It's turning out to be harder than I thought to sort out my thoughts here and write the post I promised yesterday. Lisa's comments on my two previous posts held much, pardon the pun, food for thought. Her points about food stamp shoppers not knowing how to cook, what to do with "those inexpensive foodstuffs" like rice, pasta, beans, flour, would have seemed more judgmental and critical to me had she not included this: "Let's face it, our culture no longer knows how to feed itself properly, especially using scratch ingredients."
Because these are some very true facts. It isn't just the food stamp population looking for fast and easy prepared foods and meals. (I almost said nutrition, but that's making a big assumption.) It's our general culture. Check out Trader Joe's around five PM any weekday and you'll see crowds of people cruising the frozen entrée aisles picking up dinner on their way home from work. The same can be said for the prepared food counters at Whole Foods, where dinner may be fast and easy, but it sure ain't cheap, I'd bet the farm that these customers aren't using food stamps. I was picking up something myself one evening at the Whole Foods near the building where I teach, when a guy waiting in line said to me: "Sure beats cooking, heh?" I couldn't really agree with him - my cooking is much better than Whole Foods' but my time constraints on a teaching day mean that sometimes I too pick up supper on the way home.
However, at the same time that many of us think Mac and Cheese can only come out of a box by Kraft, many others of us in our schizoid culture are moving into the Slow Food, the Locavore, the Real Food, movements and cooking like we never have before. Many of us are growing as much of our food as we can, given space and time constraints, shopping at Farmers' and Growers' Markets, buying in bulk at our natural food groceries and Co-Ops. This is a strange and interesting divide, one I would like to investigate further.
I've used the phrase "time constraints" twice now in writing this, and I think this may be one of the biggest issues. Maybe people do know more about scratch, or slow, cooking than we assume, but maybe many of us just don't have the time to do it. Many of those being squeezed out by this recession are still the working poor. They may go to the food bank, shop with the help of WIC, EBT or CSFP, but they still have to get to and from jobs, pick up kids from care, and often, as Jackie notes in her comment, shop without the luxury of their own transportation. (...But one of the biggest problems is that the people with the greatest needs often live too far from stores like Winco to take advantage of them. The Oregonian had a story last year that followed a mom and her daughters as they used multi transfer bus trips to do their grocery shopping. It wasn't easy and it took several hours. It's bad enough to have a limited budget; it's even worse when you have to do your shopping at your state's version of a store that's one step up from a Seven 11.)
(To Be Continued Later)