I was involved briefly in an internet discussion about junk food versus nutritional food and what is acceptable to purchase when receiving government aid.
I have to say that I have several views on this subject that I didn’t have time to get into in one lunch hour. So let’s just break it down and see if I can articulate it to make some kind of sense. (and here’s where you get a bigger glimpse into my very judgmental and warped mind).
A) I understand living with a certain amount of money for food and having to choose how to best appropriate those funds to maximize them. It’s called a budget and is not exclusive to those receiving aid. It should be a common denominator across the board. Some peoples’ budgets may be higher than others making it easier to make decisions, but all responsible (and therein lies the problem) people should have a budget for groceries.
I shop cheap, at discount stores, at multiple stores trying to maximize my dollars. Not everything I buy is the healthiest choice. Example: I may skip the whole wheat pasta for a box of regular pasta because it’s cheaper. I do not however skimp on making homemade sauces which are better for you and if done right are cheaper. You can pack a lot of veggies, vitamins, protein etc in a good homemade sauce. It’s a balance act.
B) I am not against all junk food or having someone buy it. I’m not about to say “if you are poor you can’t buy a candy bar.” My husband is a junk food fiend. Seriously. It disgusts me at some of the things that man can pack away. To keep him from becoming mutinous I am committed to buying him a junk food item now and again. At Halloween we have a bowl of candy out. It will last for several weeks though a bag of Swedish fish disappears in 30 minutes or less. During the holidays I bake cakes, cookies, brownies etc periodically. I give in on the occasional bag of chips. He takes Poptarts for breakfast. Heck, I enjoy my Coco Pebbles cereal sometimes (ahem every morning during second tri!). The biggest problem in our house is by far soda.
Part of this stems from his growing up poor and nutritionally uneducated. They ate hamburger helper without the hamburger. Canned Fruits and Veggies were a luxury item that they hoarded when they were brought in the house. They lived off bags of chips because they were cheap and in bulk at the discount places. This makes me sad beyond belief and I am constantly counter acting his habits (which have improved greatly over the past several years) because I will be damned if my son is going to learn to eat crap from him.
I work very hard at providing balanced meals, fresh fruits and veggies every week mixed with a few convenience foods (frozen scalloped potatoes) for time constraints. I shop the farmer’s market and grow my own veggies but in the winter I am all about buying frozen veggies, rice etc. Not all processed food is crap and the occasional crap is not going to kill you.
C) I don’t actually know how some people buy a cart full of crap groceries with or without paying for it with government aid. We all know I’m a judgmental person no matter how hard I try. If I’m in line at the store, I am not one to browse through the National Enquirer. I’m more likely appraising what’s in your cart and comparing it to my own as I have seen many people do. If you have an entire cart full to the brim of sugared cereals, processed junk food, frozen family meals, soda, etc. I’m going to judge. If you are a ringless male, I’m going to judge and probably feel sorry for you a little bit. If you are a man or woman with a kid or more in tow, I’m going to judge and probably want to slap you for your poor choices and what you are teaching/not teaching your children about nutrition. You can bad mouth society’s judgments on fat/poor/ugly people all you want but the fact is if you are living off a diet consisting of mostly junk and processed foods you pretty much deserve to be looked down upon for your bad skin, fat rolls etc. That type of food shows in someway even if you have an exceptional metabolism so don’t think if you are thin you are exempt.
I say this fully aware that I’m overweight and I get judged. I haven’t made the best choices. I was not informed about what my body required since my PCOS was misdiagnosed but that’s only a part of my weight. If I had made healthier choices long ago, I have no doubt that my weight would not nearly be what it is. When I finally did figure out what I was doing, my weight started improving tremendously. And I did it ON A BUDGET.
The point is, there are certain things I get embarrassed about purchasing: tampons, condoms, KY Jelly, Pregnancy Tests and copious amounts of junk food. (Especially if I’m buying them all at the same time. Don’t ask, it was only once, swearsies.)
Now add to that my discomfort if I were on government aid (which now a days they don’t have those pesky “stamps” but a card that looks like a credit card…not sure who they think they are fooling, we still know what that flag flying piece of plastic is folks.) I would melt into a little puddle of mush standing in line with a cart full of crap and whipping out a food stamp card. Maybe I have too much pride or don’t understand what needing help is truly like. I understand there are situations that call for help and my heart goes out to those people (I actually know a few and do not begrudge them their aid at all).
I have been blessed in so many ways which include family always willing to lend each other a helping hand, a strong work ethic and a sense of pride in making my way in the world even if leanly. I hope I NEVER have to rely on the aid of our tax dollars for any reason and I would bite my pride in the ass if it meant putting food in my child’s mouth but I damn sure wouldn’t lose all my pride, knowledge and moral decency by buying crap. It would mortify my southern lady sensibilities down to my toes.
Poverty does not equate to uneducated or unhealthy. At least it shouldn’t. Unfortunately, it seems like more people who are thrown into poverty, the worse they eat and that’s just sad. There are a lot of programs out there designed to assist in teaching people better choices, other ways of eating, nutrition etc. For example, community garden projects are becoming more abundant though in my opinion not nearly as common as they should be especially in the cities. It is more of a reflection on our society’s ineptness that we have so many uneducated in nutrition, living in a poverty level and consisting off of a crap diet than that we live in a society that financial aid for those people.
Do I think we should dictate that only people who can afford it be “allowed” to buy junk food? YES. Junk food is a luxury item in my opinion. I wouldn’t go as far to say its so luxurious it needs to have a Fat Tax added to it as Bev Perdue, the idiot Governor of NC believe but it is something that should be considered a treat and not part of a regular diet. Luxury as in “Extra; indulgence; or bonus”. If you can’t afford bonus items in your weeks menu/budget plan then you don’t get the treat. Occasional candy bar/soda/pack of cookies? No big deal. An entire cart full? Yea I have a problem with it on several levels.
People want to defend a person’s right to do what they want and live like everyone else even if they are poor. It’s the American way. Well, NO it’s not. The American way is to work your ass off to purchase those things you want and have the freedom to do so. You have the freedom to work and earn as much money as you want and live the way your earnings justify. Living outside one’s means is what has turned our economy upside down in the first place. I’m sick of the entitlement theories. “I’m entitled to what you are because we are all equal.” No we aren’t. If you are taking assistance, you don’t have that luxury (as in Comfort; extravagance; lavishness). Luxury of choice does come with having your own earned income. So I absolutely do not believe someone on welfare, food stamps and other assistance programs need to be getting their hair done, fake nails, going out to eat etc. If I can’t afford to do so off of what I make, then I don’t get those things. I have to abide by my paycheck and my budget to afford my lifestyle. If your lifestyle includes taking tax dollars that other people pay in, then you adjust your lifestyle to that level of income. Yes, it pisses me off when people I am paying for have more luxury items than I do working my ass off. Our systems have been abused for far too long. Statistically, its not ALL people on welfare etc. and I am not making that generalization but it’s the few that are constantly brazen about it and in your face that make it really hard for the rest who are trying their best to get some where and get off assistance to deal with the impressions portrayed by the few to the rest of us.