Friday, December 11, 2009

Talking About Hunger in the USA-


One of the things I admire about both Crunchy Chicken and Sharon Astyk is that they fearlessly charge into discussions that are bound to become difficult and rancorous. Lots of things just plain need to be talked about; regardless of hurt feelings. So they do.

I'm about to do that too. However, I want to start with a disclaimer: I'm not judging anybody here. I'm really not. But we have a problem no one is facing, and we need to face it.

In the last couple weeks Hunger In the USA has gotten a lot of attention, and rightly so. One of the nifty little facts that came out in the NYT was that currently 1/8 of adults are getting food paid for by the government, via what used to be called "the food stamp program"; and 1/4 of our children.

That shocked a lot of people. In truth, I'm pretty angry that people were shocked. We should have been horrified- and aware and doing something about it long before it got to this point. Once again, I'm embarrassed to be a citizen of this country. We let 1/4 of our children grow up in such poverty? Unforgivable. Not a word I use at all lightly.

At the time, Sharon put up a post on the topic; and my comment on it was the second one. My topic here is a little different.

There, I pointed out that quite a few people who are actually hungry- are in situations where their parents or caretakers truly just do not know how to feed them.

What I want to say here - non-judgmentally, remember! - is that many who believe they are hungry- are not. They do not know what real hunger is; in spite of those ubiquitous advertisements with skeletal children in them.

Today the Washington Post has chimed in; and I think without knowing it, they've hit a nail right on the head. There's both an article, and a rather long photo gallery.



These were the photos that set me off. Neither this woman, nor her child, are actually "hungry", in the sense of not having enough to eat. They certainly may be malnourished- but hungry? No.

I do not, in the least, doubt that the woman believes she and her family are hungry, and that she is frantic about the welfare of her children. I would be willing to bet she's entirely sincere, and in no way a "bad person"- quite the contrary. But her problem has been misidentified; and the help being offered her- will not help.

Later in the photo gallery there is another mother- who is skipping meals, so her children can eat. She's skinny. And I'll believe in a second her stomach hurts, and that her children's do too.

There is the crux of why I'm writing about this. One of my myriad ex-girlfriends (ok, 3) fiercely accused me during one of our breakups of being a "problem solver"; a great sin for someone who didn't want her problems solved, she just wanted me to listen to them. (Evidently this is a fairly common source of friction between males and females, but I REALLY don't want to talk about it.)

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima etc. Loathsome as it may be, I really do prefer to come out the other side of a difficulty in an improved state, if possible.

Hunger in the world is actually a major focus of my life. To hear that one out of every four children in my country requires help from outside the family in order to not be hungry sets me going. Big time.

A tried and true way to fail at problem solving is to apply the wrong solution to a problem. For example, like trying to fix a flat tire with a wad of bubble gum. Looks kinda like it might work, if we're lucky. But in fact, it's just truly dumb.

I think we have abundant proof available that we're applying bubble gum to our hungry populace. It isn't going to help; which is by far my biggest objection; and it's insanely expensive, in a time when the country doesn't have a dime to spare. The money could and should be spent so that the recipients of the aid actually get help for their problem.

Problems come in layers, more often than not. The next layer to this particular one is that we know many people on food stamps are not actually hungry- but we don't want to deal with what's really going on. It's embarrassing, from all directions. So, rather than cause some forced blushing- we continue as a nation to pretend: lack of food is the problem; and money is the answer.

Very simply- lack of food is NOT the problem; and money is NOT the answer. Can't get much simpler than that.

The problem is- we refuse to talk about, or deal with, the problem.

If you haven't read the Washington Post article, now would be a good time. Surprise! They actually talk about all this.

I was delighted to discover that; and that others are struggling with it.

Now what?

Once you've discovered your solution to a problem isn't a solution; and the problem isn't what you thought it was - you must, must, must - throw everything out and start over.

What we're doing right now, to continue the flat tire simile, is "hey, maybe if we got the gum hotter, it would work." "hey, maybe if we mixed the gum with gasoline, it would work" "hey, maybe if we put sand in the gum, it would work." "hey, mixing the gum with gasoline almost worked, let's try mixing it with brake fluid instead."

It's painful to throw out a "solution" that you're so deeply invested in. But anything else is almost certain to just add to the "fixing the fix" cycle.

A black hole for the people; and the money.

31 comments:

Nettle said...

It seems clear that if a family of four can't be fed on $650/month, the solution is not to give them more money. I live in the same city as Ms. Koch and am not unfamiliar with her neighborhood, and I feel pretty sure I could keep four people fed for a month on that much. We wouldn't be eating takeout or drinking soda, but we would all have plenty to eat and be getting good nutrition.

Like you, I don't want to judge her and I feel nothing but sympathy for her situation - I can't imagine how hard it must be to raise a family under those circumstances, and I don't mean to say that I'm such a marvelous smarty-pants that I could live her life better - but the fact is she has the resources to feed her kids. She just has never learned how to use them.

It's a hard topic because I feel like it's easy to slip into a "let them eat cake!" mode - when I saw her buying takeout pizza, I immediately thought, doesn't she know how much cheaper it is to make your own pizza? But that presupposes things like a functional oven, and who knows if she has that. But someone has clearly failed her at some point in life - it's not judgmental to wish otherwise, or to wish that someone would make up for it.

JenHarper said...

How about this - if you have a child that you can't afford to feed, then the government will provide sufficient funds/food stamps to feed your family PROVIDED that you take appropriate action to ensure that you don't have another child until you can stand on your own two feet. Just seems logical.

belinda said...

It really is an interesting problem this one.

Seeming to question people's choices on how they do anything is very much social suicide. The problem is by creating such elaborate barriers around questioning such seemingly illogical decisions it actually cocoons the person making them in ignorance.

Offering all the community education solutions in the world is not going to solve the problem either unless they can see they have options.

They are not going to seek knowledge unless they are aware there are other options. They can't become aware there are other options if people don't ask why they are doing things in a certain way.

Some of the greatest and most relevant lessons come from having your worldview challenged by some one that is then willing to teach you. The problem is how to do that when the entire advertising industry is aimed at making people less personally competent not more is one I still struggle with.

Kind Regards
Belinda

Kind Regards
Belinda

Carol-Leah said...

I agree with Nettle about being able to feed a family of four on $650; it definitely is possible to buy nutritional food for that amount of money but I don't think anyone has ever taught them how to eat properly. I see them at the checkout with their cart full of chips and packaged cookies and flavoured rice packets and not much at all in the way of vegetables or fruit. Maybe it would be more constructive use of the aid money if classes were given to the recipients on grocery shopping that would give them the most bang for the money. I'm sure that the vast majority of them have some way to cook food because they seem to be able to cook the frozen junk food they buy so they just need to be taught how to feed their families nutritious meals. Cooking co-ops in the neighbourhoods could be set up to help many families at once.

Laura said...

Thanks for talking about the hard subjects. I too like it when Crunchy dives into the deep end. (I don't read Sharon very often but apparently I should.) :)

I forget where I heard about it but wasn't there a few guys that got an old ice cream truck or something and would drive fresh veggies into south central LA because the only place to buy "food" in their neighborhoods was at liquor stores? Anyway, I like that story because it shows guts and smarts but it also makes me sad that they even had to go that route.
The 'corner store' in this story sounds like its probably not much better than a liquor store. Everything is all ways more expensive and more processed at a corner market. Real grocery stores and farmers markets, that's what we need! :D

I think anyone can sympathize with not knowing what to make for dinner. It takes time, energy and know how and I often find it tough to stay inspired/find the time/cook stuff before it goes bad/make stuff that tastes good/etc.

But I agree, if your kid is a picky eater, ya'll probably aren't going hungry. Times might be tough and getting by might be hard. But if someone is really truly I'm-gonna-eat-my-shoe-hungry... seems to me they eat what there is and ask for more.

knutty knitter said...

Thats rather more money than we have and we certainly don't starve.

But then I cook most things from scratch. Maybe its time to implement home economics classes for all.

Along with a reasonable income and healthcare (not here - we already have these things - sort of :)

viv in nz

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Okay, I’m stretching my comfort zone here, so please bear with me.

The "bubblegum" just doesn't work. Every weekend here in a northeastern city, when walking into the grocery store you will see a table set up by a church group, the ambulance corps, the food shelf, a youth group, or others, to collect for those who do not have the means to feed themselves or their families. Yes, I give, but I'm not bragging because I could give more. My point is that these folks (neighbors) are not surviving. The existing "system" has failed them.

I do not want to judge any of these people. Yes, there may be some who do not make wise choices. Yes, there may be some who get subsidies from the gov't who shouldn't. We then begin to argue the ‘right’ to entitlements. Doesn't this mean that the whole system needs to be fixed? How about increased job training and education, workfare instead of welfare, cut wasteful government spending and help rebuild ‘broken’ cities, etc.

My thought is that, unfortunately, hunger in America is a symptom of a bigger problem.

Robyn M. said...

Hm. I may have a different perspective on this, given that my family is applying for food stamps (unemployed, etc.). I've never had the impression that food stamps are supposed to be a *solution* to the problem of hunger in America. The way I understand them, and certainly the way they're being marketed to me in the application process, is that food stamps are a stop-gap measure to keep one's family fed until they're back on their feet. This can take a lot of forms, too. For the second woman you cite, it's in the form of literally *feeding her children and herself* such that they can maintain healthy bodies and not slowly starve. But for the first woman--the one buying take-out pizza--it's probably far more of a psychological issue than a literal physical need. Food stamps might give her, and her family, the psychological space to not be constantly freaking out about where the food is going to come from if one more thing goes wrong. Most people with a reasonable job or income can weather small hiccups without too much issue (car breakdown, extra doctor bill, etc.). But if you're too close to the edge, any one of those things means that now she *is* skipping meals so that her children can eat. Food stamps provide a modicum of insulation from being in that space.

Having said that, I would praise all the heavens if I had anything like a $650 monthly food budget--we could eat like kings. No doubt this woman is not using her money as efficiently as she could be. But I'm willing to bet long odds that she's new to this situation, and will have to learn the hard way how to stretch a budget, because no one ever taught her, nor did she grow up in that culture. It's ironic that my family of four's current food budget (including organic & local foods) is half of what our food budget was with only two of us living as grad students and line cooks. And that's another place that food stamps can either help or harm. They can, unfortunately, be used to insulate people from having to *learn* budget stretching techniques. On the other hand, they can provide the cushion so that the family has time to adjust and learn. If she feels that her food budget is crunched, then certainly her other budgets are also being crunched. She will likely slowly work her way into a more frugal, efficient lifestyle, and food stamps can ease that transition. Sure, it can drag it out too, but maybe that's a fair cost. If we yanked away that safety net, I'm sure she'd figure out ways to feed her family; it would just be vastly harder on her, her marriage (if she has one), and her children who don't understand what's happening.

Michelle said...

I read the article, and I'm aghast that she can blow through $650 a month in food stamps and run out! I have FOUR children and I spend less than $400 a month on groceries. Of course, I stock up when they're on sale, and cook actual food for my children....

And I agree with Robyn M.'s assessment that if her kid has the luxury of being "picky", he's not actually hungry.

Is this judgmental? Sure. I think that a bit more judgment and a bit less in the way of excuse-making is way overdue in the US. That said, I also endorse the idea of re-introducing home ec. classes. I learned how to sew and cook in 7th grade, and those are darn useful life skills. Teaching budgeting would help, too. Then again, though, this gal didn't finish high school, so she might have missed out on that opportunity even if it had been offered.

risa said...

This winter we're living on, almost entirely, four kinds of beans, peas, kale, onions, garlic, dried tomatoes, dried apples, applesauce, broccoli, boc choi, squash, pumpkin, potatoes, eggs, chicken, frozen blackberries.

We grew it all.

But, whoa! Ok, we have an acre and not everyone does. But I remember living in a tiny one room apartment -- with no kitchen and little budget. I had rice, oats, wild onions, and dandelions mostly, with permission to gather some apples and such in season. Also acorns.

This was in 1998 (I was having a midlife crisis and away from home for a year), and my entire monthly outlay for living was $450 a month, nearly all of it going to rent, which, luckily, included heat, light and water.

I suspect the U.S. of having retrained all its citizens as consumers -- a TV commercial is not going to teach you how to deal with surplus roosters or live on grains and dropped fruit when necessary.

How do we retrain for taking responsibility for ourselves? Not in the schools as we now have them, and certainly not in a Congress run by "health" insurance companies, Monsanto, ADM, and Exxon.

BoysMom said...

It's about kinds of food and ability and knowledge on how to cook it. If you're living in one of those little hotel-room deals it's a lot harder to cook.

That said, I feed my family, six of us, for $500 a month (this also includes toiletries). A friend, also a family of six, gets $950 on food stamps. They eat high end organics until the end of the month, then pick up some extras to tide them over at the food bank. Does that make me mad? You bet!

So there are two seperate problems, the problem of people getting much more than what they really need and making food choices that make them run short, and the people who don't have the ability or knowledge to properly use what they get.

I wonder if it would be better to go to a commodity-based program, somewhat like WIC. Instead of getting a debit card, you get coupons that say how many pounds of dry beans, cheese, milk, apples etc. you get each month. Hand out a crockpot and a recipe book with the first month. Whatcha think? That wouldn't work for the truly homeless, but maybe there could be different options on the coupons for those who don't have an address.

Aimee said...

for all the talk of being non-judgmental, I hear a lot of judgement.

First, to Greenpa: I'm glad you understand the difference between hunger and malnutrition, and seem to be aware that it's perfectly possible to be both overweight and malnourished. But you seem to be misusing the word hungry. "hungry" is a feeling, it ranges from "gee, I could eat" through "I'm feeling faint, I have low blood sugar right now, I better get something in quick" all the way to death by starvation. You are using the word to refer only to the rather extreme end of the spectrum. People (even - GASP - fat people) get hungry about twice a day, more often if they are doing physical labor. That's just a physiological fact. If people (even fat people) don't eat every six hours or so, they start to experience negative consequences immediately. These consequences are transient and can be relieved by eating, but they include severe mood fluctuations, dizziness, faintness, irritability, etc. Everyone has experienced this and knows what it feels like.

To say this woman isn't hungry because she has a few extra pounds on her is just flat out wrong. She's working and taking care of several kids; she gets hungry just as often as the rest of us. It is more accurate to say she hasn't experienced chronic hunger for a long enough time to adversely affect her weight status (sorry, I'm an R.N.). Also, no-one seems to recognize that worrying about having enough food for your children and yourself is extremely stressful, and that has it's own health consequences quite apart from nutritional issues.

Also I hear a lot of judgement about her food choices, especially the use of convenience foods. Now I'm not going to argue that chips and pizza is a great diet, but many of you just don't seem to have read very carefully. She has a hot plate and a mini-fridge to cook for six people. She works a full time job and is a mother to small kids. A person in that situation is not going to be able to cook fresh meals from scratch twice or three times a day. I'm sure most of us, if we are honest, can remember plenty of times when we were just too tired to cook and picked up the phone for a pizza. Perhaps the snack foods in her cart were meant to last six people a whole month. Her regular dinner was a mixture of rice and beans, which is not at all a bad choice of staples. Add some corn tortillas, fruit, and a vegetable or two and you have a decent diet.

As far as the picky eater goes, some kids are really really terrible this way - in fact, extreme pickiness in children is considered by some psychiatrists to be a diagnosable mental illness. Over the years I have worked with several children who were so picky they lost serious amounts and became quite underweight. My point is, none of us know this woman or her picky kid and the attitude "he's just not hungry enough" is unkind, to say the least.
Speaking as a working mother of three, there are days I'd give my kids m&ms for dinner if that's what it took.

None of this is meant to suggest she couldn't benefit from education - who couldn't? Maybe even some of us here on this forum aren't doing everything perfectly, ya think? Nutritional education, and basic life skills and cooking skills are a subset of knowledge that has been shrinking in the US for quite some time. Personally, I think we should bring back home ec in high schools.

I agree that our current methods of addressing hunger are not working - a lot needs to change. And conversations like this one will be a part of any solutions. Thanks for raising the topic, Greenpa. You knew it would be contentious.

Greenpa said...

I am SO so proud of you, my readers. No kidding, I'm honored you are here reading me.

And I haven't had to filter out one whackjob.

I'm up to my ears plowing snow this afternoon; just was able to start the tractor- so I don't have the time for good answers.

Intelligent, passionate, and civil.

Wow. :-)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Oh dear, there are so many issues here.... where to begin. I think many of you are making very valid points and I think Aimee hits it spot on as well.

One thing that wasn't brought up was the fact that, in many areas of country (and I'm not saying that it pertains to the examples in the article), it's nearly impossible to find fresh food. In more urban areas, the only "grocery" stores around are really just convenience stores since all of the major grocers have moved out of the area. Imagine buying all your food for your family at 7-11. Not only are the prices higher, but the selection sucks and what you get is pre-packaged food.

Sound improbable? Unfortunately, it's not. I think that's where we are seeing a lot of these numbers coming from. Without time and transportation to get to the suburbs where the grocery stores are, many of these individuals are literally stuck eating high-cost, low-quality food.

I don't have the sources offhand for this, but it's easy enough to Google. But, this issue is much more of a problem than simply re-educating people how to eat or cook. It's all about access to food.

Eric the Red said...

The lady in the article had some serious obstacles to providing the best nutrition for those in her care - lack of an education, lack of appropriate tools, lack of time and lack of a stable household.

Having been a single parent, I can vouch for how overwhelming things can get and how the easy it is to let someone else fix your meal. Fortunately, I've also had the resources where I could do that and didn't have to choose between that and paying a bill - though I always had to be careful how much we spent eating out.

And there lies a basic difference that I can see - I told my money how it was going to work for me. Without creating a plan for her resources (budgeting time and money), she terribly handicaps her efforts and lowers what she can attain. Planning for the future is one of the things that humans do better than other animals - and she hasn't learned how to apply that behavior to her situation.

Billie said...

About 13/14 years ago, I lived in Canada. I was house rich and cash poor due to a recent separation.

After paying the bills, I had so much money left over to deal with food/toiletries. When the money ran out, so did the food. I ate on about 90$ a month. Did I eat well? Not really. I have a very limited range of things I could afford to eat and meat was not one of them.

During that time, I read an article in the paper. A single person on welfare received 95$ a month for food/toiletries. They were complaining that it wasn't enough. I remember being so angry at those people. Here I was busting my butt working and STILL had less than that left over for my needs and they were unhappy about what the govt was giving him for nothing.

No moral to this story but interesting that the exact same issue is coming up in a different country more than a decade later. The most things change, the more they stay the same.

curiousalexa said...

The problem is- we refuse to talk about, or deal with, the problem.

I seem to be missing the obvious here - what are you referring to as the *actual* problem?

Nutrition vs. hunger?
Budgeting abilities (caloric as well as financial)?
Effective food preparation skills?
Resource availability?

All of these seem to be problems, but I can't decipher which you are referring to as THE problem.

Greenpa said...

Still up to my eyeballs in winter-

Curiousalexa- "I seem to be missing the obvious here - what are you referring to as the *actual* problem? "

:-) EXACTLY! You hit the nail on the head!

"What is the problem?" IS the problem. Those in charge have not really identified what the problem IS. But they're "fixing" it anyway.

And boy, does THAT ever not work.

More later, I hope.

billhicksmostfunny said...

After I read all this, an old saying springs to mind, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

I think the problem is people stink at fishing. And farming. And feeding themselves in general b/c it is done for them nowadays. All they have to do to land a huge fish is drive/walk/ride the bus to the Giant/Safeway/Huge Chain Supermarket and get a fish.

My solution is I admit drastic but hey sometimes you gotta get down and dirty. Lets get rid of all the Supermarkets nationwide and maybe people will learn how to feed themselves again. Giving people free food or free money or free food stamps does nothing to entice them to acquire nutritious food under their own man/woman power.

Rosa said...

The other purpose of food stamps/WIC is to provide a market for some commodities - it's been an uphill struggle to get very healthy but not majority-culture foods approved for the programs.

And the 'real problem' is inequality - which isn't what any of these problems addressed. None of them are solidarity programs to eliminate poverty - only to ameliorate its effects.

Still, making sure kids aren't hungry at night is better than *not* doing that.

RC said...

For over thirty years as a resident of Puerto Rico I have been amazed at the extremely high level of Food Stamp use here {called La Tarjeta Familia now, it's plastic} at about 65% of the population while at least
half of those recipients have adequate yards for growing and the whole year has no frost. Clearly there is a way, but no will, and no government initiative to lead in a better direction.
Oh, yes, I AM being judgmental. I'm famous for that here. But I got tired of even mentioning this topic decades ago.
I'm of the school that the food and/or the money should just go poof! in those places where food could and should be grown. I stand by that. Yeah I do grow my own and I do buy it too.
I also think that the money WILL soon go poof! I don't see many people around me {there are some, but not many} that are even remotely mentally capable of plowing through that. My sincere hope is that they move away from here at the first sign of that happening. In fact the PR population has shrunk continually
and radically over the last few years with most of the escapees
going to Florida. That seems not such a great idea either.

E said...

So to the problem
*lack of food prep/growing/storage skills
*farm/food/consumer disconnect
*living beyond our means w regards to: loans/resource (fossil fuel & water etc) use/family size/ ecological footprint
*belief in free lunches in any form


A lovely mix of problems that go from individual to whole society, cheap & relatively easy to address to expensive w huge sunk costs & very expensive to "fix"

Annie said...

I think this is a very interesting and appropriate discussion right now and would like to add my two cents worth, but Aimee says what I would like to say so much better. I'm not a nurse but I have a few years of experience both as grandmother to kids living very close to the edge and as a single mother on either very low working income or welfare. It's very easy to judge people in those positions, but living it is quite another matter. I'm pretty well educated and know enough about providing adequate nutrition to myself and dependents to escape the worst of it, but that kind of knowledge is not easily accessed by most folks in dire straits. I totally agree with Aimee on pretty much all points.

Anonymous said...

A few of you mentioned the problem of communities underserved by grocery stores - I live in DC, where this is a big problem. A handful of organizations are moving again to create incentives for more grocery stores to move into low-income neighborhoods.

There's an op-ed piece about it here: http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dllarticle?AID=2009912100381. And an action on Change.org: http://food.change.org/blog/view/tell_congress_everybody_needs_fresh_food.

Kate said...

I guess I can get on the bandwagon too and state that I could easily feed a family of four on $650. But that's pretty easy for me to say, given my background in professional cooking and my paid-up utility bills. I have gas and electricity to cook with. Take away those "conveniences" and everything changes.

Suddenly there's no more homemade bread in the house. (And how many people know how to make bread from scratch? I'm not bragging here. I know that in my society such knowledge is downright esoteric.) There's no refrigerator to keep perishables from spoiling.

Are there alternatives that still allow for a half-way healthy diet? Probably, but with all my knowledge of food preparation, I would have to seriously sit down and puzzle out the problem of eating decently with no stove, oven, or refrigerator. Without a near-professional knowledge of cooking, I'd put the chances at very low. And we all know that low quality carbs are much cheaper than healthy basics such as fresh fruit. Would I be tempted to go out and buy a hot take out meal once in a while in the midst of winter? Yeah, I certainly would. Could I resist the temptation? Only if I could really see the benefits of doing so. And even then it would be hard to deny kids a hot meal in a cold house.

As for how this family got into a situation that left them without utilities...who knows? It could happen to a whole lot of us, given the right circumstances.

thetinfoilhatsociety said...

First let me start by saying this: I have spent time on welfare and food stamps, when I first left my ex.

In my experience it is possible to eat quite well on food stamps...if you have a crock pot, or knowledge of cooking from scratch. I do.

What is hard is living on what they give you for living expenses. Anything you get that might give you a leg up to get out of the situation is counted as income, and therefore your next month's check is docked. It creates welfare fraud by its very mechanism. Everyone in my experience who is on welfare is a criminal, because the system forces you to become one just to survive. Not pretty but there it is. I got lucky, I got a little family help and got out.

I'm sure this problem facing our local food bank is nation wide. The vegetables that are donated for the most part rot, along with any bread that doesn't say 'wonder' on the label. I have heard of a woman who goes to our local food banks on a weekly basis to pick up the rotting produce; she feeds her livestock with it. She and her family are having hard times and the food bank looks at it as enabling her to keep her animals (one of her sources of food) from starving, and keeps usable food out of the dumpster. Why is there so much rotting produce, you might ask? Because the people who frequent the food bank refuse it. They won't take it. They will take the canned goods, the microwavable goods, the frozen treats, but not the actual raw nutritious stuff.

Sad.

You are right Greenpa. The problem isn't that there isn't enough food. It's that people don't know how to prepare food anymore. Nor do they understand how to budget. Those aren't cultural standards anymore. Yet.

Dean Carder said...

During my short stint of working in a grocery store I noticed that most of the folks using government vouchers or food program credit cards ALWAYS had cash for beer, rolling paper(and presumably money for the stuff to go in the papers), cigeretes, lighters and liquor. The vast majority of them expressed the desire to never work and just keep on with their situation.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

In a 'problem' housing estate in SE England a close family member was involved in starting a youth group.

The only way the youth would agree to come along to the first session was if they had chips.

When they attended there was a pile of potatoes on the table. They nearly walked out, they had no idea that a chip came from a potato rather than from a plastic packet.

I'm with Risa here, (having lived through post WW2 UK rationing) we have allowed children to be 'educated' away from looking after themselves.

healinggreen said...

Bravo greenpa, I loved you article!

I have a family of 3 and we eat incredibly well for about $400 a month. I keep an eye out for what's on sale, but I don't deprive us at all. Everyone who knows us knows that I grew up eating at first class restaurants around the world and have a gourmet pallette... I LOVE food. We eat mostly organic produce, dairy and meat, lots of whole grains, and people love to come to our house for meals. In the summer we eat even more cheaply with a giant box of organic CSA veggies (enough for a family of 4) at $25/week + buying house staples like milk, cheese and grains.

I think a large problem in the US is that people simply don't know how to cook anymore. And the majority of people that do know how to cook, don't know how to cook from scratch, and rely mostly on processed ingredients to create their dinners. It's sad. They are missing out on so many things -- good flavors, supporting farmers, connecting with their physical body, bonding over a good meal, and knowledge... *sigh*

Anonymous said...

When I worked for county public health, our WIC nutritionist told us that many WIC clients didn't even have a dinner table in their home. She had been astonished at how many families ate while watching TV - and we all know how many health-promoting messages you'll find *there.* She pointed out that plenty of social science research shows that families who eat together around a table have healthier relationships, better nutritional status, and the children do better in school. Obviously eating while watching TV has a relationship-fragmenting effect while also conveying loads of anti-health messages. Our nutritionist did her best to educate the clients about how to use and enjoy healthful foods. Some WIC programs really excel at this kind of education; the SNAP (formerly Food Stamp) program needs to offer more such services.

JN said...

World hunger is a local problem.

Effectively, you cannot throw money at the hungry in other parts of the world. They get one cent of every dollar. It doesn't matter what the charities claim. That is the reality as it winds up on the recieving end.

Effectively, whomever lives there and is doing better than most is the one who needs to help those in their own locale who are mal-nourished.

Idealism in the West tells us we can write a check and the problem goes away. Again, it doesn't work that way in reality.

Take care of your own in your own locale, and spread that example. That is the only way to address this problem with lasting effect.