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ramen noodles

Pretending to be poor is a lot of work. That's both because being poor is a lot of work and because, the more distance between a person and poverty, the less their life is organized in a way that accommodates pretending.

Conducting the thought experiment of poverty, or some selected piece of poverty, is a not uncommon way to try to convey, to oneself or to readers or listeners, the appalling reality behind the statistics—like the 46.2 million people living in poverty in the United States in 2010.

There's Barbara Ehrenreich's classic Nickel and Dimed, in which Ehrenreich spent a month living in each of three places, to see if she could make ends meet at the jobs she could get without her graduate degree, professional-writer credentials and employment history. Writing in 2001, the scenario she posed was of a single mother leaving welfare; how would such a woman survive in the labor and housing market? Making the attempt—three times—without children, with her health, and with whatever intangible benefits being middle-class might carry, Ehrenreich worked as a waitress, a hotel housekeeper, a "Merry Maid," a nursing home dietary aide and a Walmart employee. Even without lavish expenditures, she found that there was no way to make ends meet with only one job at a time, but that working two jobs made it harder to manage the commute necessary to get a cheap place to live, or simply that finding two jobs with hours that would never overlap was a struggle.

There's the fantastic online game Spent. Created by the Urban Ministries of Durham, Spent walks you through a month as a low-wage worker, offering you dilemma after dilemma, detailing the realities behind them and not letting you pretend that there are perfect choices. In Spent, you have a kid, and even if you can pretend you could go to work sick, refuse any pleasure, eat ramen noodles—could you say no to sports or a gifted and talented class for your child? Spent makes clear that your answer to each question might have a backlash just a little down the road. And it uses Facebook to integrate the moments when, in real life, you might need to ask a friend for help. Still, when Spent asks you to go grocery shopping, it can be a lot easier to tell yourself that sure, you could live on ramen noodles and beans than it would be to actually live on those things day in and day out.

That's where the food stamp challenge comes in. In the food stamp challenge, you try to do all of your eating—for days or a week or, if you're really crazy, longer—on the average food stamp budget. If it's not enough, there's no fooling yourself. You're hungry, for real, even if food is the only area of your life where you are—temporarily—on a poverty budget. Members of Congress and religious leaders are encouraged to take the food stamp challenge; for lawmakers, it can make clear the stakes of what they are voting on when they vote to add or cut funding from the program.

For Rabbi Steve Gutow:

“All I think about is food and food,” he said, his voice trailing longingly over the phone as he spoke from his apartment in New York City. [...]

People on rigid budgets are limited not only by what they can eat but also by what they can do, Gutow said. “It feels a bit like you’re imprisoned,” he said. A lot of mental energy is spent thinking about food, when it could be spent on something else, he said. “You can’t be all you can be.”

Four days into the challenge, Gutow started to feel like he did at the same point during the 2007 challenge: “dead in the senses.” No one should live like that, he said.

For Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA):

“I thought about food constantly,” she said in a conference call. “I still yearn for a good cup of coffee. When I would see someone walking around with their coffee cups around the Capitol, I just had this envy.”

Speier said her diet consisted mostly of hard-boiled eggs and tuna. For her last meal, she packed some leftover tuna casserole for her plane ride from Washington to San Francisco.

One of the things the food stamp challenge lays bare is the degree to which it's not just about getting enough food and not just about getting the right nutrients. It's about your most basic assumptions of what a day of food looks like, of what compromises are acceptable to make. Speier posted a YouTube video of another woman preparing to do the food stamp challenge going through the first items in her cart: a red pepper and a yellow one, a head of what looked like red leaf lettuce, tomatoes, a jalapeno pepper a nub of fresh ginger, an avocado, a box of spaghetti. She acknowledges that she doesn't yet have a protein, that she's going to be hungry. Well, yeah.

Here's a woman who is taking on the challenge, and she's starting off the attempt with close to a week's worth of vegetables on my buy-what-you-want, money-is-no-object plan. And not cheap vegetables—red peppers and avocados are not exactly the great deals of the produce section.

I felt competitive, I admit it. And that shamed me, because, well, what a damn thing to be competitive over, and because here's a woman whose attempt at a cheap diet looks a lot like the level of vegetable-eating I am proud to have achieved in adulthood, and she's trying something I've never given any real thought to doing myself.

The truth is I'm not sure what I really think about the utility of doing this. I mean, Nickel and Dimed and Spent are important challenges to anyone who thinks poverty is easy and they could succeed without any difficult tradeoffs. I think if you're a member of Congress and you find yourself tempted to vote to cut nutritional assistance, you should be required to spend a week eating on the budget you're proposing to cut. But the people who need to do these things never do, and does it make a difference if the people who already believe benefits should be higher, the safety net should be stronger, and the economy should work for working people live on a food stamp budget and confirm that yes, it sucks, and no, no one should have to live that way? I'm honestly torn. But as punishment for my flash of stupid, arrogant competitiveness, I decided to give it a shot. That story comes next week.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:25 AM PST.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Income Inequality Kos, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what an appropriate picture (20+ / 0-)

    I know Ramen well! And I probably eat better than many people. Thank you, Laura.

    "In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."- Albert Camus

    by valadon on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:37:29 AM PST

  •  I've really admired (36+ / 0-)

    the public officials who do take the food stamp challenge on. And I admire you for doing it, Laura. I'm looking forward to your report o how it goes.

    Thanks very much for doing it.

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:38:04 AM PST

    •  I find it disturbing. (13+ / 0-)

      It reminds me of Marie Antoinettes "Peasant Cottage".

      It's a shame for anyone to come away from something like that thinking they've actually aquired a clue about what it really is to be impoverished.

      Combine it with a 30 day move to an SRO in the midst of a food desert....

      She's the sort of person who would not only happily stay in Omelas, but would ask "Couldn't life be more wonderful if we threw a few more kids in there?"

      by JesseCW on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:50:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  your post sounds a lot like mine (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doingbusinessas, JesseCW, aisling, ilyana

        sad that you have to remind people that hunger and poverty should never be in the same sentence as the word game

      •  So the alternative for someone (12+ / 0-)

        who wants to highlight the issues of poverty and hunger through their own actions should do what? Give up their job and all their worldly goods? Improvish themselves

        I do happen to think it's valuable for a person who is making policy on these issues have a glimmer of how the decisions they make will change people's real lives. It's just unfortunate that it's no every member of congress who is forced to do this.

        "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

        by Joan McCarter on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:31:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I understand that you think (0+ / 0-)

          that you can speak on our behalf if only you just engage in a "thought experiment".

          I get it.

          I'm just disturbed by it.

          Give up their job and all their worldly goods? Improvish themselves

          Of course, I'm also kind of disturbed that you say these things as if they are unthinkable.

          You do not know, and you aren't willing to do what it would actually take to find out.  

          Move forward from that, instead of pretending.  

          There's nothing noble in playing at being poor.  

          And now it's time to stop before I really get into how profoundly insulting it is, and get banned.

          She's the sort of person who would not only happily stay in Omelas, but would ask "Couldn't life be more wonderful if we threw a few more kids in there?"

          by JesseCW on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:51:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Of course they're not unthinkable (8+ / 0-)

            for most of us. Many of the people I know are a bad illness or accident or just the fucking economy away from being there.  

            For the people like members of congress taking it on, which is what I'm talking about, it is. So maybe, yeah, this gives them just a glimmer of an idea of what they're doing. Maybe it's pretending, but they feel the hunger pangs and they count the money they have left and they at least realize that, what for them, is pretending is real for people. IMO, there's value in that.

            "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

            by Joan McCarter on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:09:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Blessed Are The Poor (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ilyana, splashy

            Yeah, it takes time to learn how to live on less.  The rich man can't fit through the eye of the needle...he is said to get stuck at the door and never transcend.  The "poor" have different challenges but maybe a better shot at changing for the better.  Everything has a dual motion.

            Here in California, there has always been plenty of food anyway (I hope that doesn't change).  I did spend a day and a couple hours trying to pick up day labor...it wasn't a thought experiment...I needed some work.  It was a really crappy experience!

            It's alright if people take the food stamp challenge and report their findings...great training for the end of old age when just about everyone experiences poorness.  Keep Up The Training!  

            The dumber The Establishment gets, the more obvious its repression becomes Keith Olbermann

            by williamjustin on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:16:44 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Blessed Are The Poor (0+ / 0-)

            Yeah, it takes time to learn how to live on less.  The rich man can't fit through the eye of the needle...he is said to get stuck at the door and never transcend.  The "poor" have different challenges but maybe a better shot at changing for the better.  Everything has a dual motion.

            Here in California, there has always been plenty of food anyway (I hope that doesn't change).  I did spend a day and a couple hours trying to pick up day labor...it wasn't a thought experiment...I needed some work.  It was a really crappy experience!

            It's alright if people take the food stamp challenge and report their findings...great training for the end of old age when just about everyone experiences poorness.  Keep Up The Training!  

            The dumber The Establishment gets, the more obvious its repression becomes Keith Olbermann

            by williamjustin on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:18:43 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I agree (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PhilW, davehouck, ilyana, splashy

          Our congresswoman going shopping for food in an inner-city grocery attracted several TV stations. They talked about the issue between car crashes and heart-warming dog stories. I think that's a plus. Anyway, my congresswoman already lives in the middle of it and she is going to support food assistance programs. It gave her one more chance to publicly say so.

          Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

          by anastasia p on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 02:15:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I would like to see lawmakers (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          quinoanut

          live on social security disability, be dependent on medicare and medicaid for their health needs, get around by public transportation or by car with insurance (if there's limited public transportation), live in public housing, pay their utilities, get food from the food bank, and get the pittance of food stamps allowed them after receiving all those public "benies".  And I'd like to see them do it and eat a healthy diet.  In fact in an ideal world it would be mandatory for every law maker and administrator to do so for a winter at the beginning of their first term in office.  It could be part of their 'on the job training'.

          If I can't do it,  they couldn't do it.  I live on SSD, get medicare, medicaid, and food stamps. Medicaid has what is called a 'spend down' which is like an insurance deductible.  In my case, they don't pay the first $900 plus dollars in medical expenses each year. I haven't met a spend down yet, and so have a continuously increasing number of unpaid medical bills.  

          I drive a car because  there is very little in the way of public transportation, (in fact there was just another cut in those services because of funding cuts and reduced ridership) I drive only for essentials because gas prices are so high.   If I paid for car insurance, I couldn't pay my light bill.  Even then I juggle utility bills and sometimes don't satisfy the utility companies. In 2009 my phone was shut off twice and my electricity was shut off in the middle of winter.  If my electric bill hadn't been paid by my brother and sister in law last year (bless them) my power would have been turned off last year too.

          Interestingly, I battle being fat.  The local food bank is a life saving resource for me, but the food distributed tends to be starchy, full of sugar and processed. There's very little in the way of usable produce or protein  (lots of rotten produce.  The local grocery stores donates produce past the use by date. Same with meat.  About half the time I have to throw out meat after it thaws because it's bad.)    Fortunately our local food bank  has three green houses and a garden space. But most of the produce doesn't go to the food bank. It is sold to raise funds for the food bank.   I volunteer once a week in the greenhouses to try and give back..

          We have a nation led by ignorant hypocrites.

          •  Access to healthy food on a low income (0+ / 0-)

            is a bigger issue than some realize. It is difficult to eat a healthy balanced diet when you don't have to worry about money but if your low income forget about it, it's just survival. The standard in the food bank is high carb high sodium, low fiber. This is the root of another issue - healthcare. Diabetes and heart disease are epidemic and the type of diet one is forced to survive on when income is limited makes these preventable diseases almost inevitable.  And it's not just the food bank, compare the price of half dozen cupcakes to a pound of broccoli. Which one are you going to choose if your living in the streets, feeling depressed, cold, wet, with no cooking facilities?

            And that is just what we know. For myself if I don't avoid gluten and dairy I become ill. It took years of chronic illness and many doctors to figure this out. Avoiding these foods really increases the grocery bill but I am healthier now and grateful that I am aware of my sensitivities. I see some folks in the hospital that have all sorts of unexplained issues and wonder how many of them could be helped by just a little more money to buy healthy food, a good naturopathic doctor to help them figure out what is making them ill, or a dietitian to help them figure out the best diet for them. Even if in the long run this would be less costly it would of course require good health insurance and access to healthy food, an unaffordable luxury these days.

            I don't have any great ideas or solutions, just acknowledging I understand what you are saying. I'm frustrated that there is so much wrong everywhere I look I am almost at the point of wanting to not look anymore.  I grow a garden in the local p-patch and try and donate as much fresh produce as I can to the food bank but probably just a drop in the bucket.

      •  Don't let the perfect be the enemy of good (7+ / 0-)

        Doing it at all - even with your middle class pantry and your middle class kitchen and middle class cookware and your middle class automobile - is a start.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:44:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  People fooling themselves into believing (0+ / 0-)

          they "Know what it is to live on food stamps" isn't good.

          It's not less than it could be, or somehow merely insuffecient.

          It's a negative thing.

          She's the sort of person who would not only happily stay in Omelas, but would ask "Couldn't life be more wonderful if we threw a few more kids in there?"

          by JesseCW on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:45:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  As someone currently "living on food stamps" (23+ / 0-)

            I think it will do them some good.  Obviously it falls short of true poverty, but that is not the point.  It may create some empathy, of which our society dearly needs more.

            •  I do too (12+ / 0-)


              I spent several years on food stamps when my parents divorced, and prior to that, on a rural "USDA Welfare food" distribution where they gave you bags of dry milk, artificial eggs, blocks of cheese, etc. rather than money or stamps for food.  The stamp program was a huge step up because you could buy actual food that people eat.  The only way to instill compassion and empathy in those who simply assume that the 'poor are lazy and living on the system' and never question those beliefs, are to run such experiments.  Oxfam used to hold community and school "Oxfam Dinners" where the participants would buy a ticket to a so-called "banquet" where some of the tickets entitled random attendees to a lavish meal, and others got a piece of fruit or a bowl of rice - the equivalent of a typical meal in an impoverished nation - and to sit together to eat it.  An extremely powerful experiment: affecting those with the lavish meal far more than the ones with the bowl of rice.  It would serve as an  unforgettable reminder that just because there  is plenty of food at our tables, there is very little or none at other tables, every meal of every day.

              No - it's not a game: it is an educational process for those who don't know and simply don't understand.  If enough people DID understand, they wouldn't tolerate infotainment shows on how poor people can't be poor because they have refrigerators.

              "Kossacks are held to a higher standard. Like Hebrew National hot dogs." - blueaardvark

              by louisev on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:29:53 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  What it does is call attention (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              davehouck, bythesea, splashy

              to how little people on food assistance are living on. That is the intention. You can recite numbers, but you can't get TV to cover that like you can a congressperson shopping for a week's worth of food on $31.50.

              Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

              by anastasia p on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 02:36:18 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  But the thing is (21+ / 0-)

            I have not heard anyone come away from this experiment thinking it was easy. Everyone I've heard says it is much harder than they expected, even the ones who aren't super aware of all the advantages they have coming in.

            I remember a public official who had to fly somewhere, and had his peanut butter confiscated by TSA - food that was supposed to last him the rest of the week. Not exactly your typical food stamp situation, but it opened his eyes to other ways a week's worth of food could disappear. He had some genuine panic over it.... and realized that most people couldn't just end their experiment.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:55:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Like when the fridge in my apartment (0+ / 0-)

              quit working and even made my soy sauce start to ferment again?

              The first is coming soon at least and I have beans and tortillas that I kept in the freezer. The tortillas never froze in the freezer either which explains why my fish spoiled before I could eat it.

              Ahh life under the poverty line, at least it is interesting.

              Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

              by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:25:34 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  It's called education. (6+ / 0-)

            These "games" help people gain understanding incrementally. What do you suggest as an alternative?

            Just because it's made up doesn't mean it isn't true.—Plan 10 from Outer Space

            by mofembot on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:46:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  What do I suggest? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mofembot
              What do you suggest as an alternative?

              They have to go live that week on the streets with just the clothes on their back.

              They might find out then that the emergency shelter has a three month waitlist.

              I do wonder how many cheated and raided their pantry and deep freeze.

              Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

              by Horace Boothroyd III on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:27:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  If there could be a way to drive home (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Horace Boothroyd III

                this point: "Being homeless, being poor is shitty. I am lucky to have a way out. I must remember that 'real' homeless and poor people do not have a way out."

                It's true that the "games" and "trial poverty" experiences need to have a more lasting component — something that helps to constantly remind people that the poor and homeless cannot get out of their situation by simply getting tired of the hardship, by going back to warm homes, supportive family, etc..

                People who aren't poor, who never were poor, and whose chances of ever becoming poor really need the kind of smack-upside-the-head that even "games" can (and DO!) provide. But I worry far less about people mistaking these games or short "trial poverty periods" as some kind of genuine "I know what it's truly like" experience than I do about the fact that the vast majority of the fat-cats in Wash DC and in our state capitols do not make any such effort at all. (It is beyond outrageous that these people, our "leaders" don't show up, for example, at the free medical/dental clinics so they can see first-hand people's utter desperation.)

                People who are trying to understand are at least potential allies who may well be led to help change things for the better. I sincerely believe that those who make a good-faith effort to catch a glimpse of the lives they are lucky not to lead will also make an effort to improve things through personal and political action.

                Those who dismiss the whole business as inconvenient or uncomfortable are a big part of the problem — especially those politicians who remain wilfully blind to the effects of their budget slashing on real human beings.

                Just because it's made up doesn't mean it isn't true.—Plan 10 from Outer Space

                by mofembot on Mon Nov 21, 2011 at 03:29:18 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think that anyone... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, Arenosa, davehouck

        ...sees a temporary experiment as being anything like actually being in poverty.  So I disagree with this:

        It's a shame for anyone to come away from something like that thinking they've actually aquired a clue about what it really is to be impoverished.

        It seems to me that the goal of the food stamp challenge isn't to make anyone come away from it feeling that they now know what it's like to be impoverished.  But I think that there is value in otherwise middle class (or higher) individuals taking the challenge and getting a taste of how difficult it is to plan and purchase sufficient food on that small amount of money.

        For that matter, we can't really lump all of the poor together into one category.  I suspect it's a very different thing to have never had much versus the experience of the "new poor" who have come crashing into poverty from a once middle class existence.  I'm not saying that one is worse than the other...just that they're different.  I've not been through the former, but did get a taste of the latter in the middle part of the last decade, looking for work while my savings dropped ever lower.  Fortunately, I did finally land a good job before the savings went to zero -- but it was still a very scary experience.  

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:40:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  People can talk about these type of (16+ / 0-)

      things all they want - but nothing communicates better then experiencing it.

      I am reminded of Christopher Hitchins submitting to be waterboarded - and then changing his mind and declaring it torture.

      Wanna save some money in the US budget?  Cut the budgets of all congress people in half.

      "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." -- Hubert H. Humphrey

      by Candide08 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:15:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Cutting congressional budgets... (0+ / 0-)

        ...wouldn't help much.  The majority of our representatives have plenty of other resources to fall back on, which means that few of them would really feel the pain of trying to live on half as much.

        Not to mention, half of the current congressional salary is still close to $85,000/year, which isn't exactly a subsistence level wage.

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:43:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I meant all of their budgets...not just their pay. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ilyana

          Also, $85 K is a lot closer to the average worker than $170 +.   I realize that practically none of them would be "suffering"  but it would be a nice gesture.

          "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." -- Hubert H. Humphrey

          by Candide08 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 03:34:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I have some tips for those challengers (17+ / 0-)

      although most of this stuff is probably common sense...but if they're wanting to treat this like something they actually HAVE TO DO -- instead of just a game to see how 'clever' they can be with food -- here's some tips from someone who has lived most of hir life in poverty:

      Peanut butter and eggs instead of meat, unless you can find a good deal on chicken thighs.

      Popcorn fills you up pretty good so you don't have to waste your 'real meal' food.

      Hard, dry goods that last a while are better than soft wet goods that go bad quickly.

      If you get fresh vegetables make sure they're something you can use for at least 3 meals, other they're a waste of money.

      Say goodbye to brand names, you won't be seeing them again for awhile.

      When you go shopping, for every single thing you pick up, you should be thinking 'will this make something i can eat again in four days / last til next payday' -- basically you're shopping for the future, not the present. Things that will only last you til tomorrow should be bought sparingly.

      Beans and rice, rice and beans, la la la la la

      If you stretch your budget by cutting down to eating only once or twice a day you ARE going to be tired all the time, all day long. Just be prepared for it if you go down that route.

      Avoiding things like preservatives, HFCS, non-organic, non-free-range food, etc etc...is pretty much impossible on food stamps.


      I hope I didn't come across rudely when I say 'treating it like a clever game', I don't mean -you- I just mean that...I think some people that try these challenges look at them like that. They do things like buy the same kinds of food, just -less- of it, or just cut out things that are luxuries anyway like chocolate or coffee, and it's like...guys, that's not what it's like on food stamps, that's not what it's like under poverty.

      It's not a case of 'oh I can't have cheesecake as much as I'd like, aw :( ' It's 'okay if I have this popcorn now, that should last me til tonight and I have enough peanut butter left for the next week, so I don't have to get more, so that'll let me get that chicken, and that should be enough to last til payday'  

      I honestly don't know what it's like to NOT think about exactly how I'm going to manage to eat today and tomorrow and next week (you think all those things at once, because you have to) every single day. Even at the times when I am making enough to not have to worry, I still do, heh. S'kinda made me neurotic about food now.

      I won't rot // Not this mind and not this heart // I won't rot

      by Remsicle on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:55:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lifelong (14+ / 0-)

        I've heard a lot of stories about the Depression from my parents' and grandparents' generation and I've seen the lifelong effects of worrying whether you'll have enough to survive and long term sacrifice.  It had an effect on my mother in the things that she did for all of her life.  Less and less as  the years went by but it was always there.   My grandmother hid cash in her house until the day that she died.  She had these elaborate instructions for my mother so that she would know where it was and it was in some weird places!

        I've also heard stories from England where the shortages lasted much longer than here after the war.  One story is about a woman who stockpiled sugar for the rest of her life in a cabinet -- always made sure she had many extra bags of sugar at all times just as a result of years of uncertainty and shortage.

        Now I am learning about tough times first hand after never really having to worry about it when I was healthy and times were good.  I often think about the things I used to worry about then, when I thought money was tight and I thought I had things bad at various jobs.  It's amazing, looking back.  I wonder what effect all of this is going to have on my kids for the rest of their lives because apparently things like these do not leave your consciousness.  It's an issue of survival.  No hyperbole there, we are down to worrying about issues of survival in the long term.  I'm okay now but medium-long term survival is a huge question mark. And that is what people who live in poverty deal with every day.

      •  As one to another (0+ / 0-)

        here's a tip to extend the life of your produce.  Store your veggies in cereal bags.  You know the 'wax paper' bags left after you finish a box of cold cereal.  They work MUCH better then those 'greenie' bags advertised on TV.. Even the bagged salad mix I sometimes get from the food bank stores well in them.  I pick out the inevitable bad lettuce, rinse what's left and shake off excess water in a colander (salad spinners would work great, I don't have one) then put the salad into a clean cereal bag.  Will keep another week.  Really fresh lettuce will keep for two or more weeks, which is handy if you use the lettuce in sandwiches a couple leaves at a time.  Broccoli will keep a month.  Using these bags you can buy some extra produce that goes on sale.  

        I have some magnetized clips on the side of my refrigerator where I hang bags to dry after I clean them..  I can use the same bag four or five times that way.  To clean them, fill a quarter way with water and a bare squirt of dish washing liquid.. Shake till foamy,  then rinse and hang upside down.
        Fresh bags from the cereal box don't need detergent, just a little rinse.  Don't reuse a bag you have stored meat or dairy products in.. Toss those after one use.

      •  A couple more tips (0+ / 0-)

        Hot dogs are a good protein purchase if you want meat and  can be used cut up in place of hamburger in spaghetti. A box of spaghetti, sauce, and hot dogs can last 3-4 meals, especially if you freeze a portion or two. If you're savvy you can make this for $3-4.

        A box of .50 mac-n-cheese, a .50 packet of lunch meat and a can of veggies is another relatively balanced cheap meal you can get 3-4 servings out of, for under $2.

        If you do get chicken, watch for a whole chicken on sale for about .80/lb, this can make several meals as well, and a great variety. Add chicken to pasta and gravy (dry gravy packets can be found for .33 each), or rice and gravy, throw in veggies if you can. Left over chicken, egg noddles, and a can of corn (this works with Thanksgiving leftovers as well) for homemade soup.

        Also, if you can, buy what's cheapest at each store, we usually hit 3 or 4 a week, including a "bread store" that sells 'out of date' bread for very cheap.  Save-a-lot and similar stores are good for staples like pasta and rice, gravies (again, dried packets) canned veggies, etc. But don't buy peanut butter there, you get a tiny jar for as much as a big jar at Walmart.  You have to really plan your shopping and comparison shop.  Not every "sale" is a good deal.

    •  This looks like a good challenge (0+ / 0-)

      A real learning experience. I have seen plenty of officials do haphazard "challenges" on their own for 24 hours and come away saying that it wasn't that hard. I even saw one 48 hour challenge article by a woman who cheated at the end and went out to eat before her 48 hours, without really considering what that meant.

    •  Unfortunately... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      davehouck, mideedah, splashy

      ...I'm willing to bet long odds that those politicians who talk the loudest about the "dead beats" on food stamps are the ones who will never take the challenge.  So the problem is that the public officials who take the challenge already know the problem, and the ones who call the poor lazy will never bother to do or read anything that might challenge their prejudices.

      So while it's good that some public officials are willing to take the food stamp challenge, it really does have the aura of preaching to the converted.

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:30:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My congresswoman is doing it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      davehouck

      I went down when she had a photo op/press event at a local grocery to publicize this. A woman who actually lives on food assistance heard about it and showed up with a shopping list and menus to help. The thing is, my congresswoman is not going to support cutting food assistance — ever. And the ones that are will never do this.

      I've actually done it successfully for three weeks, but I am a light eater and a vegetarian and I still have produce from my garden this summer. Because of my work, I am also invited to events where I can eat. Most people don't have those advantages.

      Take the "Can't(or)" out of Congress. Support E. Wayne Powell in Va-07. http://www.ewaynepowell.com/

      by anastasia p on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 02:14:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's Easy to Live on a Food Stamp Budget (42+ / 0-)

    All you need is to be well-educated with access to books on cooking and nutrition, have a home with great kitchen full of functioning appliances with the utilities always on, convenient grocery stores -- or a working car with plenty of gas money -- and the free time to cook everything from scratch.

    Anyone could do this.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:41:57 AM PST

  •  But hey, it's hard work being a millionaire (22+ / 0-)

    and all these poor people are just lazy, and besides, God has obviously cursed them for some sin, but has blessed the rich.  So lets cut the taxes of the rich and lets tax the poor.  I mean, Cantor and Limbaugh and Fox and Boehner and Perry and Cain and Bachmann wouldn't lie, would they?

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:43:49 AM PST

    •  The conservative meme about the poor... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Navy Vet Terp, mideedah, FloridaSNMOM

      ...being lazy reminds me of something else.  

      It seems to me to be the direct descendent of the old portrayal of the "lazy and shiftless, but basically happy, Negro" of days past.  No need to feel guilt about the fact that they're living in a shack and are incredibly poor...just look how happy they are since they have no responsibilities.

      Today's conservatives have taken the explicit racial references out of that particular stereotype (although the racial implications remain), but it seems that when they claim that the poor have it good in the US, they're really mining the exact same source material as did the racists of previous generations.

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:50:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've shopped at PriceRite for years (18+ / 0-)

    It used to be, when I started doing so, I was the only native English-speaking white person in there.  Not anymore.  Not even close.  

    One thing to understand about shopping in a store like that, you have to shop more often for produce, and use it up pretty quick.  If you don't it all goes bad, because it's all seconds that have been sitting in warehouses.  That's how they keep the prices down.  Also, buy the halal chicken they carry for their large Muslim customer base, it's fresher and higher quality.

    If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. ~Malcolm X

    by ActivistGuy on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:45:03 AM PST

  •  I'm 'playing' Spent now (19+ / 0-)

    and may 'play' it with my middle school students this week. Many of them live this every day, but their parents try very hard to help them remain "blissfully" unaware of the decisions they have to make every day. We have to make similar decisions, and I'm a "professional" living off the "lavish" pay and benefits afforded a schoolteacher.

    Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Main Street. Occupy everything. Force a tsunami of change on the nation.

    by Black Max on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:45:37 AM PST

    •  Just the opening lines (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PSzymeczek, Lainie

      You're unemployed.
      Your savings are gone.
      You've lost your house.
      You're a single parent.

      Been there and done that!!
      The only false note was:

      You're down to your last $1000.00

      Fuck all, but I NEVER saw a grand during those years.

      Can you make it through a month? Hell yes.

      The global government has no democratic legitimacy and exists solely to impose on the people of the world to pay for an economic and financial crisis they are not responsible for." Les Alternatifs.

      by ggwoman55 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:47:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's ask Muffie (19+ / 0-)

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    Overprivileged bitch.

    Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Main Street. Occupy everything. Force a tsunami of change on the nation.

    by Black Max on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:46:59 AM PST

  •  Let them eat caca? (7+ / 0-)

                   You don't have to pretend!
       Just ask ANY of the 46.2 million human beings you purport to be 'poor' and whose very lives are in DANGER from NO food, NO shelter, No heat, No medicine, NO insurance, No protection, NO ANYTHING!
                               They'll tell you!

  •  I'm not poor (13+ / 0-)

    but I'm underemployed, working 3/4 the hours I used to.  I'm still able to buy several months supply of staple items on sale and save 20 - 50%.  I can imagine that just one of my big shopping days would consume several weeks of a food stamp budget.  

  •  I have HUGE issues with experiments (21+ / 0-)

    in poverty. How can anyone truly understand poverty when they know their self-imposed experimental period is going to end?

    Maybe if we spent more time talking to people who actually live this life every day, with no end in sight, instead of designing grand experiments based on our (mis)conceptions of what it means to truly be poor, we could make real progress.

    "...then, when the doctor wants to put a $40K stent in your heart, you offer him...the chicken." ~ Stephen Colbert

    by pidge not midge on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:48:38 AM PST

  •  A week on that budget will not inform them (31+ / 0-)

    anymore than people who struggled along for a couple years in college on top ramen know what it is to be one of us.

    Because being poor isn't about eating top ramen or baked beans or stolen ketchup and mayo packets until you graduate, or untill the thought experiment is over.  It's about having no clear path to ever being able to eat anything else.

    It informs your choices to know that you can't just eat 1000 calories a day of nutritious food and call it a diet.  You'll pass out at that shit job if you try.  And that's a great way to lose hours.

    The B vitamin defecencies will only start to really begin fucking you up after a few months, anyway.

    She's the sort of person who would not only happily stay in Omelas, but would ask "Couldn't life be more wonderful if we threw a few more kids in there?"

    by JesseCW on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:48:41 AM PST

    •   It's about having no clear path to ever... (7+ / 0-)
      It's about having no clear path to ever being able to eat anything else.

      "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

      by Andrew C White on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:19:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not to mention (12+ / 0-)

      figuring out how to get to work if you have a job, or how to not look like a total loser/street person, when looking for a job. My granddaughter at 18 had to out together a professional looking  resume to apply for jobs that were minimum wage, retail clerk, coffee shop waitress, even a thrift shop clerk. Factory jobs are usually in locales without public transport on the fringes of cities.  

    •  There's nothing like the "real thing"... (11+ / 0-)

      In 2002, I got breast cancer. I don't wish to go into the entire nightmare here, but it landed me on SSI.

      I now receive SSD and a tiny bit of SSI and food stamps. My total monthly "income" is a pitiable sum.

      In 2002 I've was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and just this last week spent three days in hospital to learn I have a heart condition. Atrial Fibrillation. Joy.

      A diagnosis of Diabetes requires a complete overhaul of dietary attitudes. When I was healthier, I could eat the rice and beans and Ramen and baked potaotes. But now, I need to eat fresh produce, and lean meat. I think I do ok but after this heart thing...I must take Coumadin, (a blood thinner), which is a Vitamin K antagonist. Coumadin, as I understand it requires a close monitoring of the intake of dark green leafy vegetables. So the foods I relied upon to control diabetes have to be reconsidered.   More joy.

      Food stamps allows me to do alright the first two weeks of the month. The last two weeks, not so good. It's no fun but then again I could be homeless. My apartment, thankfully, is funded by the Rural Development something or another and is based on net income. Now, I must rethink where I live as it's so far away from the Doc's I have to see I can't afford the long trips into the city. Gas.

      People depending on these "entitlements", like me, haven't had a COLA increase in three years.

      It's about having no clear path to ever being able to eat anything else.

      But I'll be damned if I let them have dignity. Fuck 'em.

      •  I'm there too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Annalize5

        SSI and food stamps, trying to get along and still approximate the diet my cardiologist wants me to eat, pay rent, have clothes, and a little gas for the very occasional two-hour trip to see family. You can't know it till you've lived it. By the last week of the month I'm counting the hours until the bank deposit on the 1st.

        "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore ~~~~~~~~~ http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/

        by Lainie on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 04:26:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Poverty sucks (28+ / 0-)

    I've been homeless. I've been on food assistance. There is no getting away from the ground-down feeling of hopelessness and despair, and the physical sensation of your body and mind shutting down because of malnutrition.

    It's horrible for an adult. Imagine how devastating it is for a child who is growing.

    I wish all members of Congress did the Food Stamp Challenge for a month. They might get a sense of what it's really like to be working poor in this country. Sadly, even if they did, the majority of them wouldn't care. They're so far beyond basic human decency that it would funny if it weren't so damn tragic.

    And the FBI has the temerity to keep "Food Not Bombs" on terrorist watch lists. Because giving homeless and impoverished people nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown away is obviously a national security threat and must be stopped. It doesn't matter that Congress destroys people through cutting social services in order to keep their obscenely rich handlers from having to pay a 0.05% tax rate increase. No, the real terror is a group of local volunteers handing out lentils, rice, bread, and fresh produce on the street corner! *spits*

    When are you going to understand that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage. - Practical Magic

    by Keori on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:49:25 AM PST

    •  No game ever will convey the sense of hopeless (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue muon, Brooke In Seattle

      desperation, because EVERY game (even Monopoly ;-) comes to an end, at some point.  And you know it will.

      •  Precisely (12+ / 0-)

        That's why things like the "Food Stamp Challenge," as well-intentioned as they are, piss me the fuck off.

        1) It ENDS. You know you only have to make it through a week and then it's back to your normal, financially-secure life.

        2) It's NEVER just hunger. It's being exhausted and sick all the time, knowing that if you just had enough nutritious food to eat, you'd feel better. It's being constantly cold because your house/apartment/trailer isn't insulated and you can't afford insulation or heating oil. It's having to budget money you don't have for bus or train fare, or for gasoline for the car you can't afford to fix. It's hoping you don't get pulled over for having expired tags because you can't afford to re-register the car. It's being afraid to answer the phone because it might be the collection bureau. It's having to take your beloved pet to the animal shelter, knowing it's probably going to be killed, because you can't afford to feed it anymore, and then living with the guilt and grief. It's the minute-by-minute elimination of your humanity, and it NEVER FUCKING ENDS.

        Poverty isn't a goddamn game. Every time I hear about one of these "humanitarian slumming" field trips I want to hit that person with a 2x4, because nothing, NOTHING they experience is going to be anything near to the real deal.

        When are you going to understand that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage. - Practical Magic

        by Keori on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:58:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wish I could rec this forever (11+ / 0-)

          I understand the point of the experiment and I'm glad that it opens the eyes of some people and helps them understand but there are things that you just can't know until you experience it...

          Everything you've talked about there can be boiled down in the one thing that is always present for the poor and that is
          FEAR

          Fear and anxiety, sometimes overt, sometimes just a low-level hum in the background but always, always, ALWAYS fucking there.

          You can't afford that trip to the doctor or the dentist; you wake up sometimes at night wondering if that pain in your cheek you just felt was when your more-than-likely abcess finally shot up into your brain to kill you;

          You can't afford to fix your car so you drive with your hands gripping the wheel tight, every single creak, bump and odd engine noise making your stomach flip -- is this it? Is this finally when it breaks down and makes you late for work and you lose that job it took you 5 months to find?

          You get the mail and go through it, holding your breath as you wait to see yet another overdue notice, collection agency letter, or disconnection notice.

          I cannot say how much your post moved me. I had to get rid of my cat, too, and it was just like that. Guilt still hasn't left me.

          I won't rot // Not this mind and not this heart // I won't rot

          by Remsicle on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:28:43 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mideedah

          Just reading this makes my heart pound and  memories of the bad old days come flooding back. I didn't dare hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. Taking one day at a time, one hour at a time. Fear not only of failing, but of failing my children. The never-ending depression of constantly fighting to get by--of trying my hardest but never winning, never even coming close.

    •  More to the point - (4+ / 0-)

      members of congress and their families should try living on that budget for several months - and no cheating by enjoying freebies at benefits.  

  •  Just played Spent -- made it through the (21+ / 0-)

    month w/ $5 bucks to spare, but I got fired for talking to a union organizer, my Mom doesn't have medicine, and the rent is due tomorrow. (oh. and I also chose to run away from that fender bender I caused in the parking lot.  sorry. whoever.)

    My anxiety went WAY up just paying the game for 10 minutes!

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:50:07 AM PST

    •  I must be really, really mean. I ended up with (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bkamr, jennifree2bme

      over $400, but I know how to shop at the grocery store, I missed my friend's wedding AND my grandfather's memorial service, made my kid wear thrift store tennies, and got my gas turned off for a while.  Still didn't have enough to pay the rent at the end of the month...

        Oh! And I'm a hit and run perp, too. Sorry.

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        I've been raising children for over 18 years. I've never paid $100 for a pair of kid shoes, and I've seldom resorted to used shoes. I can think of about two pair of shoes I've owned myself that have cost over $50, but nowhere close to $100. Their choices are a little simplistic.

        Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

        by jennifree2bme on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 06:34:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Poverty and reality (11+ / 0-)

    I often post messages here from a "devil's advocate" point of view and it often concerns this particular issue.  Why?  It's because there is a very large number of people from the "haves" side of our economic equation in America that truly believe that many people on such things as the food stamp program are "taking advantage" of the entitlements in America.  But, this one is specifically challenging because of the belief that many people on the food stamp program are being disengenuous when applying for and receiving them.  Too many people know those that "sell" their food stamps and too many people know those that aren't truly "needy" when they receive them.  But, that's a slim minority.  The exceptions seem to rule the attitudes in this.  

    Reality is, we have a very huge number of people in our country that are classified as in the poverty range.  Now, grantid, that classification is sometimes nebulous because a poor person might have a flat screen TV and have a cell phone and might have their own furniture and so forth.  Used to be that this wasn't something America would think of as "poor" or needing "entitlements".  But, society has changed...American life has changed.  Needs have changed.  I plead guilty to believing that someone with housing needs secured and with transportation needs accomplished and with an occasional "night out" might not necessarily be "needy".  But, I've realized that I'm wrong in that.  Wish more people realized that, actually.

    Americans are a rare breed in the grand scheme of things when considering world economics.  Poor here might not necessarily be equated to poor in Zimbabwa or in the Sudan or even in parts of Europe.  But, it IS poor here.  We citizens have to realize that...especially people like me that grew up when we had to can our food in the growing period so we'd have food during the Winter.  That doesn't stand today, and until all of us realize that, many of us will just turn up our nose at those that do, actually, need our government's help.

    Rambling...sorry.

    - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

    by r2did2 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 09:54:52 AM PST

    •  i had a friend who went to a world conference (7+ / 0-)

      on poverty. she had trouble convincing some of the other countries' representatives that America had poor people

    •  Actually, I suspect that some of the people who (12+ / 0-)

      "sell" their food stamps might be like a lady I know. Her daughter is in the same class as my daughter. She is disabled, but was deemed ineligible for SSDI. She lives in public housing, and gets welfare and food stamps. The only problem, though, is that she only gets about $173 dollars a month for herself and two children in cash benefits. Her rent is only $22 dollars a month, but her electric bill--which she is required to pay all of herself--often runs about $100 a month or more. On top of that, she needs to be able to afford gas, car insurance, cleaning and personal supplies for herself and her children.

      So she ends up selling part of her food stamps to people who only give her about 50 cents on each dollar she sells--my understanding is that that is the going rate around here. So people who are in her position get doubly screwed. What she is doing is illegal, and yet, what else can she do? She has to choose between food and other necessities. It's a shame that people are put in such desperate situations.

    •  I don't understand why people think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mideedah

      that owning a tv - even a flat screen - or a cell phone or an XBox makes you not poor.

      What the fuck do they think poor IS?

      Is poor only when you live in Section 8 apartments? Have nothing but a ratty couch and a blanket?
      Do you have to be jobless to be poor?
      Toothless?

      Homeless?

      is that the level we've sunk to? You have to be what was once considered destitute to actually be 'poor' these days? Wtf.

      I won't rot // Not this mind and not this heart // I won't rot

      by Remsicle on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:11:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The original question is.... (0+ / 0-)

        What IS considered "poor"?

        Is it different than what other countries consider "poor"?

        It was just a question.

        - If you don't like gay marriage, blame straight people. They're the ones who keep having gay babies.

        by r2did2 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:19:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Poor... (0+ / 0-)

          Is insecurity.  It's not about assets, or at least, not about assets which are worth a minimal amount.  It's about not being secure in being able to pay recurring costs and emergency costs.  It's about constantly worrying that you don't have enough money to keep up your currently-low 'standard of living' and worrying that you might lose everything you've worked for for years over the course of a month and an eviction.

          Poor is having to really worry about having enough money for minimal food and energy needs.

          Poor is about a lack of options.  It's about repairing shoes with duct tape, and backpacks with dental floss.

          Poor is about being unable to -do- anything, socially, entertainment, or education-wise, because you can't afford the time, energy, or price.

          Appliances and TVs -- yes, even flatscreen TVs -- are essentially free if you can spend some time searching, sometimes literally, though the trash.  If not, you can usually get one from someone you know for for free or cheap.  Poor is being thankful for other people's trash.

      •  another thing (0+ / 0-)

        People need to consider about what poor people have, is there are a lot of people who are in poverty now who weren't a few years ago. When did they buy the flat screen tv? The Xbox? Ok, yes, they could sell them now and get a little bit of cash, but not enough to make any big difference in their lives. And if that TV and xbox gives your kids some peace and security and as semblance of normalcy, you don't sell those things. You may pawn your own things if you have an emergency expense come up, but you don't pawn your kids things unless it becomes a choice of a roof over their heads and losing those things anyway.

        We don't have an x-box or a flat screen, but we have a wii I bought with an income tax return back when I could work, it's about 3 years old and we buy 'new' games used from Gamestop when we get new games at all (usually Santa or birthdays).  Our tv is six years old and hopefully it keeps working because I can't afford to replace it if it dies. Most of the computers in the house are at least 4 years old, the only exceptions being the one my son got for his birthday (that I'd saved out of several of his child support checks for) and the one my mother in law bought for my husband for his birthday/Christmas because the one he'd pieced together from three other machines had finally died. My laptop is a third person hand me down originally from 2002, its older than my daughter.

        Does that make us less poor? We bring in $11,700 a year plus food stamps.. with two kids. Oh, and we pay lot rent but bought the trailer (which is falling apart) for $6,000 when I was still able to work. Luckily we paid the trailer off before my illness struck. I know there are MANY out there worse off than we are. We have to move out of here by April, because we can't afford to replace the roof and if we don't, we'll be evicted from the park after April. We're looking to move closer to my mom so she can help out a bit, but I'm not sure how we're going to handle the move itself or the potentially increased bills after.

    •  There has never been a time in this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mideedah

      country when having furniture would mean you were "not poor". That is right wing bullshit.

  •  Who in the "get a job" cadre cares? (4+ / 0-)

    The notion of entitlement and superiority rarely allows for an empathetic assessment of the reality, let alone a compassionate one. Such a perch is usually held with the rationalization that underlings don't 'deserve' any more than they can get and that always seems to work for them in the dog eat dog world where they hold themselves to be 'winners'

  •  i just had ramen for breakfast (14+ / 0-)

    I kind of have problems with a "game" that is purported to show people what it is like being poor.
    Maire Antoinette of let them eat cake fame " played" at being a milk maid too.

    poor isnt a game and it cant be taught. poor is a life lesson in humility, degradation, unfulfilled needs, wants, and desires.
    It is being sick ( let's have a game about what it is like to have cancer) with no medical help. It is about being cold ( let's have a game about living in a snow drift) or hot (let's have a game about  being in Death Valley w/o a roof). It is about juggling which bills you can pay each month while knowing you cant pay them all when they are due Let's have aa game where you have to call your creditors each month and beg for mercy).

    •  I think it can be an eye opener. (6+ / 0-)

      It's not about teaching a rich person how to be poor. It's about teaching a rich person what it might feel like to be poor. If a congresswoman lives on a food stamp diet and learns she really can't live on it she is better able to tell those who are whining about food stamp cheats the reality of the situation. Speaking of which, I noticed that there was a plant in today's news about the mom and pop stores who cheat at the food stamp game.  Looks like the lame stream media is trying to tar and feather both mom and op and immigrant owned neighborhood stores and those on food stamps with one broad stroke.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

      •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

        for someone who has never had to stick to a real food budget, staying on this for 7 days will be an eye-opener. I have seen in the past government officials playing at eating a "food stamp diet" for 24 hour and then declaring it not difficult. 7 days would be a first step.

  •  Obesity is a poverty level diet. (7+ / 0-)

    I think my statement is completely true and completely unbelievable.

    . . . from Julie, Julia. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

    by 88kathy on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:00:25 AM PST

  •  We've been there too… (9+ / 0-)

    In the seventies, with three kids and an older family dog. To complicate matters, even cheap dog food didn't qualify; that had to come out of cash. I was out of work for 15 months – can't even imagine how bad it is for those out much longer than that now. If it weren't for being able to eat some meals with family, I don't know how we would have made it then.
         One of the MANY things that those who think finding a job is easy don't consider is that those unemployed from certain industries, even for a year or more, will not find employment simply because potential employers don't want to hire someone they are afraid they will lose as soon as work cycles back in that industry. It' like hitting a wall.
         

    Without heroes we are all losers with nothing to aspire to.

    by qua on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:03:10 AM PST

  •  I think congress oughta wear the hair shirt (14+ / 0-)

    BEFORE they impose it on the people and I think they oughta have to keep wearing it until they decide that if it doesn't fit them it won't fit the country.

    That goes with approving torture and sending folks off to war and creating prison complexes for housing folks they don't like.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. - Mark Twain

    by glitterscale on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:04:36 AM PST

  •  Once I had to feed 12 people (11+ / 0-)

    and all we had was some oil, potatoes, and self-rising corn meal.

    I made mountains of french fries, for the delightful entertainment value I guess, and some cold-water cornbread. Everyone was full, at least enough to last until we could get more food.

    I actually like trying to invent good meals (not french fries) from almost nothing. My grandma taught me!

    But then there was the time all we had was some popcorn, too.

  •  Living on a food stamp budget (13+ / 0-)

    and the resulting lack of proper caloric intake and nutrition also results in higher medical costs.

    An otherwise healthy adult that isn't getting enough to eat is weaker. Their immune system is weaker. They get sick easier. This leads to a harder time working those two minimum wage jobs... as does the likely lack of proper sleep that comes with having to manage that schedule of a day job and a night job and kids or aging parents to take care of.

    But it is even worse for the kids. Lack of proper nutrition as a child leads to poor physical development and a lifetime of health problems. Health problems that aren't covered by insurance because insurance costs money and money has to go to food, bus fare and rent.

    So while you are concerned about cutting costs on programs such as food stamps and school lunch programs the down stream impact on medicaid and medicare and low income health care clinics can't be ignored either.

    The poor suffer.

    And it is not their fault. It is the fault of a society and economic system built on...

    GREED.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:09:31 AM PST

  •  Totally OT (0+ / 0-)

    Is anyone else having a hard time posting? I was in Deo's diary and twice in the middle of a comment my screen froze and I was redirected to the FP.

    "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

    by high uintas on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:16:41 AM PST

  •  You see why I bitch when you guys say (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, terjeanderson, mofembot, ilyana

    you give canned corn to food drives???  It's as if you deliberatively want poor people to lose a leg to diabetes.  I thought Kossacks were smarter than that.  

    I'm disabled.  I qualify for my local food pantry.  Three fourths of what they give us is cheap, flavorless surplus foods--cereals, pasta, rice and canned corn.

    Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

    by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:18:17 AM PST

    •  It's so hard to find edible protein to donate. (6+ / 0-)

      I can't, in good conscience, hand over crap like SPAM or Hormel Chili, nobody takes fresh meats, or tofu, and how much peanut butter--even "natural"--can one eat.

      I'd truly appreciate a list of suggestions--that folks might not consider--as I'm gearing up to increase my donations this time of year.

        Thank you!

      •  Whole grains and beans (10+ / 0-)

        Cheap, shelf-stable, low fat, no cholesterol, rich in vitamins and minerals.

        One alone supplies incomplete protein; together, they're almost perfect.

        Whole civilizations have thrived on legumes and corn/rice/wheat/barley/oats/sorghum/amaranth. Not a bad diet for the modern day either.

        Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
        I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

        by Leo in NJ on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:36:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of people are terrified of cooking beans (7+ / 0-)

          and whole grains. They literally don't know what to do with them...It's sad, but true. Now, canned beans--you might get some traction, there (and some BPA).  Whole grains? Forget it. The average person looks at kashi or kamut or barley and scratches their hand in bewilderment.

            I'd like to donate little cookbooks with stuff like this! That's the ticket!

          •  Boil them with the cover on. Not that hard. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fayea, raincrow

            Are you saying nobody knows how to cook rice? They could learn.

            Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
            I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

            by Leo in NJ on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:18:31 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  More than you may realize--especially brown rice, (6+ / 0-)

              which is the only one worth eating if you've got no other source of protein.

                I've been deeply involved in the whole food spectrum--scholarship, education, distribution, research--for 30 years, and the sheer numbers of people who have lost touch with basic home skills--especially cooking from scratch--is astounding. They want to eat good, wholesome foods...but the disconnect between the desire, and the skills and knowledge necessary to bring such desires to fruition, can be wide.

              •  You're probably right, sadly. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Prairie Gal

                Brown rice does take more water and time than Minit Rice® in a plastic bag. Even I can never remember how much water to use for quinoa. (2.5 cups per cup of raw grain; rinse it first). And what if you only want half a cup? You'd have to do division of a fraction, which they don't teach anymore.

                They used to teach basic skills like this in school (at least to girls). Nowadays "we can't afford it, gotta pay for regimentalist testing from the Ripoff Republican 'think tank'". Like the rest of it: Art, Music, Literature, Drama...Culture. Used to be called "Education". Now "training" is the best you can hope for.

                Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
                I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

                by Leo in NJ on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:20:41 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  People no longer understand how (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Prairie Gal

                wheat is grown and turned into bread. It is simply amazing. I remember learning that in elementary school. They think white flour is made from "white".

            •  Dry navy beans make a good soup but (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prairie Gal

              where are we supposed to get the ham bone?  That's the trick to making a good bean soup.

              Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

              by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:09:50 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Onion. (0+ / 0-)

                That was 'poor food' when I was a kid- navy beans with onion, salt, and pepper. I still have a hard time eating navy beans.

                "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore ~~~~~~~~~ http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/

                by Lainie on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 04:38:44 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  It's actually tricky to make refried beans. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Prairie Gal

            Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

            by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:15:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I love kashi. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Prairie Gal

            But none of the stores here carry it.

            The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth. - William O. Douglas

            by PSzymeczek on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:21:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  My pantry tried giving out uncooked beans. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          terjeanderson

          Most people either refused or dumped them.  Almost no one up here knows how to make refried beans from scratch.  Either that, or they don't have time.

          Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

          by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:13:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  At our pantry, refugees use them (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ice Blue, mideedah, Leo in NJ, Praxical

            but most native born Americans don't.

            We have a sizable population of Sudanese and Somali refugees, and they are thrilled with the dried beans and pulses, grains, etc. They know how to cook them and are able to make them the basis of a tasty, nutritious diet that they can stretch out to feed their family.  Similarly, Latino immigrants seem to appreciate them.

            But we find that most American-raised folks don't want them (they also tend to reject even canned beans - except for baked beans).

            For more than 40 years, Americans grew up with a culture of prepared and processed foods. Corporate producers and advertising created a huge market for Count Chocula cereal, frozen dinners than can be microwaved, sugar laden snacks, chips, fast food burgers, etc. In the process, several generations grew up removed from knowing how to prepare food from "ingredients".

            Add to that lack of cooking knowledge the realities of finding time to cook every day, the poor reputation many of these foods have in the public imagination, and the challenges of getting family members to eat new and different meals based on these unfamiliar economic ingredients and it isn't surprising how people respond to them.

            I feel that I was very fortunate to have loved to cook early on in life - it made a huge impact when I was surviving only on food stamps and now when I'm (relatively) better off on SSDI. Knowing how to make a pound of lentils into a tasty dal, having space and time to grow veggies myself, cooking from scratch, etc all made it possible for me to survive and eat quite well on next to nothing.

            My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

            by terjeanderson on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:43:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We're of almost 100% white northern (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terjeanderson

              European descent.  Nobody around here has a Latina grandma to show them how to make good refried beans.  Besides, that's normally eaten as a dip for nachos and who can afford those?

              Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

              by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:17:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Good stuff beans.. (0+ / 0-)

          Too bad the food banks don't have as many beans to give out anymore.  My theory is that beans have become more expensive (that part is not theory)  and so are not selected to give to food banks.

      •  Here's a list: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ice Blue, Prairie Gal, Catte Nappe

        Protein always seem to be lacking in donations so here is a list from high protein to lower:
        Canned Tuna is an excellent source of protein.
        Canned Pink Salmon Traditional Style
        Canned chunk white chicken is also quite edible.
        Deviled Chicken
        Powdered milk
        Condensed milk in cans
        Chili (sorry I am a fan of the Hormel Chili)
        Roasted Peanuts
        Canned spinach
        Canned Lentil Soup

        Stay away from donating starch like corn or rice or pasta.

        •  Remember, though, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ice Blue

          that canned soups & chili are high in MSG and other additives, as are many canned meats. Also, canned tuna contains significant amounts of mercury. Canned salmon contains ~300 times less mercury than canned albacore.

        •  If you lived where they make it, you might not be. (0+ / 0-)

          Just saying. ;-)  

           I did. The Hormel plant... The smells. Ugh.

        •  Bingo. (0+ / 0-)

          That's the kind of quick and easy to prepare foods that go fast in my pantry.  For fruits, there's always raisins or some other dried.  That, or those individual serving sized boxed juices.  

          Just, please, don't anyone try to push your self-important dietary attitudes down poor people's throats.  We already have enough problems.  
           

          Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

          by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:40:56 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  There are healthier canned meats (6+ / 0-)

        if you're feeling very generous as well as cans of baked beans.  

        I've never seen a jar of mayo or Miracle Whip in my pantry, probably because they've lasted a matter of seconds.  Poor people eat sandwiches, too, you know.  Ditto for those Cream-of soups that turn a can of tuna and some pasta into a family meal.  I know this sounds strange but canned spinach doesn't last long, either,  For kids, maybe little boxes of fruit juice, especially the type that's fortified with vitamin C.  

        If you've got an overabundant garden, don't let your excess crops rot.  If it's convenient, drop them off at your local pantry.  If you would eat it, somebody else probably will, too.  They can see it's homegrown and ergo not perfect.  They know enough to cut off the bad spots.

        Pantries buy wholesale.  If you want to feed the most people the most efficient way is to simply write the pantry a check.  

        Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

        by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:08:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  One of the most gratifying (0+ / 0-)

          things I have ever done is donate big bags of tomatoes and zucchini and peppers from my garden to the Capuchin  soup kitchen in Detroit.  I still remember doing that, years and years later.  This year I'll donate money, but I hope to do the garden thing again next year.  

      •  GIVE CASH! (6+ / 0-)

        When you give canned goods you have purchased yourself, you are donating at the equivalent of full retail price, including profits for the grocery store, distributor, etc.

        Every food shelf in the country has arrangements that allow them to purchase the food they can distribute from a centralized food bank at a fraction of the price you would pay - prices well below even conventional wholesale prices.

        When you spend $1 for a can of beans at a retail grocery, a food shelf can buy 5 to 10 cans for that very same $1.

        Even a small cash donation has a much much larger impact that the direct donation of a can of food.

        In addition, when you donate canned goods directly, it means the food shelf has to devote staff/volunteer time to sorting through non-standard selections of food - figuring out what to do with that single jar of pickled artichoke hearts. When they buy the items from a central food bank, they buy them in bulk, they purchase the items they know that are most in demand and most nutritionally valuable for those who use the food shelf.

        I don't want to knock folks who give canned goods directly to a food shelf - it is generous, well-intentioned, and the products they donate are welcome and will be used. But ask anyone who is running a food shelf, and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that they can do so much more with the $ equivalent, can feed more people that way.

        You may not have the satisfaction of bringing in canned goods yourself, but the impact you have with even a very modest cash contribution is much greater.

        My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

        by terjeanderson on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:09:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The trouble with my local pantry is (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          terjeanderson

          it's run by some MAN who has never had to plan a balanced menu in his his life.  Whenever someone who has tries to make a suggestion she's blown off as if she's a toddler.  He INSISTS cheap, starchy fillers are all "those people" will eat.  Meanwhile, "those people" continue to get higher rates of type II diabetes than the wealthy.

          Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

          by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:07:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That totally sucks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ice Blue

            I think there is a "old-school" mentality among some food pantry administrators who are still bought into the old "empty calories" model that thinks that filling folks up with pasta, rice, and cereals is all that it takes. It isn't as common as it once was, but it is still out there. (And, sadly, sometimes that attitude it is fed by the fact that many pantry shoppers will instinctively grab the less nutritional items they have been taught to eat all their lives...)

            If you have the inclination and the energy, it might be worth finding out who the board of directors of the group are and writing them with positive suggestions about better food options they could be stocking, suggesting that they find a nutritionist to do an analysis of their food selection. No guarantee it would have any impact, but maybe more productive than the frustration of dealing with an administrator who doesn't seem to understand the real world.

            My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world - Jack Layton

            by terjeanderson on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:21:23 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The top guy is every bit as bad. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              terjeanderson

              I'm not sure who in the USDA and state government oversee food grants but I'd sure like to drop them an email.  Maybe I can ask the home economist in my local Social Services office but I have a hunch she's had the same problem.

              Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

              by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:42:43 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Today at church... (4+ / 0-)

      we asked people to bring food for donation to the local pantry during our Thanksgiving service. The generosity was overwhelming.

      I saw lots of tuna, boxes of cereal and rice pilaf, canned fruits, spaghetti sauce/canned tomatoes. Someone donated packages of juice boxes, an utterly excellent idea for families w kids who probably would like to take a drink for snack at school.

      I did see canned corn (sorry :-( ), also green beans, sauerkraut and sweet potatoes. I saw several people wisely put in dish detergent and paper towels (can anyone tell me if is it useful to do this? Or does that stuff end up used by the pantry or not reach the people its meant for?)

      We brought cans of tomato paste, pineapple, chick peas, tuna and a jar of hot peppers.  The last was because we decided it was a luxury that would never be affordable to the recipient.

      It's the same reason my daughter always chose fun (yet nutritionally sound) cereal rather than generic cheerios. She didn't think it was fair that some other kid never got mini-wheats.

      "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

      by brillig on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:02:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Something else from church today: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joe wobblie

        The gospel today focuses on helping the needy.  

        "When I was hungry, you fed Me; when I was thirsty, you gave Me drink; when I was a stranger, you welcomed Me; when I was naked you clothed Me; when I was sick or in prison, you visited and comforted Me.

        "Insofar as you did this to the least of My brethren, you did it to Me."

        Even showing this to those congress people who want to cut food programs probably wouldn't work.  

    •  Amen.. Not to be ungrateful to those who donate to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM

      food banks..  But please think about the nutritional value of the foods donated.  And please don't just clean out your cupboards, if you can afford to actually purchase the donations you make.  

  •  Marketers are targeting the poor more (7+ / 0-)

    Lately I've noticed a new trend in ads on TV. Campbell's has an ad  showing how to make a cheap meal by poring a can of soup over some rice. Another ad for a cheap fix for worn out sagging furniture.

    Its a very sad trend.

    Gasoline made from the tar sands gives a Toyota Prius the same impact on climate as a Hummer using gasoline made from oil. ~ Al Gore

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:19:35 AM PST

    •  Digging out some magazines (0+ / 0-)

      from WWII could be useful- the thriftiness in them is a skill we could use today. 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without'. Who does that now? Everything's disposable.

      "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore ~~~~~~~~~ http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/

      by Lainie on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 04:45:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As more and more Americans are discovering... (9+ / 0-)

    It's really hard work pretending not to be poor.

    If only donkeys could have elephant balls... Occupy!

    by chuckvw on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:22:47 AM PST

  •  My (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow

    shared sacrifice was my marriage, I'm going to school now.

    one iota (sig apparently subject to interpretation, and attack, by those who wish to destroy individuality).

    by Maori on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:25:34 AM PST

  •  What am I missing here? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ggwoman55

    My understanding is that "food stamp budget" = $200 per month per person. For years -- can't even count how many -- I haven't spent that much; I try to stay in the $125-150 range. That includes needing gluten-free food. And no, I don't eat out much; "going out" usually means potlucks so I have to count that. Where I work I can get coffee for $1 as long as I bring my own mug, not the $4.50 caramel macchiatos that other people are buying. I pack lunch and snacks.

    I shop a lot the way my father did when I was growing up: watching the sale flyers and buying what's on sale, buying (selectively) at the discount stores, selectively at farmers markets and pick-your-own, store brands, very few processed items or sugar-filled anything. Very few coupons, as mostly they're for processed stuff I never buy or can't eat.

    Yes, I have access to multiple stores (and a car to get there), and a kitchen with all the basics. And I'm used to being very frugal. And I'm only feeding myself. But once you get into those habits it's definitely doable. The barriers are not just the amount of money, but access -- "food deserts," neighborhood stores with only (expensive) heavily-processed food and no fresh food, lack of cooking facilities. Oh, and lobbyists convincing Congress to count pizza as a "vegetable" in the school lunch program, instead of enabling/requiring schools to buy (or grow) local broccoli and other real veggies.

    So in addition to focussing on the money, it's essential to be working on the other barriers to good nutrition. Maybe living on $200 a month is an eye-opening hardship for Congresscritters and other 1%ers. For me it would be a significant increase.  

    •  where are they getting 200 a month per person (7+ / 0-)

      it is less than a hundred in NM

    •  Here in Hawaii, the allotment is $314 mo. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow

      for one person and $1046 for a family of four.  That is more than I can afford to spend on food on my sped teacher's salary.

      But there are ways to be frugal and eat well. $20 a week at the farmer's market buys more fruit and veg than you can use in a week. 5lbs of flour for $5 affords 4-6 loaves of  home baked bread which costs $5 each for the cheap white stuff in the stores here.  I haven't bought meat in so long, even hamburger is out of reach for me now as it is ridiculously priced at $7+ a lb., so I raise chickens for eggs and meat.
      One other thing I noticed is that food stamps now purchases seeds and plants, so a garden is well within reach, if you have some yard or pots and are willing to put in some time. And if you are unemployed or a TANF funded stay at home parent, what better way to spend some time with your children?
      I'm sorry, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for food stamps recipients here, they eat so much better than most working folks I know and their children get two free meals a day as well at school, which unfortunately mostly ends up in the slop cans for sale to pig farmers at $200 per year and it's not because the food is bad.
      Combine this with a generous housing assistance program which requires a payment of  only 10% of one's monthly income for rent and utilities and/or the purchasing of a home (the program also pays for pmi, taxes, insurance etc,) and free no fault car insurance,  that I now believe it's ridiculous to work so hard to end up being so poor.
      When my students parents are better dressed and drive newer cars than I do (14 year old car), not to mention seemingly rested and unstressed, something is wrong. There seems to be little monetary reward these days for working 50-60 hours a week in this country what with the across the board pay cuts, and extra days for less pay.

      The global government has no democratic legitimacy and exists solely to impose on the people of the world to pay for an economic and financial crisis they are not responsible for." Les Alternatifs.

      by ggwoman55 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:52:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hawaii should be an asterisk. (0+ / 0-)

        I lived there for awhile, my mom and stepdad and my younger brother and his wife are still there. It's a rock- either you grow it (not as much of a possibility in a tiny apt) or you import it. Prices are crazy. You really can't compare anything n Hawaii with the rest of the country.

        "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore ~~~~~~~~~ http://slugcrossings.blogspot.com/

        by Lainie on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 04:50:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I shop for a family member (3+ / 0-)

      that uses ebt - a mother and daughter.

      For the two of them they are allowed $290 per month.  

      She works very hard, has no transportation and little time. I hate shopping for her towards the end of the month because there is nothing much left on her debit card and I understand how every penny counts.  I often sneak stuff in that I pay for so they will be okay.

      She works so hard.  She is up early in the morning and never home by 6.  Making everything by scratch and no convenience foods is pretty darn hard when you are dead dog tired and still have to help your daughter with homework, clean the house, do the laundry and prepare for the next day.

      The experiment can't duplicate what they go through but it CAN make people think. There are way too many people so ignorant that they honestly believe people can live it up on food stamps.  

    •  I am gluten-free too (0+ / 0-)

      we eat almost exclusively rice as our grain. It costs me less than it used to cost when I ate wheat, because a lot of more expensive foods are no longer something I can eat, nor do we eat out to speak of.

      I was surprised to find recently that it costs 3 to 4 times as much to eat a gluten-free diet as a typical diet. Most people cling to "gluten-free food substitutes", like tiny loaves of bread at $7 each. I can't imagine what people like that would do if they were forced to live on a food stamp budget. So many people who have to go gluten-free end up wallowing in self-pity rather than looking to see what naturally gluten-free foods they can eat.

  •  food allergies (6+ / 0-)

    Try getting by on food stamps if you have a food allergy that wasn't diagnosed by a doctor but by a natural healer, and you know it's correct because you feel better than you have in months, but you can't find a doctor who will make it official because you're on medical assistance. My boyfriend's situation before he moved in with me. I could count his ribs.

    I know that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one... John Lennon

    by MagentaMN on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:35:03 AM PST

    •  My health suffers when I eat too many (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zett, raincrow, Catte Nappe, Lainie

      grains, red meats and dairy.  Yet I'm going to be disabled and on food stamps for the rest of my life.  

      Never meddle in the affairs of cats, for they are subtle and will piss on your computer.--Bruce Graham

      by Ice Blue on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:59:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have the same constellation of (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ice Blue, Prairie Gal

        sensitivities to foods.  When I lived on food stamps for years, we ate a lot of beans (bought dried in bulk), onions and carrots (the two best nutrition for your buck veggies.)  
        That was years ago and I don't understand some of the above comments about buying cheap boxed macaroni and cheese or packaged breakfast cereals.  These things are nutritionally devoid and possibly toxic as well as more expensive in the short run and in the long run if one considers one's health than bulk beans, bulk corn meal, bulk lentils, bulk powdered milk, bulk dried herbs, bulk dried vegetables.  I know all this bulk stuff requires planning ahead and a pot and water and a stove and power to run it.  
        I also began to garden in earnest in those years on food stamps.  Although, now I am blessed with employment and health, I still garden a a lot and produce nearly all our veggies for year round use.  I also keep a few chickens for eggs.  I never want to have to rely on agri-biz and commercial groceries for my sustenance.  
        I suspect living on food stamps is much harder now than when I did it.  Please focus as much as you can on the nutritional value of your food in relation to its cost.  Ramen is not the ticket.  

        I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had. - Margaret Mead

        by fayea on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:28:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Buying in bulk (0+ / 0-)

          Is great if you have the storage. Sometimes that can be a big if. If  you're living in a reduced income apartment complex someplace like... Florida... keeping bugs out of those bulk grain and flour purchases often costs way too much. You can't just put them in a plastic bag or in a box, roaches will eat through those, same with the paper flour bags. You need sturdy plastic containers with lids that seal well. If you're below poverty level, buying those containers is something that's out of your reach. We have some 'cereal' sized ones I found on sale, but they don't hold more than about 5 pounds each.  And in those apartment complex's it doesn't matter how clean you keep your house, they're there before you move in, in the ceiling, in the walls. The chemicals they come in and spray don't kill them, they just make the people sick.  Add in a lack of access and room to garden or keep any animals, and you buy what you can buy, even if you know it's not the best food for you.

  •  Sullivan's Travels - 1941 (5+ / 0-)

    Preston Sturges - Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake

    May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house. George Carlin

    by msmacgyver on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 10:35:54 AM PST

  •  I did this game (17+ / 0-)

    for 4 years and it was more then just food that ground me down. Keeping warm, no transportation no tools to be self sufficient, hungry children, no one to watch them if you do find work, no way to look for work  (I was living in a rural area).  My car died in the parking lot of the food stamp certification place. Your tired demoralized, desperate and cannot stop the game. The people you must depend on for help treat you like your a criminal.  

    I existed on beans, oat groats, and radish soup (the only thing left in my garden)  soup for about a week as I could not get the twenty miles to the food stamp place, with out a car. In a way it was better then living in a city and being this poor. But it is not a game and it is hard to escape even worse now as at least then in the late 70's our culture hadn't gotten this cruel and punitive to the poor.  

  •  Attitudes ... (9+ / 0-)

    There seems to be an attitude among many people I speak to that hunger (and all the other things the poor suffer) is a good thing. It's an "incentive", you see, for them to get off their lazy butts and find work. After all, "I" (or someone I know, or someone someone I know told me about) got himself out of poverty with nothing but hard work and second hand suit.

    It's like "prison should involve suffering", as if judges sentenced people to homosexual rape as opposed to a loss of freedom. (Sorry, another hobby horse of mine).

    How I hate that fucking "protestant work ethic"!  

  •  I do it every month. (10+ / 0-)

    $107 for one person.  My proteins consist primarily of ground turkey ($1.99 a pound or less), American cheese, peanut butter, and some processed meats.  Looking for marked-down meats becomes mandatory.

    Ramen noodles are a staple, as is Hunt's canned pasta sauce ($1.00 a can sometimes.)  Fresh veggies are a luxury, but frozen veggies work pretty well, and I can often find them for a dollar a bag.  Milk and soft drinks are a luxury.  I do not buy them.  Pasta at $1.00 a box is how I purchase macaroni and rigatoni.

    Every few months I go "stock up" on more expensive proteins like pork or beef roasts, to be used on special occasions.

    I am not a coupon-er*.  I find instead that frequenting the discount grocery stores, like Sav-a-Lot and Aldi's here in Ohio saves me twenty percent or more over what I would pay at most large grocery chains.

    I also forgo brand names.  I find that off-brands are usually of sufficient flavor and quality to meet my needs.  An example would be Velveeta, at $4.99 for a package, versus an off brand like Nice-n-Cheesy, which can often be purchased for $3.99 or less.  I prefer the flavor of some off brands over their named counterparts:  the bottled ranch dressing from Sav-a-Lot is superior in flavor to name brand ranch dressings.

    Finally, the pre-made meals and frozen dinners, from Hamburger Helper to Encore salisbury steaks are also off limits.  To make quantity I have to forgo convenience and cook from scratch, but it doesn't usually take me any longer to prepare a meal than if I were to microwave a package.  I just can't multitask as easily.

    When I go into a big-name store, I know what I am looking for and I only shop for those specific items.  The temptation to fill my cart with everything I need at one place has to be resisted.

    It can be done.

    -Joe

    * Couponing would save me more, although I find that the time it takes me to clip coupons is better spent on time that I could be working on projects to put a little extra living money in my pocket.

  •  the hardest part about being on food stamps is (10+ / 0-)

    being on food stamps while trying to feed growing children.

    As an individual, I can easily control my food intake. But having children who are still hungry after the money and assistance runs out is the heart wrenching part.

    Having said that, I can tell you what I used to eat when I was single and poor:

    At home:
    1) Tuna and Leafy Green Salad (occasionally broccoli)
    2) Eggs
    3) Cottage cheese
    4) one 5o plus multi-vitamin a day like a silver centrum (has calcium the normal variation does not)
    5) Instant coffee

    On the go:
    One McDouble with lettuce substituting for the bun and a cup of water.

    It helps that I am not a foodie, Most people would find the above diet non-workable. I view food as material to keep my body running. Getting adequate calcium is key. Calcium is super important for adult bone loss and is now linked as an anti-cancer agent.

    My family unit is not yet on assistance, but I have instructed my boys on the above diet for when they enter university as the poor student's diet.

  •  You can't get (6+ / 0-)

    the feel of a food stamp diet unless you do it for a month or more.  There is food in the freezer, in the cupboard, in the refrigerator that you use up.  Then you feel it.  I did the food stamp diet twice.  I did a lot of beans and rice.  A lot of tastelessness because you can't afford spices, and because the vegetables you can afford are canned.  A lot of monotony because the number of things you can afford are limited.  Tuna casserole can be made to last several days if you are disciplined, and you remind yourself that variety is a luxury but not a necessity.  

    If you want to really tell people what poverty is like, try the food stamp diet and keep a journal.  You will be surprised how your coherency drops as your hunger increases.  Your mental capacity becomes almost unsuitable for a better paying job.  Thus, it becomes a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

  •  Cuz...we can't just take 50,000,000 Americans' (12+ / 0-)

    word for it. We need NORMAL people to tell us it's hard.

  •  When I was in college (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zett, Prairie Gal, ilyana, NYCteach

    I often had only $15 leftover to spend on food for the week. This was in the early 80's.  My diet consisted of cheese, cheap bread, eggs, Generic Macaroni and cheese in a box, Generic spaghetti sauce, and pasta.  I bought margarine and generic 1% milk to cook the macaroni and cheese.   Now, true, I could just drive home and eat at my Mom's house which was 25 miles away if I was desperate, but I couldn't do that every day.  My memories of this are still vivid after all these years.

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:28:53 AM PST

  •  We have been there thrice (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terjeanderson, raincrow, mofembot, ilyana

    All caused by loss of income due to major medical issues, twice a job loss and once a business loss after 2001. We once were considered successful affluent middle class and even bordering on higher incomes in the 1990's.

    A family of four food stamps were $85-$90 per week, and we made ends to meet with stretching the food banks and government surplus.

    Haven't been on for 4 years now, thankfully, but there is so much time needed to get aide, often as much as a part time job.

    We now live on less than $125 a week for a family of four with two college students, we live on less that $30,000 annually. We have learned to cook from scratch, eat meat maybe twice a week, often turkey. Prior to T-giving we buy 5 birds for $7 ea, freeze them and eat one a month, make seven dinners. We also grow our own fresh vegetables where this year I have invested in a cold frame for fresh greens like lettuce spinach, and basil in cold months. Warmer weather I fish once every other week and here in CO we eat fresh or frozen trout.

    We are also lucky a friend provides us Elk steak and meat from his annual hunts.

    Next spring I will try my hand at chickens and our own fresh eggs.

    Therefore we often eat vegetarian.

    There are other big issues, energy commodities are huge, gasoline we try to limit one tank a week (12 gal), and heat for home. We use plastic on windows and now got a Essex Gen heater at a garage sale and keep our furnace at 60.

    Medical is huge unexpected cost. Our daughter is Type 1, co payment is $50 a month, wife is $40 on her meds, and that is not the other co pays...that I figure always amount to ave a total of $200 a month without a unexpected event.

    Forget outside entertainment our eating out event is going to the best taquerita  in town and getting a take out that I make home-made beans and rice for a dinner.

    Finally we do not use credit or debt. Car is paid for, never will buy new again, rent a home, family has long term vacation-retirement home in trust. College is lucky, but Pell Grants for one only covers 65% (we appreciate) once it covered 85%. The other has a full ride scholarship but both have to live at home.

    Finally we fight for everything, because we have to, watch every purchase and expense. And research any buy where it must be a necessity.

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty~Ben Franklin

    by RWN on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 11:44:41 AM PST

  •  Yech! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennifree2bme

    I read the pdf about the challenge. People living on peanut butter and white bread. WHy would you do that to yourself?

    There are whole vast bodies of cookery based on poverty. If I were living on 21 a week, I'd be eating Cuban black beans flavored with salt pork, dhal with cumin and dried red peppers, home-made parathas, soul-food style knuckles and neckbones...

    Have Americans forgotten how to cook?

    Don't mean to sound like a douche here, I love Barbara Ehrenreich's work and I know not everyone has a kitchen, but come on. The people in the challenge were Congressmen and such.

    nothin' to see here folks, just a massive labor uprising.

    by WesEverest on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:17:18 PM PST

  •  Beans, rice, corn, apples, greens, peanut butter, (4+ / 0-)

    lentils, oatmeal, taters, maters, $4 fryers, eggs, barley, carrots.

    You can stretch food like this a long way, filling, nutrient-dense, low-sodium, low-fat (if you strip the chicken), additive free (except the chicken).

    Save the bones and veggie trimmings to make stock instead of buying can-o-MSG canned stocks.

    Ramen, canned meats, canned stocks & soups, box dinners, dehydrated soups, etc., are full of the food industry's trash and chemicals, and are not fit for human consumption, especially if you really really need to stay healthy because you can't afford health insurance.

    •  And, in cold months esp., dumpster diving (0+ / 0-)

      I have a friend, living in a university district, who has made dumpster diving an art form, furnished almost his entire apartment, finds the occasional haunch of venison, half a ham, bags of apples, oranges, nuts, turnips, carrots, astonishing quantities of perfectly good food. Summertime foraging is risky, but from December thru April, he eats amazingly well.

  •  If only poverty were just low wage jobs (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mofembot, ilyana, Praxical

    cheap housing, public transportation, skimping on food....but it is not.

    It is a factor of being trapped with no way out, ever. It is being at the mercy of sickness, accidental injury, fires, unforeseen emergency expenses, equipment failures, theft, rape, robbery, gangs, drugs, etc, etc....things that find you no matter how you try to avoid them.

    The death of child or even a wage earner can devastate the poor as well as something as mundane as a furnace that needs repair, a broken stove or refrigerator or washing machine or a car that has broken down.

    Just when things all seem to be going well, suddenly a wrench is thrown in...like a child with a broken arm and no insurance or a toothache...can be a terrible setback.

    There is so much more to the cast iron cast of poverty than even Nickle and Dimed can expose!

    Character is what you are in the dark. Emilio Lizardo in Buckaroo Bonzai

    by Temmoku on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:30:19 PM PST

  •  I was surprised (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilyana

    at how stressful playing just one round of "Spent" was... especially after losing my job just for being seen talking to a union organizer.

    It was just a game for me, of course, but it certainly brought home the reality of far too many people's lives these days.

    Just because it's made up doesn't mean it isn't true.—Plan 10 from Outer Space

    by mofembot on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 12:43:05 PM PST

  •  The real difference between Babs Ehrinreich"s (0+ / 0-)

    nifty book, games like Spent and all the various poverty "experiences" is that the participant gets to choose when it's over. Makes "poor for a day, week, month, whatever," pretty shallow, and no, you don't know what it's like now to be poor under somebody else's rules. Try it the other way...poor for a lifetime. Then look at your kids and feel your heart break...not the same, not the same at all.

    •  It's not the same. I totally agree. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ShoshannaD, ilyana

      And people without any empathy will not derive any benefit from these kinds of games or experiments. But those who have a grain of empathy will have at least a tiny bit better understanding of poverty. And that's important— it's important that a poor child's teacher and school principal understand about the devastating dance of hunger v. learning, for example. The teacher would be far more likely to keep food in his/her classroom to give to her hungry students (if the school itself has no breakfast program available to all).

      We need more people to get a clue, have a glimmer of understanding. As a baby first step, these kinds of activities/games/experiments help open eyes. It would be better for those sheltered from poverty to get to know poor people, work with them, be friends, ... but that isn't likely to happen without the first steps, especially in our class-segregated housing practices. Bridge the divides by any means possible. "Spent" at least a piece of a bridge.

      Just because it's made up doesn't mean it isn't true.—Plan 10 from Outer Space

      by mofembot on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:31:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The bankers and politicians of both parties are (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mideedah, mofembot

        working to ensure more people will have a better understanding of poverty. Or, we could all work to stop them before they take us any further down the road. And for your own information, poor people don't need or like having poverty explained to us by those who have.

      •  I strongly doubt that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mofembot, socalmonk
        people without any empathy will
        or would participate in experiments like that.  If they have no empathy, why would they?

        Going through some limited canned poverty would be an eye opener,  if it were honestly done.  No using the stuff already in your pantry or spice drawer, being poor frequently means having an empty fridge and bare cupboards at the end of the month.  And I think it would have to be at least a month living the life of poverty to even get a glimmer of what it is.  Going an entire winter would be a lot more informative.  

      •  I absolutely agree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mofembot

        of course, people who do this know that they are ultimately protected, that they can leave at any time, that if they have some big emergency, they can opt out. They also know that this will end.

        We also know that the people who most need this kind of understanding will never do this.

        But it is a step, a glimmer, a start. Even those with the best intentions can easily forget or never understand what it's really like to be poor when you are in a soothing bubble of comfort.  And, although none of this will give anyone the truly horrible and visceral experience of poverty, at least it's a glimpse, a little expansion of compassion...
        .

        •  This. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mofembot

          One aspect of being desperately poor is having thought about -- if not committed to -- contingency plans that involve things like burglary, selling drugs, selling organs, or prostitution.  Because there's no insurance, no parents to run to, and all of your friends are in the same or worse shape than you are.

  •  DK group idea?! Foodies on a budget? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angela Quattrano, ilyana

    Shopping tips and recipes from Kossacks who shop on a budget?

    -Joe

  •  Great diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilyana

    I played the Spent game; it's a good teaching tool.  While I am not "living Spent", I've had close friends that were; and Spent is a good demonstration of what it's like.  You can very easily rack up a lot of debt very quickly, to the point that it's impossible to get out from under.  The game brought to mind lots of real life examples; especially the "something goes wrong with the car", that can be very common for low income people, and the "something goes wrong with your health" that happens to lots of people all the time.  Thank you for the diary!

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