Why the poor can't afford to eat better

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  • Laura Bilington Maple Valley, WA
    Sept. 5, 2014 8:44 a.m.

    The caption on the picture says "Eating healthy is a luxury most poor can't afford."

    Two problems:

    1. The word is "healthfully", not "healthy".

    2. The picture shows lots of veggies (good), slopped with salad dressing, whose calories are well over 90% fat. That is NOT healthful eating.

  • I know it. I Live it. I Love it. Provo, UT
    Sept. 4, 2014 11:11 p.m.

    I'm a firm believer in cooking from scratch and growing what you can. Potatoes are powerful allies. But fruit is ridiculous to buy. It's absurd.

  • Tornado Mama Dallas, TX
    Sept. 4, 2014 9:12 p.m.

    Another thing to consider here is that the poor aren't just money-poor, they are time-poor as well.

    Poor single mothers and poor parents are usually working two low paying jobs each. They are what's called the "working poor." No matter how much they work, they seldom escape "poor-dom." Working two jobs is taxing on the body. I don't blame them for not having the stamina to plan healthy menus based off healthy recipes in healthy, whole-foods cookbooks; clipping coupons, hitting sales, and finally taking time to actually make dinner. When they work as much as they do, they just want to put their feet up at the end of the day and enjoy what precious time they have with their kiddos.

    I don't know what the solution is, but being time-poor goes hand-in-hand with being money-poor as barriers to healthy eating.

  • Danny Chipman Lehi, UT
    Sept. 4, 2014 3:04 p.m.

    I'm scratching my head as to why people are saying fresh produce costs too much in Utah. I've lived in and talked with people who have lived in other parts of this country, and produce is MUCh more expensive in states where there is not so much agriculture.

    But then, I tend a garden, so I get a lot of my produce for literally dirt cheap...

  • Just saying 7 Indianapolis, IN
    Sept. 4, 2014 1:40 p.m.

    Thought I recently read an article about a free pdf cookbook on how to eat healthy on $4 per day. I downloaded it and the recipes seems decent. That may go against the poor can't eat well. I also agree that lost cooking skills is a huge problem. I saw a program about a large family struggling to feed their children. Huge choice of cold cereals at $3-5 per box. Why not hot cereal for pennies a serving?

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Sept. 4, 2014 12:38 p.m.

    Once and for all, the phrase "healthy whole grains" should be abolished. Although whole grains are marginally better than homogenized white flour, they really aren't all that healthy. Try eliminating all wheat products and all sugar from your diet and you'll see what a healthy diet really is.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Sept. 4, 2014 9:39 a.m.

    Fresh produce is expensive in Utah. Mac n cheese is cheap.
    If you're poor, the choice is obvious.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Sept. 4, 2014 8:43 a.m.

    I think there is some stereotyping here. The headline assumes both that "poor people" eat less healthy foods and that those who are better off financially eat more wisely. I'm not sure. I've seen obese people who are poor and those who are not poor. it's the supersizing and the "western diet" that seems to me to be the problem, without slicing up the population of the nation one more way.

    I tend to agree, though, with those that state that it isn't necessarily the case that processed foods are cheaper but I think it generally true that people often can't be bothered to cook a meal from scratch. You can make great bread when you get past the initial cost of buying a wheat grinder.

    From a health standpoint, even if you are relatively well off and eat processed (or otherwise unhealthy) foods, in your old age you will very likely become poor when paying your medical bills resulting from overeating, and unhealthy eating. Only the super rich can afford a lot of "fine" eating that seems to included fish eggs, snails and the lower limbs of frogs..

  • Another Perspective Bountiful, UT
    Sept. 4, 2014 6:44 a.m.

    I once told my wife to buy whole wheat bread instead of white. She said it was more expensive. I then asked her how much it cost to go to the doctor and to put up with bad health.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    Sept. 3, 2014 10:41 p.m.

    A bag of apples worth about 500 calories cost $4.50. That is 2000 calories worth of mac and cheese. That is 4 things off the mcdonalds menu at at least 2,000 total. Paid for with cash since you can't use assistance to pay for those. A person riding the bus can't buy 25 pounds of anything and bring it home. When you eat so much refined food you always feel hungry. People run out of food the last few days of the month. When they get food stores in its feast after famine eating like our bodies are designed to do. Try eating cereal, canned green beans and packaged potatoes for a week and see how you feel?

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Sept. 3, 2014 10:30 p.m.

    Prepared foods are often cheaper if you calculate cost per calories. One would have to eat a lot of raw carrots to the point of orange skin in order to get enough calories and/or to be satisfied and not hungry.

    Several U.S. legislators have tried living off a food stamp budget--and failed.

    Furthermore, the resulting daily grind and stress of just being poor makes it harder for people to always make the "best" of the poor options available.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Sept. 3, 2014 2:19 p.m.

    I must admit I am very perplexed and disbelieving that poor people can't afford to eat healthy food. I lived for a time in a very poor country in Asia where real poverty was rampant, where millions of people struggled to eat everyday. A native friend of mine used to tell me over and over he wanted to move to America. When I asked him why he said, "In America poor people are fat". There were no poor, fat people in his country, in fact they are emaciated, frail and malnourished. Poor people are fat for two reasons, they choose eat too much and exercise too little. And telling them its not their fault, that they are just victims of poverty simply is not true!

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Sept. 3, 2014 12:32 p.m.

    To "belgie" it isn't that the fresh foods are so expensive. It is the simple fact that the junk food and pre-packaged foods are always going on sale. You also have the time factor for cooking a meal from scratch vs open the box and microwave it.

  • Anti Government Alpine, UT
    Sept. 3, 2014 11:09 a.m.

    No doubt it is easier to eat cheap junk food.

    Unfortunately we have too many who choose to be lazy and eat the garbage fast food. With a little effort you can select healthier foods and there are some that are relatively cheap especially if you pay attention to sales/deals and bulk when possible/appropriate.

    I am not poor fortunately and I can afford to eat but I just choose to eat healthy. Boneless skinless chicken breast can be had for $1.49 to $1.99 a lb. Throw in some frozen veggies and that is a cheap healthy meal for single person or family. Pop/energy drinks, chips, and a chocolate bar are no cheaper and possibly more expensive on a per person basis.

    People can choose but generally go with no preparation=laziness.

    Money shouldn't be used as an excuse/validation to con people into believing they can't eat healthy. Like most things in life it is a choice.

  • A Quaker Brooklyn, NY
    Sept. 3, 2014 10:13 a.m.

    The rich have something additional, besides money, that the poor don't have. That's time. A single mother trying to support her kids and keep a roof over their head may be working two full-time nearly-minimum-wage jobs. Someone living in the "two-fare zone" of a city like New York might need to take a bus to the subway to get to work. That's maybe three or more hours a day, just commuting. With lost time comes convenience food. It costs more and provides worse nutrition, but it's all some people can manage between trying just to survive and get a paycheck.

    For someone like me, who lives in a vibrant area a shorter commute from downtown, with numerous competing supermarkets and greengrocers, and additional specialty markets serving thriving Asian and Hispanic communities, eating healthier is a cinch, especially when you have time. They say time is money, but it's also health.

  • Impatient Lindon, UT
    Sept. 3, 2014 10:13 a.m.

    You can argue about the absolute price of foods, but it is undeniable that prepared foods--whether at the supermarket or your local grease joint--are more expensive than basic staples. This is just yet another elitist making excuses for obese people. There is plenty of cheap food in this country; what is needed is people taking responsibility for their own health.

  • belgie Tualatin, OR
    Sept. 3, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    @Libilou - I spend plenty of time in Utah, I do the shopping, I cook, and I've been plenty poor. I know what i'm talking about. I see lots of canned/boxed drinks, candy, chips, cookies, and other processed, prepared foods in the baskets of people paying for at least some of their food with food stamps.

  • JoeCapitalist2 Orem, UT
    Sept. 3, 2014 8:46 a.m.

    belgie is right. You can eat very cheaply if you buy bulk raw healthy foods. That is how I made it through my college years. They only get expensive when you insist on some fancy organic label at a specialty market.

    It gets really cheap when you grow your own in a garden. It is a complete lie that poor people can't afford healthy foods and must buy junk food instead with their food stamps.

    It would be much better if the bulk healthy foods were the ONLY thing you could buy with food stamps, but the grocery business will have none of that kind of reform.

  • Libilou Lehi, UT
    Sept. 3, 2014 8:46 a.m.

    Belgie, do you live here in Utah? Those things may be "dirt cheap" there, but not so here. And you have absolutely no idea that cooking involves more than just those things. Fresh fruit and veggies are damned expensive here. Chicken is incredibly expensive here. Your privilege is showing. Try actually being poor to understand.

  • belgie Tualatin, OR
    Sept. 3, 2014 7:04 a.m.

    It is absolutely untrue that it costs too much to eat healthy.

    Whole grains in bulk and fresh potatoes are almost the cheapest foods you can buy. Carrots are cheaper than dirt, and several other vegetables like celery, lettuce, and tomatoes are always reasonable. Some frozen and canned vegetables are cheaper than fresh, and often, just as healthy. Bananas are always less than $1 per pound, and other fruit, especially in season, is almost always available for less than $1.50 per pound. Chicken or pork a few times a week will not break the bank. They're certainly cheaper than the junk I see in most people's basket. And, nuts, though nice, are expendable.

    Really, the problem is ignorance and laziness.