I don’t ordinarily watch televised evening news; it’s bad for my blood pressure. Tonight’s CBS evening news turned out to be just that–a recipe for an aneurysm–a long piece on Oklahoma’s skyrocketing food stamp useage, illustrated with real, live food-aid recipients. (I’d link to the video, except CBS doesn’t have it isolated from the rest of the evening news broadcast.)
Oh, yeah–that’s when I started going a little crazy. See, the first family was pictured as they peered inside a nearly empty refrigerator (which contained a gigantic tub of Country Crock margarine and a pitcher of artificially colored fruity drink) and almost-bare cupboards (which sported canned Spaghetti-os). The earnest family, gratefully appreciative of their temporary food assistance, bustled about the kitchen as they prepared an evening meal of penne pasta in a meat-laden tomato sauce. (And as un-PC as it is to notice, at least three members of this family were visibly overweight.)
Journalists tailed a second food-aid recipient through the supermarket aisles, where her cart contained frozen burritos, a family package of chicken legs, and more red meat than I eat in a month. The first family’s monthly grocery haul included sugary cereals, microwave popcorn, and a slew of processed crud.
Hello, America? Y’all just don’t know how to be poor any more. (Or maybe it’s just white folks from Oklahoma who don’t know how to be poor.) What in the hell happened to beans and rice? Meatless meals? Oatmeal or grits in lieu of brightly colored, sugary cereals? Assembling your own food? (Like burritos are a challenge.) Red meat only on special occasions? Popping your own damn corn in a pot on the stove and smuggling into the movies to avoid concession-stand price gouging? If you’re poor enough to need government food aid, you don’t spend it on Fruity Pebbles or microwave popcorn. You buy dried beans and a 20-lb sack of rice. You buy in bulk, you avoid name brands, and you don’t spend your dough on processed foods.
Americans are SO overfed. We’ve enjoyed such ridiculous bounty, thanks to heavily tax-subsidized agriculture, that we no longer understand dietary needs vs. wants, nor do we possess any ability to practice thrift in the kitchen.
The U.S. could reduce obesity rates, slash heart disease, improve nutrition nationwide, and radically reshape the awful eating habits with one simple act: restrict SNAP (aka “food stamp”) benefits’ use to the purchase of unprocessed or minimally processed foods only. Bread, milk, eggs, cheese, non-sugary cereals, fresh produce, dry pasta, beans, rice…in short, “real” food. A precedent exists: WIC aid to mothers and children can only be used to purchase nutritionally appropriate foods from a prescribed list.
I won’t hold my breath for such a change. After all, Big Agriculture needs someone to buy up all those subsidized corn, wheat, and soy calories converted into animal products and heavily processed foods.