Myopics and Waist Size – Hunger on Main Street

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4:42pm
Okay . I was about to post this on a public comment board at caloriecount.com — an online site where you enter what you’ve eaten for each day, and it calculates the calories taken in against calories burned. I doubt that this would be particularly productive, because so many of the people there are so wrapped up in their own little dieting world that they hardly know the outside world exists. 

Here’s what was posted — and my rant in response. I just have to say some of this somewhere….

“They said the poor people eat crap because that’s all they can afford. That is just an excuse, You can eat well on a little money, if you know how to cook, and watch the portion sizes. Junk foods are quite expensive, have you priced a bag of Doritios lately? Almost $4.00, you can buy some veggies and beans and brown rice and lean meat on sale alot cheaper. Also, use coupons, watch the stores weekly sales.

Plant a garden….

There is no excuse for eating junk food. ”

I realize this is a website devoted to counting calories, but I have to say how outraged I am by the myopic, center-of-the-universe attitude expressed by some of these posts, and even some of the recommendations mady by your experts.

I’d like to point out that all these people expounding on “poor people eat crap because…” are sitting in front of computers, which tells us all that the discussion is an example of “us” talking about “them.”

There is a big difference between people who don’t have money and “poor people.” Not having money is often code for something that is temporary, or contextually dependent. I may not have money until my next paycheck because I had to replace a hot water heater this month; but that’s a long way from living on food stamps, groceries from the local charitable Food Pantry, and free lunches at a public school or in the kitchen of a big church.

Poverty and hunger un the US make it impossible to make generalizations like “poor people eat crap because…” It (a poor diet) may be lack of education, lack of money, lack of self esteem, lack of motivation, lack of running water, lack of cold storage, lack of electricity, lack of appliances, lack of kitchen, or just outright lack of “homebase” that causes people to eat whatever they can.

People who don’t know how to cook — and are functionally illiterate — or don’t have a television with cable to watch the food network, a computer to search for recipes, or a parent to teach them by example, have no response to the criticism that they eat poorly because they don’t prepare food well.

Likewise, people with no house — and there are about 5 million more of those today than there were 3 years ago — don’t have a place to plant a garden. Unlike the Great Depression, far greater numbers of us live in tightly packed apartments in tightly packed neighborhoods, in tightly packed cities. There is not a lot of open farmland in such areas for either community or individual gardens.

It is outrageous to think that food tips, details of labeling, and posted calorie counts will make any difference to people living in actual poverty — which is where the conversation went, once your experts gave their recommendations of how to improve food systems in the US. It is also notable that none of the recommendations actually addressed hunger in the US.

If local food pantries are stocked with healthy foods, then healthy foods is what they will give out. If school cafeterias start with healthy “real” food, and the schools get rid of soda, snack, and candy machines (and prohibit leaving campus for lunch) then students/children will eat the healthier food. I don’t know who is making a profit from all those machines lined up in school lunch rooms, but they need to find another line of work, and show up for detention every afternoon for about 20 years as penance for the damage they have done to America.

But the idea of a comparison between $4 worth of Doritos and $4 worth of something like on-sale broccoli proves the point that a heathy diet is afforable by all — well, maybe you need to go volunteer at your local Food Bank and look some of these “poor people” in the eye for a few days. At the very least, you need to go price broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, and bananas. The foods that go on sale are prepared Kraft mixes, breakfast cereals, Velveta, hamburger helper, and frozen TV dinners.

If “poor people” are overweight — or underweight for that matter — it is not a simple matter of watching stores for weekly sales and planting a garden.

I once heard someone say that people on food stamps (or welfare, or any kind of public assistance…) just need to pull themselves up and get a job and start contributing to society instead of draining it and costing all of us who DO contribute so much of our hard earned money. — Which would be really nice. If there were no illiterate, depressed, handicapped, abused, neglected, abandoned, diseased, or elderly in our world.

Poor people eat crap for the same reason they eat anything else. Because they are hungry.

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