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Bureaucrats try food stamp diet


fresco
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Seven city and county officials in the Portland, Oregon, area tried living on food stamps for the month of November, but not all of them were able to make it through the month.

Said one: "You have to make all of your food. You have to bring your lunch. You can't get your latte."

http://www.theworldlink.com/articles/2003/...news/news10.txt

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I suppose it is a worthy gesture, but somehow, when people who are well paid and well fed do this sort of thing as an "experiment" and then discuss how they suffered, you often just want to give them a smack upside the head. Here's a couple of examples of Toronto City Councillors who tried living for a week on the $17 that provincial welfare allots for food:

http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2002-10-03/news_story.php

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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These people just want to be on a reality show.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Yes. I have a friend whose bank account tops 6 figures but who honestly believes that he can leave it behind, go to India for a year to live among the poor and that he will then understand poverty and hunger. I cannot bring him to see that when poverty and hunger are forever they mean something entirely different than poverty and hunger for a year. His bank account will continue to grow and he will know every minute of every day that he can choose to end his experiment. But those whom he hopes to understand inhabit a different universe entirely. They have no choices. He doesn't get it.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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When I was a kid the headmistress at boarding school wanted us to know how the poor in Asia lived so we were served a tiny bit of rice cooked with a lot of water.

I said, "Great! I love congee!"

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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What a great PR opportunity. Now they can go back to their lattes and forget all about it.
But there is something to be gained even from a short period of trying to live like another person. Just like you can have a $300 dinner and imagine yourself in Paris for a couple of hours, you can get one bag of basic groceries to last a couple of weeks and see what it's like to live for probably 20 percent of the US population. A far higher percentage if you are considering the world. And for most of the rest of the world, forget the groceries. You have to go out and find it on your own. Seafood is eaten at the seashore or near rivers because the people who lived there prior to the existence of refrigeration and mass transportation had it. It was there. But you had to go out and gather it, not buy it. Same thing with crawfish in Louisiana and eel in Japan.

That's part of the reason that people go hunting and camping. To remember what it's like to have to fend for yourself without a corner market and 35 different kinds of takeout places.

Now, going to the grocery store today is rife with bad judgement. Fat and salt is cheap. I know for a fact that a donut is cheaper than a can of tuna, requires no tools, and is easily obtained. Cheap food, when that's all that you exist on, is bad for you. Too much salt, too much processed sugar, and too many inferior ingredients, not enough nutrition. It's just calories. All of these things require tools, from can openers to pots, and that's assuming you have a stove. The tools to cook cost money. Most of us turn up our noses at a $5 pot from a grocery store. Probably 70% (my estimate) of the population have never seen the inside of a gourmet or kitchenware store (not counting WalMart). They wouldn't know a saucier if you hit them with it. It's a pot. Or a pan. And if you're lucky, a cookie sheet or two.

I'm sorry if I seem a little testy on this subject. I was a half step away from homelessness on a number of occasions. And I never did qualify for food stamps. You have to know how to work the system to eat and have a roof over your head. I know what it means to make the decision between eating and keeping the heat on. I am grateful, especially this time of year for the good fortune I have been given, and having gone through the experience of not having it. I will never forget what that was like. Even though I am not living like Bill Gates, buying food is no longer the struggle it was, and it makes a huge difference in the way you look at life. And why I don't mind feeding other people.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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No, I'm sorry but this doesn't work. It never works.

So what, you went a week? a month? a year? living "among" the poor, big deal. You have a way out. At the end of your time, you get to go back to your real life. This "experience" doesn't teach anything. It doesn’t give you anymore empathy for the poor. It's a PR exercise, plain and simple.

It's like the college kids a few years back that as part of a class experiment they spent the night on the streets to "learn" what it was like to be houseless. What did they learn? That outside, in the middle of the night, in winter it's cold. Big f'n deal. You got to go back home the next morning.

When those that have try to pretend to be those that don't have- you learn nothing. Can anyone tell me what they "learned"? Don't say that the experience counts, cuz it doesn't. You wanna experience hunger, skip lunch.

I don't have the answers, but spare me the theatrics. Don't give me the "I lived as a poor person for x amount of time, so I know what it's like". You don't know jack.

Live your entire life as a poor or houseless person, then report back. Oh wait, no one will listen to you then.

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Maybe the answer is do try to do things that will result in people having more food, and more money to buy food, rather than trying to share their "experience". It's damn hard, perhaps impossible to do, without coming across as a slumming, patronizing SOB.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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It can work, to a certain extent.

In 1986, an MLA from British Columbia, Emery Barnes, spent a month living on welfare among his constituents. He was criticised for doing so but what he learned there helped shape his political efforts in years to come.

Unfortunately, there are not many politicians cut from the same cloth as Emery Barnes...

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This reminds me of when our mayor, Willie Brown, swore he would use MUNI as his transportation. He rode the damn bus once, accompanied by huge media foo-fah-rah. Then it was back to double-parking his limo all over town.

This kind of empathy has recently been echoed in current mayoral candidate Gavin Newsome's touted "Care Not Cash" proposal, in which San Francisco's poorest residents would be denied the current measly stipend with which they are expected to try to feed themselves in favor of a whole slew of beaurocracy-heavy "services", of which most of them would probably remain ignorant, and which the rest would eschew out of what little could possibly remain of their sense of dignity.

Squeat in San Francisco, praying for a Gonzalez win in today's mayoral election.

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It can work, to a certain extent.

In 1986, an MLA from British Columbia, Emery Barnes, spent a month living on welfare among his constituents. He was criticised for doing so but what he learned there helped shape his political efforts in years to come.

Unfortunately, there are not many politicians cut from the same cloth as Emery Barnes...

What did Emery Barnes do after the month was up? He wasn't "poor" anymore, he got to step out of it.

Normal "everyday poor" people don't get to step out of their enviroment at the end of x amount of time. They're still poor.

To chop up what fresco said, it's not about the shared experience, it's the long term effects that matter.

And for Steve March to give up after some dinners of grilled cheese sandwiches and of eggs and toast is bullshit. What did he learn? That's he a candyass who but for the Grace of God would have died from poverty long ago.

This is just an example of why it doesn't work. And to close, here's another:

"I did try," said Cruz.  "You have to make all of your food.  You have to bring your lunch.  You can't get your latte."
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It can work, to a certain extent.

In 1986, an MLA from British Columbia, Emery Barnes, spent a month living on welfare among his constituents. He was criticised for doing so but what he learned there helped shape his political efforts in years to come.

Unfortunately, there are not many politicians cut from the same cloth as Emery Barnes...

What did Emery Barnes do after the month was up? He wasn't "poor" anymore, he got to step out of it.

Normal "everyday poor" people don't get to step out of their enviroment at the end of x amount of time. They're still poor.

To chop up what fresco said, it's not about the shared experience, it's the long term effects that matter.

After his month was up, Emery Barnes did what he could to improve the situation of his constituents by working for appropriate legislation and social programmes. He was in a position to do so by virtue of his occupation as MLA.

Having a politician go and live with the poor is not a bad thing. What they do with the knowledge gained during that time is what really counts and is a true measure of their intent.

Emery Barnes used his experience to work towards the betterment of his constituents' quality of life.

The question we should be asking is "What will the Portland politicians do with their experience?"

Their actions only become self-serving and hollow if they fail to act upon their experience.

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Said one: "You have to make all of your food. You have to bring your lunch. You can't get your latte."

Incredible that some one could suggest, believe, verbalize that this approaches deprivation.

Interesting though, that all three points have little to do with WHAT the person was able or forced to eat.

Rather all three items relate to time and food preparation knowledge. It is not sufficient to provide financial help for people to buy food and prepare simple, healthful, nutritious meals. The take home message: more money is needed to finance the purchase of fast food, junk food, take out food, pre-prepared food.

Somehow the leap has been made in the general consciousness that purchasing more expensive 'convenience' food is a god-given right or necessity rather than a choice, if you have the $. (a poor choice, in my opinon, but nonetheless, a choice).

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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We here in Oregon have a weird situation where we have both very high national numbers for obesity and for people who say they are hungry.

Squeat, doesn't California, and especially San Francisco, have some of the highest expenditures for social services in the country?

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A household of two which meets eligibility requirements could receive up to $259 per month in assistance. Amy Dacyczyn, in her Tightwad Gazette, writes about how she feeds her family of eight on $180 per month. I've had friends who have purchased food for others with their leftover money because they never spent their allotment. I'm not saying it is easy to make it, but that the problems are often more those of not being able to prepare cheap foods or being unwilling to eat nourishing whole foods (a huge array of socioeconomic issues plays into this) than in it truly being an impossibility.

I have lived in a homeless shelter alongside a couple who literally spent what would have been a month's rent on fast food each month- this while living in a shelter that provided wholesome meals. Because they turned their noses up at salads, beans, egg dishes, whole-grain pasta etc they remained in a shelter while spending their own money (which they could have saved to get out of said shelter, which btw was a dungpit) on McDs.

Part of the cycle of poverty is consumer culture that often, ironically enough, victimizes the poor the most. Another woman I met would spend $80 on Tommy Hilfiger jeans for her teenage daughter- again, while living in a shelter. I'm not saying that these people didn't have it tough, because they did in so many ways, and yes- it's hard not to be able to buy a latte when you feel like it. But, uh, should the federal government really be subsidizing your morning Starbucks?

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Thanks for your thoughtful post therdogg.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I have yet to read the linked article, but I have a preliminary thought:

Without prejudice to this particular example of people putting themselves in other people's shoes (albeit temporarily), I don't share generalized negativity about this. Naturally, if you can leave at any time, you're not trapped in the situation, but that doesn't mean that you can't gain some kind of insight into what it's like. Will you? Maybe, maybe not, but I can't see that not trying to put yourself in someone's shoes is a better alternative.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is actually a very good idea. It's where those shoes take you that can be a problem.

No matter how well intentioned someone is, if you, for instance, live on a $17 a week food allotment (for one week!) and then write about it for publication, whining about how hard it is, you don't do anything to improve matters for people who live on $17 a week for years, and you look like an ass.

If you, without fanfare, did the same thing and then used your experience to obtain more money for dependent people, that's worthwhile.

But in the case of the bureaucrats in Portland, and the politicians in Toronto, I see no evidence at all that this is the case.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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We here in Oregon have a weird situation where we have both very high national numbers for obesity and for people who say they are hungry.

It is possible to be obese and mal- or undernourished. As a matter of fact, doesn't the obesity rate go up as income approaches the poverty level?

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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It is possible to be obese and mal- or undernourished.  As a matter of fact, doesn't the obesity rate go up as income approaches the poverty level?

I either read or heard somewhere that it does, which seems ironic. Apparently, at lower income levels, people are eating more foods that are high in fat and are otherwise not "good" for you.

The solution, partly at least, to the problem is to teach people about food nutrition and preparation. If you can afford to spend $40 a week, and this is a figure I made up, eating fast food then you can afford to eat better. It's a matter of priorities.

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It is possible to care without being condescending. I wonder how much of that condescending attitude portrayed here actually came from the politicians and how much was projected by the journalist. The anti-politician bias and cynicism is pretty evident here. I think this is exceptionally poor journalism, written only for impact. The author fails to tell us the results of the experiment! Did this effect the politicians and perhaps change the way they execute their jobs, or not? Poor writing, poor followthrough. I learned nothing. Even worse, I believe this kind of reporting turns people off from volunteerism for fear of seeming condescending.

I'm not destitute, I never have been, but the possibility that I might be someday is there. Or that my children might be. Public assistance is a safety net for Americans as a whole and no matter what your station in life is, I believe you need to be interested, care about it and worry if it is effective. It is how you focus that interest that is important. If this were good journalism, perhaps it would have looked at a sampling of politicians who did this kind of matching, life altering project vs. those who volunteered in a social service organization like a food bank or subsidized clinic and compared their effectiveness in writing policy based on the experiences. Obviously a lot of variables there, but it would be MUCH more worthwhile in evaluating the effectiveness of a program like this one.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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