Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Red Queen on Food

Go right now and read the Red Queen of Elizabitches about what poverty does to food budgets. She's giving Ezra Klein a lesson in reality. Here are the concluding paragraphs, but read it all for the math lesson:

So most of the month lunch is a candy bar and a coke (or 800 or so calories in fat and sugar for under 2 bucks) and dinner is hamburger helper and a can of green beans (a little more than 5 bucks to feed 4 people and about 400 calories per person).

That is why poverty and obesity go together. It's not because twinkies are the prozac of the lower classes, but because our Darwin approved bodies recognize starvation and fight to hold onto every possible calorie. It's the thrifty fucking gene in action, and a wee bit of math would have shown that out.

I always get infuriated by the earnest assertion of people with money to spare at all times that, really, these poor people need to learn how to maximize the nutrition in their diets by shopping with cash at weekly farmers markets and getting organic produce that is only $2/bunch for kale.

This was also a poorly explained aspect of my post about refusing to take checks - sometimes that cash isn't there until day after tomorrow, and if you hand over a check late in the day at a grocery store, chances are it won't clear until sometime the business day after that.

You spend the money you have to secure the goods you can. You don't buy soy milk because it is expensive compared to powdered milk. Fatty hamburger is cheaper per pound than tofu and tempeh and fills up a teenage stomach much faster. Canned vegetables - you know, the off brands made with the non-organic vegggies and bathed in salty, preservative laced liquid - are cheaper than frozen which are cheaper than fresh. They don't go bad, either. Am I going to buy the store brand squishy white bread for .99 (a day or two old, but, hey, toast it and who knows the diff...) or the artisan baked French White loaf with the extra chewy (i.e., inedible) crust made from the organic, stone-ground flour fo $3.89 per paper-wrapped loaf?

Like, duh.

I have the luxury of eating a red bell pepper every day. I love those peppers. I never got them as a kid because they cost too much. I wasn't able to buy them as an adult until after I got a realatively steady high tech job. They are sweet, crunchy, tasty and packed with so many wonderful micro-nutrients per gram it boggles the mind. They are also $1 each, $30 per month (more, because some go bad), and about 100 calories. That's just 7 cents less than the per day food budget of Red Queen's family of four at the poverty line.

Think about that. My one bell pepper, inadequate to provide even a single meal, is worth almost as much as the entire day's food budget for someone who is at the poverty line. A $2 bunch of kale (I mention this because discussed on some food site as being the obvious choice for someone on food stamps to buy) might go a bit further, but is still all or half of a day's food allowance for one person. If I cook it up into a pot with pinto beans and some minced onions, then it might help make a meal, but why waste the $2 on the kale when I can get some sausage to go in the pot?

Most times, onions are cheap. Potatoes, too. Cheap bacon, probably bacon ends sold in a big box, mostly fat and really salty. Now, there's a yummy meal - pork fat, potatoes and onions. You think I'm joking? I'm not. I'd like a little salt & pepper to go with it, but I can do without and I'd gladly eat it. Even now when I can afford "better", I love a baked potato mashed with some onion cooked in a slice of bacon.

The obsession of the well-off upper middle class with the eating habits of the barely scraping by poor is both domineering and obscene, a deep desire to force their food choices (too little for too much) onto others who have little choice, and to closely observe, weigh, measure, and manipulate the bodies of subjects unable to avoid this invasion.

Who in this exchange better knows the cost of a pound of flesh?


PS - An observation. I'm getting more and more spam comment posts that have vague political stances and then include a link to "my site" which is something commercial, usually travel or "dating". Why put that much effort into spam?


The Red Queen said...

thank you for the linky love ( and for the other thing too- I didn't mean to be such a slacker about that).

But yeah, the whole point is that you can't get enough calories to live on with a poverty food budget AND eat healthy virtuous food.

Koshem Bos said...

As my youngest says: they don't care if a waiter losses her job; they don't care about the mouths she feeds with a meager income.

It's a society were the Speaker of the House talks only about the middle class. The people who can afford red peppers should not be treated as the lowest class. Those of us who spend 4-6 weeks out of the country shouldn't be talking about overweight except for suitcases.

Sadly, only the unions (SIEU, UNITE HERE, etc.) care about the (Working) poor.

lahru said...

I am always amazed at the eating habits of all people.

I live on a diet of green, red and yeallow peppers, chick peas, salsa, onions and all the healthy stuff you mentioned in your post. I am not rich by any means, $20,000 annual income, and don't spens more than $50 a week on food. Beans are canned, salsa is store brand, no frozen veggies for me. It takes a little thought and planning so as not to waste any of the fresh items and my staple meat is chicken. No red meat for this guy.

The difference is that I do not view a meal as an occaision to fill my belly. I am more concerned about nutrition, fat content and calories.

Joyce L. Arnold said...

There are multiple variables -- Are you feeding only yourself? Another adult? A child or children? What kind of shopping options do you have? What kind of transportation? And after other basic monthly bills are paid, what, how much is left for food?

Judging the eating habits of those in lower incomes brackets from a distant, higher bracket has no validity without taking into consideration those, and more, specific variables. Even within the same general income bracket, we can't know the circumstances of others.

Anne said...

The obsession of the well-off upper middle class with the eating habits of the barely scraping by poor is both domineering and obscene....

Indeed. And this sermonizing to the poor is done completely for the wealthy's own gratification of course.

The wealthy who engage in this often do so to feel relief from their own jaded, over catered to palettes,and to mentally masturbate over the fatty foods they love to spank.

But also to pretend their upper crust position is based on some imagine moral superiority....who wouldn't want to eat way better AND feel moral superior at the same time? /snark

Until you are trying to feed yourself on a such a budget, one cannot have a clue and until I see these wealthy food know it alls organize a food bank, they can stuff it.

Joyce L. Arnold said...

"Until you are trying to feed yourself on a such a budget, one cannot have a clue" -- Absolutely correct, Annie.

I've spent a good deal of time at a place where Ramen noodles (use only half the very high in sodium packet :) with the cheapest canned English peas I could find stirred in was a staple -- I wasn't uninterested or unconcerned in healthy eating, but I also had to pay utility bills, etc.

splashy said...

Hey, Russ, $20,000 a year for one person is not poverty level. $200 a month on food for one person is not poverty level.

Try more like $12,000 a year for two, that's more like it, and perhaps $200 a month for two.az

cgeye said...

God damn. Now I know why this article incensed me:

It spent most of its time making us love and feel sorry for Jaime Oliver, when the reporter sure as hell should have talked to those people who knew they were being set up for ridicule and shame when they passed by that unnecessary waste of 15 pounds of burger.

At least when someone orders it for real, they eat it, and no reporter or cameraman is shaming them about it.