Sunday, May 27, 2007

40 feet from the front door

This morning's Post has a response from Tom Wolfe of College Park to the recent "Food Stamp Challenge" that lawmakers undertook to demonstrate the inadequacy of current levels of food stamp allowances -- a topic that I have written about on a couple of occasions now.

The gist of the response from Wolfe was that the lawmakers were incorrect in suggesting that it was impossible to purchase a healthy diet for $21/week, as he has, since last month, lived on "whole grains, dried beans and organic vegetables" for approximately $3.57/day or $25/week.

When I was in college and on a limit budget, I had access to a campus food coop that was, literally, about 40 feet from the front door of my dormitory. Every week, fresh fruits and vegetables were brought in and my roommates and I were living large for next to nothing.

40 feet from the front door of my dormitory.

There are not a whole hell of a lot of food coops delivering fresh fruits and vegetables -- or "whole grains, dried beans and organic vegetables" -- in poor, particularly urban, neighborhoods in the U.S., Mr. Wolfe. In many of those neighborhoods, the Seven-Eleven functions as the neighborhood grocery store. And the closest thing to a vegetable at the Seven-Eleven are the chives in the sour cream and chives potato chips.

So, yes, you can buy healthy food on a $21/week budget, but you need to have ACCESS to that healthy food in order to do so. And, if you don't have a car or the gas money, or the bus fare, or the time, or the childcare to travel across town to the neighborhood that DOES sell healthy food, you don't have ACCESS.

Which reminds me . . . I remember listening, in graduate school, to disparaging remarks made by my -- privileged -- classmates about how disgusting it was to see people buy things like Cheetos with food stamps.

Grrrrr . . .

Imagine, for a moment, that you are the mother of two small children. They, like most small children, ask you for things when you go to the store. They want candy. They want toys. They want to go to the beach or to the mall or to some other place that will cost you money that you don't have.

You say no. A LOT.

So, there you are in the grocery store and your kids ask you for a bag of Cheetos and, you know what, it's something you can swing, because the government has "generously" given you $21 (per person) that week to buy your groceries. For once, you can say "yes" to your kids.

Let them eat Cheetos.

1 comment:

Philip. said...


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