Being Poor and on Food Stamps Sucks

Being Poor and on Food Stamps Sucks October 10, 2012

This seemingly obvious truth gets forgotten in the culture war rhetoric that is so eager to put the burden on the allegedly shiftless poor (aka “Takers”) while overlooking the vastly greater entitlements of the rich and immensely powerful (aka “Makers”). This story (yes, I realize it’s from a ritually impure source and will give us all cooties if we read it, but humor me), makes that point rather well.

Are there lazy people? Yes. Are most people on food stamps happy to be there and content to remain there? No. That’s because being poor sucks and welfare does not really decrease the suck much. Paying jobs do that. Most people would prefer them.

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  • SpasticHedgehog
  • victor

    I agree with you on principle. But in Detroit, where welfare has become a more systemic way of life than a temporary remedy, where after a few continuous generations of being on welfare, people (as a general rule) tend not to know about any other way of life, I honestly don’t think most people would prefer a crappy part time job to government welfare.

    • James Isabella

      Not just in Detroit, my sister-in-law definitely prefers to receive government assistance. She’s single, no children, in good health….and hasn’t looked for work in at least two years. Was very happy to receive food stamps, though.

      • Mark Shea

        As I say. There are lazy people.

        • James Isabella

          But that’s the problem, isn’t it? How many ARE happy to remain on assistance? And what do these programs do to filter these people out? Do the programs themselves reinforce bad behaviors?

          Even asking these questions is verboten in some quarters.

        • victor

          I don’t think they’re so much lazy, though, as… I’m not sure what the right word would be. If all you’ve known your entire life is food stamps, how is it lazy to want to stay on them? Without any incentive to be anything other than what you’ve always been, why would you ever change? That’s not laziness, it’s… I’m not sure what. Prolonged discouragement to be active?

          • Victor, when did you stop being funny? I’m mean, you’re funny. Let’s stick to our roles, ok, and not try being thoughtful? All jokes aside, you nailed it.

            It’s despair. And it’s horrible. My experience with food stamps was pretty short (ages 15-18), DEO GRATIAS, but it was still horrible. If things had been different, if my single parent home had been a multi-generational pattern instead of a one-off, if my Dad never modeled hitting a lick at a snake because his mama never modeled heroic effort, if I didn’t distrust governments so much (and for good reason), I have to ask…

            What kind of man would I have become? Would I have quit college to protect my intelligence, learned a very useful and in demand trade, putting myself in a position to help some of the people we’re sitting here discussing? Would I even be worth killing?

            I’m not most days as it is. It’d be so much worse to be stuck like the average Detroiter. Uh, Detroitan. Detreaux?

            • victor

              Detroiter. Pronounced “DEE-troiter”. It looks weird spelled out like that, though.

          • Mark Shea

            “Inertia” works for me. People naturally stick to the old and only try the new reluctantly.

            • Kate

              Not just inertia. The system favors those people who play the system. All of the attempts to make aid harder to get and more inconvenient, on the assumption that that way only the people who REALLY need it will jump through to hoops to get it, has turned being on government aid into a full time job.

              I honestly think that decades of (largely conservative) efforts to weed out ‘welfare queens’ has actually just succeeded in cementing the status quo – those who grow up in the system learn exactly how to live in it, and that becomes their ‘job’, and those who didn’t grow up in it are faced with a confusing morass of requirements and *purposely* humiliating treatment.

              • Sean O

                Interesting point. I wish Republicans were as diligent about the billions & billions that go out the door in Defense contracts. That’s wear the real money & wasted money is. Clearly they are penny wise & pound foolish. A costly idiocy.

          • Diana

            The official term I’ve seen is “learned helplessness”. And it’s a huge problem. Don’t have the solution, though.

            • Just like babies, you wean ’em off the teat. You don’t take away the teat all at once or you’ll have a dead baby. I wish we could have a tit for tat thing, locally. Advertise in big letters
              “All the licensing for public vending, cosmetology, barbering, etc is being removed completely and caveat emptor, but be prepared, ’cause 1 yr from now, we’re gonna advertise a huge number of public assistance programs going away. Oh yeah, we also did away with a lot of housing regulations and made adverse possession a WHOLE lot easier, but next year, no more section 8. Now you mackerel snappers get out there and help them, or we’ll know you’re all hypocrites!”

  • James Isabella

    I thought the point of Food Stamps was to provide assistance, not be the sole means by which to feed oneself.

    So, since expecting someone to subsist on $29 a week is ridiculous, what exactly is the point of the mayor’s exercise? That food stamps should cover all the dietary needs of the people receiving the benefit, and they need to be accepted everywhere, including fast food restaurants?

    • SpasticHedgehog

      I think the problem is that while that was the original intent of the food stamp program 30 years ago, with the cost of other areas of domestic budgets going up (fuel/transportation, heat, housing, child care, and health care) it has become the sole de facto means of feeding oneself (or one’s family).
      That said, I think the point of the mayor’s exercise simply is that it’s difficult and that people aren’t as a rule going out and living large on food stamps as some people seem to claim.

    • The point of the mayor’s exercise was to experience an aspect of life for a sizable number of his constituents. Nothing more or less. Now, let me turn it back on you. What was the point of your comment?

      I’m not saying you don’t have one, just that you are far to subtle for my weak intellect.

  • Blog Goliard

    The problem with Thinkprogress isn’t that they’re ritually impure; it’s that they’re not always honest.

    A single-person household with no reportable income would receive the maximum SNAP benefit of $200 per month. I make that out to be about $46 per week on average. Still uncomfortably tight, but not precisely as advertised.

    And of course, that’s presuming that the household has neither unreportable income nor any other benefits that can be used to help out the food budget.

    All of which may help explain why there are fewer emaciated people on public assistance than one might presume from this exercise.

    • Mark Shea

      Actually, the main problem the poor face is obesity. That doesn’t make being poor suck less.

      • Michelle

        To clarify and build upon Mark’s point, it is in the U.S. that the main food problem the poor face is obesity. And the reason for that is because much of the ready-made cheap food is unhealthy. Sure, if you have access to the right tools and experience in nutrition and food prep, you can make a healthy, gourmet meal out of relatively cheap products. But if you are someone who came from a dysfunctional family, barely made it out of high school (or did not make it out of high school), and are living on the edge, your cheap meal options are going to be mostly non-nutritious and unhealthy.

        • James Isabella

          I’m going to disagree with the “cheap” point. Fast food and junk food is very convenient, but I can’t classify it as cheap.

          Taking a family of four to McDonald’s is far more expensive (it would be hard to get out without spending at *least* $30) than simply buying a chicken and roasting it in the oven and adding a couple of side dishes. But, McDonald’s is far quicker and more convenient.

          • You didn’t read the article, did you, Mr Isabella? I assume this because, had you done so, you would know that food stamps cannot be used at McDonalds. They can be used to by processed imitation chicken fingers and Hot Pockets, Cup-o-Ramen and Kroger Ravioli in a can though.

            And also whole chickens and whole vegetables. I’ve had the opportunity to teach more than a few of my co-workers (single moms just starting out in EMS, feeding their kids on food stamps*) how to spend their days off cooking healthy bulk meals, how to properly freeze them and re-use them. How to stretch that $34 per person** to its maximum.

            But I was blessed with a Granny who’s grip was so tight she could make Lincoln’s nose pop out the other side of the coin. And I bet someone taught you how to roast a chicken and cook those side dishes. How many of the poor that surround you have you passed your knowledge on to? And even if you have to go through a gate to leave your community, I’ll guarantee such opportunities abound around it.

            *It’s sadly common for EMTs, especially fathers with families and single mothers, to have to use food stamps to get by. That is a black mark on this nation.

            **Blog, the amount allotted per person varies by locale, due to apportioning and a bunch of other bureaucratese I don’t savvy.

            • Blog Goliard

              Bless you, Hezekiah. That’s exactly the sort of help that’s needed in our world today.

              • Screw you, Blog 😉 I don’t do nearly enough. And the evidence is that I am still the mean old b@$!@rd that says screw you when folks say thanks.

                • That you are, sir. Even when we like you we know you’re going to horrify us, next comment. 😉

              • In case it gets lost in the shuffle, I was trying to be funny. If that hurt or offended anyone, especially you, Blog, again, I am sorry. It absolutely wasn’t my intent.

                I like Blog very much. We’ve locked horns in the past, but he is awesome. I misspelled his name once too, and was thought to do it on purpose. I avoid his full nom de plume and only call him Blog for that reason.

            • James Isabella

              OK, I though the topic had moved a little wider past what food stamps will/won’t buy…and I will defer to your greater experience.

              But I will still argue that frozen pizzas and Hot pockets aren’t cheap. They may appear cheap if you’re just feeding one person, but the more people you feed the worse the price becomes. If you buy two frozen pizzas, you can easily spend $15. Hot pockets for 4 roughly the same…and you’ll still have hungry people left over. The same $15 can be used differently and get you more food without needing to know gourmet tricks.

              My cooking skills (such as they are) were self taught (cook books mostly) and by necessity…my wife burns toast. 🙂

              “And even if you have to go through a gate to leave your community, ”
              And mix with the unwashed? Unthinkable! I let my manservant do that.

              • Kristen inDallas

                I don’t think you shop where poor people shop. Go poke around in an ethnic neighborhood market or an Aldi’s or Save a Lot some time. “Hot Pockets” do not exist at these stores because “Hot Pockets” are a brand-name item targeted at busy, middle-income folks. At really cheap stores, the kind I went to when I qualified for (but did not recieve) food assistance, they had an 8 portion serving of preservative-covered frozen “salisbury steak” for $1.99. The same amount of “real meat” not frozen was still $4-5, and this ain’t suburban quality meat, it goes bad in a few days. Fresh fruit and vegetables are in the same boat, cost 2ce as much as a box of generic “fruit snacks” and guaranteed to be overripe before you get a block from the store. After you’ve gotten sick off of the “fresh food” and milk in these other grocery stores a few times, you start looking a little more forgivingly at all those boxed carbs and soda, because they’ll only kill you over time, not writhing in pain on the bathroom floor. Thank God for farmer’s markets and me being blessed with a car to get there!

                • Nonymous

                  This is 100$ true, at least it was when I lived downtown. There was an upscale fresh-food market where prices were much higher and anyone who looked poor was continually followed around and asked by staff if they needed “help” until they left. Then there were a couple of downtown and near-downtown major grocery chain stores that were the last stop for the meat and vegetables that were about to go bad. I remember going through the milk and noticing that the latest expiration date for a gallon was in two days (in my quasi-suburban store it’s a week or so). It’s a self-reinforcing cycle — near-rotted food makes demand for packaged crap, demand for packaged crap encourages dumping near-rotten food at the store in case there are any suckers wandering through.

                  • Nonymous

                    Also, food stamps don’t pay for decent working stoves, pots and pans, and cooking utensils. Stoves that come with HUD apartments are usually very old and don’t work well. There are generally no dishwashers either, and a set of dishes at Wal-Mart can run to $70 bucks and up.

                    Sure, there are ways around everything and fixes for every problem. Every once in awhile there’s a decent pan at Goodwill, and even a bad stove can be coaxed into making a stew (from the near-rotted food at the grocery store). And we could say that the poor, being unemployed, have lots of time on their hands they could use to make Tuscan peasant food and overcome the handicaps resulting from the absence of modern amenities. But there’s a point where repeating this is expecting poor peoples’ lives to be like Star Trek, with frenetic ingenuity dropping the warp core in time to avoid disaster. There’s so much of that stress and effort people (any people) are going to put up with before they pick up a package of microwaveable macaroni and cheese substitute for dinner.

                    • Nonymous, your comment intrigued me. I went looking to see if a program existed to provide the poor with things like slow-cookers. I found this:
                      They’re a Chicago-area charity that provides training, cooking classes, equipment like slow cookers and rice cookers, and so on. I think that’s a terrific idea–maybe a Catholic organization could do something similar? At the very least, I’m sure that those of us who donate to area food pantries etc. would be happy to include a slow-cooker or similar cooking equipment if the agency in question had a means to distribute such things.

                    • Next time I go clothes shopping, I am gonna look for crock-pots. I didn’t think of passing out crockpots. Thank you, Red!

              • That wasn’t a dig, Mr. Isabella, but a recognition of how our society is structured. I have actually heard people from gated communities say “I would serve the poor directly, but there aren’t any here.”

          • Andy

            I am not sure that Michelle was referring to McDonald’s – I think she was referring to the ubiquitous boxed Mac and Cheese and the like. The cheap cereal with great amounts of sugar, juice boxes with 10% juice and the rest sugar are problematic. Frequently those on food stamps do not have ready access to larger grocery stores where there might be a “cheap” selection of better quality foods, because the stores do not make the profit that is made n the suburbs (at least where I live).

            • Kristen inDallas

              Nailed it Andy. I won’t argue that buying groceries isn’t cheaper than McDonald’s… but when you go to the grocery on a shoestring budget, ramen, rice and cornsyrup win everytime.
              But if we are talking McD’s, seriously @ James, I can feed a family of 5 (2 adults, 1 big kid 2 smalls) for under $10. It’s called the dollar menu, and it’s cheaper than the rotissary chicken in my exp.

              • James Isabella

                This is great back and forth, and I am enjoying the discussion.

                Michelle’s original argument is that the poor have obesity problems because they can only afford pre-packaged/processed foods that are unhealthy for them.

                My guess is that if a person is so destitute that they are only living off of ramen and rice, then they probably aren’t obese.

                The obesity problem arises when people live off of frozen pizzas, hot pockets, sugar cereals, hamburgers, mac n cheese, etc.

                I still maintain, that its not hard to make more and healthier food, for the same price as that stuff….and in some cases, for much less.

                The dollar menu for 5 people under $10? If you don’t mind them still being hungry after they eat. 🙂

                • Ok, Mr. Isabella. How many kids do you have?

                  Now, send your wife on vacation for a week. Limit yourself to $30/person/week. Don’t use the dishwasher and limit yourself to the cheapest cookware you can find. Then come back and tell us how easy and affordable healthy living is.

                  Oh, and you still have to show up at work like always. Most SNAP recipients work, and many work full-time.

                  And 2 adults and 3 children are still hungry on $10 at McDonald’s if they’re accustomed to huge (read: normal American) portions.

                • Andy

                  Actually the empty calories in the packaged food do little assuage hunger – they do however, cause the body to become fat. All nutritionists will tell you that the pre-packaged food is a path to obesity. I do not know where you shop, but the inner city “stores” are of the convenience type – they do not carry fresh food. The appliances for preparing fresh food are also not available for many people who live in poverty – yes a tbey have stoves, but they may or may not work correctly, they have refrigerators that may work some of the time. In other words it is not just the food, it all that gores with it

                • Ted Seeber

                  I got fat on Ramen in college. Ramen is fried in oil as a part of it’s processing.

                • Ted Seeber

                  “The dollar menu for 5 people under $10? If you don’t mind them still being hungry after they eat. ”

                  That’s what the carbon dioxide in the free soda refills is for.

            • James Isabella

              The argument is that poor people don’t have access to a wider selection of foods because of location is different than that they can only afford bad foods.

              I still maintain that the more people you have to feed the more expensive prepackaged foods become, especially when it comes to actually filling tummies.

              • Why yes, you have to buy more food if you have more people to feed.

                But that is as true of whole chickens and whole vegetables as anything else. If you can recommend a food that requires a lesser amount as the number of place settings increase, you let me know and we’ll both get rich.

          • Ted Seeber

            I can feed a family of four at my McDonald’s for $12. Not a huge amount, but that’s a burger, fries, and a drink for each person off the $1 menu.

            • Ted Seeber

              It just occured to me- this may be because I live in a state with no sales tax, but unless you have 100% sales tax, you should be able to get out of McD’s with less than a $30 bill.

              • And if you get it to go, and drink some water with it (no one hardly drinks enough water!) you knock the price down by a third.

        • Faith

          I think it depends on where you are poor. When I lived in Baltimore near the prison in a not so nice part of town, the only grocery store that was walking distance (and I didn’t have a car) or even easy to bus to was exactly as you say. However, where I live now when I travel to areas that have a large immigrant populations, those grocery stores have lots of great food at really cheap prices. I live near two areas – one largely Hispanic and the other largely Vietnamese. If you can get over the cultural hurdle of the odd (to me) foods and nothing written in English, you can get some really good food! We also have a lot of halal markets around here and you can get some good foods there that aren’t pricey either. Recently I was reading a book written by a restaurant reviewer and he was advocating buying foods at these types of markets because the food quality is so much better and the prices are so much lower.

          • Hispanic butchers are the best!!! Better quality meats, cheaper prices. Some funky cuts by American lights, but it can be fun to learn to use new cuts if you do enjoy cooking like I do. Plus, where else can you get decent carne seca.

            And ditto for Asian green grocers.

      • Blog Goliard

        Quite true…and as you rightly point out, “welfare does not really decrease the suck much”.

        What’s worse, many (largely well-intentioned) programs in fact make the suck much worse, by increasing moral and spiritual poverty even as they take the edge off material poverty. That’s the part that it’s so very hard to get some people to see. (Especially Boomer social-justice advocates, who like the Boomer rebels noted two posts back, have learned nothing since 1968.)

  • Patrick Watson

    The purpose of SNAP (aka food stamps) is not to help poor people. It’s purpose is to put a floor on food prices at above-market levels and thereby help farmers. That’s why it is administered by the U.S. Department of AGRICULTURE. Of course these days, said “farmers” tend to be multinational agribusiness conglomerates.


      We have a winner, folks. but the question remains, now that we have multiple generations of folks hooked on a crappy way of subsistence, all to enrich folks who already have at least some land and a tractor (Or a shiny new corporate HQ nowadays) what are we gonna do about it? How do we reach people we’ve spent generations marginalising and infantilising?

      • Ted Seeber

        One way my local communities does is by supplementing food stamps with wooden nickles (really $5 pieces) to the local farmer’s market- one of the few places where lard isn’t cheaper per calorie than apples.

        • That is brilliant! And I never would have thought of it, either. You’re one of my favorite commenters btw, in case I never said so.

          I’m going to spend this winter trying to see what we can do here toward such a thing. There are about 10-15 weekly farmer’s markets here in our metro area. This would be awesome.

          PLEASE email me at genetallent (u know what goes here) gmail (here too) com I want to know more about how they do it in Oregon!

          • Ted Seeber

            As I remember, you followed me here….Beaverton Farmer’s Market has been doing this for quite some time. It’s based on a donation program off of their local currency- if you use their “fake ATM” (really a cellular credit card reader and a person with a lockbox full of wooden nickels) you have the option of throwing back a couple of nickels into a jar for the local State DHS program. When we were on WIC, we’d get bright pink coupons we could exchange for those wooden nickels. Went every Saturday morning back then. Wasn’t enough for any of the fancy processed foods, but it would fill a shopping bag with a week’s worth of veggies.

        • KML

          We do that in Seattle too, Ted! I do wonder, though, how many people on food stamps have the time and resources to hop on our dismal public transportation system and find their way to a market in what are often higher income level neighborhoods. I’d be interested in seeing some sort of study that tracks where all of the food stamp money goes, and if any of it actually makes it to the farmer’s market or if it’s just a way for us to pat ourselves on the backs.

          • Thanks for that, KLM.

            The East Atlanta Village and Decatur markets are within walking distance of probably 1,ooo households on public assistance each. The bus stops right by both, and even though MARTA doesn’t suck (it BLOWS!!!) that would up the number orders of magnitude.

            OTOH, Roswell, Alpharetta and Duluth probably not so much. So that makes it even easier. I’ll concentrate my efforts on the 2 markets most easily accessed by the poor.

            And I’ll make sure the parish priests and pentecostal ministers all know whats going on if this gets off the ground. I definitely don’t want to put effort into assuaging bourgeois consciences, with no effect on poverty.

            • KML . Sorry for that. I hate it when people get my real name wrong.

  • dpt

    My works at our local school’s cafeteria and there is a sizeable portion of the student body (we live in CA) who receive the free- or subsized lunch. My wife’s general observation is that 30% to 50% of this lunch ends up in the trash can.

    Most kids seem to have decent clothes and a good number carry iPhones/Smartphones.
    I have to wonder what type of neighbor and citizens this kids will become in the future.

    • A sizable portion
      a good number

      Please quantify what you are saying, if for no other reason than so you can actually be argued with.

      • dpt

        What’s to quantify?
        Go visit a school and see how much of the subsized/free lunch ends up in the trash.
        Would it matter if it is 21.2% by weight vs. 44.8% ended in the trash?

        We waste food in this country and an observation is that the free lunch program is part of this issue.

        • I ate free lunches all the way through school. Almost nobody threw anything away, whether it was the farm kids or the lintheads who could afford the 55c. The lunchroom ladies would say something, the teachers would watch. And we were all hungry, or almost all of us.

          You throw food away in your culture. The free lunch program is not at all obviously part of the issue

          • dpt

            Yes, our nation’s entire culture does throw away too much food, rich and poor,…at restaurants, at schools, at home. My wife grew up in difficult times in Asia and doesn’t understand the wasteful behavior she sees in the US; and behavior she has observed from gets who receive a free lunch.

            Unfortunately, no one at our local school is teaching kids not to do so, thus food goes to waste each day.

            Perhaps this is a symptom of the CA system of entitlement that is expansive and broken, thus a reason the state and local entities are financially on the ropes. In the end, when things are wasted in the system, it means less available for those really in need.

            • About a fifth of my diet comes directly from dumpsters, I dont mind admitting. When you’re on an ambulance at night, no one thinks it odd if you park behind a grocery store. I just take a gym bag, and while my partner sleeps, I dig out what is worth keeping. It’s amazing how well I eat. I don’t have to, really, but in all honesty I fear Granny would haunt me if I didn’t. Its there, its free (if you don’t get caught) and its still edible. frees up my money for other stuff.

              • dpt

                Had a classmate in college who did the same so to help reduce his living expenses.
                Markets would toss out dented soup cans…hot dogs that were a day pass the expiration date.
                Too bad markets toss such food away.

                • My daddy lost a job in college as assistant manager at a Jack’s* over this. They wanted him to throw the leftovers away at night. He put it in his car and gave it to families he saw around his school whose kids didn’t have shoes in winter. Nobody wears them in the summer if they can help it, but in winter? Anyway, he was told to stop. He wouldn’t. Around that same time, he quit a Church where he was the volunteer youth pastor because the Pastor didn’t want him using the bus ministry to bring “poor white trash” into his church. Daddy told him with all the Lovingkindness he could muster to kiss his fat red hiney. Those were seminal events in his life. People in Woodruff Park and out on Pine St still feel the repercussions of those two men’s actions, one peanut butter sandwich at a time. And Daddy died 12 years ago.

                  * An Alabama fast food chain. We didn’t have many McDonalds back then and still don’t have a bunch out in the country.

                • Peggy R

                  “Friedman Railroad Salvage…we made the dented can famous.”
                  in St Louis. I think they’re now out of business. Used to see their commercials all the time…but I dont watch network or local tv much.

                  • In the rural south we have dented can stores. No seriously, just an old building on the roadside with a sign on the roof reading either “DISCOUNT FOOD” or “DENTED CANS”.

    • Kristen inDallas

      It’s a cheap way to buy status. For those who can afford to look on from nice houses in safe neighborhoods with fully stocked organic food fridges, yeah it might seem like a waste. But… well I taught in a school like that. Where the well off kids lived in trailers and the rest in slum apartments or with their grandmas, aunts, and cousins in a 2 br house with a leaky roof, high crime rates and not much to look forward to after highschool. These kids would make fun of me, the full-time, job-secure working professional because I’d wear the same shoes everyday or because I didn’t have an unlimited text plan, or because they didn’t approve of my hair do. Yeah it’s a sad state, and yeah I don’t agree with the priorities, but I get it. There’s a social hierarchy going on even in the “poor neighborhoods” At some schools it’s about who has the best car while at others it’s who has the newest phone and the least worn shoes. If we as a society did a better job of making sure all people were treated with respect and dignity, no matter their rank and station in life, they may not feel such a strong urge to go and try to buy it in the form of useless crap they don’t (materially) need. Until then, I try to remind myself to be charitable when people who live very different lives than me occasionally make decisions that I wouldn’t make given the perspective of my very different life.

      • Blog Goliard

        This article on (content advisory: apparently mandates the liberal use of swear words) covers some pretty familiar ground:

        • I was thinking of that reading this!!! And yes, they pretty much require a sailor’s vocabulary. As an honourably discharged sailor, me likey!!!

          • Ted Seeber

            Is it sad that being a Gonie who grew up around lumberjacks and farmers, I didn’t see anything terribly shocking about the language in that piece?

            • You really call yourselves Goonies? I thought that was only in the movies…

              • Ted Seeber

                The movies is Goonies. A Native Oregonian is a ‘gonie.

                • Ok, gotcha! Like a short form of Oregonian, which sounds way too formal to describe people like my good buddy Smedstadt, the only ‘gonie I ever knew in real life.

      • dpt

        “They wanted him to throw the leftovers away at night. He put it in his car …”

        A local breakfast kitchen struggles with this. The store managers would like to help, and do the best they can within their system, but corporate wants to account for where the food goes.

        And since our local, progressive local government banned plastic shopping bags (you still get them if you pay 5cents), our nearby foodbank has struggled to get shopping bags for handing out groceries. Plus stores that would donate recycled bags are under pressure from corporate to actually recycle as it benefits their standing as a green company.

        • I do not get this. Wasted food is wasted food from a corporate standpoint, I would think. Does it REALLY matter if its wasted in a dumpster or wasted on the poor?

          Liability I understand. Know the difference between a dead possum and a dead lawyer?

          There’s skid marks before the possum. (Sorry, Mr Petrik, I couldn’t resist. You have helped several folks I have steered your way, when you didn’t have to. Mike Petrik is the world’s greateest lawyer in my opinion. Even above Bobby Lee Cook.)

      • dpt

        “I try to remind myself to be charitable when people who live very different lives than me occasionally make decisions that I wouldn’t make given the perspective of my very different life.”

        Sound advice.

  • Scott

    I pray that you are correct Mark in your assessment otherwise we have lost the country. We need look no further than what our government has done to native Americans to see the utter failure of trying to live off the welfare state. It totally strips people of their human dignity.

  • Pathfinder

    As a person who lives in a rural area that is made up of a very sizable number of welfare recipients (I believe the percentage is well over the 20% of the total population at this point) — a lot of the people do work. The problem is that the only work available at this point are service jobs (most of them contracted out through the temp services; I believe that as of ’07 temp services became the largest employers in this area) or ag industry jobs that are not unionized and do not fall under the same work/pay regs as regular industrial . These people do work, many are two job + households…if they can afford day care, most can’t make ends meet on their pay — the number of people who not only have to use food stamps but also the local food pantries and soup kitchens has exploded in the last 2 1/2 years. And these are families where at least one parent is working at least one job (many have children serving in the military, because at least that way the kids are earning a paycheck — I personally know of one who is on his fourth deployment, when asked why he doesn’t get out he directly stated that at least he had a job that paid, rather than getting out and risking no job — right now his family back home depends upon a monthly stipend from him, they can’t manage without it). Many of their employers have directed them to the local welfare aid office to sign up for benefits, medical, food, and energy assistance — that’s where a significant portion of Americans are at right now.
    I don’t think that they are “takers” — they’ve had a lot taken from them though — and the way in which they are mocked by suburbia and the gated community dwellers in this country makes my blood boil.

    • Peggy R

      I do share your anger at the disdain that is directed at the white rural poor. It upsets me greatly. There are so many efforts of urban “outreach”–feeding and clothing the urban poor, introducing them to arts, culture, scholarships. In rural America, the poor are ignored and held in contempt–especially by the liberal elites. That contempt seems to reveal racist attitudes–white people should be successful; minorities can’t succeed.

      • Rachel K

        “That contempt seems to reveal racist attitudes–white people should be successful; minorities can’t succeed.”

        Wow–I never thought of it that way! I’m also deeply bothered by the fact that one of the last acceptable prejudices is “poor white people with Southern accents” and the horrendous classism that gets directed their way, but I never thought of how racist that was. Yikes.

        • You wouldn’t believe! When someone years ago pointed this out to me, I started investigating it.

          I can’t count the number of times, even taking off my shoes and opening my zipper (for a grand total of 21!), the number of times I have heard how I am wasting my potential and am capable of so much more, until I mention I am a traditional Indian, raised in a traditional Indian family. The tone suddenly changes to how much I have overcome!!!

          • Peggy R

            Thank you for perfectly illustrating my point Hez.! Rachel, I am glad I didn’t shock you in a bad way. It does seem true that white people who are not “successful” are looked down on, unlike non-whites. I also have gotten the vibe that blacks (maybe some other minorities too?) think that there’s no way white people can be poor or disadvantaged.

            • I find that that attitude among minorities is more common the better educated (indoctrinated) they are. At least down here. Crackers and peckerwoods are common enough here. (No offense intended, Pathfinder, but that’s what they call y’all, you know.)

              I think though, up north, minorities are mostly found in cities, where the whites the encounter are more likely to be upwardly-mobile.

              • Peggy R

                Filter wants more.. yes, yes, I agree…

              • Pathfinder

                I’m a Kraut…my wife is not all white, and we’ve never been “crackers” nor “peckerwoods” (as we don’t belong to that tribal branch of poor, white SoILians) — but no offense taken.
                Most of us (and there is a fair representation of Blacks for the area who are from around here to begin with) call ourselves “down home folks” 😉

  • I think you may be misunderstanding the problem of takers and makers. Too many takers with not enough makers will hurt society no matter whether they are lazy shirkers or noble, hardworking sorts who hit some bad luck. Furthermore, the transition form taker to maker has poverty traps all along that road. I understand that the effective marginal tax rate can be up to 80% at certain income points when you calculate the multiple hits of having to work hard, getting taxes taken out of your paycheck, and no longer qualifying for more and more programs.
    Proper charity is encouraging skill building, encouraging work over welfare, and the judicious use of money to help people transition to (or back to) independent living. So far as I can tell, the state does a lousy job at this. If we were rich enough, Plan A would be to do this entirely privately as it would be the most efficient use of resources and would also maximize the number of poor who were treated with dignity and successfully transitioned out to a better economic state. state assistance tends to trap people into poverty for various well understood reasons. Plan B is to bring in the state because no matter how lousy public provision turns out to be on various metrics, if you work very hard it is still better than nothing. Plan C is the hard hearted let the poor suffer option.
    We should act like Plan A is actually our first choice. All too often we don’t do this.

    • Ted Seeber

      The real problem with the Takers vs Makers rhetoric, in my experience, is that the labels are backwards.

      • Seriously, what are you talking about?

        • He means that those at the top are sucking up the wealth as fast as it can be produced by the blood, sweat, tears and lost digits or extremities of those barely above the bottom.

        • Ted Seeber

          Hezekiah has it right, but more importantly; all investment income and other forms of usury are derived from other people’s labor. The guy who is really the Maker in our current economy doesn’t own a damn thing because the majority of the fruit of his labor is going to interest payments, dividend payments, and other forms of Return On Investment. The guy who actually owns the business is almost never the guy spending 70 hour weeks keeping the business running.

          • ivan_the_mad

            If you haven’t yet read GKC’s “Utopia of Usurers”, you should.

            • That and The Servile State ought to be required summer reading!!!

              I’m no libertarian, though.

          • Interesting, you’re against just about every pension out there. How strange. I guess it’ll come up on another thread.

            • Yes! Absolutely! And not just pensions, but nearly the entire financial structure of the modern world.

    • What if every one of us went out and made friends with the poor around us? Real friendships that mean sacrifice with no expectation of a return on the investment, and that also mean speaking up about bad choices and bad habits that leave folks destitute?

      Say there’s 15 million regular mass-attending catholics. On average say thats 3-5 million “households” including each single adult even if they live at home still. 1 family each is a minimum of 3 million poor families. And once your friend starts doing better, no one says you can’t make another friend too.

      And all the while, we can share Jesus with them, just by showing up, encouraging, and sharing our knowledge.

      • I’ve no objection to this. To my mind, you’re simply elaborating on “Plan A”. I’ll take all the advice I can get on the subject as I think it is important.

        • That was my intent. I didn’t figure you’d object as I was riffing on your preference. But that’s my advice. Go walk out your front door and keep going. The very first hungry or ragged man* you see, buy him a cup of coffee and a plate of eggs. Listen to his life and eventually, when the Spirit moves you, share a little of your self in return. And that first guy may not be the one you are meant to befriend. Don’t judge him, just dust your broom and buy the next guy you see in that sad state a cup of…

          It’s actually a whole lot harder than it sounds. The Church says its the path to holiness. It hasn’t done me much good though, as you and many others here can attest.

          • *I say man because, obviously, a lady might get the wrong idea. But if you meet a girl at Mass who likes the idea, propose that she go find a lady…

          • I’ve done something similar to this. It’s something my wife introduced me to many years ago and there’s wisdom to it. Most of the poverty scammers aren’t interested in food though. It cuts into their monetary income begging, which can be substantial.

            • Yes, if you give a man a fiver, you have no guarantee he is a mendicant. But if you sit down and eat with him in fellowship you can be assured you fed the poor.

              Its the personal touch that makes the difference

    • ivan_the_mad

      Actually, I think a more effective plan is to not worry so much about wonkish prescriptions, but to set about doing the corporal works of mercy as best you yourself can. Got any plans for that? Or is it all wonkish prescriptions over there?

      A good starter plan for Catholic men is to jump into your local KofC. They’ve got plenty going on to help those in need.

      • Jesus loves wonks too.

        (Did I hit my head or something?)

      • I really don’t understand why you think that personal corporal works of mercy are in tension with wonkish prescriptions. For me, my biggest problem with personal corporal works of mercy is I can’t walk very well right now and my mobility issues limit me in what I can do. It’s nothing permanent and I hope to get things together on that front in the near to medium future.
        Right now we spend a great deal of money in law enforcement, regulatory system development, and systemic messaging that actively makes things worse for the poor. That’s not going to get fixed outside “wonkish prescriptions” to replace the bad with better solutions. Perhaps an example would help bring this home. In my county there are ~6,000 people mostly poor and lower working class people without public transit since June because of these kinds of issues. I managed to talk to the mayor of the largest city in the county and gave a simple, very low cost way to improve the situation by legalizing jitneys. His response was that in all the years he’d worked on the issue, nobody had ever raised that in his hearing. Since the Mackinac Center has been raising jitney legalization for nearly 20 years now, perhaps there really is a need for wonks to call in, walk in, and write in to help those thousands of people who are hurting for transport and all of the other issues where government is actively hurting them.
        I found Bob Waldrop’s letter to VP Candidate Ryan, especially the section on participation, to be a very good thing. It’s also a very familiar thing, something I’d been seeing in wonk circles in the libertarian right for decades. In fact, the only objection I have to Mr. Waldrop’s letter is the addressee as I think the VP has so little to do with what he was talking about that it would have been better addressed to every municipal, county, and state politician in the country. I’m currently thinking on how to do that practically where I live and in a way that might actually move people to action instead of being an occasion for more partisan bickering.

        • For a long time, I had completely misjudged you. I shouldn’t judge people anyway, so thats not a surprise. Anyway, I am sorry.

          Can you help me with some local policy proposal I am going to be working on? Not the heavy lifting but can I pick your brain from time to time? You can email me at genetallent(youknow what goes here)gmail(heretoo)com

          I’d be grateful.

        • I just looked up the Makinac Center. Now how are we gonna get the Makinac Center the Houses of Hospitality to work together?

          Libertarians and Anarchists: UNITE in the Jesus’ name!!!

          • Makinac would be following its charter by providing advice and strategy to protect such organizations from interference by the state. For all I know they’re already doing it. I’m not familiar with the Houses of Hospitality. But as my wife’s wont to say, God’s garden is very large.

            • Houses of Hospitality are the structure by which Catholic Workers effect change in the world, following the example of the Servant of God, Dorothy Day.

              In Atlanta, our House of Hospitality, The Open Door, while led (if you can call it leading) by Eduard Loring, is not precisely a Catholic Worker organisation though. We don’t have enough Catholics willing to get dirty down here in the South, so Ed made it an Ecumenical House of Hospitality in the Catholic Worker tradition. Which ordinarily might make my skin crawl, except protestant, catholic or orthodox, every one of them folks take the corporal works as seriously as the Servant of God could ever hope.

        • ivan_the_mad

          “I really don’t understand why you think that personal corporal works of mercy are in tension with wonkish prescriptions.” I don’t, nor do I understand how you got that from my comment. All you had was standard boilerplate on how terrible the state is at doing things and how much more efficient and better it would be if private interests handled the same thing. Where I live, if it weren’t for the state’s intervention, there would be a lot of really, really bad off folks. WE NEED TO PRIVATIZE or TEACH A MAN TO FISH? The people that say that, surprisingly, are not to be found here spending private resources or teaching people to fish. Now, what you do in your own time is fine and good and perhaps even laudable. But before you start criticizing the state as the worst solution and declaiming on your magical wonkistry, perhaps you should get off your high horse and come walk around somewhere where the state is the only solution that’s presented itself. The KofC here gets more help from harried and underpaid civil servants with money stolen from the Makers than it does from libertarians who theoretically provide more efficient use of resources.

          • I would be surprised to find that your statement is actually true. Every time I’ve actually chased down such claims, it turns out there used to be private aid, the state came in and crowded it out and then people look around wondering why there aren’t any more private groups. You may actually live in an exception to that rule but I can’t tell because I don’t know where you are.
            Let me be clear. The State often is worse than nothing because it teaches self-destructive bad habits. Sometimes it’s better than nothing. None of that means that doing nothing about problems is acceptable. It means that wherever you are on the rich/poor scale or on the socialist/libertopia scale you’re likely to get better results if you take your current government systems, identify the bottom one or two, and figure out how to provide those services privately. Lather, rinse, repeat.
            The private sector does not come in from on high and present itself to the people with solutions. That’s government’s schtick. The private sector is the little platoons of civil society gathering together and figuring out how to improve something. In other words, unless you’re a civil servant yourself, you are the private sector.
            Drop me a line and maybe I can give more practical advice if I knew your situation better.

            • ivan_the_mad

              “Let me be clear. The State often is worse than nothing because it teaches self-destructive bad habits.” That is certainly not what the Church teaches (and, silly me, not being as impressed with you as you yourself are, I go with what the Church teaches). See CotCC 2401 onwards, and Rerum Novarum for good measure, for instance: ” therefore the public administration must duly and solicitously provide for the welfare and the comfort of the working classes; otherwise, that law of justice will be violated which ordains that each man shall have his due.” Man, that totally doesn’t sound like “the State is often the worst solution” to me. Really, subsidiarity isn’t another word for libertarianism. The government has a legitimate function and role in securing the common good and for providing for the universal destination of goods. You can sit and pout about how, in your ideal world, private charity would provide for all needs. But that doesn’t fill stomachs that are empty now. But what matters Church teaching when it comes to pursuing ideology, the categorical that government is the worst solution? Wonkish ideology doesn’t fill an empty stomach.

              “Drop me a line and maybe I can give more practical advice if I knew your situation better.” Really, you are quite full of yourself. You’re more interested proving your ideology right than anything else. Bye now.

      • Ted Seeber

        There was no local KofC in my parish- so I started one! Council 15485!

        • ivan_the_mad

          Hats off to you, sir!

  • caroline

    I don’t have a dishwasher. I use two dishpans, one for washing and one for rinsing. I didn’t know how poor I was.

    • What’s the rest of your day spent doing? When a woman, or in my dad’s case, a man, has to be both parents to small children, the bread winner, the handyman and still wear several other hats, adding Head Chef and Bottlewasher to the list can be daunting. I still don’t have a dishwasher, now by choice though.

      You’re better than this, Caroline. Leave the snarky comments to those of us heading for Hell already, please?

  • Slightly off topic, but for those who object to my use of “you” at times, notice here I use “we”. This isn’t a discussion on American politics for me, but a discussion among Christians about how to serve the poor.

    Here, it’s we. That’s one of my favorite things about the Church!!!

  • What you have said is so incredibly obvious that it really bears repeating! “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

  • KML

    I have really enjoyed reading through this discussion, thanks! Some of you might find this link interesting:

    We here in the KML household have been on a “real food” kick lately, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that it has actually *decreased* our weekly food expenditure. Of course, the other side of these savings is the is the proportional time expenditure – I must actually spend time researching labels, planning meals, prepping food, and doing all the things that convenience food doesn’t require. Because I’m a mostly SAHM, I have the time to do that. If I was also working outside the home to make ends meet (more than I do now), that probably wouldn’t happen. We’d get sucked into a never ending gordian knot of “I don’t have time to cook, so we spend more money on convenience food, thereby inflating our budget and making it necessary for me to work all the time so I don’t have time to cook” cycle.

    Anyway, that link is an interesting look at a family’s attempt to eat real, whole foods on a $125/wk budget. As some people mentioned before, this is probably an easier endeavor for them than for others because this family already had experience with whole foods and knew how to prepare them and had the necessary equipment to do so, so I’m not sure this would immediately translate to at-risk families.

    I was also just having a conversation with Mr. KML last night about how interestingly things have changed in our country in a century. Used to be you were fat if you were rich and skinny if you were poor because you could or couldn’t afford food, you breastfed your babies if you were poor and couldn’t afford formula or milk for them, and you ate unbleached flour if your couldn’t afford white bread. Nowadays, the poor struggle with obesity, the well-off breastfeed for longer (or at all) because it is easier for well-off women to stay home or have a job that allows pumping, and all the well-off buy sprouted grain bread at Whole Foods while the poor subside on Wonder Bread.

    Anyway, very interesting discussion. Happened to hit on a few things I’ve been mulling over lately.

    • Elaine S.

      “Used to be you were fat if you were rich and skinny if you were poor because you could or couldn’t afford food, you breastfed your babies if you were poor and couldn’t afford formula or milk for them, and you ate unbleached flour if your couldn’t afford white bread.”
      Also, poor people used to have suntans because they worked out in the hot sun, while rich people scrupulously kept their skin pale by carrying parasols, wearing wide-brimmed hats, etc. Now it’s rich people who have suntans and poor people who have no time to get out in the sun… which come to think of it, is probably another reason for the prevalence of obesity among the poor. They can’t afford to join gyms or fitness clubs, they may live in neighborhoods where it’s too dangerous to walk or jog, and many of the jobs available to them today are indoor or sedentary (answering phones, standing behind counters, etc.)

  • CCM

    I suppose it’s off topic, but doesn’t anyone but me have a problem — a huge problem — with Mark using that word that begins with “S” in his headline? Last I checked, it is an obscenity that does not need to be used in polite discourse, no matter how often we hear it used around us by people, even children, who should know better.

    • No, being poor sucks. It sucks your energy, your dignity, your will. It sucks the life right out of you!

      Where’s your mind, CCM? 😉

    • KML
    • I would defend Mark’s use of the word here as it is clearly not obscene. As they say in the military “embrace the suck” which, translated in more traditional language, means go with a glad heart into difficult situations that will hurt. That people shorten that down for convenience sake does not make an obscenity.

    • Ted Seeber

      The Bible defines swearing as taking the name of the Lord Your God in Vain. Sucks isn’t my God, and I sure as heck hope that your God doesn’t Suck.

      • Nope, Ted, that’s blaspheming. Swearing, a particular form of taking His name in vain, is taking oaths unnecessarily (‘I swear to God I didn’t see your car!”) Cursing is calling down damnation or divine retribution (‘May the Lord cover your midsection in fleas!’ or ‘Go to hell!’) Vulgarity is coarse language, usually monosyllabic and germanic in origin (@$$, fV<k, $h!t, p!$$.)

        Obscenity is paying a father of 4 $8/hr for scrubbing toilets and taking out the trash.

        • I stole all that from my FSSP catechist, who ended that little lecture with “So the Church teaches that it is wrong to fV<king blaspheme, or swear or curse. So don't you @$$wipe$ do it."

          Only time I ever heard him utter a vulgarity. It stuck with me.

  • The necessity for society to provide a safety net for the poor is obvious to me. However, with over 165 million people (well over 50% of the US population) at least partially dependent on the government what we have is something else entirely. We have long ago abandoned actually helping real people and instead have enabled a culture of learned helplessness in which millions of able-bodied men and women believe that they cannot walk without crutches. The welfare culture even includes the rich corporate elites as you mention and it is not just wasteful, but immoral. We need to end corporate welfare but we also need to drastically reduce the entire welfare state (the unfunded liabilities of which are over one million dollars per taxpayer; I don’t just have that lying around and somehow I don’t think Mark does either).

    • So wrong, so wrong.

      Long before the public teat was so pervasive, the option of helping themselves was removed from many avenues of life for the poor. Farther down on this blog is an entry titled “Depression Era Seattle”.

      Blog Goliard made an excellent comment there about how over regulation choked the ability of the poor to help themselves. So how about we do away with laws which keep the poor from engaging in commerce or housing themselves, and then we perform a gov’t mastectomy for the able-bodied ones remaining?

      There is still time, you know. You don’t mind if I build a 500sq ft house from discarded pallets and salvaged hardware in your neighborhood with a hugely relaxed set of building codes, right? And you certainly don’t mind if I sell sodas and hotdogs to commuters from the public right of way without having to get liscense and things, right?

      • I don’t mind people building on their land safely as they please but if you’re building an unsafe joke of a house on a $30k lot instead of selling the lot and buying a better property complete with a more sturdy house at tax sale 10 miles down the road (and for less money to boot), I think you are in need of some help in economic planning. One of the great bugaboos against relaxed zoning codes (or no zoning codes as I favor) is exactly the sort of economically inefficient and impractical construction that you are proposing.
        The result you posit generally doesn’t happen but you can scare people into opposing your proposal by pretending that it would a fairly frequent occurrence.
        As for the vendor bit, public licensure is a crock for exactly the reason you hint at, but the function does have a kernel of real need at the center which is public health and giving cheap assurance of safety and responsibility. Privatizing licensure would permit competitive systems that would provide assurance to the customers at reasonable prices the poor could afford. You could have the inspectors come round much as the copier and computer technicians do for national firm warranty service. It’s nothing new in terms of a viable business model but it’ll never happen until government mandatory licensure gets out of the way.

        • It’s 30k for the man who wants to buy it. But if we strengthened adverse possession, that lot would be practically free to the man who built a house on it. And even without building, look at all the houses banks own today, standing empty. I don’t see any reason why a man shouldn’t be able to change the locks, fix any damage, run an ad in the local paper for 4 mondays in a row, and wait for the “owner” to evict him. If 6 months passes and he’s still there, its his. I understand banks won’t like that, nor other absentee landlords, but I really don’t care for speculators.

          In the old Cherokee Nation, before the Trail Where Y’all Cried, nobody owned any land at all. But if a man put his effort into making a space his, making it work for him and his, everyone respected that. So you had Sogwili (y’all call him Sequoyah) living in a traditional ‘daub and wattle’ house surrounded by a few 3 sisters mounds out by Barry Springs, barely eeking out a living while he improved our writing system. And a little farther up Mother Etowah you had Rich Joe Vann, wealthier than Washington or Jefferson, two of your wealthiest of his contemporaries, with a hundred slaves and cotton fields planted farther than a man could run in a day, with a tavern and a store and two ferries, one on Mother Etowah and one on the Chattahoochee.

          And those men were real equals. Not just on paper like here and now. I got no truck with land speculators. And most of the land in this country, it seems to me, is owned by speculators.

          One of the worst things whites ever did was move from a system where the King held the whole nation, in trust for his people, and split it up for whoever could afford it.

          • Those houses sit empty because of the adverse possession laws we have. If the laws change, the behavior will change and you get the violent nonsense you have in China. I’ve already read enough about powerful people taking advantage of middle class owners through adverse possession conspiracies that I’m leery of moving in your direction.

            • Please educate me. I believe you but I don’t know anything about China, including the price of tea.

      • I said that SOCIETY must provide a safety net for the poor, not necessarily the government. How you went from that to invasive zoning codes I have no idea.

        • Most of the poor don’t need society’s help.

          They need society to get out of their way and let them help themselves. That’s how. Sorry if I didn’t make that plainer.

  • Peggy R

    Many interesting comments to respond to.
    1. It is true that many poor don’t know how to buy healthy foods with their funds. Many middle class folks lack such judgment as well. I saw “Supersize Me” recently when I subbed. (Full of half truths, another story). A lower income family was convinced they couldn’t afford to buy fresh veggies, but could afford several burgers and fries for a family of 4. Good on Hezekiiah and others who help. (I say that at the risk of Hezekiah’s wrath ;^D)
    2. The underlying problem with the fact that nearly half the tax-filing population not kicking in income taxes or being dependent upon the government is that this system is not sustainable. How we got here was a combination of many factors–cycle of poverty in some populations, aging population, low birth rates, some genuinely disabled (some unemployed are using it now, I’ve read), some laziness and unwillingness–exacerbated by the recent terrible economic events. Govt budgets and the economy are not sustainable if a smaller and smaller portion of the population fund the government and provide resources for transfer payments to the poor. That’s not an indictment of all people who are dependents on the State.
    3. Walmart would like to open discount stories in many cities, but unions and Dem leadership in cities fight it. WM could make inexpensive fresh foods available in urban areas and provide jobs too. One option to improve the lot of the urban poor.

    • WalMart doesn’t have fresh food in my experience. What produce isn’t already beginning to show signs of mold IN THE STORE begins to do so very soon after getting home. That does not happen, again just my experience, with produce from Kroger, Ingles, Sav-a-Ton, Aldi, Big Bear, IGA, or the retail farmers markets like H-Mart and Your Dekalb farmers Market.

      In talking to other people, there is a similar experience of produce going very bad very quickly. faster than you can even eat it.

      And Peggy, I don’t expect anyone to believe it, but I am trying hard. I am sorry if I have ever been nasty to you. In fact, I am sorry for being nasty to you in the past. I couldn’t give you specifics, but if you will click on my name up above, you can give me specifics, and tear into me with 4 letter words if you like. I promise if you do, I will only apologise again and beg forgiveness.

      I’m not going to stop arguing. But I am trying to do it in a productive way. I actually have been for weeks, but “when a man gets a reputation as an early riser, he can sleep till noon” works the other way too.

      • Peggy R

        You are very kind. No worries. I can’t let strangers on the web get to me. I shall restrain myself in the future. I seek to be charitable and understanding as well…I won’t tear into you or any one else, as I am a sinner too. I thank Jesus for the gift of Confession.
        I have not had fresh produce problems from WM. Some new products are prepackaged produce as well, I’ve noticed. I have frequented 2 WMs–one is rural, one is in a urban county (IL-MO border). The rural one is less busy and very clean–but further from my home. The urban is less clean and very busy, and has some international foods as a result of the population its serving. Last Christmas, I went to a high-end local chain to get some things I saw on sale. I got a veggie tray. I realized when I got home it stunk. Rotten broccoli. Never had such a problem w/WM. I think the turnover is high enough that produce doesn’t go bad. We don’t eat a wide variety of fresh produce, so maybe I haven’t sampled enough variety. I don’t buy something I am not going to use soon, in any case. I don’t buy food I won’t eat or take the time to prepare. It will rot. I presume the fault is mine. Aldi and other discount grocers can help too. I’ve heard decent things about ALdi’s produce.
        –Yes, WM does hurt mom and pops. But if there’s nothing in say Chicago, then it’s an improvement.

        • Elaine S.

          “I’ve heard decent things about Aldi’s produce”
          Well, here in the Springfield IL area, I’d say that about 70-80% of the time I don’t have any trouble finding decent produce at Aldi’s. Occasionally their selection of, say, strawberries or tomatoes or other easily damaged/bruised produce will be questionable; but I’ve never had a problem with the “sturdier” items such as celery, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, etc. If I do have a problem finding decent produce there I just hop on down the road to a Shop n Save or County Market (chains regional to IL, MO and IA) and find what I want there.

    • OTOH, WalMart is awesome for canned goods, frozen goods, longterm staples like dry rice and dry beans. Spices too. Selection may not be what some demand, but down here at the bottom of the heap we don’t get too too picky. Or we don’t survive long.

    • Pathfinder

      Yeah, well Wal-Mart moved into the smaller “cities” in my area and as a result a lot of the small town stores felt the pinch and went under — now the people who live in the outlying communities (rural area) have to go 30 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart (and their rotten produce) in order to shop at all — so of course they are going to buy things that don’t spoil because they have to factor in transportation (which is really driving the ones who make just a little too much to go on food stamps over the brink). Places like Wal-Mart might work for urban or suburban places, but it hasn’t helped the rural communities at all from what I’ve seen.
      And on top of that most of the people in those communities can no longer keep chickens or even small livestock like they used to — thanks to regulations — plus they’d have to find a way to transport their backyard livestock to a slaughterhouse, which there are no longer any local ones (or risk getting in trouble if they butcher at home, which some do risk — both the keeping and the butchering).
      People always seem to think that poverty is something that happens in cities; it isn’t.

      • My experience is from growing up between Shinbone Ridge and Dirtseller Mountain in Broom’s Valley. Everything you say is spot on. Tons of poverty in the country. And its getting worse all the time as the wealthy buy up the land to build vacation homes they might occupy a month of calendar days each year.

        I personally don’t see the sin in using that land, if they just own it on paper and treat it like a resort. Most of them don’t even notice if you take their wood, fruit, game, etc. but if they do, expect to see the high Sheriff.

        • One of the things that should be happening, but too often isn’t, is that in this age of communications there’s no reasonable way to contact and contract for what you want to do. What you may not be aware of is that with the right paperwork, you can take their land. Landowner fears over adverse possession are real and the simplest cure is to assert ownership by calling law enforcement.

          • Man, I just wasted a whole bunch of electrons arguing with you for adverse possession, and here you are saying the same thing!

            You keep on being wonkish. I hope you win!!!

          • Peggy R

            Actually, it is happening to families with children whose only homes are taken over by squatters as they leave town looking for work. They come home to find their home occupied on the basis of “adverse possession.” They go through many legal proceedings to get their homes back. One story was in Colorado this year. I just read another story taking place in Detroit.

            • I knew there’d be a flip side.

              And I am definitely not saying its moral to take a man’s home while he’s gone but a few weeks. But out in the country, where everybody knows each other, you ought to know who’s who in that regard.

              I’ve no use for the squatters you refer to. But what’s that latin phrase for “abusing a thing doesn’t mean it wrong to use it right”? abusit non tollit sumum or something?

      • Ted Seeber

        I understand poverty happening in rural areas. What I don’t understand is HUNGER in rural areas. Because it absolutely should not- every man in a rural area should be able to grow, hunt, or gather enough to feed his family *with no need of a store, or money, let alone federal government involvement*.

        We need a more distributed food production system.

        • Some folks are lame, Ted. Some are blind. Some come from three generations of lintheads (textile employees) who don’t know, anymore, how to work the land for their benefit.

          I grew up ‘poor’ but honestly did not know it until a gov’t worker told us so. We raised corn, beans, tomatoes, squash, hogs, blueberries, apples, pears, scuppernongs, canteloupes, watermelon, punkins and gourds. We gathered poke salat, blackberries, plums and elderberry from the roadsides when they were each in season.

          When I turned 8 I got my first .22, a single shot hand me down from my great Uncle Brownie. When Daddy gave me that gun he said “You ain’t gonna like this present much, in a little while. Now you keep the larder up, I have work to do.” And starting then, I had a quota of rabbit and squirrel to bring home, one for every single round Granny gave me. Daddy planted oats in a little patch by the woods beside the barn, and he’d sit on saturday mornings in winter on the back porch after chores and drink chicory and do crosswords with his 12ga, waiting for a buck to come eat.

          We canned 3 or 4 hundred quarts every year. We’d bought the canner when times were really good, in 1927. Lord help you if you broke a jar, because Granny would tan your hide. And she was a mean old woman bigger than most men.

          But most folks don’t own the equipment or have the knowledge anymore. But you don’t have to look hard to find a fellow who knows how to make METH. My daddy moonshined a little, but making liquor from corn is honest and clean, not like putting a bunch of matchheads and sudafed in a bottle of white gas, or however they do it.

        • Pathfinder

          Like I said: thanks to regulations people even in rural communities can’t keep backyard livestock, there are no local slaughterhouses (closed down long ago), hunting spots (you can’t just go out into nature and expect to bag game: they congregate and move in certain areas) are being taken up by real estate developers or hunting preserves (talk about getting face to face with Sodom and Gomorrah: try guiding some of those city people on their yearly “hunt” — a lot of them are more interested in scouting out a different form of wild life once they get away from home). There is even talk of regulating gardens in some communities (landscaping yes, vegetables and fruits, no).
          That’s why there’s hunger in rural communities — besides the fact that not everyone has a green thumb, is a good shot, or knows the proper wild plants and fungi to pick (a lost art actually, and even then you have to have access — no access, no gathering).

          • I’ve been gone 18 yrs, but I can imagine such regulations are a nightmare.

            My Uncle Brownie gave me my only taste of possum at a family reunion when I was 6. Already interested in hunting, I asked how he hunted possum.

            “First, get some Dawn detergent and wash your tires reeeeaaaaal good…”

            Needless to say, I can’t stomach greasy old possum.

  • Mary French

    My recently married daughter and son-in-law have a budget of $50/week for BOTH of them. They are not starving and they don’t consider themselves poor – and they don’t take food stamps. Yes, they have to budget very carefully, and they have to do without a lot of speciality items or name brands, but they are making it. They also save money by making from scratch many of their food items such as bread, spice mixes, etc. So, the $29/week/person is difficult, but not impossible, especially if it’s only supposed to be a supplement.

    • Where are they though? Pheonix is not Atlanta is not Detroit is not Manhattan is not Podunk is not Little Egypt.

      Y’all would be shocked how little I spend on my own groceries, as opposed to the other folks I feed, but then I already admitted I eat out of the garbage.

      • Pathfinder

        We spend about $450/mo. on food, with a family of 5 (was 7) — and eat very well. However, not everybody has access to a large garden and orchard, or canning/freezing equipment, and not everybody has what it takes to go hunting/fishing for half or better of their protein intake (and it is getting increasingly difficult to find good hunting spots thanks to those hunting clubs buying up property and not allowing anyone but club members to hunt even close to the land).

        • I’ll be praying for y’all. Developers make a tough life impossible.

      • Peggy R

        You know “Little Egypt”? Lots of rural poverty in So-IL.

        I shop weekly and try to keep it as little over $100 or so as I can. I buy fruits, veggies and various unfavored snacks, as well as decent meal foods. I am a lousy cook, however. Store brands are mostly pretty good these days.

        • I spent a year as a POW in ChicaRgo (actually Great Mistakes, but I digress.)

          Know why they call it Little Egypt? You really can impose a map of the Holy Land and surrounding areas over it. The towns all line up. Its creepy. Had a buddy from the IL-KY border in Great Mistakes whose mama made biscuits almost as good as a Southron woman.

          • Peggy R

            Yep. Cheers to you. Glad you survived Chicago Great Mistakes land…I shan’t ask more about that.

            My husband from PA never heard the expression “bumble F*** Egypt” teen colloquialism for “in the middle of nowhere.” I realized then that expression must be related to the “Little Egypt” nickname for the area. So IL is indeed southern, as some Chicago pols are wont to note.

            • Politics separates men. Supper pulls ’em together. This thread proves that for me. I wouldn’t mind if Mark never posts on politics again. I’ll be praying for the strength to ignore those posts from here on out.

              • Peggy R

                Yes, indeed. Even if I am the cook–all unite in their horror! The kids could eat spaghetti or M&C all the time…add a salad on the side. Husband requires more variety of course, as do I. We like salmon in particular.

                Cheers to you on your new endeavor.

                • Next time they ask “Whats for supper?!” tell ’em “Poke and grits! Poke your feet up on the table and grit your teeth!”

        • Pathfinder

          I’m from the area just north of there, yes. Born and bred. There is a lot of rural poverty — endemic even. Tar paper shacks and everything. And yes, I’ve eaten squirrel and groundhog at many a table in my life (passed on the raccoon and possum, but have had it offered).

    • dpt

      Our family of five here in Silicon Valley spend about $165/week on groceries eating very little processed food/junk and lots of fruit and fresh vegetables.
      My wife does a great job comparing andshopping, and she visits a number of supermarkets (there are five or so in a 2mile radius from our home0 on her shopping trip. Good deals can be found at the various Asian markets, especially for the vegetables.

      • That is impressive. Familiar with the Frugal Gourmet? He’s a protestant minister, but he might be right up y’all’s alley where the supper table is concerned. Either way, my hat is off to you, sir or ma’am!!!

        • dpt

          That’s my wife’s work.

          She grew up in an environment where she had to eat every little bit of food…every grain of rice on her dish because of how hard the family worked to provide food.

          The wastefulness in the US is a big disappointment for her.

          • Buy her some of the Frugal Gourmet’s cookbooks, I am telling you. He throws in some pretty bland spirituality part of the time, but that man knows the entire human history of making do with little, and reusing the leftover parts, from just about every culture in the Old World, from Ireland to Khazahkistan.

  • Julie

    My family of four spends about $450/month at the grocery store. I think we eat an average diet – some fresh fruits, veggies, and meats, some frozen stuff, some canned stuff. Our main vice is diet soda, of which we consume about a case and a half a week. This grocery bill also includes some non-SNAP-eligbile-type stuff, such as paper products, cleaning supplies, and birthday cards. We eat out pretty infrequently: maybe twice a month, unless traveling.

    My main problem with food stamps is that I think the dollar amounts need to be reconsidered more frequently. That Phoenix mayor should think about moving to Pennsylvania. I shopped for my last neighbor, who was homebound, until we moved, using her ACCESS card (no one ever asked me for ID, by the way). She was a single lady, and she got $300/month. How the state possibly feels that she can consume $75 of groceries per week is beyond me.

    However, that neighbor had had a long-time, live-in boyfriend who died about a year before we moved in. I suspect that the $300 amount was probably for both of them, which is much more reasonable, and that the account was never reassessed after he died. I have no problem with her receiving food stamps – she definitely needs them – but it makes me wonder how much other people are getting, and if the state is keeping track of people dying, moving out of the family home, and getting jobs.

  • My girlz, the ones mentioned before, are here to watch the debate and say I ought to share one recipe with everyone here, so I will. They’re mostly Holiness and Baptist but how I love them all. Anyway, this is Food Stamp Bolognese…

    2 lb Hamburger
    an equal volume of 1/3 each of chopped onions, carrots and celery (mire poix)
    1 pouch of McCormicks Spaghetti Sauce powder (in the envelope on the spice aisle)
    tiny can of tomato paste
    a can of cheap beer (you can use water or beef broth if you ONLY have foodstamps)
    Brown meat, drain
    saute mire poix
    add sauce packet and brown a bit
    add beer or broth to deglase
    add the meat back in
    add enough water to cover
    return to boil
    simmer 6 hrs or pressure cook 45 min
    toss with pasta and serve.

    Kroger has barrilla for $1 a box this week, the same price as kroger brand.

    If you’ll excuse me, the 2 catholics are hilarious and food is done.


    add sauce packet

  • Elaine S.

    Most. Epic. Thread. Ever. 🙂 I need to bookmark this!