Monday, August 29, 2011

Learning To Eat Right

Last week the Huffington Post had an article on line about a chef in San Francisco who was doing a fund raiser for the food bank.  In order to publicize the event, he started about 2 months ago living on the the same amount of money the average person receives each month in food stamps.  He figured he had about $4 a day to feed himself.  It really was an eye opening experience and he blogs about it at  As always, the comments about the article are all over the place from folks that live that life everyday to the people complaining about food stamps.

The comments that got me thinking though were the ones about educating people how to not only eat right but shop smart.  I know that I live in a fairly urban area and in the portion of Charleston we live in, there are a fair amount of choices for shopping close by but, if you go not to far away, into some of the more poverty stricken areas, there are no grocery stores near by.  The bus transportation is poor here and for many people the only choice is to walk or get a taxi which is not really feasible. 

South Carolina for all its beauty has one of the worst education systems in the country, is one of the most obese states in the country and has one of the highest rates of kidney disease and diabetes.  How many of the health issues can be resolved by changing diet?

There is a great organization by the name of Slow Food.  If you have never heard of it, it is an international group devoted to educating people to healthier eating choices (I suspect there is more to it than that).  They are involved with some of the schools here in order to promote better food choices and healthier school menus.  Both of these are extremely important but...if the kids aren't introduced to this type of eating at home, chances are they will not eat that way at school.  Heck, we were all kids (some of you still are) and we can remember the food thrown out in the cafeteria every day.  It was never the chocolate pudding but usually the salad.  How do you reach the families in order to turn this around at home?

So this brings me back to the grocery store and shopping.  I go to quite a few stores to do my shopping.  Some are upscale some are not.  What I notice the most when I shop are the choices that people make.  I'm nosey, I admit it, and I guess part of it is also the retailer in me. I look to see what people have in their carts.  In the upper scale stores, people tend to have more fresh vegetable and healthier choices in their carts, in the lower end stores the carts are full of meat and almost nothing else.  We are talking about those enormous metal carts, over flowing with chicken and pork and beef.  No veggies, no juice, just basically meat.  You hear so much talk about how eating healthy is expensive but when you come down to it, it really isn't.  It's a trade off.

I wonder if you can get the organizations that are promoting healthier eating to work with the grocery stores?  Not Publix and Harris Teeter but stores like Piggly Wiggly and Doschers where there are more lower income families spending their hard earned money and food stamps at?  I would certainly volunteer my time for something like that.



  1. Speaking as someone you know has tossed a bunch of school lunches... It isn't just that it's salad vs. pudding. You fed us salad (and tried to feed us vegetables) but at school I wouldn't even eat the veggies I'd nom at home.

    When salad is a chunk of flavorless iceburg, a cardboard tomato, a chunk of (old) carrot, and a floppy (skin-on) slice of cucumber, no one's going to eat that without a boat-load of dressing. Same with overcooked, from-a-can veggies. A lot of it is quality--which is a budget and supply issue, I'm sure.

    But yeah, cooking, shopping, healthy food isn't really covered anywhere. You have to hunt it down. Maybe we need *real* home ec back in schools... Maybe they need to provide (and require) a basic nutrition/ food budgeting class with food stamps/ WIC.

    Also--it's possible (though I admit not likely) that the people in SC are growing their own veggies--there's a lot of backyard gardening out in the poorer neighborhood/ towns. I know in wyoming (where the university extension service puts out a nutrition flier every month for SNAP recips) people on food stamps (and people in general) seemed to buy a more even mix of veggies and staples.

    But then, veggies don't grow well where I was, and most people that aren't students were coming in from waaaay out there--they only bought meat when it was less than the cost to raise their own. You get the opposite in Charleston, I think--it's often cheaper and easier to grow a couple rows of collards and some random veg (seeds are covered by food stamps, though I don't think they advertise that well), and tougher to grow chickens or cows.

    Sorry, rambling.

  2. You make a lot of valid points. I know the salad of which you speak, it does need gobs of usually unhealthy salad dressing to make it somewhat edible. As for canned vegetable, I just don't get it. They are actually more expensive than frozen and full of salt.
    Angel Food Ministries includes a recipe booklet with your food package each month. Sadly though, much of the food you receive is processed and there are few vegetables and even fewer fruits.
    I wasn't aware that food stamps cover seeds! That is a fact that needs to be broadcast, especially in the more rural areas of the state where shopping is difficult.

  3. i as of last week or the week before read an almost exact copy of your blog in the city paper it was odd that they made some of the same points you did only months before