I just read an article that isn’t really news. It was about how SNAP (food stamp) recipients tend to eat as many calories as higher income people, but those calories tend to come from prepackaged, prepared, and less healthy food that’s high in sugar and starch.
I think most people already know this to be the case. That doesn’t mean poor people don’t want to or try to eat better. Sometimes it simply isn’t possible. There are several reasons why a poor person may not opt for fresh meats, fruits and veggies and go for the Ramen noodles and Kraft macaroni and cheese instead:
1. Fresh food is generally more expensive. A few areas have “community gardens” where free fresh produce can be had for an hour or so’s worth of work in the garden, but only a few.
2. Fresh food cannot be stored for long. Many poor people don’t have access to reliable transportation and are forced to do all their shopping at once, whenever they can. If they don’t know when is the next time they can get to a store, they will tend to stock up on foods that keep well.
3. If you live in a “food desert” (an area where the only place to buy food is the local convenience store), your choices for healthy eating are few, especially if you are without a vehicle and must rely on public transportation or walking.
4. Less time for cooking and food preparation. Many of the working poor work more than one job, and in between jobs must spend time waiting for buses, etc. They may not get home until very late, and have little time or inclination to prepare a meal from scratch, especially if they are working parents who want to spend some time with their kids.
5. Lack of education about good food choices and how to prepare them. Maybe the SNAP program should include classes in how to prepare healthy, cheap meals from scratch.
6. Many of the working poor are simply too exhausted at the end of a grueling day at their minumum wage job(s) to be motivated to cook a healthy meal from scratch.
But the point of this post isn’t really the difficulty the poor sometimes have obtaining or preparing fresh food. It’s the condescending and sanctimonious comments that followed the article, such as:
1. The poor are poor because of their bad choices, so how is making bad food choices surprising? (If you’ve never been poor, you wouldn’t understand that poverty is never a “choice”)
2. If they’d stop spending money on lottery tickets, cigarettes, and drugs, they’d have more money for food. (Please. I am so tired of this lame stereotype, straight out of Reagan’s fictional “welfare queen driving a Cadillac” argument for cutting benefits to the poor)
3. Why do most of them have Internet? (Hello, access to the Internet is necessary to find a job these days)
4. The poor are too lazy and stupid to get a better education or a better job. (Absolutely not true, and a good education costs money, you dipshit).
You get the idea. I’m so tired of this victim-blaming mentality that’s been brainwashed into so many Americans today. It’s a pervasive us-vs.-them attitude, regarding “the poor” as somehow another, lesser species of human, undeserving of anything better due to their crappy life choices. Being pretty low-income myself (although I’m not on SNAP), this patronizing, superior attitude makes me want to go break things. Usually, people who judge the poor so harshly have never been poor themselves, and don’t understand how exhausting, painful and debilitating such a life can be. If some poor people lack the motivation to “better themselves” (a phrase I detest) maybe it’s because they’re depressed. I don’t doubt mental illness is probably higher among poor people, but is it not possible their depression and other mental problems may stem from lacking the things that make life a little easier and more bearable?
I’d like to end this post with this well written comment, written by a poor woman living on disability, in response to all the sheeple who cant get their noses out of the air long enough to see reality.
I get so tired of the sanctimonious attitude of some people who feel that poverty is limited to lazy, fat, irresponsible, stupid people. The truth is that poverty is a condition that is consistent with every society mankind has ever been a part of. Poverty cannot be overcome, food insecurity however can be. Before I continue understand that yes I am obese, yes I am poor, yes I am on food stamps, but, I am tired of being ashamed and embarrassed about any of those conditions. First I am not uneducated. I am a college graduate and worked most of my life in addition to caring for and raising my family. I became ill about 12 years ago and now am permanently disabled. I lost almost everything due to my illness and my husband’s illness and subsequent death. Those expenses wiped out every bit of savings obliterating me financially and now I live on disability alone. I am obese due to many contributing factors. First is medical, second is poverty, and third is mental. The mental issues I mentioned are simple. It is very difficult to make good choices when options are so unbelievably limited. I live in a small town (about 30,000) that does not have much to offer as far as grocery options. Walmart and Albertsons are about it. The food stamps I receive total $16 per month, I budget $80 a month for food. I have difficulty physically in preparing food so many of my options include simple foods like sandwiches. I have meat maybe once a week, and vegetables are like gold. When I have access to them I tend to gorge on them. I love vegetables but rarely get enough. I try to keep frozen veggies that I can microwave but fresh fruit and produce is a luxury. Years ago I started a large community garden that raises vegetables for our church food pantry, but that produce is only available at certain times of the year. I am not a drain on society, I volunteer when able and give back when ever I can. So before you make simplistic judgments about the poor, remember, you could be here too.