Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Insecurity aka Hunger

hunger, food insecurity, america, poverty,
1 in 7 Americans suffer from food insecurity, which I think is what we're calling hunger these days.

I know I am, what about you?

I go to the grocery store and salivate over things like fresh fruits and vegetables, peanuts and almonds, even prunes (which can't replace chocolate, but who needs gummy bears when you've got nummy prunes?). I salivate, I don't buy. Which is a shame, because those foods are all good for you, packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

It's cheaper to buy offbrand vitamins at Walmart than pomegranates and plums. My donut in the morning is cheaper than a healthy breakfast, and forget about lunch. Most days I don't even eat lunch anymore, and if I do, it's a candy bar. $0.89. Healthy veggie soup, at least $4.

That's hunger in America, in case you haven't experienced it: alternating hunger pangs with stuffing your face with crap.

Btw, I actually swallowed my pride (having gotten sick of swallowing my hunger) and applied for food stamps. I didn't qualify. I feel truly sorry for those hungry enough to qualify for food stamps.


  1. Ok, I know my comment is not going to be popular, but I still feel that it's a choice. You CAN eat healthy and you CAN choose not to eat crap in America, even if your funds are limited. I'm not saying you can eat at Whole Foods, but there are alternatives to candy bars and doughnuts.

    For example, I grew up in a situation similar to yours (but in Russia). The only time I had candy was for New Years and on my birthday. Fresh fruit was a summer time delicacy - and we ate whatever we could grow on our own (granted, the benefit of organic fod). Meat was also a rarity. Yet, a daily choice was made to cook and eat non-processed foods. Now, my husband on the other hand grew up in America, just as poor as me, and his family is overweight because they resorted to buying processed foods with their money. Yes, there are cultural differences, but my point is - it is possible to make healthy choices in America (I continued to eat the same way here).

    If you eat an $.89 candy every day, plus tax you spend almost $30 on candy every month. That's good money. You can buy a good amount of groceries with that money - pasta, meat (maybe not the highest quality), veggies - and make that healthy soup for an entire month.

    I'm really speaking from a point of someone who's made it on $100 a month on food - simple, but healthy. If you eat a doughnut in the morning, that's $.50, then an $0.89 candy for lunch, and probably spend $1.50 for dinner - that's already $90 a month, but you'll be paying in so many other ways.

    I understand there are people who are extremely poor. But if you can afford a dollar candy every day, you can afford healthy eating.

  2. Ulyana, I'm curious what part of the country you live in? I live in NYC, where grocery expenses (along with most other expenses) are quite a lot higher than in many other parts of the country. (Not to mention, donuts here are more like $1.50, as are candy bars... but that's a whole different rant.)

    I often do make things from scratch, but that's because I have both the time and money and energy to do so. Fresh made food, even when frozen, doesn't keep as long as canned or prepackaged, so that's an aspect of cost that is frequently overlooked. What's often a problem, leaving money out of it, is that it takes more time and effort to prepare fresh foods than it does to grab something and go, or pop something in the microwave. If you're working 45 hours a week, and have a home situation which requires a great deal of time and energy just to keep your head about the water, then you're going to be pretty pooped at the end of the day when it's time to dice up separately purchased, unprepared carrots, celery and onions to make a fresh mirepoix for the vegetable stew you want to make to feed yourself and your family for the week. That's to say nothing of the countless folks who have physical considerations limiting the amount of energy they have. Giving a mundane example, when I get into a bad bout of depression, you'll see takeout container after takeout container after takeout container stacked in my trash can.

    I definitely see what you're saying about some healthy foods being financially within reach, but, unfortunately, that's not the only piece of the puzzle here.

  3. I split my time about equally between San Diego, CA and Austin, TX. The difference in price of groceries is quite insane, and I see what you are saying. But, I don't deal with the same problems any more... my life improved in the last two years considerably. It just sounds like PF lives somewhere more like Austin, TX than NYC.

    We all have physical, family, and other limitations/obligations, and at the end of the day, it is still a choice. Many Americans are raised to value convenience over quality, and many Americans don't know how to properly spend money. (I'm not saying it as some snobbish foreigner... but as someone who considers herself an American after living here forever, chosing to live here, and someone who has the US citizenship... so more like a concerned citizen).

    I guess to better word it, this statement: "That's hunger in America, in case you haven't experienced it: alternating hunger pangs with stuffing your face with crap." coupled with the examples of choices PF brings up trivializes the experience of the vast majority of poor people.

    What she says is not exclusive to America, but what's very often exclusive to this country is that people oftentimes have a lot more choices. It just sounds that she is forced to eat a candy bar for lunch, an unhealthiest thing you could do, when, really, she's not.

    And in no way am I arguing that what she's going through doesn't suck. Or that poor people just don't know what they are doing and it's their fault where they are. The whole "salivating" sentiment is all too familiar. Too many times as a kid I'd go to bed dreaming of candy raining from the sky.... and too many times I would visit my better-off friends and eat and eat and eat until there were no leftovers with their mothers giving me concerned looks. It's embarrassing, and it sucks, but that's as far as I can relate... because, as an adult, if you spend $30 a month on candy rather than something more nutritious and healthy, it's a choice you made.

  4. I doubt you've lived on that kind of money lately. Food is more expensive than it was just last year. What I used to spend on groceries doesn't buy as much anymore.

    But, you are more than welcome to come over here, use my budget for shopping and prepare me all the nice, healthy foods you want.

    It's always nice to be lectured by the "used to be poor", though. Thanks.

  5. I have no idea what food prices are in Austin, but last week I spent 2.49 on one carton of eggs, bread was 1.79 for a loaf (store brand white, nothing special), and one head of iceberg lettuce was over 1.50, though I didn't buy it because I hate iceberg lettuce.

    Those prices are significantly higher than last year.

    That was at Walmart. I'm lucky if I get to Walmart because I don't have a car. I am frequently forced to buy grocery items at a convenient, where a candy bar is significantly cheaper than an apple, bread, milk, etc.

  6. Now I figured out the problem with your logic:

    A) I only work 5 days a week, so 20 candy bars at 0.79 is 15.80 not 30.

    B) I get paid weekly, so thats 3.95 a week. Care to make me a healthy lunch for 3.95 a week?

  7. PF, I'm not "lecturing" you, it's not my place, just commenting on a post on a blog that I like and frequent. And just because I'm one of "used to be poor" doesn't mean my experiences aren't valid or I don't know what I'm talking about.

    Choosing to eat healthy is a much more difficult choice, of course. Convenience stores are evil. That's the first thing I taught my husband (re: my previous comment) - to avoid those at all costs.

    A healthy lunch for $3.95 a week? (Actually, it'd be 4.45 a week if the candy is $0.89 like you indicated in your post... but, sorry, I'm splitting hairs...). You really can't come up with something better to buy for that money than 5 candy bars? I'm not saying you'd be eating a deli sandwich from Whole Foods every day. But you can choose not to eat candy bars. A bowl of pasta with sauted veggies would be better (I don't know if you have microwave at work).

    Btw, you DO eat on weekends, right? I did assume you eat just the same on weekends at least in terms of $$$ - or is it cheaper somehow? There is really no inconsistencies in my logic, the point I was making is that it all adds up.

  8. um... Ulyana...

    look at the assumptions you are making.

    you are assuming that PF can GET to a place that is "affordable". you are granting that she probably can't afford to shop at Whole Foods or a similar place -

    but UNLESS PF lives in a nice, upscale, EXPENSIVE suburban neighborhood, ANY grocery store is going to be a *LOT* more expensive *AND* have a LOT FEWER CHOICES.

    i know whereof i speak. i live in Columbus, OH. i live in a "cheap" area. the ONLY grocery store in a 5-mile radius? has a *VERY* limited selection. and i mean GROCERY STORE, not a convience store like 7-11, i mean KROGER. and a loaf of bread at THIS Kroger is $2.09 [kroger brand bread] while bread at the Kroger in my dad's VERY EXPENSIVE SUBURB is only $1.59.

    and, presuming that i HAVE A WAY TO GET TO THE STORES THAT I CAN AFFORD, it adds at minimum an HOUR to the shopping trip.
    PF works 45 hours/week - and she HAS A COMMUTE and she has health problems.

    pay attention. it isn't a "choice", except perhaps a "choice" of whether you are going to get a smaller apartment in exchange for a beat-up car... a smaller apartment in a worse neighborhood is NOT the "solution" to healthy eating; having the car doesn't mean that one can afford the gas or time to commute to a grocery store that has "good" food at reasonable prices.

    people in "poor" areas have MANY MANY problems accessing "cheap but good food". the FIRST problem on that list is THAT THERE ISN'T ANY IN THEIR AREA.

  9. Denelian, I'll grant you that I did assume that PF could get to a place where food is more affordable (somewhere that's not a convenience store). Be it by taking a bus (I know those are not always available), asking someone to give her a ride, walking (the amount of that, I know, is limited due to health problems).

    However, you, for example, with $4.45 in your hand - would you buy 5 candy bars or a healthier alternative? Even at that same Kroger in the "cheaper" area. Would you not agree that buying a bag of pasta, a couple of carrots, or, I don't know, a can of veggies - is a healthier alternative?

    Also, how is this unique to PF - "PF works 45 hours/week - and she HAS A COMMUTE..." A 45 hour work week is really a great work week. I don't know anyone who tries to make ends meet and works less. The commute is a reality for pretty much everyone in America.

    Now, the "health problems" part, I'm not arguing with that. That pretty much can prevent you from doing anything.

    But again, PF wasn't talking about how her health problems make it difficult for her to get to the store. She was making a statement, a generalization about all poor people in AMERICA. You alternate hunger pangs with eating crap. But you don't have to eat crap. Unless, you guys consider pasta, regular bread, carrots, potatoes, etc - crap.

    I'm not arguing that poor people do not pay more than rich people in some instances - I know how fucked up and backwards it can be. I'm not saying poor people have just as many choices at the same price as rich people. In other words, you don't need to describe to me the reality of being poor. Having been there, I know it's possible and doable to not eat the way PF describes.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at