ICYMI: The end of unemployment benefits, handling food waste,broke systems that create poverty (SSDD)….

Food & Recipes

Video Report: An Oasis in a Food Desert | BillMoyers.combillmoyers.com Take a look inside America’s first nonprofit grocery store, which is bringing fresh food to a struggling community in Pennsylvania.-The first non-profit grocery store opened a few months ago. It’s in Chester, PA… an area with 36% poverty rate and 13% unemployment and in a food desert.
Really interested to see how this does in the long term.

Don’t Waste Your Food- I know . No duh.  But ” Each American wastes $28 to $43 of food or about 20 pounds, per month. The average American family of four generates 36 pounds of wasted food each week. An estimated 50 million Americans don’t have enough to eat. One in six Americans go hungry. Twenty-five million people could get fed, if we reduced our waste by 15 percent.”
Article misses the crucial point that we need to change the system we have so that the food gets rerouted to people before it goes to the dumpster.

The Black Panther Party for Social Justice did some amazing things getting food to the people. Little known trivia : the school meal program that we know in American schools today was copied from The Black Panther Party. They started a free breakfast program for children in poor neighborhoods and fed 10,000 children every morning before school. The Panthers believed that “Children cannot reach their full academic potential if they have empty stomachs.” The Federal government instituted a program of their own when they saw the impact it was creating on neighborhoods. Some say the creation of the government program was due to politicians feeling shamed for not doing enough for families but more likely, the government was afraid of the power it gave the Black Panther Party.

Thrifty Living & DIY

The Most Wasteful Packaging For Food -Good to know, not just for the environmental reasons but if you have to pay for trash removal, the less you’re throwing away,the more money you aren’t spending.

Costs of a Backyard Flock - If you’re thinking of backyard chickens, some good basics. In addition to Craigslist, I’ve seen chickens offered quite often on Freecycle .There’s also a board at the local farm & garden supply store that is a great resource for getting chickens (and other poultry).

Articles & Thoughts

The end is here for long-term jobless benefits - 1.3 million unemployed will lose benefits this weekend. Anyone reading here affected by this?

Thousands of black and Latino kids lost their schools in 2013 -”Rivera and student advocates across the country describe the collective brunt of mass school closings and flawed education policy as an assault on some of the most vulnerable demographics of children in the country. School deserts cross paths where social needs tend to be greatest, where food deserts exists, where there tends to be high levels of unemployment, poverty and violence. What’s at stake in the much broader debate over school closures and urban education policy is a whole generation of minority students already struggling with great social and economic instability.”

This is one of my favorite video interviews about how to end hunger. Thoroughly thought out and practical. Joel Berg addresses the entire underlying causes of hunger and the entire system.

Activism & Awareness

Nashville remembers homeless residents who died in 2013 - “It’s important, because some of the names on the list are people who literally had nobody at all with them when they died, or who even knew they died.”
I recently watched Tent City, a documentary about Nashville’s homeless community, then stumbled on to this article the day after. Worth a watch.

5 critical issues affecting the world’s children -22,000 children die each day because of poverty-related causes. When I posted this on the Facebook page, it was just before Christmas and someone complained that I should save these types of articles until after the holidays. So, here it is, after those holidays and I’m sharing it again.

Boxed In: How a Criminal Record Keeps You Unemployed For Life - Finding myself pissed off about the prison system these days and how it creates poverty.

Hardworking yet still homeless in today’s America - About 3.5 million people experience some kind of homelessness every year, and about a quarter of them are employed at the time

Top 10 Books to Help Kids Understand -I feel like children’s books when done well on a topic can help children learn empathy for others as well as not feel so alone when they are going thru something similar in their life.
These are good recommendations for helping children understand (or not feel alone) about hunger.
Other suggestions in the comments there,too.

Someone needs to stop making “Healthy vs Junk Food Shopping Comparison” infographics

These infographics where we’re shown a picture of a “good” meal and a “bad” meal with a dollar amount, showing how easy is it to eat well on a low budget seem to be everywhere right now. Again. They make me curse a lot and I wish people would stop making them.

When I say I hate these, people assume I must love Big Macs and Pringles or something and that I’m angry because I’m feeling defensive. SO not even close. I’m not defending the food. I’m defending the choices that people make when they have to  buy this food. Choice might not even be a good word to use because that implies there’s more than one option. And hell, maybe there is more than one option but the not-so-healthy choice is the one that makes the most sense based on circumstances or geography or whatever. Or maybe someone really just wants to have one goddamned thing of french fries just because.

I posted these ones awhile ago. I’ve seen it floating around tumblr again lately and it still pisses me off.

SparkPeople  has these examples of how to spend your limited  money on better food.

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I’m betting most of you are looking at these and saying to yourself, “Where the hell are they shopping!?”
This is not representative of what food costs in my area. These prices must be reflective of things they found on sale.
I have seen these being reposted as evidence that  you can eat healthy on little money. It’s a classist assumption that this will be the case for every person living in poverty or on food stamps and that if they can’t manage to eat well on next to nothing, that must be their fault. 

I know I probably already belabored my point about  real food privilege, but I really don’t understand why people who are pro-health and real food feel that they need to fudge the truth of  food accessibility. I mean, why lie to sell a myth to people? Or is it that they’re just completely oblivious of the reality of it? It just makes people in a hard situation more frustrated to hear some sanctimonious preaching about something that other person probably has no real experience with.

This set comes from The New York Times article, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? :

alithea on tumblr is going to help me out with some words here. It obviously pisses her off just as much as it does me:

this bullshit fills me with a very specific kind of rage. so, TIME TO DEBUNK!

  1. that meal from mcdonalds takes virtually no time to acquire AND is available almost anywhere.
  2. the second meal? that “salad” is lettuce … with nothing else, not even dressing unless its just olive oil or some milk i guess? gross.
  3. also thats the price of each serving, not an entire loaf of bread, a bottle of olive oil, etc. that stuff adds up which means you have to have a lot of money at one time to buy it all.
  4. that meal probably took an hour and a half to make, which is a long fucking time when you work multiple jobs or are caring for a lot of people or dont have help! seriously, if you are a single parent of three who works, is spending an hour and a half every night preparing a meal a likely option?
  5. same with beans and rice! also, you know whats a fucking bummer? eating beans and rice every night because you are poor. ask any person who has done it and they will tell you (you can start with me).
  6. there is a “nutrition” argument here that lacks a follow up: poor people are more likely to be doing physical labor and need more than 571 calories per meal.
  7. you know who is less likely to know how to bake or prepare a chicken? people without access to the internet, or libraries, or who werent taught how to by their parents because their parents worked all the time. access to healthy foods is a classist issue and classism is cyclical, you fucking morons.
  8. seriously, these sorts of infographics make me want to fucking flip tables. do you know why people don’t eat more fresh fruits and vegetables? because fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, because they take a long time to prepare, because they dont live near a grocery store that has a decent produce section, because they dont have reliable transportation to get groceries to and from the grocery store, because they dont have the energy to plan all of the shit that is involved in making healthy, intentional, filling, balanced meals. basically: poor people get fucked, and then we get BLAMED for being lazy.
  9. eating “healthy”, aka access to fresh fruits and vegetables, is a privilege, first, foremost, always. so fuck you new york times and your ignorant goddamn infographic.
  10. there are SYSTEMATIC REASONS that we do not have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables. they are very REAL problems. besides, you know, systematic poverty in america, the total mis-distribution of farm subsidies is a perfect place to start. read about that, then either get bent or start working on the actual problem

tennant-this

Yep. All of that.

The Reasons Poor People Might Not Eat Healthy

I see  a lot of discussions regarding the topic of people living on food stamps/ poor people and “Why can’t they just eat right?” and talks about not letting people buy “junk food” with SNAP.  There are a lot of things your average American who has never lived in poverty don’t consider. People largely seem unaware of obstacles that face poor people when it comes to food or…well…anything at all. They’re failing to grasp that just getting enough food period is a challenge , let alone healthy food.  I’ve had to become a very forgiving person when I see certain remarks but it’s become easier since I’ve made this connection that people who say these things are speaking from a place of privilege and  ignorance and really don’t understand the complexities of food scarcity in the US.

Here are 5 reasons good food is hard to find for poor people sometimes.

1. FOOD DESERTS - Imagine you live in a city. There isn’t much in your neighborhood besides a few fast food joints, a  Dollar General & a little convenience store. They have things like milk & eggs but any food beyond that comes in a box or a can & everything they do have healthy is overpriced.  The only time you can get to the nearest real grocery store is when your sister comes and visits because she has a car. There is a Farmer’s Market somewhere in the city but like the grocery store, it’s too hard to get to without a car. With me so far?

There is a community garden you’ve been told you can get involved in to grow your own food but it’s not in your neighborhood and you have to take 2 buses  to get there and anyway, you work Monday -Saturday and by the time you would get there, it’s dark and to get back home, you would have to walk partially with your 2 little kids in tow because buses don’t run in your neighborhood (not a safe neighborhood,by the way)  past a certain time in the evening.Sunday is your only day off and the time you want to spend with your children.

You tried growing some things indoors and on a windowsill but 2 windows in the whole apartment… nothing really grew.

The food pantry run by the church has exactly the same selection as the stores you can shop at – boxed & canned food with lots of preservatives and crap. Nothing fresh.

I should mention now that this is a common thing I hear in emails from people living in food deserts.

A food desert is defined as an area that has no food & grocery sources with fresh foods or if they do have fresh foods, they are disproportionately expensive. People affected the most by food deserts are poor people who do not have access to transportation  and the primary affected are single mother & their children, elderly, and disabled. In an area considered a food desert, the rate of obesity & diabetes is much higher and there have been some causal studies that suggest children that live in food deserts don’t do as well in school.  217 million people receiving food stamps live in urban areas compared to about 62 million in rural areas. Food deserts can happen for those in rural areas,too but it’s far more prevalent in urban areas and affects the largest portion of food stamp recipients overall.

2. The Cheapest Food Is Often Junk 

Depending on where you live in the U.S., this may not be true but for most of the country, the norm is that junk food is cheep and good food is expensive. A common statement I hear is, “There should be laws that prevent people on food stamps  from buying junk food!”. I may have mentioned before that I have about 3,000 words in my drafts folder on JUST that topic. Let me see if I can summarize a piece of  the issue here in a lot less than 3,000 words.

Let’s pretend this isn’t an issue attacking the choices of a specific economic class & trying to create a Nanny State that dictates how poor people live and focus on the money aspect here.

SNAP spending accounts for almost $72 billion dollars and food companies who make junk food want most of that to go in their pockets. They spend millions of dollars every year to lobby AGAINST changes in the food stamp program that would prohibit or limit recipients from buying junk food.  The American Beverage Company, Coca Cola, Pepsi Co, Kellog, Kroger, Walmart, Snack Food Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association ,Mars ,and Cargill have all spent money to not just stop bills from being passed to restrict SNAP expenditures but also to promote their food to poor people as their target market. Debbie Stabenow, the Senate Ag Committee Chairwomen received $1,026,196 from undisclosed lobbyists to prevent restrictions from being introduced in the Farm Bill and also to stop GMOs from being labelled.

People can see the value in preventing people on SNAP from buying certain foods all they want but as long as the money is lining the pockets of people making up the rules, it isn’t going to happen. The cheapest food available is going to continue to be junk food. Of course, if this pisses you off enough ,you could start a campaign to make some phone calls, write letters and make some noise about the issue.

But here’s the thing…

If you restrict junk food then there are contingencies that have to be fought for in place of  the inexpensive source of food for these families. If  you remove junk food from the SNAP program then other things have to be put in place, such as better development of urban and community gardens, access to Farmer’s Markets, and quite simply, better allocation & distribution of food waste from grocery store & the food industry.

CORRECTION!!!  Debbie Stabenow actually received:   $903,008 from Big Ag  $359,090 from energy industry (also affected by the farm bill)  $1,026,196 from undisclosed Lobbyists and Lawyers  Occupy the Farm Bill   www.facebook.com/stabenow  www.facebook.com/occupythefarmbill

3. Education

I worked with children for a long time. There were kids who had never seen a fresh vegetable or fruit in their life. The closest thing to a potato that they knew was a french fry. I want to make it very clear here  - not all these kids came from poor families. In fact, most of them didn’t.  America as a whole needs to learn better nutrition and how to spend their food dollars better. It isn’t just a poor people issue.  It is true that demographically poor people are less educated and also have less access to educational resources but seriously…let’s be honest here – Americans have become a nation of people who make some very poor choices about what goes into their body. Rich or poor.406231_401023336623051_1406311727_n

 

Let’s also be honest about why there’s a focus on poor people to have better food education. They’re spending “taxpayer money”, so we should be sure they’re spending every dollar wisely. 10 cents a day goes into SNAP…that’s if you make $50,000/ year. Good heavens, yes…we need to make sure this 10 cents a day is being spent on healthy food only and preventing additional healthcare poor people may need on the taxpayer dime. Newsflash: The entire population contributes to the rising cost of health care costs because of their eating habits, regardless of  whether they eat on the dole or not.

Nutrition education is important for the whole country and I’m in favor for better access to nutrition education for everyone. Like I mentioned,  poor people are the least likely to have access to the resources to make this happen so we need to advocate for programs that enable people in poverty to boost their food knowledge.  One of the best ways to educate on the matters of food & nutrition is to implement more programs like Food is Elementary in US schools and school gardens that can be used not just to supply a cafeteria but also serve as a cross-curricular education opportunity.Start them young and it will set them up for a life of good and responsible eating.

4. Ability

A great deal of food stamp recipients are disabled and quite a few of them have limited support people who can cook for them. A can of  Hormel Chili is easy to open and heat in the microwave. Disabled people often encounter the same problems as those in food deserts…inability to travel to a real grocery store  to go shopping. Some areas have great services for disabled people, such as Meals on Wheels but these programs are not available everywhere. Elderly people without support also fall into this category of simply not being able to shop for or prepare food for themselves.

5. 99% of Homes May Have Refrigerators But That Doesn’t Mean They Have Stoves 

Anyone else remember when Fox News tried to dispute that America even had poor people because “99.6% of ‘Poor’ Households Have Refrigerators”. Like, because someone has a refrigerator, it means they open the door and magically, food appears! Or the electric bill was magically paid that month so the refrigerator could work. Same applies to stoves . I’ve known some families who could not use the stove in their house or apartment because it was a gas stove, which meant an additional bill they could not pay. Some are fortunate enough to have electricity and can use a microwave but you know what you can cook easily in a microwave,right?  Not to say you CAN’T cook a decent ,healthy meal in a microwave but it’s a bit more difficult. Most who are stuck with microwave cooking tend to favor frozen meals…lots of preservatives,highly processed & low nutritional value. I actually knew one women who didn’t have a microwave or a stove and still made some great meals for her family using a hot plate and a toaster oven but it took a lot of time. On the days she worked outside the home, she had to stick to convenience foods otherwise no one would have been fed in time for bed.  The day she found a crockpot at a yard sale was a happy day indeed.