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    1. That mother made good choices I think, given her living conditions. I also think it's very sad that this treat probably will not happen again.

      I'm not a homeless mom but this really brought home the fact that we spend way too much money on food, not counting necessary groceries.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        I look at it a bit differently... I'm realize i'm lucky to be able to pay extra to let my kids eat fresher produce from the local farmer's market, organic meats, wild king salmon, etc. i'm not going to not do that or feel guilty about it just because there are others in the world who can't. But, the one thing my kids know is they are not allowed to waste. they ask for something, they are going to eat it. no excuses. i grew up in a home where my parents scrapped for everything and i knew it wasn't right to waste - although we're in a better position today, my kids better grow up realizing that as well and understand how fortunate they are.

        1. re: FattyDumplin

          Ten dollars is enough to save a child from blindness (vitamin A deficiency)...

          1. re: Chowrin

            yeah, but 10 dollars isn't enough incrementally that how i eat changes what i donate, if that makes any sense? Every year, I have a set amount that i decide to contribute via church, charities, etc., and even if i cut back on what i bought, that wouldn't really change what i donated.

        2. re: Gio

          I like to think of them enjoying the fresh cherries. I can't because of allergies (cooked works) and I wish I could join them. Fortunately, I _can_ cook them.

        3. Two things struck me on this, both relating to some of the criticism I see on Chowhound and elsewhere about other people's shopping choices. I wake up every day knowing that I am incredibly fortunate, to be able to buy fresh fruits, fish, meat, veggies at the farmer's market and pay reasonably high prices to do so. Reading this just makes me appreciate this again and want to find a way to help more...

          1) it's incredible how expensive it is eat a balanced meal. I saw this with my aunt's family, when she lost her job. They went from having a fridge that was stocked with fruits, vegetables and steaks that their kids could eat any time to a pantry stocked with (as we see in the picture above), cup of noodles... and my cousins would talk about eating 2 or 3 for dinner at night and nothing else.

          2) it never occurred to me that some people literally don't have stoves / fridges. and so the lady's explanation that she has to buy non-perishables really struck me.

          I get it, it's in our nature to look at others and judge their actions, and wonder why they're buying junk food and not healthier stuff, but i know for me, going forward, i'll be a lot slower in judging after reading this article.

          52 Replies
          1. re: FattyDumplin

            I am glad to hear this, FD, and yeah -- it's a good reminder of how lucky we are indeed: to choose whatever the fuck we want to eat on any given day.

            Perhaps that explains the judgmental attitude of some posters on this site towards people who are already the weakest members of our society. How easy it is to forget.

            1. re: FattyDumplin

              Yeah, it's hard to eat nutritious food when you're poor. No fridge or stove means probably limited storage space. So limited bulk purchases, no batch cooking and storing food. Possibly no car, which makes it hard to take advantage of sales on larger packages or those $10 off 10 items sales. We're left with the people who can least afford it spending extra money to buy food that will fill their kids' bellies but has little nutritional payoff.

              1. re: ErnieD

                sometimes, if there is a little money available, the choice is between buying fast/instant/packaged food or buying a pot so that you could cook better food in the future.

                obviously, the fast/instant/packaged food wins.

                1. re: ErnieD

                  Yes, I've volunteered at food banks in my neighbourhood, but the people weren't homeless and the women, in particular the immigrants, were brilliant at preparing nutritious meals for their families. It is far easier to do if you have a home, however small, a fridge, also however small (though a freezer compartment is a big help for poor families) and a stove or at least a hotplate.

                  Yes, indeed, if she had some kind of stable home, she'd be able to buy grains, beans and vegetables, and occasional treats.

                  1. re: lagatta

                    You've got a bit of selection there. immigrants tend to be high functioning, intelligent people -- and motivated too.

                    1. re: Chowrin

                      I almost posted something snarky, but after a moment, my thought became that you're right and it's sad this has to be pointed out.

                      disadvantaged does not = stupid. just poor.

                      1. re: hill food

                        No, actually I agree with chowrin about that (my graduate degree is in history of migrations). It did sound like "poor bashing", but I really don't think it was.

                        There are many kinds of disadvantages. On the other side, there are many workers with limited formal education, who did their jobs very well and made very good salaries in industry, who find it very hard to get another because of their limited education and computer knowledge.

                        One of the worst of clienteles of the "cuisine communautaire" was single men (often separated, divorced or widowed) who lived in little studio apartments on a certain street where there were many of those. I want to make it clear that this is NOT a negative stereotype about men; it is a certain type and a certain cohort of men. They really didn't know how to cook for themselves, though they certainly had a small fridge and some kind of stove or rangetop.

                        Some really got into cooking, though!

                        And then, some of us are overeducated and underemployed. Ageism is really a factor. But it is very important to eat good and nutritious food. and to have meals with friends!

                        1. re: lagatta

                          and actually I agree with you. sometimes these suggestions fail to take into account all the factors and logistics involved (that you, chowrin and others are aware of).

                      2. re: Chowrin

                        I think what's more apropos is that immigrants tend to live in communities where they share resources (like cooking, child care, etc.). The American culture of individualism and self-reliance with the idealization of nuclear families that live in separate, self-sufficient households has really hurt poor communities.

                        In addition, immigrants are more likely to be from places where knowing how to cook and make the most of inexpensive ingredients was the norm. Many Americans are two or more generations from having someone in the kitchen making from-scratch meals on a daily basis. Even if they had access to fresh produce they wouldn't necessarily know what to do with it. And it becomes a vicious cycle: people don't buy produce so stores don't stock it, especially since unlike shelf goods, produce has a very limited shelf life and a significant percentage will have to be thrown away -- and thus a "food desert" is born. Immigrant neighborhoods are usually dotted with corner grocery stores selling relatively inexpensive produce.

                  2. re: FattyDumplin

                    It's definitely not in my nature to look at others and judge their actions, and wonder why they're buying junk food and not healthier stuff. Never have. Never will. There's a reason that poor mother has to live the way she does. We must do whatever we can to help them along.

                    My parents were international travelers so the food on our table each day was the finest and best. When my children were growing up and beyond we did the same for them. Now that we're just two it's still farms, Farmers' Markets, and other wonderful foodstuffs as needed. Organic, seasonal, local.

                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                      #2 is so huge. While this woman is in a shelter with no storage, there are all sorts of other poverty living arrangements where stoves/fridges aren't options (i.e. insecure access to electricity, living in motels, etc.). It's easy to talk about the cost bulk rice and dried beans/lentils - but if you don't have a stove, it's not an option.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        Which makes me wonder, if one of the things that might be a boon to the truly poor, would be to donate crock-pots, white gas/propane camp stoves, electric hot-plates, basically small, portable cooking devices. It would certainly expand the range of options for food that could be considered.

                        1. re: AlexRast

                          Perhaps a crock pot, the camping stove and hot plate is not going to be allowed in temporary housing situations.

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            Which would make me wonder in turn what the management of the temporary housing expected tenants to do in order to feed themselves.

                            I can probably anticipate the general form of the response in a lot of cases: "That's not my problem"

                            Which, I suspect, is at the root of the problem quite generally.

                            1. re: AlexRast

                              It's not the management of the housing that is the root of the problem, most fire codes have restriction(s) forbidding such cooking devices. Either fire code or insurance liability insurance is what rules out these out.

                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                Ahh, yes, the other aspect of modern "civilisation": try as best as you can to make poverty illegal...

                          2. re: AlexRast

                            I think further exploring the crockpot option might also provide a unique solution to cases where you have a single parent working very long hours and very young children are often left alone to fend for themselves meal wise. Often these kids are left with only microwave options, but a crockpot could be an alternative way around that where the kids just need to serve themselves from the crockpot.

                            1. re: cresyd

                              I use my slow cookers a ton, but I think that one of the bigger problems with this would be that the things that slow cookers tend to do well also tend to result in some leftovers, which without refrigeration, would just end up wasted.

                            2. re: AlexRast

                              They still need at least a little fridge to keep their food from going bad, especially in hot climates.

                            3. re: FattyDumplin

                              I lived in Sri Lanka for eight years - it's a third world country. When I first moved there in 2003, only around 2/3 of the population had electricity to their homes. Somewhere around that same amount have water piped to their homes. It's common in Sri Lanka for people to buy rice, veggies, meat (if they can afford it) every day, and they cook only what they can afford to buy that day. Only the relatively rich buy enough food to last several days to a week. Only the relatively rich have enough disposable income to be able to do that.

                              For those without water, in some areas, there are communal water taps that the entire neighborhood shares, and it's at these communal water taps that they get their drinking water, wash their dishes and their laundry, and they bathe. If there aren't communal water taps, then they'll go to the nearest creek, river, lake, or other water source and use that, no matter the condition of the water. Frequently, that creek, river, lake, or whatever is the same water they use for cooking that's also used for bathing and washing clothes.

                              Many people still cook with wood stoves. If they can, they upgrade to what westerners would call propane camping stoves. Only rich people (relatively speaking) can afford fridges and stoves. (My mother in law got her first washing machine only about twelve or thirteen years ago, and they're middle-income.) Most people, even when they have a stove that also has an oven, never use the oven. I really mean never. I don't think my mother in law (she's Sri Lankan) has ever used an oven in her entire life.

                              1. re: LMAshton

                                What a fun life you're having with all of the travel and rich exposure to multiple cultures. Way to go! But it also occurs to me that the "poor" of "third world" cultures have a few rich and distinct advantages that the "downwardly mobile" poor of America do not have. They ALL know how to cook! Unfortunately, that is not an advantage shared by all poor globally, most especially the urban poor of the United States.

                                I think that's key to this discussion. Our second and third generation urban poor in the U.S. are frequently people who have been raised by parents (single or married) who have had to work multiple jobs with no time to cook and no money for nannies, let alone no longer living in extended families with live-in grandparents to cook for the kids/family. Cooking is no longer taught in our public schools as a STANDARD part of a curriculum (as it once was) intent on preparing students for an independent and self sufficient life. We have urban poor in this country who are second and third generation people who have grown up with Pop Tarts and Happy Meals as their norm, or maybe evan with a school lunch as their sole meal of the day, and for whom cooking was something people only did on TV. Third world "poor" have some rich advantages America's urban poor rarely share.

                                It doesn't matter how little you make at a job or even if you have a job, if you regularly share a home cooked meal with your family, whatever country you live in, you have a richness money cannot buy.

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  PopTarts and HappyMeals are better than eating raw flour and butter.

                                  Cooking was a standard part of my school curriculum, and it sucked, and I hated it. I don't think I learned much of anything from it either.

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    I saw a photojournalism exhibit with a boy who had monkey pox. apparently they eat the monkeys even though they know the might die if the monkey had monkey pox.

                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                      Meat is tasty, and nutritive.
                                      (Monkeys are also really annoying).

                                    2. re: Chowrin

                                      Well, when I was a girl, "Home Economics" (Économie familiale) was standard for girls, but I never learned anything in it; we made nothing but sweets.

                                      My mother was widowed and I had to cook.

                                      Yes, I think there should be unisex "Life" courses that teach cooking, mending, basic repairs and how to put shelving up, as well as the rudiments of a budget.

                                      But if one is homeless, it is hard to apply those lessons.

                                    3. re: Caroline1

                                      No, not ALL know how to cook. The vast majority cannot afford nannies or hired help either. Most are poor, much poorer than most first world people can imagine. Did you miss the part where I mentioned that many don't have water piped to their homes (which are commonly 4'x6' shacks on land they don't own - squatters) or electricity? They use the community water pipe (if there is one) and cook over wood fire. They buy what they can afford that day. They are nutritionally deficient and don't get enough calories. Children's growth is stunted because of the caloric deficiencies and nutritional deficiencies. Free school lunches or breakfasts are not a thing.

                                      But you think they're better off than the American poor? Really?

                                      1. re: LMAshton

                                        Thank you. I am astonished that anyone could romanticize third world poverty by citing its supposed "rich advantages." As hard as some people in the US have it, at least potable water is almost always available here. So far.

                                        1. re: small h

                                          Yes! We have a vast array of government support for those in poverty that 3rd world countries simply do not/cannot have. I can't understand why people romanticize poverty. It stinks.

                                            1. re: lagatta

                                              Yes, in the US. We'll agree to disagree.

                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                Well the problem in the U.S. is that when it comes to any "assistance" program, especially federal or state programs, they are fast sinking into failure mode. Why? Simply because our "tax based funding" has been gutted. There is not only no working together between our elected officials in our federal and state capitals, but even more insidious is the fact that between congress passing favored status legislation for mega corporations for decades now, those corporations have now out-sourced billions of middle class jobs leaving our tax base and infrastructure funding in a world of hurt! At the risk of sounding over dramatic, the World Trade Center buildings collapsed because aircraft collided with them and took out their middle. Basic physics in action. Remove the middle of anything and it WILL collapse! That is equally true of the economic structure of any government. We ARE in trouble!

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  didn't someone once write something to the effect of "without a strong middle the edges can not survive"?

                                                  which reminds me of high school physics class, the more extreme the orbiting protons and electrons etc. around an atom, the more unstable and radioactive it becomes and falls apart over time. - get too edgy and it falls apart.

                                        2. re: LMAshton

                                          Caloric insufficiency is actually pretty rare in the 3rd world, so far as I know...

                                          1. re: LMAshton

                                            Thank you for working so hard to misunderstand me. Ah well... Tomorrow is another day. Maybe I can work harder at being better understood?

                                            Just for the record, I have lived in countries and areas where conditions were "primeval." I am not new to this world, and I have seen first hand what no local development or potable water can do to the local population. I do know something about living without electricity. Been there, done that and found you CAN cook a good meal on a kerosene space heater without having dinner come out tasting like jet fuel. I've experienced war zones. I have lived where mothers intentionally crippled their own babies to ensure the infant's future success as a beggar... *IF* the baby survives that long. So I'm not new to the things you mention.

                                            HOWEVER...! I stand by what I wrote! I have seen such families and watched how, DESPITE their poverty and predicament, they often have rich family relationships that bring them joy within the traditions of their own culture. As a lifelong student of cultural anthropology, I long ago concluded that bringing disease control through easily available technology (mosquito netting, water purification, etc.) is something that should be spread globally. I'm just not convinced that forcing indiginous peoples all over the world to accept "western culture" in exchange for such disease banning technology is a fair trade for them.

                                            Anyway, for anyone interested in helping make sure at least some of the children living in total deprivation have clean drinking water, here is a list of such organization you may find useful:

                                            https://www.filtersfast.com/articles
                                            /Water-Charities-A-Comprehensive-List.php

                                            Ooops! That's a long URL! Well, here are some shorter ones to some of my favorites:

                                            The Water Project
                                            http://tinyurl.com/mhzklua

                                            Water Aid
                                            http://tinyurl.com/n7mf4cn

                                            Water is Life
                                            http://tinyurl.com/ovcro9b

                                            Ms Ashton, I hope you're a regular donor.

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              I donate more in the form of R&D, but I always did like force multipliers!

                                              http://www.heifer.org/

                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                If it wasn't for R&D where would we all be? There's nothing more frustrating than recognizing needs but no way to meet them. Yay for R&D! ... ... ... Well, most of it anyway. '-)

                                                I love the Heifer project, Better a Fishing pole than just a fish!

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  Yeah. I hafta post about it, because I recognize there are folks out there of the Republican persuasion who kinda dig that sort of thing. ;-)

                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                    LOL! You mean those guys who think it's still 1776? '-)

                                              2. re: Caroline1

                                                <Thank you for working so hard to misunderstand me.>

                                                You wrote: "They ALL know how to cook!"
                                                LMAshton responded: "No, not ALL know how to cook."

                                                Seems pretty unambiguous to me. You made an incorrect statement, and LMAshton countered it. Where's the misunderstanding?

                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                              i learned nothing of value from that idiotic, waste-of-time, home ec cooking class.

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                I think you're the second person to say that, which leaves me wondering why I found it useful? But I've always said you can get a lousy education from a great school if you get the wrong teachers. As I recall, my home ec classes were fun. In cooking classes we learned things like making omelettes and how to jazz 'em up, biscuits and how to jazz them up (fillings, toppings, or placed raw on top of simmering stews and allowed to turn into dumplings). Stuff like that. I had some pretty creative teachers who seemed to realize that if they made what they were teaching fun students would learn more. Which is not to say every teacher I ever had was that smart. '-)

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  My daughter learned to use pop and fresh dough, roll in cinnamon sugar and make snacks. I don't think they learned anything about cooking in that class that didn't involve processed food. OTOH, the instructor was a costume designer so they learned to sew some impressive things. At least she can learn cooking at home because she won't be learning sewing from a pattern from me!

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    I suspect that what we learn at any age has a lot to do with our mothers and what they did or did not help us learn. I eagerly learned to sew very early because my mother (she loved doing it but she truly sucked at it!) made school clothes for me that were a complete humiliation to wear. Think gored plaid skirt with each and every panel of plaid going a different direction! It was sooooo bad that no self respecting circus clown would wear it. On the other hand, all four of my brother's kids have fond childhood memories associated with her sewing. Every year she made pajamas for each of them, and every Christmas morning they would have a contest to see whose pajamas had the most straight pins left in the seams. True story! I'm also very happy to report she never once tried to make pajamas for my kids. She bought their "Christmas pajamas from Grandma." I suspect a lot of my learning was what psychologists call a "defense mechanism." I was protecting myself! LOL

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      My mom took a polyester double knit class when I was in elementary school. As in matching tops and bottoms. Quite the look when everyone else was wearing jeans and tshirts. LOL, I do remember the pins being left in too well!

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        LOL! I didn't know I had a sister until now! '-)

                                                2. re: westsidegal

                                                  I see that I was lucky to have learned so many cooking skills in home ec class, back in the late 60s. All those techniques like folding in, alternate, mix, beat, mince, dice, julienne... I learned all that in home ec. My mother taught my three sisters and me how to cook, but the actual techniques I learned at school.
                                                  We made meatballs (that I still make the same way, 40+ years later), spaghetti sauce, learned how to cook pasta correctly. And yes, we made cinnamon toast for our first lesson, but even that is a learning experience for those who have never cooked.

                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                    huh I did, my middle-school made boys and girls take home-ec and wood shop - I don't think most kids in my class had touched a stove or sewing machine or table saw in their lives. In the suburb I grew up in (we're talking late 80s Berlin Wall is falling) nannies packed lunches, mommies ordered takeout, gardeners mowed the lawn and daddies worked late. While my family did not quite fit that stereotype nobody was teaching boys to cook or sew and neither my dad or stepdad was exactly mr fix it.

                                                    I dont remember much - we fried donuts, sewed a pillow, we planned a menu and threw a dinner for our parents - I think it was spaghetti - in woodshop I made a box. I beveled it and stained it and added brass hardware I bought myself at the hardware store. I still have it. These classes did not teach you much - but they demystified the processes - a band saw, a table saw, a sewing machine, a fry daddy etc. There are some things you should be able to do in a pinch - drive stick, cook a chicken - sew a patch really not gender specific just basic life skills lots of people don't learn at home. Now that I live in a very different place with much poverty and low education levels I see many kids who cannot even recognize baisc foods - like knowing the difference between strawberries and cherries - some home ec - something well beyond the capacity of our school system would do alot of good for kids being raised in homes with little or no culture of cooking or knowledge of nutrition.

                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                    I just said something similar above. In Oakland, for example, while the African-American neighborhoods could be classified as "food deserts" the Chinese, Vietnamese and Hispanic neighborhoods have lots of markets -- big and small -- offering fresh foods. I often buy produce there because the selection and prices are better than the standard supermarket. I actually rarely buy produce at a supermarket -- I either buy it at a farmers market or in Chinatown or Mi Pueblo.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Ruth, something I was TOTALLY unaware of until a friend (affluent middle class stay home mom) told me about it a month or two ago is that many (all?) 99¢ and 1$ stores have food, including fresh produce at super deep discounts. And these are national chains. The bottom line here is that there are places where the homeless CAN get super cheap foods from the full range of groceries -- produce, dairy, frozen meals, bakery, the whole nine yards. From there it takes a certain amount of resourcefulness for the homeless to figure out where and how to reheat or cook a meal if they don't live in a situation that has kitchen access.

                                                      A major problem for homeless people is that their situation DOES cause depression, and that will seriously decrease their resourcefulness and creative thinking abilities, so there are situations in which homeless people are their own worst enemies because they are unaware of what is within easy reach. It's a vicious circle.

                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        Yes, depression is a factor. It's also been shown that poverty causes cognitive impairment. http://www.slate.com/articles/busines...

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          Ruth - yes. I've never been homeless, but I have been a member of the working dirt-poor.

                                                          poverty is indeed soul-crushing and makes it difficult to see ones options even with a working kitchen and bathroom.

                                              2. Great article. I live in an area without a lot of visible homeless people and they are definitely overlooked. Many are working but live in vehicles or cheap hotel rooms. They face the same issue as the woman in this article. There's just no way to store quality food and they may not be able to walk to the store every day or afford the gas to drive there.

                                                Thanks for posting this.

                                                1. Thanks for sharing this. Makes me glad I decided to run a food drive at work over the summer.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: 512window

                                                    Good for you...!!! That's wonderful. :-)

                                                  2. This reminds of a video I watched the other day. The concept was simple, to watch peoples inner action and generosity when it comes to a homeless looking beggar.

                                                    They found an "older" say late 50's maybe 60 year old white male. He was scruffy and dirty when they found him. They had him stand on the side walk, mid block in some cosmopolitan type city, where he stood and asked people generally for $. 50 towards a cup of coffee. Most if not all whom they secretly recorded just walked by......ignoring his out stretched hand and his plea for some change. A few even barked back at him chastising him for begging.

                                                    They took the man to a barber, got him a fresh hair cut and shave, then shopping with new slacks, dress shirt and sports jacket, they brought him back to the same location. With a cell phone as a prop which he held up to his ear, he pull the phone away and said just about the identical thing as before "Hey, I'm about $.50 short for a cup of coffee can you help me?". One after the other reached in their pocket to help the copier salesman, carpet salesman, middle manager, realtor or who-ever they assumed he was now. One person just gave him a $5.00 bill and kept walking away.....no words exchanged.

                                                    Within say 5 minutes the person probably collected $10-$20......to which you can tell he was amazed. The under cover assignment came to an end, when another homeless person over-heard him asking for change, and the homeless man maybe in his 20's walked up to the older well dressed man and gave him $1. That was too much for the "actor" to handle and he broke character to give the homeless man his money back.

                                                    The video even made a shallow SOB like myself pause for a minute and reflect. I too would have probably stopped and "helped" the grandfatherly looking man, and scoffed at the scruffy homeless version of the same. I can honestly say, I'm a bit ashamed of myself for knowing that.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                      We all judge based on appearances - and give on our own sympathy - I think people are often more inclined to give to someone they can identify with. As well it is easy to make the quick judgment that this better dressed person may really be just short of change vs the assumption that the "dirty bum" is just an addict looking for a fix.

                                                      I live in a neighborhood/city plagued with addicts - the flat out assumption is pretty much anybody asking for anything is after drug money - I pity the person who actually runs out of gas or looses their wallet here.

                                                      1. re: JTPhilly

                                                        Great response, but it's easy to be cynical when every beggar needs "money for a sandwich" or bus fare. Never do they say "I want to buy a packet of cigarettes" or some heroin.
                                                        I'm not sure that honesty about their need for money would get me to donate, but neither will I give a clearly drug addled person money for "a hotdog".

                                                        1. re: cronker

                                                          Good point. There are tons of people asking for money both in the area where I live and where I work. I never give money because it might be spent on items that are detrimental to both the person I'm giving it to and my community. I have given food in the past, especially if I'm approached while carrying groceries. Recently there was a young woman in the middle of San Francisco with a sign that read, "Hungry. Please help." I offered her a bag of pretzels, and she said no. So I can definitely understand helping someone you trust will use your money for an actual cup of coffee vs. being reluctant to give it to someone who may be lying to you. I mean, there's a man who CONSTANTLY stands outside and says that he's short just 50 cents to take the subway. Obviously I don't believe him and wouldn't give him any money out of suspicion.

                                                      2. re: jrvedivici

                                                        ANd one good beggar story deserves another! At least a decade or two ago, when I still lived in El Paso, I was in a lane to take me onto the interstate, but there was a huge back up of cars. I couldn't figure out what was going on. As I inched my way forward, it was drivers pulling over to make a donation to a beggar at the side of the road. He was holding up a sign that said, "Help! I'm feeling horny. Please donate to my recreation fund. God bless!"

                                                        This is an absolutely true story! The guy got to be a regular at that location, and he came up with some amazingly creative signs. Made me wonder how an advertising genius could become homeless, or was he doing it on a dare? Other beggars tried the same location, even while he was there, but he's the one who got the donations for his hugely amusing reasons for needing help. One of my faves was, "Please help me find out if the steaks at Cattle Baron's are better than Denny's." The cars were lined up waiting to donate!

                                                        The success of any idea depends on presentation.

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          Somewhere on the interweb I saw "Bet you can't hit me with a quarter!"

                                                        2. Thanks for posting this.

                                                          What I took from the article is that the homeless don't just need our *food* per se, but our refrigerators and our stoves.

                                                          How can we ensure that all U.S citizens have access to safe food storage and cooking devices? To me this is right up there with medical care.

                                                          "Life, liberty and happiness".

                                                          12 Replies
                                                          1. re: pedalfaster

                                                            Communal kitchens, and avoiding regulations that limit how small houses/apartments can be.

                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                              Exploring how to a design a communal kitchen could be really fascinating in terms of both safe pantry and fridge storage, as well as stove/oven time. It could also be a great resource for those who are utilities insecure (i.e. not always able to have electricity).

                                                            2. re: pedalfaster

                                                              Housing - the mother in the article is in crisis housing - presumably she will qualify for one or another forms of housing assistance and move to a permanent situation. Better crisis housing options and faster transitions for to permanent housing situations are critical. A family like the one in the article will have a much better chance for permanent housing than non-senior singles or a childless couple.

                                                              1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                Thanks to both cresyd and chowrin.

                                                                I LOVE too cook. I own a house and a kitchen.

                                                                Am "disabled".

                                                                I would ~love~ to share my cooking space.

                                                                Is there a registry for that?

                                                                1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                  Even if you can't share (might be transportation difficulties, and childcare difficulties), showing up with a great big mess of beans and greens is likely to brighten the shelter's day (call first, obviously!).

                                                                  1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                    While I certainly applaud your "thinking outside the box" in ways' of trying to change the situation, I had a bit of a reality check when I was thinking over my exchange with AlexRast above.

                                                                    Let's say we are able to find away to give them an adequate space for storage and cooking of "fresh" food. What percentage of the homeless population do you think actually know's how to cook? Think about it for a minute......I mean if you are going to boil water, add pasta and throw canned tomato sauce on it, what's the different than eating it directly from a can? In order to make nutritional differences you have to be able to cook with better ingredients, proteins and vegetables being the staple of a better diet.

                                                                    I know my own 18 year old daughter, who spent 1 year at a culinary college, barley makes an omelet. If I were to give her a piece of raw chicken she wouldn't know the first thing; A.) To safely handle/prep B.) To safely cook C.) To create something the least bit appetizing. While nobody is expecting homeless to be a chef, there is still a certain amount of basic skills and knowledge required to make even the most basic meals.

                                                                    I'm not trying to be insulting or dismissive of the homeless what so ever. I'm just saying perhaps we need to think a little further up stream to solving this problem. When did they stop teaching Home Economics? I've been out of school 25+- years and I don't remember it being part of any curriculum back then.

                                                                    Perhaps we need to come to the realization that everyone in this country doesn't grow up to be a Dr. or Lawyer and go back to teaching people the basic functions they need in life. I'll guarantee you if were to put 100 thirty year old or younger homeless people in front of a stove with all ingredients necessary 75% of them wouldn't be able to prepare a meal.

                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                      While I think a community kitchen wouldn't be a solution for a variety of the poor (not just homeless per say) - I do think that it could serve a need. I think when talking about big issues like poverty, there's rarely a "one size fits all" magic solution. But I do believe that there definitely are those who are poor but due to living in a shelter or a motel or their car, don't have kitchen space and/or don't have secure/proper storage.

                                                                      I think it could be a very interesting, outside the box idea to explore.

                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                        A ton of homeless are veterans. I'm willing to bet you could drill 'em in how to cook /decent/ (maybe not great) within a few weeks (extra time added on for mental breakdowns. there's a reason they're homeless, right?)

                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                          Most homeless people held down jobs and had homes prior to becoming homeless. I suspect they didn't forget how to cook. Now, the homeless population suffering from mental illnesses or addictions may not be in a position to safely cook every day but a camp stove would be a boon to many.

                                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                            We used to give $50 and $100 gift cards out to the clients on our case load on certain holidays, if they didn't or couldn't cook we would deliver meals to them or have restaurants deliver meals. Out of 60+ clients I had one man who was married to a woman who knew how to cook. It was truly amazing what she could do with just about anything...they were so gracious they invited others in need to eat with them.

                                                                            I had another woman who lived in motels on occasion she would fill the sink with ice to chill her bottled mocha frapps.

                                                                            I had another client who spent most of her food budget on sugar and oil and chicken drumsticks.

                                                                            I had others who purchased items they were familiar with and knew how to prepare.

                                                                            We offered nutrition counseling to all as well as assistance with shopping and preparing meals, not everyone was on board with this as expected.

                                                                            It's complicated

                                                                            There are vast differences between poor people managing and eating well on food stamps. There are vast differences between homeless living in shelters and homeless on the streets, all this in addition to chronic vs a spell of bad luck homelessness.
                                                                            There are vast differences among the homeless period.
                                                                            Just as there are vast differences among shelters.
                                                                            Just as there are vast differences among us!

                                                                            Just because someone is poor doesn't mean they will like beans, greens...
                                                                            Many shelters especially in the suburbs are nowhere near supermarkets, many folks purchase most items at bodegas some take food stamps some don't most are expensive, most of these folks don't have cars, kitchens, storage...

                                                                            I'll promise you one thing offer to buy almost any one of these folks a sandwich or prepared meal maybe a nice dessert and they will be very, very grateful.

                                                                        2. re: pedalfaster

                                                                          How you heard of the tiny house movement? It's pretty cool and would be an interesting thing for, say, Habitat for Humanity to explore.

                                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                                            That would be a good thing for Habitat for Humanity! I wonder why they haven't thought of it...

                                                                            The major issue with the tiny house movement is that they need a piece of land to put the house on. Habitat for Humanity is good at that. If it's on wheels, they need a car with enough oomph to tow the tiny house. Land out in the sticks might be cheaper, maybe even "free" (no one would know you were there, so you wouldn't have to pay a lease) but would be too far from a grocery store.

                                                                            I applaud the tiny house movement, and many of the ones I've seen have been brilliant. I lived in a Japanese "rabbit hutch" in Osaka for years, and the innovative use of space always impressed me.

                                                                            In Japan most houses had small (maybe 2 burners) gas stoves/hot plates and really small refrigerators. People shopped daily, but there were fruit and vegetable vendors as well as chicken and egg stands along the road from the train or subway. For beef you had to make a detour and go to the butcher's, but he stayed open late. I often grabbed a few things on my way home at night to cook on by 2 burners and/or toaster oven.

                                                                        3. Well,,,,wadda know? A Homeless person with a fancy computer and a liking for crap other than the blueberries not much there maybe those apples hiding. Tax dollars going down the tube.or the grocery aisle

                                                                          23 Replies
                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                            I'm sorry, but I don't understand what you are trying to say. It might be the... eccentric syntax, but -- do you have a point?

                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                              Yes..it was a pretentious post. You are not homeless nor I suspect poor. The point that many go hungry is valid..but this was a vapid post

                                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                Still pretty unintelligible, but I'll leave it at that.

                                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                Seems like a case of reading *Incomprehension* here compounded by snap judgements.

                                                                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                  It might help to read the article. No tax dollars or "fancy computers" involved, and the family has no refrigeration and must take all of their belongings with them when they leave their home. You're going to perforce eat a lot of junk. The mom probably did about as well as I could have given the restrictions she's facing. She's got produce, shelf-stable protein, and lots of cheap carbs-there aren't really many other options. I guess you could find healthier cereal, but if there's no fridge for the milk she may have gone with something her kids would be willing to eat straight out of the box.

                                                                                  1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                    Oh the injustice ... a homeless person with a fancy computer and the nerve to buy fresh blueberries and additional items that don't meet the standards of your warped opinion of what a subsidized homeless person deserves...give me a break!!! God I hope you aren't serious.

                                                                                    In NYS there are some decent and not so decent shelters. Rooms in some of the shelters that house families may have a microwave and a small refrigerator in them,the appliances are rarely in good shape and more often than not don't cool and heat properly. Many of the rooms are tiny, cramped and have issues with vermin. There are in addition staffed kitchens that provide the residents with their meals.

                                                                                    If you think the food the woman referred to in the article purchased is crap you need to take a look at what is prepared in many of those kitchens....much like prison food, that should please you or maybe not, they don't deserve food either even crappy food... Of course if one is homeless as in on the street homeless I suppose they could always grow their own fresh food outside where they live!!! If a person is receiving social security almost the entire check goes to shelter costs...the system is broken not the people.

                                                                                    1. re: chowdom

                                                                                      It's not the mom's computer, it is the journalist's.

                                                                                      Not that it would matter to Mr. Rand here, who likely never read the article in the first place.

                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                        lololololololololololol

                                                                                        Thanks for the correction

                                                                                        " Not that it would matter to Mr. Rand here, who likely never read the article in the first place."
                                                                                        That is the second funniest line I have read on Chowhound thus far. The first BTW was a line referring to a probable map of NYC pizza slices sewn into the lapel of NJ Governor Christie's Blue Blazer posted by MGZ...long story... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/787684
                                                                                        BTW for the record there are plenty of homeless in the burbs...the shelters I referenced were all in Westchester County... one of the most affluent.

                                                                                    2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                      Right, McSheridan, and compounded by preconceived ideas, totally false presumptions, without even bothering to read the article. The Mother is in a bind with horrible restrictions. She made some very astute decisions. You, FriedClamFanatic, did not.

                                                                                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                        I agree with FriedClamFanatic - I just look at the pretty pictures and don't bother to read the articles as well. Obviously this was written by a homeless person with a computer and nice digital camera. I'm guessing they must be either Asian (ramen) or Latino (tortillas) and probably of the Quaker faith (oatmeal/granola bars). They are clearly cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Don't blame me - I voted for Kodos.

                                                                                        1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                          The woman who wrote the article is NOT Homeless. She's a person with several jobs in fact but imagined herself in that circumstance. "So while today I am fortunate enough to pay the bills, that all could change in an instant." She then set out to do something to help a homeless mom with 2 children...

                                                                                          I really wish folks would read before posting an opinion.

                                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                                            I was joking. Maybe read my comment before replying?

                                                                                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                              If there's one certainty about communicating on the Internet, it's that sarcasm and subtle humor don't always translate to all readers.

                                                                                              There really ought to be a sarcasm font or indicator that we could use. On another board we used to use these [sarcasm on] text [sarcasm off].

                                                                                                1. re: mcsheridan

                                                                                                  [sarcasm on] Now THAT's an original idea! [sarcasm off]

                                                                                                  To be crystal clear, I'm joking. Jokey joke joke.

                                                                                                  (Honks nose, pulls numerous scarves from sleeve.)

                                                                                                2. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                  There's nothing I like better than a good joke. That wasn't apparent from your post that I Read.

                                                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                                                    The "I voted for Kodos" was kind of a giveaway, and usually people at least have the decency to pretend they read the article before rushing to judgment.

                                                                                                    1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                      I read the article. No where did it mention Kodos. You'd know that If You Read My Previous Posts. I took Nonniemuss at her word. How obtuse of me.

                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                        I did read your previous posts. You and I are in complete agreement on both the article itself and the obvious fact that the poster who spawned this subthread didn't read the article.

                                                                                                        The reference to Kodos is from The Simpsons. NonnieMuss' post read heavily sarcastic to me and my response was flippant, but I wasn't trying to call you obtuse.

                                                                                                        1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                          Although I do know who/what The Simpsons are/is I really have no reference to them. Therefore had no idea to what NM was referring. I feel that this issue with a poverty stricken person having to maintain some form of a living condition for herself and her children is not subject to humor. It's hell for her, and I'm not laughing.

                                                                                              1. A remarkable story, and bravo to the writer who came up with the spur or the moment idea to give someone fifty bucks and take them grocery shopping. WOW! Remarkable, fun, creative, and educational for all of us who read about it. My thoughts as I read? Well, first off, I have to admit I'm sort of an eccentric "outside the box" thinker. One of the things I thought about was wondering how much having a light weight easy to haul around single unit induction cooker and a good all purpose pan on her wagon could change her food choices. And I found myself wishing I were half my age -- or even just ten of fifteen years younger and a LOT more mobile, because I think it would be great fun to start up a "food education" program in shelters or Y's or wherever people would come to learn the strange things you can do to broaden your food options and really stretch your dollars. For example, I had a tomato salad for lunch today. Delicious! The tomatoes have been sitting on my kitchen counter for 3 full weeks and a few days, but they're still fresh, ripe and luscious because they've been sitting there STEM DOWN the whole time, and that makes tomatoes totally forget about time and rotting.

                                                                                                I'd try to help them learn how to set their imaginations free, because of all of the great great classic foods of the world, damned few of them are "expensive." Yep. You can pay a small fortune in a restaurant for oxtail stew and pork belly, but it's not because those cuts are expensive. The time to cook them and the chef's skills are expensive. And I happen to think that MY pork belly and ox tails taste every bit as good (or maybe even better?<g>) than Tom Calicchio's or Thomas Keller's! Don't scoff until you've tasted mine and tasted theirs! In other words, it's the time and love you put into really cheap food that can turn it into great food. BUT....!!! Let me cut you off at the pass here. Yes. I do understand that homeless moms (as well as happy home maker moms) don't always have time for low and slow cooking. But an omelette is fast, easy, and can be a dream meal with some cheap but unexpected embellishments.

                                                                                                Yes. When you're depressed and life is beating the shit out of you, it's hard to be upbeat about what you can do to feed your poor darling hungry kids. But you know what? Happiness is a skill. It is a skill that can be learned! And the more you practice it, the happier you get.

                                                                                                So.... That's a wonderful story. And we can only wish that everyone who reads it catches "the disease" and finds one homeless mom to give fifty bucks to and take grocery shopping. Wouldn't it be great if it "went viral?" Anyone want to take fifteen or so of my nearly (a month to go!) eighty one years off of my score card so I can go hold some cooking classes in shelters? God, that would be such fun...!!! Anyone want to do it for me????? '-)

                                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  Funny, I've been thinking about doing some nutrition education in my local food pantry. You're inspiring me to get off my ass and do it!

                                                                                                  1. re: thymeoz

                                                                                                    One of the great "jobs" I've had in my life involved teaching people how to cook "from scratch," except it was so much fun I felt guilty about accepting my paycheck! It's about 40 years ago that I taught some university extension program classes on how to cook specifically designed for newly divorced or widowed people who had no spouse to cook for them any more, and no clue about how to boil water. LOTS of laughter, and lots of good stuff learned from both sides of the fence!

                                                                                                    One of the most important things I learned is that the greatest barrier to becoming a very respectable cook is fear of making a mistake. I also learned that "I don't have time," or "I'm too tired" are very common excuses for avoiding learning how to cook. When one newly widowed father raising three daughters while struggling with a brand spanking new first job after graduation "career" said to me that now that he was learning how to cook, if he ever got married again, NO CHANCE his second wife would get to "keep all this fun for herself!" Brought a tear of joy to my eyes!!!

                                                                                                    Go for it! Call the food pantry and set something up now! I promise you, you'll have a blast!

                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                    i don't know where you live, but for me pork belly has more than doubled in price since last year and oxtail is now $7-$8 pp. the latter has little meat and is mostly only good for making broth. not something a homeless person can store or "use" tomorrow. both also take hours of cooking. how/where would a homeless mom do that?

                                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                      hmmmmmm... "Homeless people" DO NOT come in just one flavor. And that was part of my point.

                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                        by definition, they don't have a "home" so access to amenities many take for granted, like refrigerators and hours of access to a kitchen, aren't something they enjoy.

                                                                                                        while making an omelet takes only a few minutes where does a homeless person keep eggs and cooking fat with which to grease the pan?

                                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                          Many people throughout the world just keep eggs on the shelf. Ideally, buying only a few at a time. There are shelf-stable fats, and of course oil.

                                                                                                          1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                            Uh if you're homeless, you probably don't have a shelf, or the ability to lug around oils.

                                                                                                            1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                              Of course, if you are truly homeless. But there is a large category of people between those who have a proper house or apartment and those who are actually living in the streets or a night shelter. I've worked in associations dealing with housing issues.

                                                                                                              Relevant poem by local poet:

                                                                                                              http://readalittlepoetry.wordpress.co...

                                                                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                i realize eggs don't require refrigeration, but here in the us i have never seen individual eggs for sale.

                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                  I didn't mean individual. Surely there are places that sell half-dozens?

                                                                                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                                    sure. 1/2 dozens. i lived next to a homeless shelter for awhile and i know they were not allowed to cook food of any kind in there. they ate meals prepared by the staff.

                                                                                                                    there is/was a camp down by the river and they did have some rudimentary cooking set-ups.

                                                                                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                    You can buy single eggs at Whole Foods.
                                                                                                                    Probably not the first choice shopping destination of the homeless though.

                                                                                                                    1. re: 512window

                                                                                                                      agreed few homeless are going into whole paycheck but i have never seen single raw eggs. hard-boiled on the salad bar, yes. at $8.99 pp.

                                                                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                        At my Whole Foods they are in a section near the produce. Different types of eggs (duck, chicken, ostrich) sold individually. Raw, not cooked.

                                                                                                                        Maybe we are special.

                                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                              I'm gonna reply to myself on this one as a way of responding to the 3 of you who have responded to me already. Many people here are using a very rigid stereotypical definition of "homeless." Since the last big fairly recent market crash that set the whole world on its ear, I have met homeless people who lived in shelters where they did have access to the community kitchen to cook, if they so chose.

                                                                                                              I have had two homeless people work for me as house keepers during the past several years. One was just coming out of a divorce in which she lost her home, and she and her 7 year old daughter were living with friends until she could get on her feet enough to rent an apartment of her own. She was scared but brave, but clung to the idea that her situation was temporary, and that she could make it. She has.

                                                                                                              The other was a Hurricane Katrina refugee who came to me fresh off the evacuation bus from New Orleans right after I moved to Dallas. She was having an incredibly rough time with an infant and a toddler to care for. She was sheltered with her husband and daughters in a motel-like apartment by Red Cross because she and her husband lost EVERYTHING to the flood and had nothing to go back to, had they been given the option. But she could and did cook for her family, even though they were quite literally homeless. She lived in Ward 9 in New Orleans, and when the flood waters rose, she and other married siblings who lived in the area had to rescue themselves by making their way to the evacuation area. She was the only one in her family who was a strong swimmer. She swam across flood waters nine times towing the children across. I was so glad to have her. The most poignant thing she shared with me was how angry she was with herself over personal belongings she saved from her house as the flood waters were floating her carpets. She rescued her diplomas. She regretted not rescuing her family photo albums because she could get new copies of her diplomas but the photos were irreplaceable. I lost her after 3 1/2 weeks because her husband abandoned her and the children and took their only car. I had no way to keep in touch, but she was a very special homeless person, and a great example of what I'm talking about. Her best weapons were resourcefulness and a creative approach, even when she was facing what most would consider insurmountable odds, and she fiercely held on to that. I was fortunate to have her in my life for that short while.

                                                                                                              Not all "homeless" are mentally ill street people who sleep on cardboard boxes under highway overpasses, though God knows we have far far too many of those in America!

                                                                                                              The point that I am trying to make is that not all homeless people share identical circumstances. I also know that resourcefulness and innovation can help anyone get through really hard tines. Even homeless people. There just need to be a LOT more programs that reach out to them. A whoooooole lot more!

                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                Yes, in French one uses the term SDF (sans domicile fixe - without permanent abode). This includes the stereotype of the homeless tramp (as they were once called) who lives in some abandoned place and cooks, if he does (and he is usually a he) on a barrel fire or bonfire. But also people in rooms, cheap hotels that have become temporary housing and other dwellings.

                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                  Yes, not every homeless person is living in a shelter or on the streets. One is living in my tool shed. I'll note that there are other negative health side effects of not having access to refrigeration or cooking facilities: they tend to gorge on food when they have it, since they can't store it, and they're also more likely to eat food that's unsafe. Just imagine the misery of being homeless with food poisoning!

                                                                                                          2. While not homeless, I have a divorced single mother in my life that is living in grinding poverty. She is a college grad who works full-time but cannot find a job that pays above minimum wage.

                                                                                                            The ideas of community kitchens, access to the proper appliances, cooking lessons, etc. as all well and good but what is often overlooked in how exhausting living in poverty is for someone.

                                                                                                            My friend does not have the time or energy to do big batches of good (cheap) food to freeze for later. A frozen dinner is as good as it gets.

                                                                                                            I learned this after filling her freezer with roasts, ground beef, pork chops, etc. She asked for help with food and I thought "let me give her "good" food.

                                                                                                            Immediately I knew I made a mistake when I saw her reaction. It took her a while to convey to me that she didn't know how to cook 99% of it and no, she didn't have the time to learn how. She wasn't ungrateful, she was exhausted by just getting through the day, every day.

                                                                                                            Meeting her has completely changed the way I view poverty/food challenges.

                                                                                                            29 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                              What a difference it can make to put an actual human face on 'poverty', doesn't it?

                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                Such a difference, I can't even put it in words.

                                                                                                              2. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                Can the kid/s learn to cook?
                                                                                                                That's the point of calling it a community kitchen -- someone gets cooking duty, and you make enough for everyone. [Totally different style of cooking, fwiw.]

                                                                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                  There are cultural differences between us that make me hesitant to push too hard by suggesting the kids should be cooking.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                    Care to expand a bit on the cultural differences which would make you hesitant to suggest her (assuming) able bodied children to assist her? I'm assuming they are of sufficient age to help since you didn't mention that as the reason.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                      The children are young, too young to help or not is probably debatable depending one's view of old enough help.

                                                                                                                      We aren't close friends. She is someone I know that needed and asked for help and I was in a position to do so. I feel like I would be crossing a boundary if I give her parenting tips as it relates to what her kids should be doing.

                                                                                                                  2. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                    These are all good points. There's an unfair perception of laziness associated with convenience foods and not whipping up a healthy meal from scratch every night. I'm lucky enough to be middle-class with a working kitchen, some cooking skills and knowledge, and a grocery within walking distance. But I often don't have the time or energy to cook either, and it will be pizza, sandwiches, or a can of soup. And no one judges me for that. If I was managing a second job, children, or lacked transportation/refrigeration, it would be a whole 'nother story.

                                                                                                                    1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                      I can have a pizza on the table in 30 minutes, if I've got the right ingredients (fridge dough and tomato sauce). Cheaper'n anything, too.

                                                                                                                      Every few days you do need to cook up more sauce and make more dough (I let it sour in the fridge, doesn't hurt anything).

                                                                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                        As was mentioned in this thread, the majority of homeless people don't have a fridge, or access to a fridge.

                                                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                          lingua,
                                                                                                                          yes, conversation has wandered onto "person in trouble, but presuming low tier facilities"

                                                                                                                        2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                          Sure. I could too. But somedays I don't have those 30 minutes, or I'm just pooped. I can order a pizza online in 30 seconds.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                            But could you do it on a camp stove? I sure as heck couldn't (although, to be honest, I don't make dough of any sort). I'd be eating a lot of pasta and soup and baked beans and stuff like that. Maybe even broken spaghetti! When I was a Girl Scout, we did a lot of low impact camping for a week or so at a time. The food stunk. It was enough to live on but that's about it. Lots of carbs and boiled stuff. In the winter, it was a little easier, but during the heat of summer, we mostly ate tinned stuff and that shelf stable milk. Bleh.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                              No, I'd need coals for a pizza. (Check out the Cobb grill, it's really, really cool! and portable!)

                                                                                                                              When I went off for a 50 mile hike, I wound up using freezedried mountain house (and halvah. enough halvah to make you cry. -- and some dried beef salami).

                                                                                                                            2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                              If you're scrapping to live day to day, I doubt you take or have the time to make fresh dough and sauce, even every couple days. And it's probably not cheaper than cup o noodles.

                                                                                                                              In some respects, this is akin to the eat to live vs live to eat debate...

                                                                                                                              1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                                                                                                Depends on whether you're out of work or not.
                                                                                                                                Remember, plenty of folks on food stamps were driving posh (paid off) cars, a few years ago.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                  "plenty of folks". right.

                                                                                                                                  those who did? those cars were bought and paid for before they needed government assistance. they held on to vehicles that were reliable and cost little to maintain because they had taken care of them all along.

                                                                                                                            3. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                              many earning minimum wage work on their feet. some have 2 or even 3 of these kinds of jobs. by the time they drag themselves home do they want to spend any more time standing up? they barely have enough time to get a decent night's sleep.

                                                                                                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                I've known a few who have homes (of varying degrees), but no time to actually go to them between shifts.

                                                                                                                              2. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                                When I had temporary custody of my 5 nephews I made breakfast every morning before school, and a home cooked dinner from scratch every night. The exception was Wednesday night. Then I ordered pizza delivered. They thought it was a treat for them, but it was really a break/treat for me.

                                                                                                                                Their mother raised them all on fast food so it was a revelation to have real food twice a day. Over the weekend they helped me make up the next week's menu. Then they helped me in the kitchen when I was making their choice for that night's dinner. Two of the kids actually asked me to teach them how to cook, and they made quesadillas for their parents when they came to visit. The next week they made tacos, with hamburger they had cooked and spiced up themselves - no packets of "taco seasoning." I did dice the onions for them. They also used taco shells because I didn't want them messing with hot oil (they were in elementary school). Once they made pancakes, from scratch. They also mastered grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna melts. Their mother was a housewife and truly lazy (I still think she suffered from depression) and the only thing she ever made was coffee for herself. Half the time she didn't even send the kids to school (they had a 60% absentee rate when I got them from Child Protective Services) and they came to me every weekend (before they moved in with me) wearing dirty clothes and carrying a bag of dirty clothes per kid. I'd send them home on Sunday with clean clothes for the week and leftovers to get reheated at home.

                                                                                                                                Now they all know what home made food should taste like, and the 2 oldest are off in the world and cook regularly. They even have people over to their apartments for dinners!

                                                                                                                                1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                  What a great thing you did for those kids! Yay for REAL cooking!

                                                                                                                              3. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                Give her a crockpot to go with that meat - it vastly simplifies the cooking process because you just throw it in and forget it and you don't have to worry about the house burning down while you're at work.

                                                                                                                                But yes, your food options are only as good as your available time and energy to prepare them... not homeless or poor by US standards, but our food dropped dramatically in quality when I became chronically ill a few years ago and cooking meals from scratch more than once or twice a week seemed about as doable as climbing Mount Everest. Now DH is diabetic I've had an abrupt awakening and we've been forced to go back to 'real' food, expensive as it is.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                  A crockpot (edit Programmable Slow Cooker) and a rice cooker could do wonders - if the person in inclined to learn at least that much - there is still some work/time in the learning curve though. If the individual is not inclined some fresh fruits and salad stuff can make a huge difference supplementing prepared foods.

                                                                                                                                  I think the ability to cook from scratch is an important life skill that should not be overlooked - no one should be intimated by a pork chop, a chicken or a container of oats because in reality quick simple whole meals can be cheaper and easier than prepared/take out foods.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                                                                    If they cook anything like my wife does in a crock pot, I think that would be unconstitutional for cruel and unusual punishment towards the poor.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                      Yeah, I can cook well in a crockpot, but it still takes some skill, knowledge, a pantry of spices, etc. Plus the cash to buy it. If she just dumps pork chops or ground beef in in the morning and comes home hoping they will be appetizing 12 hours later, that is set up for failure. Expecting people who are already experiencing failure all day long day after day to be eager to take on new challenges is probably the same.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                                        It takes a place to store one, electricity to plug in, etc. which homeless don't have. When we have homeless people come to the pantry, it's a struggle to find things they can take other than pb, bread, canned goods (as long as they have a can opener which some don't have). You can't even give them jam and foods that need to be refrigerated after opening.

                                                                                                                                2. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                  All really good points. Someone always jumps into these threads suggesting to make a pot of beans. That still necessitates a fair amount time in the kitchen or at least nearby, as do many cheaper cuts of meat. Something that's a fun project for me, with a cup of coffee, Netflix streaming on my kindle, decent cookware, a job that doesn't keep me on my feet all day, no small kids with demands on my time, etc. can be grueling for someone else. The temptation to judge is high when people don't do what you think you would in a given situation, but cash flow is far from the only barrier to accessing nutritious food.

                                                                                                                                  I've worked with a very limited food budget. It's hard. There just aren't that many foods that are quick AND cheap AND healthy.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                                    There are so many social issues that need to be addressed that have contributed to her situation.

                                                                                                                                    Why can't a person working full time in this country make ends meet? We need to address minimum wage.

                                                                                                                                    Why can't a divorced mother find a job to support her family? We need to address wage inequality.

                                                                                                                                    Why is a single parent so tired at the end of the day, she doesn't have the energy to cook a meal? We need to address child care to assist low income earners.

                                                                                                                                    She is lucky to have found you as a friend. Many have nowhere to turn.

                                                                                                                                  2. I didn't realize I was probably supposed to click on the babble.com until I read several responses. I am going to try it now. But before I read it, I wondered if being homeless was being equated with "running out of food at least once a year".

                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                      That's a different term: food insecure.

                                                                                                                                      Homeless can mean "kids sleeping with relatives", but it's pretty clear that you don't have a stable house.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                        I might read it again, as it's been a few days, and maybe I'm missing something. At the time I read "that homeless mom is me....and you, (because we will run of food)" ...I was thinking I work with families across that spectrum almost everyday, and most of the time, it seems to me that homelessness takes running out of food to a "whole 'notha level".

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                          Yeah, when they are coincident, it can be truly brutal.

                                                                                                                                          It's quite possible to have plenty of food and to be homeless, though.

                                                                                                                                    2. I've noticed the word "beggar" seems to be accepted on the European Chowhound like it's no big deal.

                                                                                                                                      But frankly it surprises me that Americans on this board still use that word.

                                                                                                                                      1. As a librarian in New York City I have spent 30 plus years assisting homeless patrons. There aren't that many places in NYC that offer as many free services to anyone who walks in as we do. The library can offer quite a lot - a warm place in the winter, a cool place in the summer, a place to sit and read the current newspapers and magazines and books, access to computers (including computer instructional classes), some entertainment programming (films, music and drama performances), English language instruction, literacy programs, a bathroom, a drinking fountain. We don't provide food or clothing but can refer them to several nearby (a couple of blocks away) churches and community centers that provide both. Plus of course the city shelters, which some will use and some will not. Many of these folks I've been seeing for years and years.
                                                                                                                                        All my experience has led me to agree with Lars Eighner that the main problem poor people have is a lack of money, and the main problem homeless people have is the lack of a home. If these folks had homes to go to they wouldn't have any more problems than anybody else - they're not crazier or more violent or more drug-addled. They just don't have a place to live.

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                                          I'm a librarian in Chicago, and my experiences are quite similar to yours. When I was in Copenhagen last year, I was on a tour bus ride to the airport and our guide pointed out a little community that looked like a very well-preserved 1950's motel. "That's where our homeless people live", she said. "We have about 500 homeless people in Copenhagen."

                                                                                                                                          1. re: merkay

                                                                                                                                            Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen indeed.

                                                                                                                                        2. She doesnt have a home... no elec.... no refridgeration. what exactly did you expect her to get? kh

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: khintx

                                                                                                                                            Um. I think that is exactly what the post and the article are about. Not judging people when they don't have options.

                                                                                                                                          2. Yes I agree with you. Food is a precious commodity not to be taken for granted and so is water. So many impoverished countries do not even have access to running water.

                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                            1. I fail to see how the above comments will feed hungry people. Instead of rationalizing one's perspective and politics, what can we do to feed the world? This has been my question and quest for quite a while, but I'm not so talented as to supply a solution.
                                                                                                                                              I do not wish to join in to a disputatious dialog. I do, however, look forward to hearing systemic solutions to provide a way to eliminate hunger.
                                                                                                                                              If someone has such an idea, and posts it here, I would appreciate an email contact so that contributions can be made.

                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: mrsdebdav

                                                                                                                                                  We can start by being aware that we are very privileged and stop taking food and water for granted. We can look around us and help those in need and start paying things foward.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mrsdebdav

                                                                                                                                                    There really isn't a one-stop-shopping solution that is at all possible, though, because food-insecurity has a huge variety of causes. Disabled people are at a higher risk for poverty, so we would have to improve services to them. Some kind of incentive would need to be created to move real grocery stores into food deserts. An awful lot of people have been bankrupted by medical debt, so now we have to take on reforming the healthcare industry. The economy needs to improve-8% unemployment creates a lot of at-risk people. The housing market needs to improve so that fewer people are upside down in mortgages they can't afford. Minimum wage needs to raise so that we aren't spending finite resources because a full-time job is inadequate to feed a family. None of this is free, and people are already outraged at paying for the scarce services we do provide, so we would have to find a way to convince them not to fight against every cent that gets spent. That's where articles and conversations like this come into play. An awful lot of people would look at that woman's basket and EBT card and judge. I might have at one point in my life. But when you hear her story, you see that her choices are perfectly rational and she's not just using tax dollars to load her kids up on junk food. Maybe someone will think twice about emailing a senator that they will never vote for her again if she supports SNAP. No systemic solutions are possible without a strong perspective and some degree of politics.

                                                                                                                                                    If you are looking for something concrete to do, your local food bank can tell you a lot about the needs of your community. They get tons of donations around the holidays, but many are really struggling at this time of year. I had a diabetic patient get sent on his way last month with five bags of hot dog buns, a container of fruit punch, and a couple of zucchini. They just really need money more than anything else to avoid these types of situations like these, so if you're willing to donate cash instead of three-year-old cans of veggies from the back of your pantry, you can make a huge difference.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                                                                      That's an excellent response. If it were as easy as one solution, we wouldn't have the problem. I want to add that the food dollars donated are so much better than the food donated because of the purchasing power of pantries at food banks. I used to pick up the items the food pantry requested but learned that they could get so much more with the money so now I donate. It's easier on both ends.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                                                                        Yes! My local food bank loves grocery store gift cards for $10. I try to grab a couple each month and drop them off every 5 or 6 months since they don't expire. People need to stop donating weird crap they unearth from the back of their pantries and donate food they would actually eat.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mrsdebdav

                                                                                                                                                        http://www.heifer.org/
                                                                                                                                                        Here's one. Will post more later.

                                                                                                                                                        Consider donating to UNICEF:
                                                                                                                                                        http://www.ipsnews.net/2010/12/health...

                                                                                                                                                        Best bang for your buck -- for about $10, you can save a kid from going blind (and then begging on the streets until they die).

                                                                                                                                                        Will post more later.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                          May I please give a Plus One for Heifer. It is our go-to gift in this family; everyone we know already has enough stuff. Heifer makes an important difference in lives and that is hard to do with a shirt/tie/purse gift. Using the "teach a person how to fish ..." idea, Heifer works all over the world improving lives a little at a time.