You’re probably seeing all kinds of headlines about Newark Mayor Cory Booker and his participation in a challenge to see what it’s like to eat off of food stamps. But I like this coverage from Colorlines, which analyzes what the mayor is eating versus the USDA recommended allowances. He started the week with this nice-looking spread:
Tasty! Looks a lot like what’s in my kitchen, often. Although I’d also have bacon, because I have more energy if I cook my vegetables in animal fats. And I’d probably also have rice or couscous, since I get hungry sooner if I forget carbs, which I’m otherwise not partial to. And I would also have juice and coffee and wine and beer and a number of other seemingly minor things that he had no money left over to purchase. Point made, Mayor!
So the Mayor made these reasonably healthy food choices and now he’s very hungry. The Colorlines article breaks down why: he’s not getting nearly enough carbs or protein. Many of his followers have ideas for how to make the money and the energy stretch better, which is interesting to read (some are reposted to Colorlines). One point that repeatedly comes up is that his mistake was in buying so many packaged foods where he should have bought bulk, dried, or otherwise less encumbered by packaging. (I’m giving that bag of lettuce the side-eye; I’ve been off bagged lettuce since I worked at a food store and had to pick all the slimy leaves out of lettuce or spinach bags before we prepared the salads.) The potential drawback, though, is that less-packaged foods require more time to prepare–and as I’ve mentioned before, folks who are not rich in funds are usually not rich in time either. I love that Mayor Booker is doing this challenge so publicly: his Twitter feed is becoming a very visible, public referendum on the challenges faced by a population who has already been failed by our society in so many ways.
A bit more information on the challenge from HuffPo, if you’re curious.
This seems like a good occasion to link to an old but gold post by the Fat Nutritionist in which she eviscerates the myth that poor people eat badly because they don’t know how to do otherwise. The post includes an explanation of the Hierarchy of Food Needs, which theorizes that there are a number of stations between having enough to eat and having nutritious food to eat–it’s more important that the food be acceptable (i.e. within a person’s definition of food, which might exclude nutritious foodstuffs such as pork) and also that it be reasonably tasty, and so forth. I love this idea, because it supports what I’ve often argued (usually in response to folks who cluelessly argue that food studies are the privilege of the well-fed): being underresourced and/or underfed doesn’t automatically override an individuals tastes, desires, or preferences for particular kinds of food. Well-meaning Cory Booker skipped a bunch of stops on the Hierarchy of Needs and went straight for functional (“instrumental” on the Hierarchy), and it is not serving him well–I am willing to bet that whether he shows it or not, he is probably feeling pretty emotionally ragged as well as hungry.
Good luck, dude. Thanks for using your platform to increase awareness on this issue.