pain as a result of trying to eat healthy, how exactly am I supposed to tell if I’m actually “getting healthy” as a result?

    Want to make living in poverty healthier? Work toward making pre-prepared meals cheaper and healthier. Because a large portion of people in poverty are those with disabilities, who have limited amounts of energy to do what they need to do throughout the day and life and thus often don’t have the energy to cook or prepare their own meals.

  74. October 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

    When you’re done sneering at us ignorant working class fatties with our bratty kids, please do a little research.

    There are grassroots movements all around the country engaged in political organizing on food rights (something’s happening, Reg!).

    In Minneapolis, we have First Nations Kitchen, Food not Bombs, Sister Camelot Food Bus and Mennonites cooking and serving food on vacant land (article on the latter is in Twin Cities Daily Planet; search for West Bank and Food). I’d add the links, but my comment would wait in moderation.

    Detroit has a huge urban agriculture movement (again, Google it).

    These are the things that make huge impact and teach us the tools for making a better world. They take time, effort and stubborn determination. And they are working. We need your help.

  75. Random Process
    October 24, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I’m rich now. We get organic veggies at Whole Foods, my wife spends a lot of time in the kitchen, next year I might semi-retire and start a garden and just grow our own produce. Thing is, we’re very lucky. Sure, I worked hard and so did my wife, but even if everyone in the world has our God-given talents, luck of birth and birthplace, opportunities, and lifetime of work, they aren’t all going to end up wealthy.

    When I was poor, and single, I used to eat Ramen noodles cooked on a camp stove. I didn’t have the money for Whole Foods, I didn’t have a wife who wanted to stay at home and do domestic things, and even if I had I wouldn’t have been able to afford to maintain that kind of privileged household. I certainly didn’t have time or energy for fresh veggies and home cooking.

    It’s great to devote some energy towards making good food more accessible to our poorer neighbors, but let’s avoid the right-wing trap of blaming the poor neighbors for their food situation. Mostly, they didn’t do it, and they don’t have the tools they need to fix the situation the way we might like to see it fixed.

  76. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Elisabeth: I think that inability to cook vegetables and/or a lack of experience eating vegetables makes them seem more intimidating. My guess if people were more comfortable with vegetables, they wouldn’t seem so out of reach logistically, even in food deserts. Elisabeth

    Elisabeth…you said this. Where were the wealthy in this statement?

  77. Elisabeth
    October 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I also think America has a culture that is hostile to vegetables, and a focus on meat. This is true across all class or social strata. Many people *can* buy vegetables but feel that it would be too difficult, or don’t know what to do with them. This is a problem as well. This isn’t a class issue: wealthy people are often just as incompetent or intimidated by vegetables, it’s just they have more room to experiment, screw up, and then decide to get sushi.

    Oh, here I must be judging the only judging the poor. Too bad I don’t ever mention wealthy people in my posts, or point out that America’s f–ed up eating system affects *everyone* at all class levels, except it affects poor people the most, so that is why it is a social justice issue. But, don’t bother *actually* reading any of my posts, because straw(wo)men are much more fun to argue with.

  78. Jadey
    October 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Elizabeth, you can’t claim not to care what people eat and then turn around and talk about how every time we eat pop tarts and big macs we are shilling for Big Agro. You may not want to care what people buy and eat, but clearly you do because of the links you see between what we eat and corporate industry. Also, it would be nice if you stopped blaming people for being hoodwinked corporate stooges long enough to listen to people on this thread describe the barriers that they actually encounter or have encountered when trying to eat the way they want to eat, rather than telling them that the barriers are all in their minds because they are corporate slaves. There are people here who are and have been poor, even though you are convinced otherwise.

    Miss S, I appreciate the clarification, but I continue to disagree that those children, who make imperious demands simply because they can and not for any other reason, exist the way you describe them in any substantial numbers.

  79. Kristen J.
    October 24, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Elisabeth,

    Oh for the love of god. I didn’t say you only talked about the poor, but as Jadey has explained with more patience than I have available, your posts still engage in this blaming and accusatory behavior. Maybe its because you came into this thread assuming that everyone here was wealthy yuppies…I don’t know…but you keep saying things that criticize how poor people manage their lives and talk down to them. If you aren’t happy with your own words, then change them. If you didn’t mean what others have interpreted as your comments, then explain. But don’t pretend you didn’t say that poor people should do better, that they really have access, that they are just “intimidated” by vegetables, that they can’t cook, and that their concerns about public transportation are invalid.

  80. Bagelsan
    October 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    But going back to the original point of the article, I dislike how it’s framed that eating vegetables is only for the elite, because that is *exactly* the point that corporate food wants people to believe. … *That* is why it is in the interests of those in power to perpetuate this whole “only out of touch wealthy latte liberals eat vegetables” stereotype.

    I think I must be reading Elisabeth much more generously than everyone else, ’cause I think she makes some good points (like the above) that are lost in the kerfuffle. I think that a lot of times these conversations really do too-unquestioningly accept the framing that vegetables are rich people food, or not a realistic part of an American diet, or whatever. I think it would be much better to look at it less as “how can the poor break into the mysterious and elite world of veggie-eating?” which is the vibe I often get from these discussions.

    And I’m somewhat mystified about the idea that the poor universally know everything they need and then make the best possible decisions… Does any group of people do that? I don’t do that. Surely it’s sufficient to understand that people of any economic class make about the same number of good vs. dumbass decisions? I’m willing to believe that there are people who would love to cook more but can’t, just like there are people who reflexively say “what, veggies? Gross” … educating people in the second group (of any income level) doesn’t strike me as patronizing or shaming. (Obviously education is not sufficient, but isn’t it necessary?)

  81. Neville Park
    October 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Well, though it seems like the thread’s mostly over I’d like to emphasize what narduar said:

    And furthermore, the little tips and lessons in the face of a machine as formidable and crushing as poverty are like fending off a horde of mosquitoes by brandishing a toothpick. “Coupons! Use those coupons!” As though poor people just need to get through the next six months and then they’ll rise into middle class and everything will be fine. But if you’re looking at spending your life poor – which most poor people will do – this is not a sustainable strategy. […] If it takes something so small as “better budgeting” or “canned food” to solve your financial woes, you are not poor.

    Like Dorian, I’m on social assistance, and those little money-saving tips, and the chirpy reassurances that it is possible to eat healthy on a budget, and the patronizing assumptions that poor people are intimidated by vegetables, or have never heard of foldable wheelie-carts, or using coupons—though I know they’re said with the best intentions, are just incredibly insulting. It was insulting when I was living paycheque-to-paycheque, unable to afford a chef’s knife or cutting board that wasn’t from the dollar store, let alone a microwave, toaster, or soup pot, and too tired and ill to cook half the time anyway. And now that I’m on welfare…

    Here is Canada’s Low Income Cutoff (table 3), the annual income at which you’re considered poor. Here are my province’s social assistance amounts. Do the math: take the LICO, divide it by three, and that’s about what you get on social assistance. In Toronto, you’re lucky if that covers rent and bills, let alone food.

    In the face of such massive, systemic, government-perpetuated oppression, a consumer’s individual choices effect no substantial change. We don’t need helpful middle-class advice on nutrition. We need food bank donations, and support for the sort of programs Ravenmn mentions, and affordable rent-geared-to-income housing, and a higher minimum wage, and social assistance and disability amounts increased, and better public transit, and things like prescription drugs and dentistry covered under public health insurance…basically, the whole social safety net. Conversations that ignore the big picture (and the voices of actual low-income people) in favour of scrutinizing individuals are a waste of everyone’s time.

  82. Cel
    October 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    A while back there was a Pandagon article that discussed the fact that 26% of Americans eat 3 servings of vegetables a day (the recommended is 4-5).

    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/americans_really_dont_eat_their_greens/

    In that thread, people were finally admitting that the reason they did not eat vegetables was not because they could not, but simply because they were too lazy or actively chose not to eat them. This makes sense, given the fact that most Americans do in fact have electricity, knives, a stove, and access to grocery stores. Of course you wouldn’t think that judging from the posts here.

    Comment 8 from the Pandagon article:

    One of my husband’s family members eats complete crap all the time. His entire diet consists of burgers, ribs, steak and anything else that’s awful for you. We went out to dinner recently and he actually removed the lettuce and tomato from his burger!

    Comment 15:

    at the risk of sounding morbidly lazy, having to dice up a cucumber and put it into a bowl means washing two–possibly even three–dishes.

    Here’s a picture of some fruits and vegetables I bought.

    http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh207/celdazero/IMG_1872.jpg

    There is a box of strawberries, 2.67 lbs of bananas, asparagus, one orange weighing 0.65 lbs in the corner, a bag of red pepper / green pepper / squash, and 1.14 lbs broccoli.

    The total price: $5.69.

  83. October 24, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    @Cel: A couple of questions.

    1) What kind of neighbourhood do you live in? Do you have a car? Do you work hours where you can actually get to a grocery store while it’s still open? Because all of these effect the price you are going to pay for food.

    2) Do you realise that for some people, washing 2 or 3 dishes can, in fact, be a major deterrent? Me, for example. And not because of laziness. As I said above, I have significant executive function issues. A lot of the time (most of the time), were I to be responsible for washing dishes, they would not get done. I am lucky in that I have housemates who are understanding of my disabilities for the most part–not everyone has that. Today I subsisted mostly on candy, because it was in my room (so I didn’t have to pull my focus together for more than a couple of seconds), easy calories, and requires little cleanup.

    3) Basically, did you pay attention, at all, to the reasons people were giving for not eating in a way you consider healthy enough? Many people have addressed this, and that’s just in this thread! This is not a new argument, and it’s easy enough to find MORE people talking about the issues with access to food, using very little time googling.

    People’s food choices are their own, and generally people know what they are and are not capable of doing, food-wise. People are capable of knowing what they want to do foodwise as well, and that’s no-one’s business but their own. Truly.

    And if you really want to help people, the way is to open up more choices for them. And the way to do that is to fix the goddamn infrastructure, not insist that poor people could eat fresh if they only Changed Their Ways.

  84. Jadey
    October 24, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    @ Cel

    So what you’re saying is a Pandagon thread trumps a Feministe thread?

    I’m not an American, but I *am* starting to associate eating vegetables with pointed fingers and shaming. Never thought something might actually ruin my appetite for Brussels sprouts (mm, roasted with cream and lemon), but there you go. Fortunately none of this has detracted from my thorough enjoyment of a pop tart this afternoon.

  85. Steph
    October 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I’ve been poor before – a few years ago I was 18, just moved out on my own(so had nothing), and supported myself and my unemployed boyfriend on $800 a month, with over half going towards rent. We lived in one of those awesome no-kitchen tiny-fridge suites, in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. I had a second-hand electric frying pan and spatula that I could use to make rice, soup, pasta, stir fry, fried potatoes, pancakes, etc. We didn’t do fast food – I woke up at 4:30 every morning and commuted an hour each way to work, which was a very physical hospital kitchen job, I got sick all the time from being around sick people, and spent a lot of time being very sick and exhausted, and STILL cooked proper, healthy meals damn near every night. If people don’t want to cook because they’re lazy, fine, that’s acceptable, but don’t try to make bs excuses like “healthy food is expensive” or “I’m too tired”.

  86. Cel
    October 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Dorian,

    We live in between the wealthiest and poorest neighbourhood in the city (Vancouver, British Columbia), as the two are right next to each other 1. No car, and the store we bought the vegetables at in the picture is open 8am-6pm 7 days a week.

    “2) Do you realise that for some people, washing 2 or 3 dishes can, in fact, be a major deterrent? Me, for example. And not because of laziness. As I said above, I have significant executive function issues”

    Ok, if you have multiple sclerosis or some mental disorder that’s a good excuse. Does that apply to the average American?

    “People’s food choices are their own, and generally people know what they are and are not capable of doing, food-wise. People are capable of knowing what they want to do foodwise as well, and that’s no-one’s business but their own. Truly.”

    This is simply false. For most Americans, the reason is not that they are incapable.

    Laziness: People admit that they are too lazy to cut a cucumber and wash a dish.

    Active choice: People admit to taking out lettuce from a hamburger.

    Ignorance: People think they live in a food desert, yet are unaware of grocery delivery options that are either equivalent in price or cheaper to grocery stores that service their whole city.

    And before you start shouting about “prviliege” many of these delivery services allow cash payment, ordering through phone or speaking to them in person (no Internet needed), etc.

    “So what you’re saying is a Pandagon thread trumps a Feministe thread?”

    No, I’m saying that people on Pandagon are the same as people on Feministe: not eating vegetables because they don’t want to, not because they can’t.

  87. October 24, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Steph, your personal narrative doesn’t trump other people’s. Your reducing, say, disabled people saying that they. cannot. to laziness is such a ridiculous, done and insulting trope. Sometimes I cannot stand up to cook. That is not laziness. Your experience? Not universal.

    Cel, it’s false that people’s food choices are their own? What? And we all have access to grocery delivery options in the cities we supposedly live in?

    This thread is so fucking ridiculous, so full of condescending assumptions, I don’t know where to start.

  88. October 24, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Cel, those are beautiful vegetables. I think it’s wonderful that you were able to buy them all for only $5.69. (did you buy them all at the same store, or did you have to drive around and make three different stops to get the best price?)

    Remember what I said about flyover country up above? Here’s my estimate on what the same haul would cost me, based on my knowledge of prices gleaned from weekly shopping. I base these prices on typical sale prices I see at the store I most often use, and no other store—I simply don’t have the time luxury to drive to several stores for my weekly shopping. Anyway:

    4 3-packs of green peppers at $1.00 a pack = $4.00
    (yellow and red peppers are always $1.00 apiece)
    1 bunch bananas = $0.79
    3 bunches asparagus at $1.79 each = $5.37
    1 bunch broccoli = $1.59
    1 orange = $0.50
    1 package strawberries (out of season) = $3.25
    Total estimated cost = $15.50

    I’m not shopping at a boutique store, nor am I buying organic for any of that….that’s just how much veggies cost in flyover country. (And actually, I just went to the store’s website and found out how generous I was….this week’s cost for asparagus would be $2.50 a bunch, and closer to $2.00 for the broccoli).

    Which isn’t to say I don’t do it. I do, but I have the luxury of a decent paycheck, a car to transport me the distance required to the store (while I am able-bodied and physically active, it would take far too much time to walk there), and a fridge/freezer that will keep food well—it won’t spoil in three days (also: the store I use has a good shelf-life for fresh veggies. I tried a store that was supposedly “cheaper”, but the food was sketchy…poor condition on the shelf and wouldn’t keep.)

    I usually spend $40-50 bucks a week on fruits/vegetables. For two people (3 meals a day). I cook vegetable-heavy dinners (common with people not of northern-European heritage). That’s not going to break my bank, but that is enough to break the bank of someone making $12 an hour and trying to feed three or four people.

  89. Cel
    October 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    “Cel, it’s false that people’s food choices are their own? What? And we all have access to grocery delivery options in the cities we supposedly live in?”

    Dorian claimed that people eat as best they can, and if they don’t eat vegetables or cook healthy meals it’s because they “know what they are and are not capable of doing.”

    I said that was false; it’s not because people are incapable, but because they don’t want to or mistakenly think they are incapable.

    You say you cannot stand up to cook, and that makes sense. I accept that many people with unique problems such as executive function issues are going to be unable to cook, let alone cook healthily.

    I don’t accept that 76% of Americans have physical or mental disabilities preventing them from cooking. Because that’s false.

    For MOST AMERICANS, they can eat healthy, they just don’t. Don’t give me anything about disabilities, that does not apply for the average American.

    “And we all have access to grocery delivery options in the cities we supposedly live in?”

    I accept that people who live in rural or exurban areas can have problems accessing fruits and vegetables. If you live in the middle of nowhere, I won’t argue with you that you live in a food desert.

    If you live in a city, which over eighty percent of Americans do, then you have no excuse. Grocery deliveries service most major cities. For example, someone complained about not having grocery stores in Washington DC.

    A quick google of “Washington DC grocery delivery” provided several results for services.

  90. October 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Ignorance: People think they live in a food desert, yet are unaware of grocery delivery options that are either equivalent in price or cheaper to grocery stores that service their whole city.

    Y’know how you type in “theatre” in a search engine and up jumps several references for the theatres nearest you? Well, I typed in “grocery delivery” and voila! several choices of stores were available in Elmhurst, Illinois.

    A mere four solid hours from where I live.

    How fitting you prefaced that sentence with “ignorance”.

  91. Jadey
    October 24, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Cel: No, I’m saying that people on Pandagon are the same as people on Feministe: not eating vegetables because they don’t want to, not because they can’t. Cel

    There’s no grounds for that assumption – the population of people who frequent different blogs are self-selected and there are plenty of reasons why someone might visit and/or comment on one blog and not another, which can have an impact on the types of experiences represented. Even on the same blog, differences between the arguments, information, and perspectives represented in the original posts will be more supportive of one kind of response (be it agreement or pushback) compared to others.

    Not to mention that of your two examples, one was describing an interpretation of someone else’s experience and the other one said “at the risk of sounding morbidly lazy”, which is hardly the same thing as self-identifying as lazy, but rather acknowledging that a lot people don’t take the barrier of washing dishes seriously.

    Also, you know, everything that La Lubu and Dorian and Chally said.

    Also, I have lived near the neighbourhood of Vancouver in which you live (I was closer to Davie Street and it sounds like you live more north than that but still in the West End, if I read you correctly), and it had the best and easiest access to fresh and affordable food of any city I’ve lived in. In particular, moving to the prairies (Canada’s midwest, for anyone not sure what that refers to) has seriously challenged my understanding of food access.

    • October 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

      You know, I don’t doubt that Cel is party right — there almost certainly are tons and tons of people who don’t eat vegetables because they don’t want to make the effort. I really like vegetables, actually, but I am sometimes one of those people! Tonight, for example, I am making myself pasta with ricotta and tomato sauce instead of, say, baked fall root vegetables, which is what I made the other night when I had more time. I could be making better choices. Tonight I choose not to. Most people I know actually really enjoy food and are also committed to cooking and eating healthy meals, but of course I’ve seen folks who just order from Domino’s and call it a day, or who don’t put effort into fruit and vegetable eating, but who maybe could.

      So ok, if that’s the case, where do we go? Does branding all of those folks as “lazy” and insisting they eat their vegetables really help anyone? “Laziness” is a sliding scale — tonight I’m being “lazy” and cooking the pasta I have at home because I have a ton of work to do, and an hour-long commitment to cooking vegetables (which requires a trip to the market and then cook time) means an hour less sleep for me, on what is already going to be a late night. I’m also short on cash at the moment, and would prefer to cook what I already have at home (which is not fresh vegetables). Are there physical impediments, like a disability, that are in the way of my cooking a healthier meal? No. But there are realistic impediments nonetheless, and I take them into account when deciding what to make. As do others. The calculus is usually a little more complex than just “I hate vegetables, give me McDonald’s.”

      So the next question is: If Americans “just don’t” eat healthy, why is that? It does seem that Americans don’t eat as well as people in some other countries, and we have the health complications to prove it. But is that really just because we are a collectively lazy bunch, or are there some structural and cultural issues there too? Given that there probably are some major structural and cultural impediments to healthy eating, does it really help to attack individuals as “lazy” for not eating as many veggies as would be ideal? If the end goal is to improve public health generally, doesn’t it make more sense to frame this conversation as “How can we give people access to healthy food, and how can we make sure that people have the skill set to prepare healthy food, and how can we promote a culture that actually values leisure time so that people have the time to prepare healthy food?” instead of “Americans are too lazy to cook”?

      It’s also worth noting that the fast food industry has spent billions of dollars developing chemicals that make fast food physically addictive. Vegetables don’t have the same appeal when your body is literally hooked on a certain type of food product. Which isn’t exactly what we’re talking about here, but it’s one part of the problem.

  92. Jadey
    October 24, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Oh, except for cheese. The west coast is hell for cheese lovers.

  93. October 24, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Cel, lots of people are incapable. I didn’t say that I cannot stand up to cook, I said that I sometimes cannot. Disability is not a unique “problem,” about one in five Americans are disabled, as long as we’re talking about the US. Disabled people face systemic issues and you’re just pulling us back to the individualised rubbish that has been taken apart earlier in this thread. Between that and the rural/urban thing, you’re taking the most normalised discourse where we try to talk about the people on the margins and include everyone in systemic discussions here at Feministe. You’ll not be treating disabled people like special snowflakes on a disabled person’s blog.

  94. October 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    If you live in a city, which over eighty percent of Americans do,

    In Illinois, the legal definition of a “city” is anything over 2,500 people. Meanwhile, most “cities” of less than 5,000 and many with less than 10,000 people don’t have a grocery store. I live in a city of over 100,000 people, and there is no grocery delivery here—grocery delivery is unusual in US metropolitan areas of less than half-a-million people.

    You can get a pizza delivered just about anywhere, though.

  95. mk
    October 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    La Lubu, I can’t think of anyone who delivered pizza (or any other food) where I grew up–is pizza delivery a reality in most rural areas? Even if over eighty percent of Americans live in cities, we can’t just consider cities in the discourse about food.

    I feel ridiculous for never having considered this before, but I’m suddenly struck by how difficult it must be for anyone in my hometown who doesn’t have a car. I shudder to think of anyone trying to subsist on food from the local “market” there.

  96. Jadey
    October 24, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    As an aside (and to stop myself from shriveling into a tiny crumpled ball of bitterness), if there’s anyone reading this thread who’s thinking, “Hey, debate is great and all, but I happen to be looking for shame-free resources for useful recipes/options/inspiration for what to do with what I have”, there are two communities that have helped me tremendously, both of which support accessible food options and extensive notes on specific considerations (e.g., cost-friendly and dietary-need-friendly substitutions, accessibility issues, etc.), as well as crowd-sourcing. One is larger than the other, but the smaller one is geared specifically to batch food making. They are both on a specific blog platform, but reading is open to all, the larger one supports open_id and anonymous commenting (not the smaller one, sadly), and anyone wanting to join and post can get an account code here. The communities are omnomnom and batchlunch.

    And, awesome as these resources are, none of this comment should be interpreted to mean they are a solution to fucked-up systemic issues or that they will even be sufficiently useful to a large number of people dealing with these issues. That doesn’t invalidate them or the people who use them – it just means that we can’t misinterpret what these resources and resources like them actually do, which is help people work within the system, not change it.

  97. October 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    La Lubu, I can’t think of anyone who delivered pizza (or any other food) where I grew up–is pizza delivery a reality in most rural areas?

    Well, I’ve never lived in a rural area, but union brothers and sisters of mine who do (or have) tell me it’s not that uncommon….generally, if you’re within a few miles of town, they’ll deliver. But “rural” in central Illinois is much different from what “rural” looks like in South Dakota or Kentucky or Mississippi. Illinois is a fairly dense, urban state.

    But I agree with you…we can’t just talk about cities, even if we are stretching the definition of “city” enough to include areas smaller than 500,000 people (which are a great deal different from places a fifth or a tenth that size…)

  98. October 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I’m one of those people with disabilities who eats a lot of vegetables (I’m vegetarian). Most of the time, however, I do not have the physical energy to cook; for some PWDs, “I’m too tired” is nowhere near a “b.s. excuse.” Being tired and in pain all of the time is a fucking fact of life for me, and being accused (however indirectly) of laziness or not having enough desire to be “healthy” does not help. I am, however, also extremely lucky to have a partner who does most of the food prep and cooking.

    I fail to see how shaming poor people, PWDs and people who have circumstances that do not allow them to make eating and preparing food in accordance with how certain people say they should eat for those circumstances — and being “too lazy” to eat “properly” helps anyone but the people doing the shaming. If you need to shame people about how they eat, or what they don’t eat, to feel better about yourself — oh, wait a second, it’s “for [our] own good,” I forgot — that’s pretty awful.

  99. October 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Annaham: I’m one of those people with disabilities who eats a lot of vegetables (I’m vegetarian). Most of the time, however, I do not have the physical energy to cook; for some PWDs, “I’m too tired” is nowhere near a “b.s. excuse.” Being tired and in pain all of the time is a fucking fact of life for me, and being accused (however indirectly) of laziness or not having enough desire to be “healthy” does not help.

    You know, I think a lot of people really don’t understand the depths of what “I’m too tired” can mean. I’m currently dealing with health issues that leave me very very exhausted after minimal physical exertion…and sometimes even just after a day of sitting at my desk at work, I’m completely wiped out. At home sometimes, walking from my desk to the bathroom, all of about 15 feet, is arduous. The tiredness is like a heavy weight on you, and I really think some people who have not had to deal with it just don’t get what it means and how it feels. It can be frustrating to feel like that and then also have to deal with people rolling their eyes and acting like you’re just being silly, when all you want to do is collapse because you basically cannot do anything else.

  100. October 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I totally agree, Alison. Maybe “crushing fatigue” would be a better descriptor? Not that that would help dodge accusations of laziness, but…

  101. tinfoil hattie
    October 24, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    A quick google of “Washington DC grocery delivery” provided several results for services.

    Not in the poorest of DC neighborhoods. Wishful thinking.

  102. Steph
    October 25, 2010 at 12:18 am

    tinfoil hattie: A quick google of “Washington DC grocery delivery” provided several results for services.
    Not in the poorest of DC neighborhoods.Wishful thinking.

    Is the poorest area still Congress Heights, zip code 20032? Google “peapod online grocery shopping”, they deliver there. There are others as well.

  103. Cel
    October 25, 2010 at 1:14 am

    “But is that really just because we are a collectively lazy bunch, or are there some structural and cultural issues there too?”

    I fully agree there are cultural issues. Americans think that “healthy eating = expensive” and that fruits and vegetables are more expensive than meat, etc. which are false beliefs.

    So like I said, it’s not that Americans are incapable of eating healthy, it’s that the average American either 1. believes they are incapable of eating healthy or 2. knows that they could if they wanted, but is too lazy to do so.

    Of course, there is a third group who are actually incapable of doing so.

    People who live in the middle of nowhere and have no car and have no grocery delivery service available are going to have problems.

    People with disabilities preventing them from cooking, are understandably going to have problems.

    Also, your “1 in 5 have disabilities” figure is entirely misleading. Many disabilities have no effect on whether you can cook or not: if you have hearing issues, that doesn’t stop you from cooking.

    Second, that figure includes the elderly, who make up a disproportionate amount of the disabled.

    No one expects an 80 year old grandma to be buying the freshest fruits and vegetables and cooking healthy for every meal.

    That doesn’t apply for these commenters on internet forums. They’re not saying “I’m 80 and find it difficult to cook.”

    @Alison, Annaham:

    Actually, you’re the one who doesn’t get it. It doesn’t matter if you have crushing fatigue, because I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the average American who doesn’t eat healthy.

    Tt’s getting really annoying when I say “the average American could cook if they wanted” and you respond “not if you have crushing fatigue.”

    Most Americans are able-bodied people who hang out in shopping malls, eat fast food, watch movies, go to sports games, and other regular activities. These are the people I’m talking about who could be eating healthy, but don’t.

    76% of Americans don’t eat close to the vegetables they should to be healthy.

    Are you going to tell me that 76% of Americans have a disability preventing them from buying vegetables and cooking meals?

  104. October 25, 2010 at 3:58 am

    Cel, my point that 1 in 5 Americans have disabilities was not to say that 1 in 5 Americans have trouble cooking meals deemed healthy, it’s that you’re dismissing entire categories of analysis, substantial ones, not “unique” ones, because you’re centring averageness. And therefore making assumptions about the kinds of people you’re interacting with here. We’ve not all listed our ages, for instance. That’s why you can say shitty things like ‘it doesn’t matter if you have crushing fatigue’ and that pointing out what you’re doing is ‘really annoying’. I am so close to banning you for just saying that, because wow. It’s a social justice site here. It’s not all about the folks who do ‘regular’ things, as you term it, and people are really not obliged to be healthy or to perform healthy activities on your terms, even where that’s possible.

  105. Ruchama
    October 25, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Is the poorest area still Congress Heights, zip code 20032? Google “peapod online grocery shopping”, they deliver there. There are others as well. Steph

    I recently moved out of DC. I am disabled, and I would sometimes use the Peapod or Safeway grocery delivery services. Just sometimes because, first, they’re expensive, and second, they’re not that good. When I bought produce from them, it would be pretty hit or miss whether it would actually be in good condition (sometimes it was great, other times it was clearly several days past edible) but I’d have to pay for it either way. I learned from experience not to count on them if I wanted to make a particular recipe, because there would always be items in my order that they didn’t have in stock, so I couldn’t just order all the things I needed to make something and be sure that I would have that stuff. The prices on each individual item were more than I would have paid at a regular grocery store, plus there were the delivery charges. Also, you get a four-hour window when your groceries will be delivered. If you pay a few dollars extra, you can get a two-hour window. In my experience, the delivery coming an hour after the window was over was not at all uncommon. So getting groceries delivered meant having at least three hours free to sit at home waiting for them. I would use the services sometimes, when I was in too much pain to go grocery shopping, but it was always a last resort, because there were just way too many things that could go wrong.

  106. October 25, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Are you going to tell me that 76% of Americans have a disability preventing them from buying vegetables and cooking meals? Cel

    Since we’re counting, 55% of US households have an annual income of $50,000 or less. And 73% of US households have an annual income of $75,000 or less (in the major metropolitan areas you seem to only want to talk about, an income of $50-75,000 is the standard-of-living equivalent of $25-50,000 in smaller cities.)

    Granted, meat isn’t really “cheaper” than vegetables….but for staying power, the staying power you need in a non-sedentary job (or, the staying power you need to grow from childhood into adulthood), meat and starches are more important.

    You haven’t told us how many children you have, Cel. How far do you think that nifty bag of fruits and veggies you’re so proud of would go if you had to stretch it for yourself and a couple of kids? Or…would you have done the “lazy” thing and bought cans of peaches in heavy syrup, instead of the expensive (and yes, pound-for-pound more expensive than meat) out-of-season strawberries?

    People are doing triage on their budget at the grocery store. Meanwhile, most of the tut-tutting and educational efforts at feeding oneself in a healthy way are being done by childfree, gainfully-employed-at-sedentary-jobs, able-bodied young folks in gentrified major urban areas. And there’s nothing wrong with that…they are preaching to people just like themselves. I hope they spread the gospel of good food to all yuppies, everywhere.

    But their solutions are not going to work for people who don’t share their living conditions. Exhibit A ought to be the price difference I quoted to you—what you were able to spend, living on the border of a wealthy area in a city of over 500,000 (in a metropolitan area of over 2 million)…..is radically different from what I would be able to spend for the same thing in a city of 120,000 (metropolitan area of approx. 170,000). Ruchama effectively addressed the problems of grocery delivery; most people don’t work at home (and the cost! doesn’t that cost $20 or more per delivery?).

    I can’t speak for Canada, but I will speak for the US—class is deeply related to ethnicity and race here. It’s also related to sex; women earn less (perhaps there’s more paycheck equality in Canada?). So, from my observation, many poor and working class people in the US don’t actually have that hostility to fruits and vegetables you speak of. Our traditional diets included more fruits and vegetables than the “average USian” (read: heavily northern-European influenced) diet. Our problem isn’t lack of desire or lack of knowledge…it’s lack of time, money and access. The difference between the way I eat when I’m working and the way I eat when I’m on unemployment is the difference between night and day. When I’m working, I pack a healthy lunch for my daughter. When I’m on unemployment, I have to take advantage of school breakfasts and lunches….and those aren’t really healthy. Very processed, very sugar-laden. Little to no fiber. But I don’t have a choice.

    That’s what people are trying to tell you on this thread, Cel. All the combined facets of their lives are reducing their choice…and sometimes leaving them with no real choice to speak of.

  107. October 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Cel, I have a question.

    Why do you automatically “believe” the comments and statements on Pandagon to be right, whereas the statements and criticisms of classism and ableism within the whole “healthy eating” movement on here are automatically false?

    I suspect it has something to do with confirmation bias, in which case the only real reason why you refuse to understand anything said to you here is because it challenges this and your flawed stereotyping of “teh lazy Americuns”.

  108. October 25, 2010 at 8:00 am

    At this point I think people really are talking past each other, as we have fundamental political differences which go far beyond our analysis food system. In particular, there are so many assumptions in this thread from people that I disagree with, that my head may explode. So I’m going to focus on two specific points.

    ******
    The first is that we need more complex analysis of what’s going on. Cel said: “76% of Americans don’t eat close to the vegetables they should to be healthy.”

    I have a lot of problems with this – and people have been responding to most of them. But there’s an even more fundamental problem. The expected decrease in cancer risk among those with higher fruit and vegetable intake has not been substantiated by in depth research (see this article which I got from FWD). And yet plus a day is portrayed as what we ‘should’ eat to be ‘healthy’ rather than an educated guess which isn’t necessarily being

    5 plus vegetables a day doesn’t have magic powers. It doesn’t protect people from the physical effects of poverty. It’s not a talisman. It’s a recomendation – one that takes resources to follow.

    There is this myth that if poor people acted like middle class people they wouldn’t be poor anymore, or at least wouldn’t suffer from poverty (poor people are not supposed to act like rich people – rich people can do whatever they want – it is the middle class that is virtuous). You see this in discussions about money, and particularly you see it in discussions about food.

    And it’s not simply that ‘healthy living’ is expensive and middle-class people have the resources to do so (although that is true to an extent as has been detailed in great length in this thread). It’s that middle-class food and behaviours are coded as healthy – when food and behaviours that are more common among working class people are not – even if there’s no real difference between them.

    At one point in my life I lived on a Marae (Maori meeting house). The food was usually done by an older Maori woman, who usually did the cooking and who could feed huge numbers of people on a tiny budget as if it was easy. But one day the vegetarians had done the cooking and there was huge amounts of food. She couldn’t praise the food enough: “This is good. This is what we should be eating. Not like what we normally eat. Unhealthy Maori.”

    That pasta salad had: pasta, oil, lemon juice, mushrooms, and silver beet. How was that nutritionally different from fry-bread and Puha, which was available most nights? But one was coded white, and the other Maori. All the public health messages about hte virtue of white-middle-class food had become pervasive.

    In this thread there have been ideas that are weird to me about what food is ‘healthy’. For example, there’s been a real emphasis in this thread on food that takes a lot of non-monetary resources – a lot of energy and equipment buying cooking and preparing. Food doesn’t get more ‘healthy’ just because someone in the household has cooked it (I’d like to unpack this idea from a feminist perspective, but not today). This is from Jill:

    Tonight, for example, I am making myself pasta with ricotta and tomato sauce instead of, say, baked fall root vegetables

    Based entirely on what I understand of nutrition, I couldn’t pick which one of these was supposed to be the ‘healthy’ meal and which was not. I had to go to what I knew about the way nutrition was coded to figure out why Jill thought that the first meal was less healthy than the second.

    And a large part of that coding is that healthy food takes resources – it’s either expensive – or it requires a lot of time as much as anything else.

    You can see this in other areas of ‘health’. The way that the only exercise that counts is stuff that happens in the gym. Ben Goldacre puts an offensive framing on a fascinating study. It was a study of hotel cleaners – many of whom thought they were taking no or not enough exercise – even though they spent hours cleaning.

    But it’s results were even more important. A hotel was told that teh sort of exercise they were doing was super good for you, and despite nothing else changing, many of the common measurements of health changed over the period of the study. Your belief about whether or not you are a ‘healthy’ person, can effect how well you are.

    That’s why this matters – because the placebo effect is strong. If middle class people constantly code what they do as ‘healthy’ and what working-class people as ‘unhealthy’ and they capture the discourse – well that actually makes working-class people’s health worse.

    It also suggests that individual people can control their health, and conceals the huge inequalities that are the result of the way we organise our society as something that could be changed through individual action.

    *****

    By second point is what part of this is a political discussion? What makes this open to debate? Why are we arguing about the best decisions for various people to take – when those people don’t even actually exist, they’re all hypothetical. Why do we assume arguing about what survival strategies various made up people should have is a political debate?

    I don’t think it is – which is why I don’t want to even engage in the question of whether or not grocery stores can deliver to particular places (again people for whom that’s a good option are probably using them already – because people are pretty neat). To me, that’s not a political discussion – to argue endlessly about what people can or cannot do.

    Here I think there’s a real value in Carol Hanisch’s The personal is political. Which doesn’t mean what it is so often suggested that mena – that there is something political about choosing carrots over pop-tarts. But the opposite – things that are actually considered personal problems are actually political problems. In it she argues two key things – the first is, as I just said – that things that are generally considered to be personal problems (like for example how you get food) don’t have a good individual solution – just different ways of coping – the only real solution is a collective solution.

    Her second point is to respect people’s coping strategies:

    This is part of one of the most important theories we are beginning to articulate. We call it “the pro-woman line.” What it says basically is that women are really neat people. The bad things that are said about us as women are either myths (women are stupid), tactics women use to struggle individually (women are bitches), or are actually things that we want to carry into the new society and want men to share too (women are sensitive, emotional). Women as oppressed people act out of necessity (act dumb in the presence of men), not out of choice. Women have developed great shuffling techniques for their own survival (look pretty and giggle to get or keep a job or man) which should be used when necessary until such time as the power of unity can take its place. Women are smart not to struggle alone (as are blacks and workers). It is no worse to be in the home than in the rat race of the job world. They are both bad. Women, like blacks, workers, must stop blaming ourselves for our “failures.”

    And I’m not saying that everyone should agree with the pro-woman line. But that I wonder what about telling people how they should behave and how they should eat do you see as feminist? What part of it is supposed to be relevant to a feminist blog site.

  109. October 25, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Are you going to tell me that 76% of Americans have a disability preventing them from buying vegetables and cooking meals?

    No, but I am going to tell you that you may not know the circumstances, or the weight of every single factor, behind that 76%’s “laziness” when it comes to making “healthy” meals.

  110. Jessica
    October 25, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Kristen J.: Also, this site engages in a lot of what I call coupon arbitrage which works if you are middle class and this $1 per day thing is a just a suggestion (because you can afford to buy unnecessary products to get food coupons), but not so useful if you cannot afford to even buy the sunday paper.Sarah,My SO and I been attempting the $1 day thing for about 2 months now…and one thing I can tell you for absolute certain…it’s a lot of work. For the most part we cheat with several things (like asparagus…which I love so pffttthhhhttt)..but even so…making your own bread, making large “bulk” batches of food, cleaning (oh.my.god…the hours of cleaning!) is a lot of work.  (Quote this comment?)

    Which is why this blog goes into detail explaining the amount of work involved, and why certain barriers (the biggest ones being time and transportation) would make this challenge much harder to complete. In addition, food is cheaper when you buy it in bulk, but if you didn’t have enough money to buy it in bulk (e.g. instead of having $30 at the beginning of the month you only had access to $7 a week) food would be much more expensive. Food is also much more appetizing when you can afford seasonings for it (which, while not especially expensive per serving tend to have a high initial investment cost).

    That being said, it is still feasible for someone who is working full time to live on $1 a day (although this is an extremely low number, between social assistance programs (at least in my country) and programs like food banks, most people do not have to live on that amount) to still eat well-balanced meals.

  111. narduar
    October 25, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Jessica: That being said, it is still feasible for someone who is working full time to live on $1 a day (although this is an extremely low number, between social assistance programs (at least in my country) and programs like food banks, most people do not have to live on that amount) to still eat well-balanced meals. Jessica

    You know, this reminds me an awful lot of a Jezebel comments thread, in which the original post discussed the idea that “any (straight, cis) woman can always find a willing sex partner”, and how this idea falls apart for certain underprivileged women who spend their lives having it communicated to them that they’re unattractive.

    Instead of listening to the comments from many disabled women and WOC about how painful it is for wide swaths of society to consider you unattractive, asexual, or dirty, reams of commenters said things like “No, if the guy was the last man on earth he’d totally do you!” or “You just have too high of standards! If you lower your standards, I’m sure you could find some guys who would deign to touch you. Guys are so horny.”

    A conversation that should have been about recognizing a uniquely painful issue devolved into people badgering the WOC for proof and demonstrations and rebuttals.

    I hope we can understand how this kind of dynamic, in which the underprivileged have to explain and defend themselves to the privileged, merely reproduces the hierarchy of oppression we want to end. If we are unwilling to trust underprivileged people’s own insights on being underprivileged, who will we trust? How can we deconstruct power hierarchies when we’ve set ourselves up as the ultimate judges of their truths?

    By making this about how we think poverty is a “feasible” lifestyle for a human being, or how it’s both okay and entirely possible for everyone to live on a dollar a day and try to make a workable diet for themselves, we are doing a few things:

    1. We are overruling the underprivileged people in this thread who are actively telling us that this is not possible or “feasible” for them. If we’re going to essentially tell marginalized people that they’re lying or misunderstanding their own life experiences, I don’t see how we can possibly help them. And that’s what we want to do, right?

    2. We are grossly underestimating how hard it is to live on very little money, to the point that it’s becoming absurd. Like, “So you’re living in a cardboard box? With just a little creativity with discarded tissue paper and stolen clothespins, you could lend it some Martha Stewart style!” absurd.

    By suggesting that it’s feasible and possible to eat well on such little money, we are suggesting that poverty is a livable way of life. Again, by definition, poverty is not livable. It is not sustainable. You cannot make poverty work, because by definition poverty means not having enough money to make life work. It’s not about “tough times” or “cutting back” or “budgeting wisely”, it means that even if you have a personal accountant to follow you around and make purchasing decisions for you, you will never have enough to live in a healthy way. Because that’s what it means to be poor, and to believe anything else belies a lack of experience and understanding of poverty.

    3. We are providing individualistic solutions and explanations for a systemic problem. Poverty is a systemic issue, and if some individualistic tweaking here and there – more effort here, more knowledge there, more expert cutting of coupons – is what gets you into the clear, then you’re not poor. You’re lower middle class, at the lowest. When you’re poor, individualistic solutions won’t cut it because you’re dealing with a systemic issue. It’s like solving a plumbing problem by mopping up the floodwater; you just can’t fix things that way.

    The first problem with having an individualistic understanding of a systemic issue is that we’re going to offer some very ineffectual advice. The second problem is that it’s victim-blaming.

    If it’s “feasible” for poor people to have a healthy diet, then the only explanation for poor people not having a healthy diet is that they’re lazy or ignorant or don’t care about their bodies. I hope that just saying that makes it evident why this line of thinking is unacceptable from a social justice standpoint.

    In case there are still doubts: those of us with more money are emotionally and economically invested in believing that the privileges we receive are just and deserved. The only way we can retain that belief in the face of poverty is if we believe that poor people live the way they do because of their personal shortcomings and failures, and not because of any systemic machine that distributes privilege unfairly.

    I invite us to consider that our beliefs about the “feasibility” of eating well when impoverished may be informed by our privilege more than they are by our wisdom and insights.

    4. We are contributing a conversational framework that requires poor people to “prove” that their claims are legitimate. And for what? For us to be willing to help them? Must we be utterly convinced that they’ve been flawless at vainly trying to make an unsustainable system sustain them?

    How desperate should the lifestyles of poor people be before we’ll deign to care about them? How awful should their diets get before we’re willing to say, “Okay, *now* there’s a bigger problem than your own individual performance as a poor person.”

    Why is this conversation about whether poor people could be performing better at an impossible lifestyle? Why are we so determined to police their choices in a system that crushes them regardless of how “good” they are? What does it even say that you can be “good” or “bad” at being oppressed?

    If underprivileged people must jump through hoops to win our solidarity, what is our solidarity worth?

  112. another april
    October 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    narduar–word. seriously, all of that. thank you.

  113. Usually Lurking
    October 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    If it’s “feasible” for poor people to have a healthy diet, then the only explanation for poor people not having a healthy diet is that they’re lazy or ignorant or don’t care about their bodies. I hope that just saying that makes it evident why this line of thinking is unacceptable from a social justice standpoint.

    Wait a minute… why is this getting framed as an accusation of ignorance? I mean, there are TRICKS to this. We’re not born knowing how to cook at all, much less knowing how to cook cheaply and nutritiously.

    My earlier post got eaten, but I’ll give an example: Until I learned that I didn’t have to soak beans overnight, I didn’t eat dried beans very much. Until I found out that leftover rice freezes, holds, and reheats beautifully, I didn’t eat brown rice because i didn’t have 45 minutes to cook it. Until someone taught me some good ways to cook lentils, I didn’t eat (or like) them, ever.

    Hell, until I had a “D’oh!” moment I might previously have, in the same month, purchased frozen veggies and also discarded fresh veggies because I didn’t manage to eat them all. Now I freeze my own.

    Would you call me ignorant? I’d call me inexperienced.

    There’s a lot of knowledge involved in this stuff. Everyone has a different slice of knowledge that they call their own.

    I understand that you’re concerned about offending people. but aren’t you also concerned that they (like me) might be making choices based on bad information?

    If someone tells me that their kids won’t eat beans and rice… can I tell them my tricks to get my kids to like it, without calling them ignorant?

  114. Jadey
    October 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    @ Usually Lurking

    It’s the difference between offering advice when asked for (or making general “of interest” announcements in a context that makes it clear it’s not being directed at a specific person), and condescending, unasked for opinions made in ignorance of a particular person’s situation and what they actually need or want or are interested in (and sometimes directly contradicting what they are asking for). “Help” that is forced on someone is disrespectful and a display of power. See also: mansplaining.

    If you want advice and resources and information, great! But that’s not what the pushback here is against.

  115. Sheelzebub
    October 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Individual versus structural solutions. Very reminiscent of the Fast Fashion and Fat Acceptance threads.

    The food pantries where I live request things that can be cooked in a microwave. Convenience foods, etc. Because here’s the thing–it’s one thing to be a relatively well-off person with a house and kitchen and working stove and freezer. It’s entirely another to be marginally housed–live in a place with no freezer (or one that can hold an ice cube tray and a few ice cream sandwiches), a hotplate, and/or a microwave.

    This is in one of those major metropolitan areas that was mentioned upthread–a suburb of a city, yes, but our population is considered to be part of the metropolitan area. And it’s not as if it’s easy for poor people to make the “right” choices even in this area.

    Being poor or disabled doesn’t just affect one aspect of your damn life. And there’s pushback here because yet again, there is little acknowledgment of the actual poor and disabled people who are posting about their experiences, who are talking about how individual solutions are not actually helping them.

    You know, if this was a thread for and by people who were seeking to discuss some individual solutions, then I think the “you could always do X” would be great (maybe more: “I do X, is this something that’s feasible for you?” Because hello, not everyone necessarily has the resources you have.) But considering how huge the structural issues are, the hand-waving away of the poor and disabled’s lived experiences isn’t actually helpful. Dismissing what people have said, you know, that it’s actually not that easy to get those fresh vegetables (and that Peapod’s delivery is expensive for them, the wait time takes up time they do not have, and the produce is sometimes actually, you know, going bad); that they don’t have the housing or resources to store or prepare these foods (freezers, or cooktop, etc.) or that their disabilities can impact what they are able to do doesn’t actually help. That isn’t corporate agribusiness fooling the silly poor into buying a Pop-Tart instead of a carrot. It’s easier to find a fucking box of Pop-Tarts at the bodega or convenience store than it is to get a carrot if you live in a fucking food desert, you cannot afford (either money or wait time) grocery delivery or it simply doesn’t cover your area, and arable land for growing things is not available (or you live in a very well-shaded area so those romanticized window boxes of lettuce aren’t actually feasible).

    Is it really too goddamn much to ask that the folks who’d like to preach to the unwashed plebes about how “You Could Eat Right If They Just Tried Harder” STFU and listen? For once?

  116. PrettyAmiable
    October 25, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    This thread got me thinking about my own eating habits, so I looked up cheap and healthy recipes. (I’ve taken to heart that cheap and healthy are all relative, please know I mean with regards to my own eating habits and needs). A blog I found had this as an article:

    http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/2010/10/veggie-might-as-for-me-and-my-house-we.html

    It cites a survey from the CDC suggesting that vegetable and fruit eating is pretty consistent across wage groups. (Warning, some of the same issues we’ve seen in this comment thread are prevalent in the post). I thought this article was interesting in light of some of the conversations we’ve had here.

  117. October 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    syndella: Omg, if you could step back from your privilege for just a second, you’d see that there is no middle ground here. How can you expect people to get to the grocery store when they don’t even have boots?

    Are you being sarcastic?

  118. October 25, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I heart narduar. And, once again with a feeling, THIS:

    Again, by definition, poverty is not livable. It is not sustainable. You cannot make poverty work, because by definition poverty means not having enough money to make life work.

    This, with bells on. You know what solves poverty? For an individual, “having more money.” For us all, JUSTICE.

  119. Kaz
    October 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    @narduar – I agree with your post a lot, just one thing –

    Instead of listening to the comments from many disabled women and WOC about how painful it is for wide swaths of society to consider you unattractive, asexual, or dirty

    Could you please not use the word “asexual” like this? It’s not particularly pleasant for me to see my sexual orientation being put on par with “unattractive” and “dirty”. “Desexualised” and its ilk are words I find work well in this context.

    Back on topic: I’m not poor, but I’m one of those disabled people who has a very hard time eating healthily/whatever people are defining as “healthily” that day. And you really, really can’t just dismiss people like me by going “oh, but I’m not talking about YOU” or “but surely not everyone who doesn’t eat enough veggies has your problems!” Believe it or not, I have to live in the same world you do, and even though you think I have an excuse I end up affected by these attitudes as well, both in terms of other people judging me for how I live (because my disabilities aren’t apparent, I don’t care to discuss the details of how they present with any random stranger and some people won’t let them stop them from judging me anyway) and in terms of internalising these attitudes. Quite apart from anything else, I have the same problems as Dorian in terms of executive function issues, and that both gets dismissed as laziness very often (why yes, washing the dishes CAN be that hard) and can be part of conditions that often go undiagnosed.

    Another ableist note I noticed in the discussion – autistic children, and adults for that matter, can be extremely picky eaters because of various sensitivity issues, dislike of change and other such things. There’s also other disabilities that can require a restricted diet. “Spoiled brat” is not an appropriate term to use in this situation.

  120. narduar
    October 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Kaz: @narduar – I agree with your post a lot, just one thing –Instead of listening to the comments from many disabled women and WOC about how painful it is for wide swaths of society to consider you unattractive, asexual, or dirtyCould you please not use the word “asexual” like this? It’s not particularly pleasant for me to see my sexual orientation being put on par with “unattractive” and “dirty”.

    I’m so sorry, Kaz, and to anyone who identifies as asexual. I should have said desexualized in my earlier comment, didn’t think of that word at all, and don’t like that I contributed to the pathologizing of asexuality. Won’t happen again!!! :(

  121. October 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Cel, Feministe and Pandagon cater to pretty different audiences. While I wouldn’t say that Amanda Marcotte is unsympathetic to the plight of marginalized people, she does tend to write about topics that people with more privilege tend to relate to. The commentariat over at Pandagon (at least, in my experience) is also less likely to read a comment that notes the behavior of average or the majority of Americans and respond with snarky anecdotes about marginalized Americans. Marcotte doesn’t seem to have much of a tolerance for such derails.

    On the other hand, as many people have pointed out, saying things like “there’s no excuse” is missing the point. It’s irritating that so many economically privileged individuals make such destructive food choices (especially when they teach their children the same poor food choices), but ultimately, it’s none of my damn business what other people eat; it is my business, though, that the federal government subsidizes the most unhealthy food, leaving the healthiest food essentially out of reach for many families, because that affects me, now that my husband is unemployed and we no longer have the means to eat the way we’re used to, which involves lots of organic food and interesting, time-consuming recipes. For us, it’s temporary, but for many, it’s not. Also, the OP was pretty clearly discusing what it’s like to only have $1 a day to spend on food, not the majority of Americans, who have more than that to spend daily on food.

    The “Americans are by and large lazy” sentiment is really rather true, when you’re talking about people who have a real choice about whether or not to be lazy; but it’s not the conversation that needs to happen in a thread for a post about how obnoxiously expensive organic food is compared to “regular” food.

  122. October 25, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    @Maia, #111 comment. Thanks for that, it was really provocative for me as I don’t think I’ve put those issues of food quite in that perspective before (i.e.: That pasta salad had: pasta, oil, lemon juice, mushrooms, and silver beet. How was that nutritionally different from fry-bread and Puha, which was available most nights?)

    It make me wonder just how many of the recommendations we get about what is healthy eating and what is not is based on “science” that just assumed one way of eating was healthier than the other at the outset and used their study to prove their point. It’s happened in so many other areas I don’t know why I didn’t think about it in this one.

  123. Fine
    October 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Just a question. Are food co-ops used much in the USA and if so, are accessible to people who are poor, or people living with disabilities?

    Are there any opportunities for people to band together, get some land and financial support from local government and grow fruit and vegetables themselves, to be distributed cheaply, even to people without the time and resources to contribute much to the production?

    Are there possibilities of this becoming part of a school curriculum i.e. putting aside a veggie plot for school kids and teaching them how to grow their own produce?

  124. Jadey
    October 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Fine: Are there any opportunities for people to band together, get some land and financial support from local government and grow fruit and vegetables themselves, to be distributed cheaply, even to people without the time and resources to contribute much to the production?

    Some at least, although apparently they run the risk of being fined for it.

    I know someone working (tentatively) on an urban apartment gardening/water reclamation project in Canada, but the zoning laws and such are a major obstacle and to make something sustainable out of it requires a radically revamped legislative approach to housing and development.

  125. Miss S
    October 25, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Are there possibilities of this becoming part of a school curriculum i.e. putting aside a veggie plot for school kids and teaching them how to grow their own produce?

    This is a really good suggestion. For some (not all, of course) it’s a matter of simply not knowing. Teaching kids would be a great start, because they would be able to put that knowledge to use when they are older.

    I think acknowledging that some people don’t know how to do something isn’t the same thing as calling people stupid for not knowing. How would someone know if no one took the time to teach them? If you never had vegetables as a kid, how would you know how to prepare them or where to buy them at the best price, or how to grow your own?

    Growing up we ate a large amount of vegetables, but I didn’t know much about seasonings or spices. What I do know, I know from the years spent waiting tables at upscale restaurants. Plenty of those exotic spices and dishes were foreign to me at first. I didn’t magically receive this information overnight- I had to learn it somewhere. I think we should focus on structural issues, while providing ideas and learning for people who want it (i could use it) -without making people feel bad for not knowing certain things.

  126. Miss S
    October 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    La Lubu
    ur traditional diets included more fruits and vegetables than the “average USian” (read: heavily northern-European influenced) diet.
    Are you referring to African American populations and suggesting they eat more fruits and veggies than Northern European descendants? It’s a really interesting point, and I’m inclined to agree with it. We may not have had the exotic, organic veggies, but we certainly had beets, string beans, broccoli and corn.

    I also do understand the point about the structural problems associated with certain foods- that vegetables are for the elite. Processed foods are more profitable than healthy, natural foods. Whether you eat healthy, or eat McDonalds every day, whether you’re skinny, fat, or disabled- that structural problem exists. It makes specific unhealthy foods more expensive than healthier options. It means that if I have $3 to eat, the system is set up in such a way that something greasy and over processed is more likely to be my option than something fresh. That’s a problem.

  127. Fine
    October 25, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Jadey, so it appears one of the structural issues that needs to change is making it easier for people to grow at least some of their own food, if possible.

    I know there’s a bit of a movement called ‘guerilla gardening’ in which people take over spare land to grow food. In Austrlaia, I know a few local Councils encourage this sort of stuff strongly. I also like the idea of ‘dumpster diving’ in which people ‘liberate’ perfectly good food from supermarket dumpsters. In Australia, at least, it’s not illegal.

    None of these suggestions solve the structural problems of poverty, but they do work around those problems to some degree.

  128. October 26, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Ruchama effectively addressed the problems of grocery delivery; most people don’t work at home (and the cost! doesn’t that cost $20 or more per delivery?).

    I have two stores near me that deliver: Safeway and New Seasons. Safeway charges $6.95 to $12.95 per delivery, depending on whether it’s delivered at a high-demand time slot, whether you pick the 2-hour slot or the 4-hour one, and whether your order is more than or less than $150. They have a $50 delivery minimum, though, and produce from them is kind of meh. New Seasons charges a flat $10 per delivery, no minimum.

    But most of my produce comes from Spud, which delivers in the major cities on the U.S. and Canada West Coasts. Their produce is generally pretty good, but you have to be careful; sometimes they will want to send you incredibly overpriced stuff and you have to actively strike it from your order. Also, I just threw out a whole bag of green beans from them which I’d gotten barely three days ago, which was already starting to turn brown. It’s therefore not an option I’d recommend to anyone on a super-tight budget.

    But I also get a lot of fruits and veg from a local store called Limbo, which has fabulous prices and lots of local and fair trade stuff. And it’s right next door to a Trader Joe’s. All of this is a one-mile radius from where I live. And I haven’t even gotten into the fantastic farmer’s markets we have here. In other words, where I live is frigging FOOD PARADISE for people who are not affluent and don’t drive (though as some people have alluded to above, there’s no such thing if you really are near or below the poverty line). And I do work at home, as does my partner, so we can be around for the grocery delivery.

    It wasn’t always like that, believe me. Even without being officially diagnosed with anything yet, I lived in other, less food-paradisey environments, and would often come home from work (which often included a lengthy commute standing up), just WIPED OUT AND FIT FOR NOTHING. And I didn’t even have kids! I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to live on four or five hours of sleep, trundle off to work, slog through a long commute, and come home to an hour or more of chopping, cooking, cleaning, and trying to “make” your kids eat stuff that smells like poop soup to them, which you then have to throw in the garbage (along with the money you spent on it which you can ill afford to lose).

    You can bet your ass that if I did have kids and had to feed them on a tight budget and also work full-time, I’d be doing a lot of what my mother and other mothers I knew growing up did: Lots and lots of frozen food. TV dinners, pot pies, yep, you bet. It cracks my shit up that anyone thinks there was some Golden Age of Childhood Veggie Consumption in days of yore for anyone who didn’t grow up on a farm, because what I remember from the early 1970s are two things: 1) canned or frozen vegetables served after they’d been boiled to death on the stove, turning them into flavorless, nutrition-sapped mush, and 2) a product called I Hate Peas, which were frozen french fries with ground peas in them (there was also I Hate Spinach, I Hate Corn, and a few others like that). Yeah, that’s how eager children were to gobble up their veggies then, they had to invent a product that looked like something “bad” in order to sneak them down our throats! Too bad it mostly tasted like ass-flavored chalk, and it lasted less than a year on the market.

  129. RD
    October 26, 2010 at 4:11 am

    In the US, food co-ops exist but are not common. Ditto programs growing and distributing food on unused land. The second one is even less common I think. Dumpster diving is mostly illegal but actual poor and/or homeless people get busted for it more than hipsters who think it is “cool”. Part of the “quality of life” bullshit I think.

  130. October 26, 2010 at 4:43 am

    Oh, and when I was much poorer and more marginally housed, besides the dog tiredness, here were some other obstacles to eating “right”:

    – Having partners who wouldn’t eat vegetables, or very many of them, so I had to make them only for myself and eat them all before they went bad.

    – Having partners who couldn’t do housework because of illness/disability, or wouldn’t because Real Men Didn’t.

    – Having screwy wiring in the kitchen, such that running almost any appliance would trip the circuit breaker.

    – Living in roommate situations or in rooming houses where other people stole my food.

    – Having a freezer with almost no space in it, enough for maybe a bag of peas and carrots and not much else.

    – Having appliances I owned that fried on me that I couldn’t afford to replace or fix.

    – Having appliances the landlords owned and refused to or dragged their asses fixing.

    – Not having counter space of any kind to chop anything.

    – Not having any space to store nonperishables.

    – Having serious vermin problems that made nonperishable storage extremely impractical.

    – Having an unreliable car (back when I drove, and lived in an area where you pretty much had to in order to buy anything more nutritious than a Slurpee).

    – Getting hardly any sleep because of chronic insomnia, which made it downright dangerous for me to pick up any kind of sharp object for cutting food.

    – Having smoke alarms so hypersensitive that even making toast could trip it off.

    When my mom lived in Florida, she always complained about how quickly produce went bad in the fridge — much faster than it did in the Northeast. And she was not a poor person, and had a damn fine refrigerator! Some climates just are not conducive to veggie and fruit consumption, unless you can go shopping several times a week.

    Oh, and incidentally, what people weigh is about more than what they (currently) eat. Much more. My eating habits have never been better, and I am FATTER THAN EVER. My medicine chest has put far more weight on me than my refrigerator could ever do if it tried.

  131. Kristen J.
    October 26, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Fine: so it appears one of the structural issues that needs to change is making it easier for people to grow at least some of their own food, if possible.

    It would be nice, but of course there is still the time problem. That said there are lots of people finding working solutions in their communities. A friend of mine works on a barter system. She has a disability that makes it difficult for her to leave the house – even to go to the backyard, but she has a really large garden and loves to cook. So a few of her neighbors help with the garden (or with chores or errands) or if they don’t have time they buy some staples and she cooks for all of them every day. I love spending the day with her baking and cooking and chatting with neighbors and playing with the kids, but I think something like that requires a central organizing figure like Kassie to keep it all working smoothly. Without her, I fear the whole enterprise would fall apart even if they were able to find some land and someone who loved to cook.

    But more importantly…although I love the community…the family…she’s created and I know (because she’s said) she wouldn’t trade her life for anything because of that family…it is still tragic that people are *forced* to resort to a non-monetary economy because our economic system has abandoned them. The same system that provides my flat screen TV and out of season asparagus is the one that fails to provide everyone with the time and resources needed to sustain themselves and their families.

  132. October 26, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Are you referring to African American populations and suggesting they eat more fruits and veggies than Northern European descendants?

    Yes! But also, Asian-American and Southern-European peoples, who also brought their seeds with them. Basically….anyone who comes from an area with a long growing season. I crack up at all the Anglo yuppies who think they are teaching the world how to eat……more like the world taught them how to eat!

    One of the biggest problems contributing to food deserts is the abandonment of the inner cities, urban sprawl, zoning, the rise of super-large mega stores, and grocery monopolies that have two-tier flagship stores….with one store being in the wealthy areas, and the other store being in the low-income sections (that’s the one all the sketchy, spoiling meat and produce is shifted to). I’m telling you, I grew up in the 1970s and there used to be grocery stores in neighborhoods. As in, most of the places I lived had a grocery store no more than a fifteen minute walk away.

    Which again, is why these conversations degenerate so rapidly. People who live in gentrified, large urban areas do not get how different the landscape is in ungentrified areas. In the cities of the abandoned rust belt. In small towns where there is no commerical activity to speak of (yet the housing is still cheap—between 40-50,000 people commute into and out of my city during the work week for their job…..and that isn’t mostly exurban yuppies; it’s mostly lower-income working families taking advantage of the very low housing prices in the smaller towns).

    People without children (or, who have never been a caretaker) do not get the difficultly of budgeting time; how buying pre-prepared foods fits into the need to buy time to meet all the other responsibilities one has as a caretaker, and still keep one’s job and still get enough sleep (thank you, meowser, for mentioning tiredness and lack of sleep). People who are able-bodied do not get the amount of sheer effort it takes to get across the room and cook something that doesn’t come out of a can. Hell, it takes effort just to eat.

    THAT is huge. The not having a nearby grocer. That is a radical sea-change I’ve witnessed in my life, and it dovetails neatly with the rise of fast-food places. It’s the same timeline. The stores disappear, and fast-food joints and package liquors replace them. Also, for those who’ve read “Fast Food Nation”, how school districts have dealt with the reduction of funds (read: white flight) by getting rid of skilled cafeteria staff and replacing them with minimum wage staff that serve heavily-processed heat-and-eat meals. Kids today are not being served the same school breakfasts and lunches they were in the 70s when actual cooks staffed the kitchen. Those were jobs held by women who were paid a decent wage. The replacement jobs are still held by women, but for a non-living wage (and part-time as well).

    If those aren’t feminist issues, I will kiss your ass. It all ties in together—affordable housing, access to services (like grocery stores), transportation, long working hours, de-skilling of work, pay reduction, institutional racism (redlining, white flight, etc.) and….wait for it now…..the feminization of poverty. And…..dumpster diving is supposed to be a “helping” solution?! Sweet bedda matri!

  133. October 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I lived in a pretty poor, predominantly black neighborhood for a while. The difference between the grocery store there and the one I was used to across the river in the same city was unbelievable (I’m talking about North Minneapolis vs. NE Minneapolis, for anyone who’s wondering/familiar). In front of the door were giant displays of total shit food, and the produce was embarrassing, at best. I could pick through pounds of wilted, in-season green peppers and not find a single one that was decent enough to buy. If I managed to find a good one, it’d go bad in a day. The grocery store I was used to in the hipster-ish part of town (NE) was lightyears better as far as produce and selection was concerned. While it’s great that they put a large grocery store in a neighborhood no one wants to open a business in so that poorer people have access to more options for lower prices, the quality of the produce was astoundingly terrible all year round. It opened my eyes, that’s for sure.

    Thankfully, there are a ton of good farmers markets in the city that sell veggies and other things for really cheap, but being Minnesota, they’re only around from May – November every year.

  134. Jadey
    October 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Fine: so it appears one of the structural issues that needs to change is making it easier for people to grow at least some of their own food, if possible.

    That would be something.

    But honestly this is one of the cases where one of the key structural issues is capitalism (which of course exists in concert with other aspects of the kyriarchy, which is why the people who are most fucked over by capitalism tend to have demographic traits in common), because for so many of the issues it comes back to cost. Without a profit margin in there somewhere, there will be no large structural backing to these reformation projects.

    That is the scale of the issue. Total social overhaul. Everything else is just getting by, although most of us are pretty damn good at that.

    I’m not saying don’t try. But the capitalist system (which operates via all of our actions, so Elisabeth had some kind of point) is actively antagonistic and destructive to anything that doesn’t benefit it (and, yeah, learning to get by does indirectly benefit capitalism – that’s the godawful crappy point of it). Capitalism, as it is currently practiced in its extreme, hyperactive form (all-encompassing every aspect of society), creates and benefits from poverty, and from getting people to pay more than is realistically necessary to experience the “pluses” in life. The pluses wouldn’t be so valuable if everyone could have them easily. And we’ve made basic human needs and rights into the equivalent of bonus features for paying users.

  135. Jadey
    October 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    April: While it’s great that they put a large grocery store in a neighborhood no one wants to open a business in so that poorer people have access to more options for lower prices, the quality of the produce was astoundingly terrible all year round. It opened my eyes, that’s for sure.

    I have found the same thing in the city I just moved to, even when it’s the same chain and same-sized store (for at least two different chains, that I’ve checked). Crappier produce, poorer dating on the dairy (by several days, even), etc. Same basic price, although fewer high-end products.

  136. Usually Lurking
    October 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    A lot of this is economics.

    All the items in a grocery store have different profit margins. Some of them are even “loss leaders,” i.e. they cost the store more than they cost the buyer.

    In a fancy store, the $15 bottles of olive oil end up subsidizing the $1.20/pound potatoes. The store needs to have better produce in order to draw in the folks who buy the organic milk, hand-plucked sugar free fig and cranberry granola, aged Gouda, and hearth-baked Finnish rye. But it doesn’t need to make much of a profit on the potatoes.

    if you’re only selling the cheap low margin stuff it is a different animal. It is very hard to make a lot of profit on beans and rice and cabbages, because there really is a floor for production and storage costs.

    Stores can have low prices. They can have a wide selection. They can have fresh stock on hand. But they cannot have all of those things at the same time, unless they are a charity or unless they are incredibly, reliably, popular and can rely on consistent volume.

    This is also a problem with having a less affluent clientele. I am fortunate enough to be able to access a store which has a mixed clientele, so they have better stuff. However, on a personal level I will only buy stuff on serious sale, for which i have a very good coupon, or (usually) both.

    If everyone who shopped at my store used my shopping methods, the store would not survive as it is. Then there wouldn’t be a store at all.

  137. PrettyAmiable
    October 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    UsuallyLurking, somehow your comment failed to point out the economics behind why stores in poor areas maintain a carrying cost on spoiled items.

    Oh, is it because the idea of “rational players” is an economics construct that doesn’t translate very well to real-life?

    Hmm.

  138. RD
    October 26, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Sometimes you can store nonperishables in a hammock type thing slung from the ceiling that the roaches and such can’t get to.

  139. RD
    October 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Another thing that can be helpful if possible (and I understand it isn’t always) is getting a job at a grocery store and/or farmers market.

  140. Usually Lurking
    October 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    ? I’ve worked, and know people who currently work, retail food. It’s not an easy game.

    Shops have spoiled food because

    1) they’re trying to make a larger profit at the same price point by selling cheaper merchandise. If people will buy rot-unless-you-eat-them-today peppers (or expires-in-a-month canned goods, or must-be-cooked-today ground beef) and if the store can make a profit on it, the store will sell it. If peppers cost $1.25/pound and sell for $2/pound, and if bad peppers can be had for 0.50/pound, they can lose half their peppers to spoilage and still come out ahead.

    and/or

    2) they are stuck with larger quantities but slow sales. Some things are sold in boxes; some things are sold in pallets. Food goes bad, gets stale, etc.

    and/or

    3) They made a bad gamble or had storage problems of their own or got something that wasn’t what they were expecting. Not every shipper and grower is perfect. And things vary from shipment to shipment; they’re not identical.

    Generally speaking no store will voluntarily choose to stock rotten food. They will sometimes choose to stock almost-dated food if they think they can sell it and if they get it for a cheap enough price. Dollar stores have their place. And they will keep food out once they have already paid for it, in an effort to cut their losses.

    If you’ve got 30 pounds of poor-quality peppers left, you can toss them and buy new ones. But if you have the ability to put off your replacement order for a couple of days, then you may keep the bad ones out in the hopes that you’ll sell some–even 10 pounds.

    Grocery stores are actually quite rational in their choices, especially if they’re corporate owned.

  141. RD
    October 26, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    And yeah school lunches are terrible and super-unhealthy (they were when I was a kid too, but that would be the 1990’s for me). Any kind of institutional food is mostly terrible – homeless shelters, mental hospitals, etc. That is a huge problem.

  142. Charity
    October 26, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    La Lubu, your comment at #135 is phenomenal. I’m embarrassed to say that I had to google ‘sweet bedda matri’ for a translation, and delighted to say that four of the first five results were your comments on various Feministe posts!

  143. October 26, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    *hee. thanks. bedda matri = “beautiful mother”

  144. littlem
    October 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I crack up at all the Anglo yuppies who think they are teaching the world how to eat……more like the world taught them how to eat!

    Yeah, living in NYC, that amuses me daily … when it doesn’t scare me.

  145. PrettyAmiable
    October 26, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Your explanation ignored many of the realities discussed above – including that people do NOT buy rotten food, and that rotten food is held consistently at these stores – that is, it is not an unhappy circumstance like you suppose in most of your explanation.

    The reality is that there is limited attention corporate can pay to all of its stores, and rather than worrying about low profit centers, it will work to maximize its profits elsewhere. This isn’t rational. You can have positive NPV projects everywhere, but you can’t do it by wasting floor space on goods that spoil quickly.

    It’s NOT simple economics. You’re trying to make an economic model fit to explain things you can’t explain because the presupposition that all players are rational doesn’t exist. Rational decision making requires a limitless set of resources (time for one, management talent for another).

  146. Miss S
    October 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Kids today are not being served the same school breakfasts and lunches they were in the 70s when actual cooks staffed the kitchen
    Cafeteria workers don’t actually cook food in most places- they put over processed unhealthy food in the oven or microwave. And the pay is damn near nothing. My mom worked at a high school cafeteria and said many times that what they serve as food is gross. The cafeteria workers also have absolutely no say over the food. I had no idea that cafeterias used to have real cooks.

    Me? I didn’t eat the lunches at school. Most days I packed a lunch, and if I didn’t I would grab a bag of chips and an apple. That’s the thing- once you’re used to real food, it’s hard to eat over processed, barely identifiable stuff.
    I’m so glad you raised the point about the differences in food among ethnic groups. It certainly explains why some people grew up poor and never ate vegetables and some people grew up poor and ate plenty of them. While food choices are constrained by class, they are also influence by culture, ethnicity, and geographic location.

    BTW- Whenever the Anglo yuppies suggest that they have discovered or came up with something new and awesome, you can bet someone else did first.

  147. Miss S
    October 26, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Sometimes you can store nonperishables in a hammock type thing slung from the ceiling that the roaches and such can’t get to.
    I didn’t know that. You can also store vegetables (and I suppose anything else) in Mason jars and they are air tight. I’m not sure if all of them are, but according to my step dad some of them are. I assume it would also protect from bugs.

  148. PrettyAmiable
    October 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Miss S: You can also store vegetables (and I suppose anything else) in Mason jars and they are air tight. I’m not sure if all of them are, but according to my step dad some of them are. I assume it would also protect from bugs.  

    This is also a good idea for grains and flour and such – really, anything that might have bug eggs in it. If you do have something that might have flour beetles, for instance, it’ll keep them from getting into anything else (meaning you reduce waste because of contamination).

  149. Bagelsan
    October 27, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Sometimes you can store nonperishables in a hammock type thing slung from the ceiling that the roaches and such can’t get to.

    Also good for household bear infestations, I imagine. :)

  150. October 27, 2010 at 7:33 am

    To add to what PrettyAmiable said at #148: did you know that grocery stores shut down even when they are making a profit? Yes, they do. Decision making isn’t at a local, or even regional level anymore…and stores in less population-dense areas (like mine) are left out in the cold.

    For instance, when I first moved to my neighborhood, there was a Jewel-Osco (parent company: Albertsons) within several blocks of my house. It was a walking-distance, neighborhood store. It was very busy. It had a full-service meat counter and bakery, as well as a pharmacy. That store was turning a profit, and it was visible. It was a union shop, so the people working there earned decent wages and had full benefits (like pensions and health care). It was a really nice store, and that was where I did my shopping.

    But then…..Wal-Mart decided to build another couple of stores in my city, both on the outskirts near highway interchanges. I suspect that the west-end store didn’t have much (if any) impact on my neighborhood store, because it was such a long drive to get there. But….the handwriting was on the wall. The parent company decided to abandon those stores, even before the Wal-Mart was built. First, they stopped stocking them properly. They shut down the meat-cutting (using prepackaged stuff) and stopped carrying the better grade of meat (“choice”) and started carrying the lower grade (“select”). They understaffed the store, so service was poor.

    Now, you can say that Albertsons was merely maximizing their profit by closing down all their downstate stores and focusing on the Chicago area. But they were selling a whole hell of a lot of goods in my neighborhood, once. They could be still, if they hadn’t decided to compete with Wal-Mart on Wal-Mart’s terms.

    You can say, “well, that’s capitalism for ya”, but that ignores the role of local governments in promoting urban sprawl and the destruction of the inner city. The Jewel-Osco left, but the building remained boarded up for awhile. Now, it’s a (Catholic) bingo hall (so, my neighborhood got lucky. most neighborhoods just have boarded up buildings and broken-down, empty parking lots). Imagine a local government with the courage to not let their city look like a smile with missing teeth. Our tax dollars are being used to benefit large corporations and large developers at our expense.

    For all those cheerleaders of capitalism, I challenge you to remember the various ways it destroys communities. Many profit-turning factories were shut down in Illinois so the corporations could build in other nations; nations where the US military plays a role in suppressing worker activism.

    Those workers that lost their jobs at the three Jewel-Oscos that closed in my city….many of them work at other stores now. For half (or less than half) of the wages they earned before, and fewer (if any) benefits. Those other stores focus on part-time workers, to avoid paying benefits (including….unemployment benefits). Gee, what impact do you think lower wages and lower family incomes have on a community? On the school system in that community? Most of those workers are women. Women whose wages supported their family. Women who work with food all day, but have a hard time putting some down on their own table, because food can be cut back on when rent, utilities, transportation and childcare can’t (just thought I’d throw that in for folks who are still wondering why this is a feminist issue).

  151. October 27, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I had no idea that cafeterias used to have real cooks.

    I s’pose I’m showing my age, there. :) But I remember the sights and smells from the cafeterias in my childhood (even though I brought my lunch). Those cafeterias were full-on cafeterias….they used some convenience foods, sure, but many things were made from scratch.

  152. Paraxeni
    October 27, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    So I decided to pop back here after a frustration-induced ‘holiday’.

    I’ve come to one conclusion – if only I could live off the smug and privileged exudations of the able, the moneyed, and the urban, I’d be in hog heaven.

    @chally, annaham, narduar and fellow PWDs – we can try, and try, and try to get our viewpoints across until we’re hoarse and bleeding, but I fear we’ll always be ‘lazy’, or ‘spoiled’, or ‘uneducated’. We’ll always have to listen to people saying “But I worked with sick people and I COOKED!” or “Cooking isn’t haaaard”.

    I could cry reading this whole discussion, because I cannot believe how steeped in privilege some people are.

  153. RD
    October 27, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Mason jars are good too.

  154. Fedelm
    October 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Elisabeth: The truth is, most people under thirty don’t cook, at any class level. This is bad for everyone, however like most problems, it disproportionately affects the poor in negative ways.  

    Most people under thirty don’t cook? What’s your evidence for that? Everyone I know cooks (I’m 22 and most of my social circle are under 25), and they come from a range of class backgrounds and regions. If you don’t cook you starve. I suppose it depends on what you mean by cook, some people live off sandwhiches and ready meals, but that as a statement doesn’t make sense to me.

  155. Paraxeni
    October 28, 2010 at 10:12 am

    @sarah I like the concept, but the message of “well, guess it’s too expensive to buy fresh fruits and veggies!” is not a good take home message.

    I think you, and a lot of the other commenters, are wildly missing the point here. It’s not so much:

    “Buy 8 blueberries, or ‘give up’ and buy a cheeseburger”

    but:

    “While you’re treating yourself to a handful of organic fruit as a snack, and congratulating yourself on your ‘healthy choice’, someone somewhere is having to rely on that same amount of money for a whole day’s worth of food.”

  156. Kaz
    October 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    @Paraxeni – I know right.

    ‘s ironic because I very recently had an experience that really made me realise, again, that it’s not about being too lazy to cook – I had to cook when I wasn’t feeling up to it due to bad planning on my part, managed to barely produce something edible but then found myself so drained I was incapable of putting the leftovers in the fridge. Three step process: get tupperware box from cupboard, put leftovers in box, put box in fridge – for my spoonless brain this process was so complicated the cupboard might as well have been on the moon. I discovered that pasta bake really doesn’t taste any better when left out overnight (especially when said bake is only barely edible due to being too spoonlow to add things like herbs and spices) and still have bits of rotting food from that littering my flat, which really doesn’t help my mental state. :/ But, you know, there’s no good reason for me to live off ready meals as much as I do! I am totally capable of cooking all the time if I just tried!

  157. Paraxeni
    October 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Bootstraps kaz, bootstraps! You know we’d be better off starving or dead than *gasp* eating prepared food!

    No lie, I’ve lived on jellybeans and Pepsi due to Spoon Deficiency Syndrome. At least ready meals have some protein if nothing else.

  158. Kristen J.
    October 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Paraxeni: I’ve lived on jellybeans and Pepsi due to Spoon Deficiency Syndrome.

    Been there…only with microwave popcorn and diet coke.

  159. Kaz
    October 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I hear you – it was dry cereal and water for me. I had a sink in my room, which was handy for not dehydrating, and also for washing your hair when you haven’t been able to leave the room to go shower for way too long – but, one box of increasingly stale cereal over five days or so. I’ve never been able to look at cereal in quite the same way since… I’ll take frozen pizza or microwave lasagna any day over that.

  160. RD
    October 31, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Fedelm: Most people under thirty don’t cook? What’s your evidence for that? Everyone I know cooks (I’m 22 and most of my social circle are under 25), and they come from a range of class backgrounds and regions. If you don’t cook you starve. I suppose it depends on what you mean by cook, some people live off sandwhiches and ready meals, but that as a statement doesn’t make sense to me.  (Quote this comment?)

    Yeah me and my partner are both in our twenties and we cook…

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