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Jan 10, 2013 03:48 AM

Can " Poor People" eat healthy ?


I was watching a panel of so called " Food Experts " with one remarking that the poor can't afford to eat healthy . She insinuated that the only options are fast foods with the deals ,coupons etc. I disagree . Coming from a poor working class background we ate good and healthy .With a plentiful variety of legumes,fresh green vegetables ,tomato's ,peppers ,pasta grains and olive oil. All mentioned are still available . In the chain supermarkets almost everywhere .The variety of beans and greens are expanding so that items such as boc choy ,fava beans ,and arrugala can be purchased in one store. Bye the way peasant foods are now called health food.Healthy soups can be made on the cheap at home anyway what say you ???

  1. I would submit that the links between poverty and a poor diet have more to do with issues of poverty restricting education and access not simply the notion that healthy food is too expensive. Knowing what to buy, where to buy it, and how to prepare it are the true barriers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MGZ

      ... to which i would add time poverty as well.

      1. re: foiegras

        For some, especially the homeless, there is no location to prepare the food. If you don't have electricity, you can't plug in your stove, oven, slow cooker, rice cooker, or even a hot plate. Those living in beach parks or out in the country in impromptu homeless encampments often have small hibachis, but even they require charcoal which is expensive. When you don't have a refrigerator in which to store food, you rely on a cooler to keep food from spoiling (requiring ice, also expensive). I don't think either charcoal or ice can be paid for in food stamps. Almost all meals have to be made shortly after you purchase your groceries. Canned foods are the exception, but even many of them require heating.
        Having said that, I believe that many of the poor do eat healthy. Like the OP, we were poor when I was younger but had a vegetable garden, chickens for the eggs and to kill for their meat, and also grew beans. We did have a house, though, so we had all the modern conveniences (such as they existed back in the day).

    2. The majority of the so-called Third World lives on a subsistence diet: grains, vegetables, seafood, meat when they can afford it. It's only when they emigrate to so-called First World countries that their diet shifts to meat-centric, protein- and fat-rich foods. Rising affluence usually leads to rising obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. Go to any Latino bodega and you will find lots of grains, legumes, and vegetables and people who know how to prepare them. I will agree that in some urban areas, zoning rules encourage fastfood chain eateries over grocery stores, leading to "food deserts" where access to junk trumps access to healthy eating. Many urban areas try to raise taxes on junk food to make it less attractive, as well as pass bottle bills to raise the price of HFCS sodas (as well as get rid of the garbage that litters the streets). But you also have instances where corner shops have been encouraged to provide fresh vegetables and fruits, only to have to throw them out because nobody was buying them. So there needs to be greater access to healthy foods, but there also needs to be education on how they're prepared. Unfortunately, Home Economics classes seem to have gone the way of the dodo, except in the most affluent communities, where kids can take cooking classes in order to be America's Next Top Chef.

      1. I can't seem to find it, but there was a recent discussion about this very topic, and a number of folks who were on the front line of this issue came's not JUST money -- availability of ingredients, time to cook, and knowing how to shop and cook are enormous factors, as well.

        5 Replies
          1. re: small h

            that's the one -- thanks!

            I cannot imagine how that didn't show up in a search across all boards for Mark Bittman SNAP in the last 30 days, but it didn't.

            1. re: sunshine842

              The thread is locked, so I think "search" pretends it doesn't exist. Nuthin' to see here, move along.

          2. re: sunshine842

            That's prevelent at every level in America. As far as availability is concerned, if the folks really wanted it and would buy constantly, the supermarkets/chainstores/bodegas would stock it. If all the people claiming they want to eat healthier did so, the fast food joints and c-stores would be out of business. It's all just PC noise.

            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

              Please read the discussion small h linked above.

          3. Of course they can. However, in general, the emptier the calorie, the cheaper it is. So it's much easier to eat unhealthy if you're poor.


            1. Poor people who cook at home can eat healthy. But the breakdown of the poor family has lead to a generation that can only microwave and is addicted to junk food. Somewhere I saw a study correlating poverty with obesity.