Doobster at Mindful Digression wrote a piece today about how fat Americans are. He noted, among other statistics, that poverty food tends to be unhealthy. Duh. Being poor and eating well are contradictions in terms. If you live on a very limited and/or fixed income, you can’t eat a healthy diet. You can’t afford it.
Let’s start with who is poor.
Old people are poor, or at least a large percentage of them. Also poor? Some very hard-working but low-income workers. The people who serve you in restaurants, pump your gas, do all those jobs you don’t want to do and probably never think about — if you can help it.
You might want to read Senior poverty is much worse than you think, or Senior Poverty: Action Needed to Address A Growing Problem even though these studies are not really up-to-date and the poverty scenario for older people is worse now than when these studies were published. A State-by-State Snapshot of Poverty Among Seniors: Findings From Analysis of the Supplemental Poverty Measure is pretty interesting too.
Nationally, nearly half of all seniors (48%) live with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty threshold (under the supplemental measure), compared to 34 percent under the official measure.3 The share of seniors with incomes below 200 percent of poverty is higher under the supplemental measure in every state than under the official measure.
Under the supplemental measure, at least two-fifths of seniors (40%) have incomes below 200 percent of poverty in 48 states and in DC; using the official measure, this is the case in only six states.
At least half of seniors have incomes below 200 percent of poverty in 10 states and DC based on the supplemental measure: DC (59%); California (56%); Hawaii (55%); Georgia (54%); Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee (52%); Florida and Mississippi (51%); and Arizona (50%).
In terms you might understand more easily, 100% of the government poverty “line” for a couple in Massachusetts is $12,000/per year. You can get some kind assistance — senior housing, for example — up to 400% of that amount. After that, no matter what the actual cost of living or your personal circumstances, even if 75% of your money goes to pay for medicine you need to survive, you’re out of luck. And the total amount is much less in other states. Poverty is relative to the cost of living based on where you are.
Poverty food is high in fat and carbs, low in protein. No fresh vegetables … or anything that isn’t prepackaged or canned. Mac & Cheese, the fallback position of poor people throughout our land, along with every other kind of pasta and rice, not to mention instant mashed potatoes — offer no real food value. But at least you don’t have to be hungry.
LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD
Eating healthy is more expensive than “poverty food” — carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. The price of eating healthy keeps going up, too. There are no options for those on limited incomes. We (personally) choose to eat less so we can eat better, but our cupboard is often bare. We buy just enough for dinner, a light lunch, and coffee in the morning. There’s no spare. Not going to be doing any entertaining in the foreseeable future.
As social security and pension money does NOT rise — ever — and the cost of living ALWAYS rises, we can but hope we need less food.
The price of chicken and fish is easily 50% more than it was a year ago, but the money on which we live is the same. Chicken? Really? Has chicken feed risen that much? It can’t be the transportation costs, because that’s way down in the past year. So you figure maybe it’s price gouging?
I know all you Republicans out there think we live on government handouts, high (as it were) on the hog. But those governments handouts are pretty hard to come by. I don’t get any and neither does anyone I know. Even those who technically qualify don’t seem to be able to get what they need.
We don’t qualify for any help because although we do not have enough to live on, we are “rich” by government standards. That means we do not get help paying for medications and I specifically do not take medicines that cost a lot. I can’t afford them. Medical conditions go untreated or are treated using less than the best medicines. There’s nothing to be done about it. Dental care is a crisis. Needing new glasses is time for fear and trembling.
All we can do is keep tightening our belts and hoping that we won’t outlive our money. The government levels of “acceptable” poverty for senior citizens is so low no one could live on it at all, much less in dignity. Or afford proper medication, food, and utilities. Or have any fun at all. But hey, why should the poor — grandma and granddad — have any fun? They are old, so all they need to do is survive. If they die, so what? They had their lives already.
The food the poor can afford — most of them working poor who don’t earn enough to feed themselves or their family — rely on food pantries to make up at least part of the gap. Food pantries try desperately hard to help and without them, there would be even more starvation than there is. They deserve a lot of credit for their efforts.
But what do they distribute? Lots of carbs. Boxes and boxes of pasta, beans, mac & cheese. Canned vegetables (past date, mostly) because that’s what gets donated by those with plenty. Nothing fresh, nothing healthy. The poor are not entitled to eat well. In the opinion of many, they are not entitled to eat at all. And it is the mainstay of every comedian’s best monologue about how FAT the POOR are. Really terribly funny. I’m laughing all the way to the food bank.
While everyone is busy laughing heartily at the Walmart crowd, consider that they represent a rather broad cross-section of America’s poor of whatever region you care to name. Fat? Yes, they are. Given their diet, it’s inevitable. They aren’t going to their gyms. They have no gyms for people without discretionary income. And when these people get through with their poorly paying no-future jobs, do you figure they go exercise on that machinery they got with the spare money the government throws at them?
We should be a lot more ashamed of ourselves than we are, but we are so busy blaming poor people for their own problems, how the poor are lazy and unwilling to work because they are busy stuffing their faces with junk food. The working poor I know … and sadly, I know a fair number of them … are hard-working and ambitious. They just don’t have anywhere to work which will pay them a living wage. No one is interested.
So if you had to live on what they live on, I bet you’d stuff your face with junk food too. Because junk food is better than no food. Even if it makes you fat.
I Got Skills – If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick? I have skill at writing. Today I am trying to make use of it to highlight a social problem, a growing injustice, an issue of reality. I never chose writing. It picked me long ago.