Poor Choices and Food Insecurity

Sparkpeople, a publisher of health, fitness and food information, created the graphic shown above to demonstrate that eating healthy food need not be more expensive than eating junk food. Sparkpeople blogger Stepfanie Romine recently wrote that she hears the excuses every day — “I can’t afford to buy healthy food,” “fruits and vegetables are too expensive,” “it’s cheaper to eat fast food.” But she doesn’t buy it. “We think you’ll be shocked at how far you can stretch a buck at the supermarket when you buy healthy foods!”

Stepfanie sparked — or perhaps I should use the word “triggered” — a reaction from Jef Rouner in the Houston Press. While he didn’t dispute the idea that healthy food can cost less than junk food, he didn’t like the moralizing tone. The headline of his piece says it all: “Please Stop Telling Poor People to ‘Just Cook’ to Save Money.”

People need pots, pans, knives, cutting boards, aluminum foil, cooking spray, and an assortment of spices, Rouner reasons. Then there is the issue of time.

You know why people go through KFC? Because, in terms of total resources it is the most efficient family meal you can provide in a 20-minute timespan. I have three fried chicken recipes. Most of them require at least an hour or more including store and prep time. Time is, well, not money, exactly, but it is something that is precious and in short supply when you’re coming home at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Rouner’s piece in turn inspired a retort from the Monster Hunter Nation blog:

Apparently, to cut a tomato in half requires a knife forged by a samurai blade smith, using ore taken from a meteor.

In reality, as a guy who likes to cook, who is married to a woman who actually made her living as a cook, 95% of the time we use the same eight inch knife that we’ve had for the last twenty years. We got it cheap.

Apparently Jef’s hypothetical really stupid poor people have no friends or relatives. My wife is still using a cooking pan that she got from her grandma. It was made in the 70s, and it’s still her favorite pan.

Jef’s hypothetical poor people also live in the only poor neighborhood in America that doesn’t have a thrift store.

If you enjoy biting sarcasm, the response is worth reading.

Given the abundance of food stamps, food pantries, school lunches, and the like, how is it possible that there is hunger and malnutrition in Virginia? To what extent are poor people responsible for their own condition? If you’re eight years old and your mom is an addict who swaps her food stamps for meth, no fair-minded person is going to hold you accountable for going hungry. But, to pick up on a talk show topic I heard recently, what about using food stamps to buy food for your dog? Or what about using food stamps to buy sugary sodas and potato chips? You can’t use food stamps to buy a Big Mac — you pay cash for that. But how many people on food stamps also dine out at McDonalds? How much money are they wasting?

I don’t know any poor people well enough to comment upon their eating habits. I suspect the same is true of those in the do-gooder camp. Both sides rely on stereotypes. I saw someone using food stamps to buy filet and lobster! I know of a family that ran out of food-stamp money halfway through the month and subsisted on Kibbles n Bits! One thing we do know, based on studies tracking actual grocery-store purchases, is that food stamp recipients do spend a big chunk of their monthly allowance on junk food. I side with Stepfanie on this issue. Society must stop making excuses for people who make poor choices.

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7 responses to “Poor Choices and Food Insecurity

  1. I think that one point missed is that chosing to sit and watch TV rather than work together as a family to cook food is a huge missed issue. I do not see how the govt. helps as much as it hurts the lower income people to become sufficient and proud of their accomplishments.

  2. Apparently the Trump administration is on the same wavelength:

    Trump Wants to Cut Food Stamps—And Replace Them With Blue Apron-Like Food Boxes

    ” The proposal, called “America’s Harvest Box,” would reportedly contain “homegrown” products, sourced from American farmers and producers. Shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, canned fruit and vegetables are among the items that would be included in the box.”

    but apparently people do not realize that the USDA already distributes boxes of nutritious food to qualified recipients.


    Many, many folks who receive food stamps, food from pantries, and USDA are NOT buying fast food.

    This is a a modern variation of the Welfare Queen where the right identifies an “abuse” and then claims everyone who receives entitlements is buying fast food instead of “nutritious food”.

    Food Banks actually distribute 90% nutritious food and it’s food that has no other places to go since the dates on the packages and cans go past the best-if-used-by date and the retailers then send this food to the food pantries.

    I can assure you that this food is NOT piling up in the warehouses because no one wants it. Every pound of it gets distributed to people who do eat it .

    We have too many folks who do not know the facts being misled by others whose motive is to demonize the poor as a whole – for the sins of a few highly visible.

  3. This boils down to an old theme from the right which is moralistic blather from on high directed to the poor who are deemed somehow ultimately “responsible” for their circumstances and the more fortunate are “tired” of taking care of them so they come up with these narratives that basically demonize those of moral turpitude who “allowed” themselves to suffer poverty.

    Don’t get me wrong – we do have “takers” in our society and they do game the system to get “stuff” and poor choices are part and parcel of their behaviors.

    But there are many others whose lot in life was not entirely due to their own failings… many were born into poverty and never really were able to escape it… some did.. but a lot did not…

    In my view.. people with significant resources and assets – enable their kids to buy high dollar College and go into significant debt – and they themselves try to blame others – and the govt for their “poor” choices and yes. .. they want the govt to intervene and “help” so they don’t have to make “bad” choices themselves. These are “takers” also.

    Moralistic Poo-bah .. happens… and if you are poor – you are screwed.

    • Larry, your comment is “moralistic blather.” You refuse to assign any responsibility to poor people to better their condition.

      To be sure, many poor people are victims of forces beyond their control and, thus, deserving of compassion. That’s why our society supports a massive welfare state and funds thousands of charities. But even the poorest of the poor have control over what they purchase and the food they put in their mouths. If society is expected to ensure that these people are fed, surely it is reasonable for society to expect them to behave in a responsible manner.

      As long as people like you depict any discussion of the issue as “demonization” of the poor, then obesity, diabetes, and other entirely preventable diseases will afflict the poor.

  4. re: ” You refuse to assign any responsibility to poor people to better their condition.”

    Nope.. the problem is that when we demonize the poor in general as “making bad choices” and experiencing obesity, diabetes… and “entirely other preventable diseases”.. why do you single them out for these things when many others who are not poor also make “bad choices” and end up with obesity, diabetes, etc?

    why do you target he poor for these things when the poor are – at best – reflective of society as a whole?

    Yes… it IS ..”moralistic blather” when you use a total double standard to accuse the poor of the same failings as the non-poor but you attribute those things to the poor as some kind of proof of their own moral turpitude.

    You take a trip to any grocery store and you’ll see aisle after aisle of snacks, sweets , etc… that a LOT of folks buy.. not just those with food stamps.

    It’s Grade A Moralistic Blather.. no two ways about it. get down off that horse… guy..

    • When Jim Bacon eats junk for food and suffers ill effects, nobody cares because Jim Bacon is not a ward of the state and his poor decisions will not inspire calls for more government programs. When I’m helping pay the bills for poor people who make bad decisions, yeah, I get to have a say in how they spend the money. I earned the right to apply a double standard.

  5. not true. Jim Bacon receives tax-deductible health insurance.. essentially subsidized insurance where both taxpayers and other insured pay for YOUR bad choices…

    If you were totally responsible for the bad choices you made and did not receive subsidized insurance then you might have a case.

    You’re doing the same thing as the poor but because you have more money you have access to subsidized insurance.. so that if you also make bad choices.. you still get that medical coverage.

    what if your tax-free medical coverage was taken away if you also suffered from similar moral turpitude? If you were FAT.. your access to
    insurance would be denied ..because you were FAT or smoke cigs.. are ate potato chips. You’re guaranteed insurance because of Uncle Sam not because you “deserve it”.

    so no… you did not “earn” a right to that double standard..you got it solely because you’re not poor… THAT’s the double standard!

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