Wednesday, December 12, 2007

more food stamps and more grocery stores?

I was absolutely incensed when I read this article. It explains how people living in rural America have unhealthy diets BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ENOUGH GROCERY STORES!

This is the real world of eating and nutrition in the rural United States. Forget plucking an apple from a tree, or an egg from under a chicken. "The stereotype is everyone in rural America lives on a farm, which is far from the truth," says Jim Weill, president of the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). New research from the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health shows just how unhealthy the country life can be. The study, which examined food-shopping options in Orangeburg County (1,106 square miles, population 91,500), found a dearth of supermarkets and grocery stores.

Of course it’s true that in every part of the country- rural and urban areas- we have lost our connection with what we eat. And many people no longer grow any of what makes it onto their dining room tables. So logically one would expect the article to recommend a reconnection to the local farm fields that could feed us and offer the idea of stronger self sufficiency through some home grown produce- planting that apple tree or raising that chicken. Nope. The answer apparently is more grocery stores and more food stamps.

Nutritionists and anti-hunger activists know what rural Americans should eat. In an ideal world, says Weill, more people would take advantage of nutrition and financial education programs, like those offered by the USDA, that teach consumers how to make a food budget and use recipes. The 2007 Farm Bill would in­crease food stamp access and benefits and allocate an additional $2.75 billion over 10 years to buy fruits and vegetables for the USDA's nutrition assistance programs…

I have no problem with offering help to people who need it. In fact I think as human beings we have a moral obligation to do so. But help should involve more than passing out food stamps. It should involve teaching people how to grow more of their own food and cook with whole ingredients. It should include a farm bill that actually supports the small scale, sustainable agriculture that could offer healthy food to rural and urban communities across our nation. Pick you simile- treating the problem of unhealthy eating in rural America by building more grocery stores and handing out more food stamps is like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound. It is completely ass backward.

15 comments:

baloghblog said...

I agree, I cringe every time that I hear the argument that poor people can't afford organic food. It's not that they can't afford organic food, it's that they can't afford CONVENIENT organic food. Anyone with a 10 x 4 foot area, and a bit of know how could have fresh organic veggies and fruits (of their own labor)... I'd imagine it's the same for rural residents.

Food is always thought of in "ability to purchase it" instead of know how to grow it.

More education $ for growing your own, less corporate welfare for big Ag.

Anonymous said...

There was a comment in "Home Power" magazine by Steve Baer. It had to do with subsidizing Renewable energy things. "Big money and big businesss determine big government. Thryregard clotheslines, day lighting, and passive solar design the way banks regard barter". This is also true of Growing food close to home and organic.
mark in Colo

Anonymous said...

The really sad part is that the majority of these folks are able to reproduce before natural selection has a chance to run its course.

I know that sounds kind of mean, but the truth of the matter is that on the way to becoming a 240lb woman, there was probably not a lot of laborous activity involved. From her words, it sounds like she eats crap from the gas station because it is the easiest path.

I seriously doubt that buying groceries from a gas station is more cost effective than going to a grocery store. A head of lettuce costs $.99 at a grocery store and so does a pack of M&M's at Circle K.

There are many people that grew up poor in rural America that have chosen different paths.

Leila said...

Ew, anonymous, lots of assumptions you are making about some hypothetical poor rural woman. Yuk. No wonder you won't sign your name to it. And I'll bet you never thought the concept of Christian charity applied to you.

On another note

Does anybody here follow Robert Waldrop's blogging, farming and social justice work in Oklahoma? His efforts seem pertinent to this discussion.

http://www.bettertimesinfo.org/

I'm a drop-in from Casaubon's Book, so please forgive me if you already know all about Robert Waldrop, the Oklahoma food coop, and his many blogs and websites about permaculture, food security, and frugal living.

RAS said...

I'd like to reply to two of the comments: the one on growing your own food, and the third comment.

First, most of the poor -rural and otherwise -work really demanding jobs. The kind of jobs that take a lot out of you, pay crap, and require long hours. By the time you get home you don't have the energy to do any gardening. Assuming you're home when it's daylight. And most of these kinds of jobs give you little time off. Most of the rural poor I know also have to commute long distances (up to an hour) each way to these crap jobs.

Second, first you have to drive to a grocery store. If you're truly rural, then that's going to be at least 30 minutes each way. You're lucky to get in once a week, especially with gas prices being what they are. Oh, and rural gas stations tend to sell real food and not just candy -but the buck head of lettuce is 2 or 3 dollars at them.

nulinegvgv said...

Thanks for the comments. I think baloghblog gets at the root of the issue raised by several of them. I know many Americans, especially those who work long hours and have long commutes, who feel that they have no time to devote to something like a garden. Truthfully though more time spent in self sufficient projects like gardening means less money needed to buy stuff which means less time needed to be spent working those long hours. It can be difficult to reverse the cycle but it's certainly doable.

One strategy I like to suggest is fairly simple. Unplug the television and the average American instantly regains 21 hours a week! Anyone can grow a great garden in 21 hours a week. But even for people unwilling to make such a change, it's not all that time consuming to plant a simple garden. An afternoon in the early spring planting greens and potatoes and root crops and then another spent planting warm weather stuff in late spring and anyone can be well on her way to harvesting at least some of her own food. Mulch in with leaves and water during the dry summer as needed- not amazingly time consumptive. I think when people say 'garden' they envision more than a few square feet of plants. It can be that simple.

lelia thanks for dropping by. I am familiar with Robert Waldrop but only through Sharon. He seems to have a lot to share.

Anonymous said...

My rural Louisiana hometown had two local grocery stores up until a few years ago. Then they got a Dollar General. One of the grocers, a friend of my mom's family, begged and pleaded with the town council not to let DG come in. He was blown off. DG put him out of business.

Those @#$%ing chains should be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

A lot of the folks in that area do garden, but not extensively. It's somewhere between hobby gardening and food supplementation but nothing they could really lean on in hard times. On top of that they tend to use conventional gardening methods, which means they continue to depend on Big Ag for their growing supplies. Food scraps are for feeding the farm cats and dogs, not for fertilizer. It's sad.

And about that other Anonymous up there with the nasty remarks about fat women... *shakes head* It's a shame natural selection doesn't take the judgmental jerks. Just goes to show how nice and charitable the rest of us are, eh?

Leila said...

"One strategy I like to suggest is fairly simple. Unplug the television and the average American instantly regains 21 hours a week!"

I was just thinking about TV, computers (my downfall) and energy conservation. How much energy and carbon emissions would we save if everybody in the country cut their TV and recreational computer time by 50%? And then - what if folks stopped watching those giant monster screen TVs and watched little ones instead?

Leaving aside the time we'd save to do constructive things like read, cook from scratch, or garden; we'd also burn more calories because not sitting still for hours every day; our children would be smarter (recent reports that TV lowers IQs and reading skills); we might talk to each other more or visit with the neighbors, and so forth.

I am going to blog this.

Now, whether I actually put in a food garden this spring is another story. Am having a major life-threatening health issue. OTOH, Sharon blogs about her wheelchair-bound friend who gardens in containers, and I am still very mobile... so we'll see what we can accomplish in February/March or so. (I live in California)

dan said...

I am surprised no one has mentioned the concept of "polar cities", also called "ark cities", also called "arktopia," also called sustainable polar retreats, http://pcillu101.blogspot.com, that humankind just might need in the year 2500 or so, if all the fixes and ideas we have now don't work. What do you think? Do you think it could come to that, and should we start thinking about polar cities now, planning them, designing them, locating sites for them, now, while we have time and transporation to get there, or do you think the fixes will work? Love to hear your opinion on polar cities, pro or con, yes or no. This is all just a non threatening thought experiment, i like to tell people. Your work with Riot for Austerity is a very good idea and I applaud it. We need to stop all car and plane traffic now. NOW.

nulinegvgv said...

dan,

building and conditioning an interior space that is completely independent of the surrounding natural systems and yet stills sustainably supports human life sounds like an incredibly energy intensive project. in my view the solutions to our current problems must work within natural systems. they must be cyclic not linear.

having said that, if you happen to have a crystal ball big enough to see out until 2500, i humbly request to borrow it. ;-) i think we should be focusing on the next 5 to 7 years as a transition to something new.

thank you for your comment.

dan said...

Nulinetc, thanks for comment. Good points. Enjoyed the feedback. You are right here, when you say: "... in my view the solutions to our current problems must work within natural systems. they must be cyclic not linear."

Point well taken.

RE: "...if you happen to have a crystal ball big enough to see out until 2500, i humbly request to borrow it. ;-)..." [ALAS, I CANNOT SEE PAST MY NOSE. JUST IMAGINING THINGS, AS A NON THREATENING THOUGHT EXPERIMENT.]

RE: "i think we should be focusing on the next 5 to 7 years as a transition to something new."

I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. My goal with the polar cities idea is to scare people into actio now. NOW. It is a kind of guerilla theater online. YOU don't need the scaring. It is for people who are still unconvinced that global warming is for real. Yes, you are right. next 5 years are pivotal.

"thank you for your comment."

THANK YOu for your reax. -- danny

see my letter to Santa for 2008 here:

http://santa101letter.blogspot.com/

dan said...

http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/3727/951/1600/ostrich_and_scooters.jpg

Aaron,
you know, when i looked at the blog photo of ostrich and police, it looked very familiar as i live in chiayi city, TAIWAN and i recognized those uniforms. that is a Taiwan photo is it not? SMILE. did you live here before? -- danny

danbloom888.blogspot.com

nulinegvgv said...

danny,

i'm not sure if that photo was taken in taiwan. i came across it years ago on the internet and i continue to use it to describe how I often feel- as if the unlikely is happening more often. i have never been to taiwan but thanks for helping to geo-reference the photo.

aaron

dan said...

nulinegvgv has left a new comment on the post "more food stamps and more grocery stores?":

danny,

i'm not sure if that photo was taken in taiwan. i came across it years ago on the internet and i continue to use it to describe how I often feel- as if the unlikely is happening more often. i have never been to taiwan but thanks for helping to geo-reference the photo.nulinegvgv has left a new comment on the post "more food stamps and more grocery stores?":

danny,

i'm not sure if that photo was taken in taiwan. i came across it years ago on the internet and i continue to use it to describe how I often feel- as if the unlikely is happening more often. i have never been to taiwan but thanks for helping to geo-reference the photo.

Hsin said...

Hi Aaron,

I googleed "food stamp taiwan" and then was lead to your post. :)

I'd like to share a news with you.
In this March, the capitol city, Taipei, issued food stamps for families impacted by this economic crisis.
The interesting point is the food stamp was designated to exchange foods in convenient stores.
That's ironic that this program seems to direct crisis-impacted people to eat foods sold in 7-11: more processed and less healthful foods!