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Three free meals available daily for any New Yorker (nyc.gov)
710 points by KoftaBob 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 454 comments



The logistics behind this must be formidable. They would need hundreds of food preparers, all of them tested daily for COVID-19 and of course practicing strict hygiene in prep and packaging.

Still it's probably easier to control than thousands of separate restaurants and food markets, which is undoubtedly their thinking: centralize food distribution to minimize risky contact.

This is a sobering reminder of how dependent city dwellers are on a just-in-time food distribution network; most Manhattan apartments don't have a lot of storage space for an extended hunker down, nor room for a garden and chickens.


It's literally just all (or close to all?) existing public school cafeterias staying open.

Same cafeteria workers as always, same types of menus.

The biggest change in logistics seems to be that all the meals are now to-go, so goodbye trays, hello bags.


Did public schools previously provide 3 meals a day?


I remember even 20 years ago, it was guaranteed 2 and for certain cases ppl would get an after school meal.


... and hello infection increases as people line up for them.


It's no different from lining up at the supermarket.

In theory everyone's supposed to be lining up 6 feet apart.

In practice... well, NYC grocery store aisles are some of the narrowest corridors you'll ever encounter in your life, and there often isn't even space to line up for a cashier.

So social distancing in supermarkets is a total joke. But the alternative is starving to death, since the grocery delivery services are all sold-out. So people line up for food wherever they go.


Exposed every day picking up meals vs exposed every other week in the supermarket.


Hardly anyone in NYC grocery shops every other week in normal circumstances.


Do you realize most people in NY have very limited storage space in their kitchens, no cars, and only buy what they can carry in 1-2 bags at a time because of that?


The cars thing I get, but most can carry quite a bit. Storage...you pile them, under the bed, corner etc etc. Whatever. We are living in horrible times

Of course you also need money to buy food for weeks, easy to say to others buy this and that)


I have been in this situation too and yes it's not the convenient thing I'd do by default, but it is possible.


Many things have become " just-in-time", production, so much that depends upon things ticking along and any bump like this, sure does start toppeling many a dominio.


I think over the coming weeks, we're going to see just how much of the "essential" part of the economy depends on the "non-essential" part.

For example, a comment in one of these postings on HN was talking about how the manufacture of essential supplies was continuing and robust (even I've made a similar comment some time ago). But... ok... how much of the logistics capacity, the capacity of hauling those essential products from the factory to the final buyer is being impacted? And it's not just trailer cubic feet availability that's at issue... it's are those containers available in the right place at the right time? Greater cubic feet available for essential products in fewer overall containers is still a potential major problem. I have to think that a fair portion of the common carriers are dependent on a mix of "essential" and "non-essential" goods for their business and that some of these common carriers are marginal even during the "good times". Fewer trucks/trains/drivers/etc, mean that getting a truck scheduled to a loading dock on a timely basis is harder, even if available cubic feet for essential goods has risen. If my speculation holds, manufacture of essential goods will be robust, but there will still be shortages at the stores and for buyers simply because shutting down the non-essential has reduced available containers and the bottleneck has shifted to inventory logistics. I can repeat this sort of thing for many different parts of the economy; I went to get a replacement part for a computer keyboard... the company's website said they were closed under county order as a non-essential business.... yet food producers still need to use their computers to ensure they can monitor available shelf-life, etc.

When we see broad pronouncements from politicians and bureaucrats talking about not shutting down essential businesses, I wonder if they appreciate how interconnected the modern economy is and that it doesn't simply break down into "essential" and "non-essential". Perhaps this sort of thing is why I so distrust those that would embrace economic central planning.


I think some of the nuance here is that essential vs non-essential assumes a short time horizon. In the keyboard example, an "essential" service can probably operate with a broken keyboard for some amount of time before it is a major problem.(I hope) lawmakers are not trying to demand who can and can't stay open long term.


My intuition is that you are correct that some marginal logistics operators will go belly-up, but I think the end result of that is a lot of equipment becomes available at low prices, and the cost of running a logistics operation goes down. Labor probably also gets cheaper with all the people who have been laid off. Anyone with cash can invest at great prices. So while there would be some disruption, there should be enough capacity to go around.


It’s a very good time for all of us to start listing our old crap on EBay. Just sold a couple things that have been listed for over a year.

1 was a Xiaomi Android box. Another was a vintage video game.


I have no idea where you got this idea that being "tested daily for COVID-19" is some sort of requirement for preparing food right now.

Nobody is getting tested for COVID-19 unless they are symptomatic, or they are rich and get to bypass the normal testing process.

More importantly, testing asymptomatic people every day is just a gross waste of tests...


Also, the risk of getting COVID from food is very low. You're more likely to get it from people near you standing in line.

> According to multiple health and safety organizations worldwide, including the CDC, the USDA, and the European Food safety Authority, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 has spread through food or food packaging. Previous coronavirus epidemics likewise showed no evidence of having been spread through food or packaging

https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavi...


Testing daily is science fiction right now. My assumption is that they check the temperature and that's about it.


It's possible just ensuring the food is hot food that is cooked might mitigate problems.


It’s possible with the 5 minute Abbott machines that are starting to be distributed


Those are meant for doctor's offices because they only do the tests one at a time. They wouldn't be useful for testing an entire group of workers every day unless they have dozens of them. The problem is that the US is only getting 5500 of them.


Makes you wonder if you could pool together a bunch of low-risk samples, and only re-test if the pool comes back positive.


Someone mentioned this before, but the problem is the tests might not work due to the dilution of the samples.


Sounds like a binary search problem, problem is we would need larger samples >:)


The ones that they're making at a rate of 1000 per state per week?

They're an extremely scarce resource better used elsewhere.


NYC had a pre-existing large scale school lunch program (more than lunches, they offered breakfast and after-school food too). It has been repurposed.


You could skip the daily tests and stick to normal food preparation hygiene. If food is packaged in standard foil take away containers, it just needs to be heated well enough for long enough to kill the virus (70 deg C, not sure of time). Or cook the food in the container. No salad sorry.


If there's any organization that could do this well, it's the NYC public school system.

Now, it would also be great if there was a way for the city to set up a voucher system to support the local restaurants as well, so that they'll be able to survive this crisis.


> all of them tested daily for COVID-19

That would be nice, but it's absolutely not happening. Even if Cuomo's“screw the rest of the country and give us all the supplies until our peak is past” had gotten a positive response, there wouldn't be sufficient test kits and other resources to collect and process those tests.

It's going to rely on servers not showing symptoms and using PPE and other safety procedures, not daily testing.


The menu lists mostly prepackaged prison food, nothing fresh to prepare


One of those things I wish could out last this virus.

We'd be so much better off as a society if we could at least keep our people fed.

The comments in here seem a little negative currently but this is great news. Think of all the people in NYC who didn't have access to clean and regular food before the virus.


As of 2018 40 million Americans received more than 57 billion dollars in SNAP. It seems like largely the US has been and will continue to keep people fed. Note also that this is just 1 Federal program and doesn't mention the multitude of other state level and city level programs that exist as well as private charities, religious organizations, etc.

Please note I am not saying the system is perfect, shouldn't be expanded, or is beyond criticism in some way. I just think that a more nuanced conversation is warranted if we're going to talk about these sorts of things.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_Nutrition_Assista...


The average SNAP recipient receives about $4 a day and sees their balance run out after just 17 days.

This is not enough.


I don't think SNAP is supposed to always cover 100% of food expenses. If you're near the cutoff point for benefits, you get some allowance, but you're expected to cover some of the food cost from your income. You would of course use your SNAP benefits first, since they are not fungible, so it is not surprising that you would run out before the end of the month. This does not mean that such households are unable to afford food for the remainder of the month, it just means that they have to pay for it themselves.

I just went and put some really sad numbers into a calculator and it told me I qualified for $500/mo in benefits for a family of three. This is definitely sufficient to provide three nutritious meals per day for three people anywhere in the country.


That's the point. It should.

If we remove the fear of starvation (we can afford to feed everyone twice and barely put a dent in our military budget) a lot of people will have a HUGE improvement in their day-to-day happiness. This is one of those obvious huge moral positives we can do.

The only "down side" is there will never be fear of starvation.

Edit: The one progress I can see in a society is when we can basically say that certain problems that people may have... those problems just literally won't exist.

- basic housing

- 3 meals a day

- a basic level of health care

with the amount of cash flow in the US there shouldn't be a single person who has to worry about one of those 3.

edit 2: I mean any person who "struggles with hunger" which is ~40 mil. Also, that is in itself a terrifying number.


I agree with this general goal, but it is much more complex than it seems from the outset. Any program at this scale has to be thoughtful of the larger societal, moral, and cultural consequences it brings with it.

Just looking at free food, a fundamental question is: Is this expected to be a baseline that all people receive and then people buy additional/better food, or is supposed to be an option where many/most don't take the free food option at all?

If the former, then you risk massive waste. If the free food is mediocre, people will just take it, buy better stuff, and then throw out the crappy stuff. If you solve that with better food, you run into hard questions around the cost and quality ceiling. Food is one of those product areas where you can spend nearly limitless money on it, but it's not feasible for a country to give 100% of its citizens foie gras and cavier every day.

But, of course, deliberately drawing the line somewhere lower has connotations that people who use that food are "bad" because otherwise don't they deserve better food?

If the latter, then you run into the current problem with welfare that the people in power don't use the system at all, which gives you the principle-agent problem we see in welfare today where many people hate funding it because they don't benefit.

Then there are questions of how you manage this logistically. How do you reduce the risk of exploitation? If the government, say, gives out free bags of rice, how do you prevent a restaurant from just grabbing dozens of them and then using them for their food service? But if you spend too much effort on enforcement, then you waste resources on enforcement that could be better spent elsewhere.

It is a hard, complex problem. SNAP today is basically our current stab at it. I don't think it's reasonable to assume that could be swept away and easily replaced with something simpler and clearly better. Problems aways seem much easier when you are far away from them.


It seems like you are arguing against a couple of straw men here.

First off, no one is saying that we should give 100% of citizens foie gras and caviar.

While I understand your point about there being some stigma attached to funding and/or receiving food assistance, I think it would be lessened if it were freely available to everyone at their discretion. People (rich and poor alike) have certainly had no qualms about receiving unemployment in the current crisis and I think you will see a similar reaction to this food assistance program in New York.

Second, your example of a restaurant taking bags of rice is clearly not an issue with SNAP benefits as they exist in every state, nor is it a possible issue with the program in New York, since they are giving out full meals.

In fact, I expect that the system being trialed in New York will actually solve the issue of people selling or trading away their SNAP benefits, since poor folks just above the cutoff for snap, who would still benefit from food assistance, can just go and get a free meal themselves, rather than trading or buying discounted food from someone selling their SNAP benefits.


Trying to means test these kinds of programs just adds administration costs. "But a rich person might get some of the food!". So what, that rich person is paying taxes to support the program. Make it simple.


> If we remove the fear of starvation (we can afford to feed everyone twice and barely put a dent in our military budget)

327,000,000 people * 365 days * $5/person/day = $596,775,000,000 yearly Or $596 billion

$693 billion is the Wikipedia number for DoD budget, so that actually checks out.

Of course, that's more than "put a dent in the budget," but I'm sure you meant those in need, and not every American (which is the calculation I did).


> but I'm sure you meant those in need, and not every American

I personally despise means testing. There has been so much hatred spewed over "welfare queen" that I am amazed we still do means testing and we have pulled it forward to things like the New York state Excelsior program (college education for first-time college students) and even for the $1,200 COVID-19 stimulus. It is very sad. We don't less means testing, not more.


I despise means testing as well. I also believe the moral hazard argument is over blown most of the time. I would like to see a guaranteed employer of last resort that pays enough for someone to live. This employer (federal agency) could adapt the work that is done to a situation. Provide opportunities for retraining and so forth. This could also provide the psychological safety many are in need of and reduce desperation. Means testing is expensive and causes many to not get the help they need.


Agreed. "Job guarantee" program. There's a write-up here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_guarantee

I also like the idea of UBI combined with a flat tax (losing progressive taxation) for it's simplicity, but imagine all the tax lawyers and accountants that would be out of a job.


It seems like a Job Guarantee program would be something that both Democrats and Republicans could support. I'm surprised it hasn't been done already (other than in the Great Depression).

Questions...

1. How would that program handle people who were unwilling to work? Possible answer off the top of my head: maybe they get sent home or terminated from the program for a period of time, and the pay for the "Job Guarantee" job would need to be somewhat more desirable than the benefits received for not working at all (assuming the person is capable of work).

2. How would the program prevent managers with personal bias against particular people on the Job Guarantee program dismissing them so they are sent home to receive the lower paying "able bodied but unwilling to work" pay? Possible solution: Any dismissal is time limited (or exponential, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, then in yearly increments), and also the first 3-4 steps would simply involve a transfer to a different manager. To reduce the likelihood of bias, managers should be representative of the general population in any potentially important characteristics such as gender, race, and also political orientation (Democrat, Republican, or other).

3. What would prevent minimum wage employees from moving to the government jobs program instead? (I'm anticipating a potential Republican question.) Possible answer: the pay would be lower.

4. Does this create any kind of perverse incentives for the government or corporations? "Well, we don't need to care about access to college, or jobs in the US, because everyone has a guaranteed (below minimum wage) job".


Those unwilling to work would be sent home and temporarily suspended.

A reasonable appeal process and the ability to change managers or move to a different site.

I would build vocational training into this. You are in training either at your choice or as an assignment. Looking for another job would also be acceptable. If you don't have a GED, your only option would be training. I view unemployment as mismatch between the skills you have and the work that needs to be done or there is a slack in demand and we are trying to figure out what to do. I would build a strong scholarship program for those who demonstrate the ability for university level education. You would demonstrate that by your efforts in other training.

Making the pay less than minimum wage I think would be counter-productive. I would eliminate minimum wage and use this as a counter balance to compete with businesses that rely on minimum wage workers.


Jobs guarantee could be popular like awful "workfare", but it's oftenstill stupidly resting on the assumption that full employment is good, and UBI without full employment is inherently inflationary.


I think a Jobs Guarantee would be a practical, possible-to-get-the-law-passed, interim solution until UBI.

The main benefit of a Jobs Guarantee is it would be palatable to the 50ish% of voters who are opposed to "handouts" without work. And in theory some of the people who work at these jobs might have more self respect, and might maintain good habits that would let them re-enter the regular workforce in time.

Now, if we did have a Jobs Guarantee and something like 25%+ of people were on it, and there are just no jobs for these people to do even for the general betterment of society at large without any profit motive, then that starts to make a good argument for UBI rather than having people do useless work. Start with letting people on the Jobs Guarantee or other jobs, "retire" at an earlier and earlier age, and/or insert 1-2 months of vacation per year, and/or reduce the number of days worked per week or the number of hours worked per day to receive the benefits.


That would be great. But it could also be that the privately-employed majority makes the guaranteed jobs worse and worse over time.

I am hoping we get a non-means-tested corona $1000 after the shitty one, and then things for UBI pick up for there. If we need a mix of UBI and JG for some time, so be it.


You still need production at times and you don't want people losing momentum. It is hard to go from not working to working at a good pace. Keeping people in a working mind set I think is important.


I’d rather see a $15 minimum wage, and an EITC run in reverse, where anyone that hires someone who is struggling gets a $10 credit for every hour paid.


This seems to be a difference in philosophy. I see your comment and, if I read you right, see a desire to support people by encouraging them to participate in capitalism by paying companies to hire them.

My view is different: public money should go to public good. I don't think that good is served by interfering with markets. If they need $10/hour to justify hiring someone, what is that person going to do for those hours? I think public good is served by training and paying people to deal with collective action problems: failing/at-risk infrastructure, poverty, health care in places with little or no access to it under the private health care and insurance systems, and things like that.

Private companies can be part of that, but the initiative has to be led by the public and the people they elect to lead them, not private interests.


I didn't read this comment as promoting means testing. I read it as "Even if they make the meals available to everyone, mostly just the people in need will use it". It was addressing the moral hazard risk that people often associate with these programs.

NYC will be able to publish just how many people took advantage of the meals. That's the baseline to price the program out nationwide, not the total number of US citizens.


Think of it like banking reserve rules. The program is officially open to everyone, but how much we cook in a day is based on demand.


I agree completely. I wasn't trying to make any judgment in my post though, I was just acknowledging "barely put a dent in our military budget," because my math assumes the extreme case that every American takes the $5/day.


I think the suggestion is that we can afford to oversubscribe a program like this, because it'd be a guarantee that you'd be able to eat (i.e. food on demand), not a push-based delivery of the resources (money/food stamps/etc.) required to be able to eat, that people would then feel that they "should" use up, thus using less of their own money.

Any American who didn't take advantage of a demand-driven food supply program on a given month, wouldn't be costing the program anything. It just means that they'd be able to instantly access food when in need, without first qualifying into the program.

Think less "food cash" (like food stamps essentially are), and more "no-limit food credit card" (with the government as the account holder.) You'd just go into a grocery store and buy whatever, and if you couldn't afford it, you'd pay for it with the food credit card (= the government would pay for it.) But if you don't use the card, it isn't accruing or expiring a balance. It's just there, waiting to be used.

One can think of this another way, with a different moral color but the same in-practice effects: imagine if they made shoplifting from grocery stores legal (i.e. every grocery store is now also required to act as a food bank), and the government promised to pay the store back for any shoplifting-related shrinkage. That's essentially what this program would be, except with the store able to track inventory through the till, since the food would still be being "purchased."


are you envisioning some mechanism to prevent people from having filet mignon and caviar every night for dinner? I'm not poor, but my grocery purchases would change a lot if I didn't have to pay for it myself.


Presumably we could come up with some sort of middle ground policy. For example, there could be certain foods that are excluded from the system or maybe only certain products are included. Or perhaps different products could use up more of a person's "food credits".


This is basically Cuba's policy (well, Cuba in better times, their rationed food has decreased massively in quantity over time). Everyone has an allotment of basic staples (rice, beans, limited meat, coffee, etc.) that covers your basics with little / no extravagance, or you can go to a grocery store for a wider variety.


I think you wouldn't need to actually do any work to get this effect. Consider what happens if tons of people suddenly decides to take home a particular "fancy" food for free. The government pays the grocery store, but the grocery store also runs out of the food and buys more from its supplier. This is driving up demand for the fancy food. Now the fancy food is going to get more expensive, even though people are getting it "for free."

If you take my sibling comment about tax effects into account, this means that, as people over-consume a "free" food, and its price rises, they're effectively making larger and larger "purchases" which will have an effect on their taxes.

On the other hand, if it turns out that the food was only expensive because few people were buying it, in a sort of vicious circle—then when everyone buys it, and forces demand up, it'll force supply up, too, and the food will get cheaper for everyone, not just for people who get it "for free."

For example, if it turns out that we only weren't factory-farming caviar because of the low demand, but it's perfectly possible to do so, then we'll just turn into a society that farms and eats a lot of cheap caviar. No market distortion; just "unlocking" market efficiencies we couldn't previously reach, because the demand side didn't previously have the dollars to vote with. Everybody wins!


this seems needlessly complicated. it would be a neverending game of whack-a-mole to get the whitelists / credit multipliers adjusted for every food sku.

if we're already assuming people can budget reasonably well, why not go with a UBI-like food stipend and enroll every citizen? calibrate it so people with zero income get a reasonable (possible COL-adjusted) amount to afford a month's worth of healthy meals and phase it out smoothly respective to income. can't really be abused unless you hide your income and also avoids the fiscal cliff.


Nope; just assuming that the number of people taking advantage of this would be a power-law distribution rather than a gaussian, and so the economics would still work out in favor, even with people "abusing the system."

That, and perhaps the dollar-cost of your "free" food purchases would be taken into account in calculating your tax bracket.


maybe I'm just too cynical, but I have a hard time believing it would work out that way. the difference between the cheapest and most expensive brand of pasta is at least 4x. why wouldn't you buy the nicest brand every time? if the tax bracket adjustments had any bite, you would end up with poor families owing more tax than they earned income. this ends up basically equivalent to means testing anyway.


> if the tax bracket adjustments had any bite, you would end up with poor families owing more tax than they earned income.

I mean... they'd be told that that would happen in advance. Wouldn't that then serve as an incentive to avoid making a pattern of taking home the more-expensive food? (They could still do it rarely, though. A one-time $50 bump in spending isn't going to affect your taxes.)


if you're really willing to allow that outcome, then your proposal is just an implicit benefit limit that's a bit harder to calculate. how is that different from / better than saying "here's $xxx to feed your family this month; budget appropriately"?


Again, because if you give someone $xxx, they feel compelled to use it, and therefore to put $xxx less of their own money into the economy.

Here, people don't have any money or food stamps "burning a hole in their pocket." They just have their own money, and an unlimited line of credit for grocery stores that would "come due" in the form of taxes at the end of the year (but which would only end up costing them anything-at-all if they tried to live beyond their means.)

The only real presumption I'm making here, IMHO, is that people would be too ashamed to buy the "below your means" items (e.g. rice and beans) on this credit, if they didn't have to. Just like people are usually too ashamed to go to food banks if they don't have to.


okay, I think I see your point now. it's less of a no-limit credit card paid by uncle sam and more of a contribution matching / loan combo. I do think the tax interaction is overly convoluted, but I see the core of something viable here. people can get extra purchasing power when they need it, but they still have at least a little skin in the game to discourage abuse.

I will say I'm not a big fan of using shame to gate off this benefit. my intuition is that shame alone is not enough to stop most people from seeing a way to stretch their grocery budget, if they can use it to buy anything they want. if it is effective, then that's only in proportion to how dehumanizing the experience of using it is, which is also kind of shitty.


In a couple days, New York will probably release the number of meals served. Divide that by the population of New York and then multiply that by your $596 billion. Even if it's 10% (no way it will be this high), that's $60 billion, or around 9% of the budget, otherwise known as a "dent".


I wish i could reply to the comment below about means testing. The reality is even if this were means tested, many people wouldnt opt into it...so short story, I agree with you, it would be much cheaper than you're describing.


$5/person/day is more than this should require.

Feeding America claims to deliver meals at $0.10 each by rescuing food that would've been wasted, and they claim even buying at wholesale would run about $2/meal ($1.67/lb * 1.2lb/meal).

https://www.feedingamerica.org/ways-to-give/faq/about-our-cl...


> $2/meal

So, $5/day ?

Rescuing wasted food doesn't work once you scale it to a hundred million people.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely in favor of a food/housing program that's available for everyone. I am also a communist though, so it's an easy sell for me.


Maybe it’s because I’ve never been poor enough so I don’t get it, but I’m a lot more worried about losing housing and healthcare than food. Food’s super cheap compared to those (unless you’re a meat-with-every-meal type, and picky about which meat) and there are tons of government and community programs to provide it.


You're implicitly arguing that SNAP should have fiscal cliffs. Fiscal cliffs are a symptom of a poorly designed welfare program.


The "S" in SNAP means that if you have income, you have to cover some of your food expenses. What's wrong with that?

If you have no income/assets, you can get $600+/month for a family of 4. https://aix-xweb1p.state.or.us/caf_xweb/SNAP_Estimate/actCal...

There are logistical complications around ability to complete the red tape, and personal irresponsibility or access to low-cost options when spending the SNAP money, but big-picture SNAP is fine.

Should people be entitled to spend all their post-tax income on luxuries and get welfare support for basic needs? That's a more extreme position than supplemental support for people with some wealth.


To add to your basics, don’t forget clothing and education. I think those are the 5 basics that are necessary to ensure every person can participate in society without fear or shame.


It's hard to be like "omg everyone should have food, shelter and sanitation" and "omg climate change from overpopulation"... There's even a national security memorandum from back in the 1960s discussing various population restriction methods.

Just throwing that out there.


Pollution and inefficient consumption of resources are much more important factors in climate change.


Are you suggesting that overpopulation has nothing do with this?

To be clear, I am against any attempt at population control. I want to keep awareness on the fact that many others do, though.


If you mean in term of energy and space because of extra mouths to feed, not really.

But we do have a great potential to poison our environment if we don't rein in the pollution.


I think it's a lesser concern, true, but it's still an issue, particularly with high-consumption wasteful 1st world countries.

In my opinion, the US military and the manufacturing industries of China and India by far do the bulk of poisoning the environment and impacting climate change.

I'd much rather have, as a US taxpayer, those assets diverted to healthcare and basic subsistence, too. I'd rather that charities do it, though, and wish it was easier for philanthropy to be more efficiently implemented. We can't even get enough masks out, for cryin out loud.

But damn if we can precision kill someone on the other side of the planet without due process of law! Or find all your domestic social media traffic in October 2016


That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that people should strive to be self-reliant. Not: "how can we meet people's needs?" but "how do we help people meet their own needs?". Like the old proverb about giving a man a fish vs. teaching a man to fish.

Everyone always shuts down that second question with "they can't help themselves until their basic needs are met" which is incredibly hand wavy and disingenuous, in my opinion. Half of being poor is in the mind. If poor people are to become middle class people, there needs to be a change in the mind. This change doesn't automatically happen "because money". Changing the mind needs to come from teachers and mentors and the poor person has to want to change and start thinking and acting differently.

If you get everyone reliant on a monolithic omnipotent government, then when said monolithic government fails all of helpless leeches will die (and that could be millions).

I think it's better if we strive for a minimalistic government where members of society strive to be self-reliant and in terms of "safety nets" the government's goal is to promote and encourage self-reliance.


You are absolutely correct, but it can sound to a reader lacking nuance as if you were arguing that other factors (outside the mind) aren't important. Many people suffer from the prison of two ideas, and wrongly misinterpret this argument as a denial of important social, cultural, historical factors.


> If poor people are to become middle class people

If this is the goal, you need to be pushing to radically restructure the way society and the economy functions. You cannot have everyone employed at, say, $60K a year in the one we have.

Most of the time when people say this, they prefer to focus on individuals rather than systemic issues - "this one person pulled them self up by their own bootstraps - surely others can, too. And "others" can, and do. That leaves people who can't. Now what?

> I think it's better if we strive for a minimalistic government

The problem is capabilities. Libertarian fantasy-states work in frontiers and sometimes in low-population, high-homogeneity areas. As population increases, many public goods need management[1] and public management means the state necessarily takes on more functions. So you need to work on your plan to massively reduce population or get yourself a new planet if this is your goal.

Your desire to drive self-sufficiency by intentionally depriving those in need cannot work in our current world and simply results in performative cruelty.

> Half of being poor is in the mind

Have you been poor? I have have been very poor. I grew up that way. I know what you're talking about, and I suspect you honestly don't understand how condescending and insulting it is.

[1] Growing up in a very rural town in Tennessee, people used to routinely burn their trash. Try that in San Francisco.


In this case, the insult is in how one chooses to perceive it. It's not present in the words themselves.


Also, if a family qualifies for snap, their kids almost always automatically qualify for free school meals already, in addition to snap.


which is great when schools are open. this also means that parents aren't going to go hungry, and that neither will go hungry over the summer/prolonged school closures right now.


These free meal programs are the schools providing meals to their students during school closings.

And the bigger point is that (during normal times) SNAP doesn't need to cover 100% of kids meals per month; most meals in a month are already provided for free through school.


Many school districts do offer supplemental feeding programs during breaks, and our local district is still distributing free lunches to students in need. But this isn't universal across the country and a lot of people do fall through the gaps.


Okay now try to eat like an actual human being and make it work for $500 over 30 days.

The dollar amount itself is fine, but SNAP should be supplemented with basic commodities. Beans, rice, flour, sugar. The prices for these when purchased at the volume of the federal government drop to near nothing.


If you buy mainly beans, rice, flour, frozen chicken, etc for your monthly food you will be far under $500. It's all the other distracting items in the grocery store that add up.


> Okay now try to eat like an actual human being and make it work for $500 over 30 days.

what exactly are you saying here? I spend about $300/month on groceries and I eat pretty well.

edit: maybe you're still talking about feeding a family of three?


Yes. $500 doesn't go very far if you're feeding two teenagers and want to have food variety. Spices are expensive and the price of vegetables goes by the season. That's why I think they should have a supplied commodity benefit in addition to the money.


I lived on $200/month in SF (single person) and I definitely didn't "eat like an actual human being". But the problem was definitely me and not that it wasn't possible.

Usually in those financial conditions you also know your time is better spent elsewhere. An extra hour per day practicing for interviews is much better use of your time than cooking. So you do the most efficient thing possible, which is just throw whatever is cheapest per lb into a slow cooker and eat it for the rest of the week. Most stuff is pretty disgusting after a few days in the fridge.

It's probably possible do meal prep cheap/fast/delicious, but I definitely never learned how. Tips appreciated!


$16 a day is the minimum to eat like an actual human being?

You could eat a steak a day at that budget


That's $16 a day for 3 people.


> ... $500/mo in benefits for a family of three. This is definitely sufficient to provide three nutritious meals per day for three people anywhere in the country.

This is an unbelievable assertion.

That’s $5.48 per meal for 3 people. Have you tried to feed 3 people a consistently nutritious meal on $5.48 per meal everywhere in the country? What is your nutritious meal plan for 3 meals each day, 365 days per year, that doesn’t exceed $500 everywhere in the country? What are the ages and average caloric needs of each of the 3 people in this hypothetical family? How do you maintain $500/mo when, presumably, at least 1 member of the family’s caloric needs will change over time.

I’d love to see the meal plan that works for 2 adults and 1 child for $500/mo, for 18 years, everywhere in the country.

How do you handle snacks with $500/mo—do you just tell people tough luck, you only get to eat at specific mealtime? How do you compensate for the increased caloric need of a child who regularly engages in sports and physical activity—do you just tell them to stay hungry, or tell them they can’t engage in such activities?


I mean, I cook for my family so I have some idea what goes into each meal. Typical dinner will be rice, some protein, and some vegetables. By far the most expensive bit is the protein. Our staple is chicken thighs which can be had for $2-3/lb. We use maybe half a pound per person (generous estimate), so the protein cost is on the order $6/meal. The rice costs next to nothing, maybe 20c. And the vegetables might be a dollar a head. Spices and such are de minimus. Adding it all up we have about ~$10 to feed a family of four dinner, plus maybe 20-30c worth of milk for each child.

So, that's in the neighborhood of $300 a month for dinner. Again, a generous estimate, because really wifey and the kids don't eat half a pound of meat each. Breakfast and lunch are vegetarian, so much cheaper. This is in inner Brooklyn, so not far off from the most expensive food locale in the US. Hawaii is significantly more, but few other places are. We could make it work on $500/month if we had to, for sure.


Same. Live in a medium COL area (Portland, OR) and we feed the entire family on about 300/month, and we eat generously, with pastries, sweets, and other 'luxury' items. If we went to a more modest diet, we could probably do it on 200/month.


Thank you for posting this. Long ago I investigated how cheaply I could eat. I researched nutritional needs, created a spreadsheet, priced items at the supermarket.

It was easy to keep myself well fed at a cost far below standard assistance levels.

When I encountered poor people complaining their money ran out, I discovered that some were hostile to the very ideas of thrift, self reliance, or any principals of stoicism.


Many people were never taught this stuff and the world does not exactly go out of its way to make it obvious how to play the food game properly. All the advertising and all the media point you to inefficient purchases. And really, I guess most poor people are doing exactly what I talked about -- buying and eating efficiently. It's the counterexamples that make the news.

Also FWIW I'm not saying it's easy to be poor. In many domains it's extremely painful and difficult. But I think we can acknowledge that while also pointing out that meeting food needs using $500 of SNAP benefits is an eminently doable challenge.


I agree regarding obviousness, marketing, difficulties of poverty, and doable challenges. I'm not convinced about "most poor people" and exceptions making the news. I've lived in several very poor communities in several parts of the US, and observed widespread cultural norms undermining the very ideas of cost efficiency and self restraint.

I realize I'm too ignorant to confidently propose systemic solutions, but on the education front I do wonder if it would help to offer government financed courses in shopping and budgeting (along with nutrition) bundled with SNAP benefits.


I too would be interested in empirical research about the efficiency of existing purchase patterns by people with limited means, and, to the extent they are inefficient, research into interventions that might improve things.


I'm able to feed a family of 4 for <$500/mo. We eat lots of rice, pasta, etc. which you can get large quantities of, for cheap. Add in some proteins and veggies for variety and nutrition and we are well under $500/mo.


I can vouch for this, having grown up on 'food stamps' as well as most of friends it really isnt enough for a family.

A few times as an adult I've also fallen on hard times and used snap benefits, it was enough for me as a single guy who can cook and knows to eat cheaply, but its hard and not fun.

However where I lived you need a mailing address to get benefits so when I was really down and I was homeless I got no benefits.

That's why this meal program in NYC is so great, it says right at the bottom there is no need for registration, it's actually accessible to everyone.


When someone runs out isn't the relevant stat. A person could receive $100/day and still run out in 17 days if they are ridiculous. The real question is can a person reasonably feed themselves on $4/day. I would submit the answer is 100% yes for the vast, vast majority of locations in the US. You can do your own web search for the litany of sites/postings on how to eat on < $1/day. You have 4x that amount in your budget.

Here's one sample site: https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/how-to-make-nutritious-meals-...


You can feed yourself for $4/day if you already have: - Cooking supplies (pots, pans, plates, silverware, etc) - 1h+ / day of free time to spend on cooking and shopping for food - A fridge and pantry to store food in - An oven and/or stove to cook your food

For a significant number of people that cannot afford to feed themselves, one or more of these are compounding factors.

By providing meals instead of $, this program is much more equitable.


I genuinely don’t know: how common is it for an American that lives in a home (rented/owned/subsidized) to not have a hotplate, fridge/freezer and random assortment of plates, cutlery and pots?

Rentals usually include appliances in N. America.

Thrift store are usually full of small appliances (people shy away from used blenders or used kettles), unmatched cutlery and plates. Pots may be harder to come by, but a large and small one covers most use cases.

Used appliances are usually cheap because of the upgrade treadmill. I understand that coming up with $150 for a fridge or $25 for a hotplate. Maybe we need a better system for those capital costs.


This is an awful "gotcha" straw man. It's not reasonable to expect every person in every response to cover every case. No communication would occur if we held everyone to that bar.

If a person needs a prepared meal they can go to a soup kitchen which is also funded by taxes. Forcing everyone to that model would be really authoritarian. I'd much rather let people get what they want to the extent possible.


And from that sample site, they seem to have an abundance of time to exploit sales and an excess of freezer/storage space. I'm sure there are counterexamples, but I have always gotten the impression those "eat cheap" sites are run by stay at home parents with an excess of free time or people using them to generate income.


I don’t feel like time is the major issue. But fridge/freezer space definitely is.

You can prep in bulk and fridge/freeze, but you need that space to do it.

Then again, I’ve been eating a lot of rice, dried pulses and stew of whatevers left/on sale lately.


This is somewhat misleadingly worded: it makes it sound like what they receive each month is 17*4 = $68. The actual average per month is $127/recipient.

Arguably this is still insufficient, though.


yeah they get 31*4, but they can only make it 17 days with that. I doubt I could make it even 17 days with only $127.


I ate plenty well as a grad student on $120 a month. If that’s $127/person that’s plenty for just food. If that’s $127 for a family of 3 that’d be rough.


That's the average per recipient. The average per household is higher.


Why would we expect the average of 40M SNAP recipients, over 10% of the US population, have their entire food budget provided by the government?


SNAP is supposed to be supplemental no?

As, a college student with limited funds, I noticed I could keep my daily food costs down to 1$-3$/day range by eating healthily: It's at least 4 times cheaper than eating at mcdonalds. (and this was in CA, one of the most expensive areas) https://kale.world/eating-healthy-is-four-times-cheaper-than...


When I moved to SF, I was probably eating for $2.50 a day. It's totally possible if you buy 20lb bags of rice and beans.


Source?


http://www.ctfoodbank.org/about-hunger/take-the-snap-challen...

took 3 seconds to find this by googling "average snap per month". I could find national numbers from secondary sources that cited federal sources but couldn't easily find a hyperlink to those federal sources.

But I am sure just as easy as typing Source? you could find your answer


SNAP is not intended to cover the cost of a recipient's entire food needs. The S stands for "supplemental".

You can argue that is should cover a recipient's entire food needs but it seems a little misguided to criticize the program for failing to meet an objective it doesn't have. Furthermore, federal programs have to be careful not to do things outside their mandate less they run into territory where they don't have political support and lose funding. SNAP probably couldn't get away with providing the full cost of food even if they were able to.


Clearly, the criticism is not of meeting an objective it doesn't have but of not having the correct objective.


They didn't criticize the program, they responded to a post that stated a fact about SNAP and made an apparently associated representation It seems like largely the US has been and will continue to keep people fed.

Saying SNAP isn't enough is pretty clearly a response to the representation.


The cost of the program is not a very good way of evaluating it. the number of people it feeds and how well it does so would be a much better criterion.


Totally agreed. But for those who feel the need to justify costs -- instead of looking at the good it does -- consider the capitalist benefits:

- Hungry people are not productive to the economy

- Hungry people are more likely to be sick and burden the healthcare system

- Hungry people, if desperate enough, might steal from you

- Hungry children do not learn as well, and become a future burden society needs to carry


Are people going hungry in the US? Obesity rates are at an all time high and the highest in the population below the poverty line. What metric should we look at in terms of quantifying people going hungry?


The US absolutely has a hunger problem. I can personally attest to this as I slept hungry numerous nights from age 11 to 16 (until i was on college meals.) School lunch covered breakfast and lunch, but dinner is on you.

If your wages are growing slower than rent/heating/electricity/etc you suddenly have to chip into your hierarchy of needs (as I later found out my parents did)

The problem with programs in the US is often means testing in the US. It is a corrupt system that makes things very difficult for honest people while perpetuating fraud for insiders and friends.

Bureaucrats in NYC (in my case) made it near impossible to get Food Stamps for some time -- then you go to the grocery store and see someone in Nike Air Jordans ($200+ in the 1990s!!!) whip out food stamps. You see people check out with food stamps and go into a BMW in the parking lot. I grew up in South Brooklyn and was constantly infuriated not only at poverty but those who took advantage of systems to combat it -- and corrupt bureaucrats who enabled corrupt users. A lot came down to hidden social clubs of fraudsters.

Obesity is a separate problem. Often the poor don't have access to quality calories, so they fill themselves with the most affordable calories (low priced carbs.) Eating healthy is a luxury.


Just as a note on this - low income have higher obesity rates, because many of them live in food deserts, without access to quality produce, or other regular staples. Further, high-calorie, low nutrition foods are cheaper in the US, and therefore more accessible.

Fat people =/= healthy distribution system of food.


The 'food desert' concept is a fantasy, there is no such thing.

In fact, trying to understand how such an upside-down false narrative could even exist, is the more interesting aspect of the 'food desert' phenom.

The density of fresh food is indeed lower in some areas, but always within reach. More important, this an issue of supply and demand: food is the most ancient of all commerce. Where people want to buy a food, it will be present. The very premise of 'food desert' is fundamentally flawed from the start. Food is a very competitive, very open, very dynamic, very well understood phenom. There are essentially zero places in America wherein there is truly unfulfilled demand at a basic level. Food stores cover every nook and cranny and balance quite well with demand.

Also - fresh food is the healthiest food, and it's also the cheapest. It requires work to prepare it. Processed and prepared food is the most expensive, and generally less nutritious. Though there are some anomalies (ie milk), food is still cheap.

The price of food has been deflating consistently over time. Just 2 generations ago food might have made up 24% of a HH budget, now it's 1/2 that.

Poverty exists, food insecurity exists, and surely there are some people who can't access what they need, but in general, the 'food desert' things is an invented narrative.


Have you ever been to an actual low-income, rural area? Or low-income urban area? Seriously?

Midwest US, not even truly rural, like in the hills of Kentucky, rural, and the closest grocery store to me is 1 hour away. There are convenience stores, full of sugary snacks. No actual 'food' in you would think of it. When I worked in Tenessee, I was 3 hours from the closest grocery store. The only 'food' stores by your definition were gas stations. Full of. . . sugary, high calorie, low nutrition foods.

North corridor in St. Louis, there is an entire swath of hte city without access to grocery stores, bodegas, or whatever else fills the niche. There are dollar stores filled with ---- sugary snacks and other high calorie, low nutrition foods. There are non-profits who have the only goal of bringing in grocery stores. During the Ferguson riots/uprising (depending on your views) one of the main asks was access to grocery stores. Why do you think that was?

You are pushing a false narrative. Food deserts exist. Your hand waving type of claim is just ridiculous.


Curious on this food desert thing. Is access to food less than it was 50 years ago? Access to fruits and vegetables during winter/fall months is a new thing since now we have better supply chains and international trade(winter crop is from Mexico).

Its weird to me since i grew up in Saudi Arabia on a compound, a true food desert and lived off powdered milk, ramen, and other non perishable foods we could buy from the commissary store. There is something like 5000 Walmarts in the US that covers 90% of the population. They have fresh vegetables and fruits all year round.


Everything is available, but not necessarily economically available to the poor. It has definitely changed in the past 50years — notably the buying power has gone down massively because wages have not kept up with rent/healthcare/education.

You need to save somewhere. If you don’t pay rent you become homeless so you focus on less acute cuts — like substituting bread and cereals for salad, etc.

Eating is easy in the US, eating nutritiously is harder if you are on a limited budget.


" notably the buying power has gone down massively because wages have not kept up with rent/healthcare/education."

This is simply not true, it's the other way around. Food has never before been easier to access and cheaper. [1]

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/03/02/389578089/yo...


The article mentions nothing to your counter. The article talks simply about food. My point was, as you quoted, wages have not kept up with rent/healthcare/education. Food is one only member of what one spends on. (Also note, if you compare wages to cost-of-living, avoid studies which conveniently leave out rent/housing/healthcare/college. If you narrowly define anything you can make it look good.)

You are more likely to skimp on food than rent. If you skimp on rent, you end up homeless. Sure, initially, you can squeeze into smaller and smaller apartments, but eventually you're homeless. You can skimp on healthcare and education, or you can skimp on food -- where you dont see the effect immediately.

Food being a bargain doesnt help if you have barely anything left over to spend on food.

Secondly w/r/t food quality, as the article mentions, quoted below, some foods have gotten cheaper (sugar, soybeans) while others (meat, eggs) have gotten more expensive. This is another problem being discussed on this thread -- what you get for the money is not really what you need nutritiously. Sure, perhaps you dont starve, but you end up obese from eating the worst sorts of foods.

from artlicle: "That may be true in general terms, and as NPR's Marilyn Geewax reported in February, soybeans, sugar and wheat are all cheaper than they were a few years ago.

But as we've reported, there has been volatility in the price of plenty of other food items. And key staples like beef and eggs are actually more expensive these days than they have been."


More nuance is exactly the problem.

This isn't a matter of a specific little bit of math inside a bigger ball of math or highly custom machine that needs nuance.

This is a literal effect we have on other humans by letting them go underfed.

Why do we need more nuance in the rules around apportionment in the well walked context of "people got to eat"?

This is just asinine at this point in human society. Especially with a much more educated society that can argue cogently around it sitting on their hands wanking their custom theories, tacitly enabling this.

Society needs to focus on stable support of our shared human needs first, stores of usable foods, basic products, etc.

It does not need to enable everyone's imagined pipe dreams, and emotional castle building, to become literally true. That's romanticized emotional ideology the others don't have to enable. Free speech does not mean you get what you're asking for.

When you're hording toilet paper and flour, but shelves are full of garbage caffeine tricks, sodas, "craft beer", sugar bomb cereal, you know your society has jumped the shark.


Didn't the federal gov't just cut SNAP benefits? The maximum a single person can receive is 6$/day, the average a single person receives is $4/day.


Yes - the cuts went into effect two days ago on the first.


To piggyback on what siblings point out, focusing on the total expenditure often leads one to different conclusions than focusing on the benefit available per-person per-day. It is much more insightful and meaningful to assess the efficacy of a program like SNAP by recognizing it’s $4 per day, or $1.33 per meal (and assumes an individual only drinks tap water).

More importantly, there’s something wrong when a society is organized and operated in such a way that people have to rely on private charities and religious organizations to be fed. That’s a signal of social failure—especially when food is abundant. I’d suggest a more nuanced conversation should focus on the ways in which offloading a problem to charitable organizations enables people to ignore the problem by means of letting them feel good about themselves for donating time/supplies—which wouldn’t be needed if we ensured the problem didn’t exist in the first place.


> 40 million Americans received more than 57 billion dollars in SNAP.

57bn / 40m = $1425

$1425 / 365 = $3.90

While that's doable, it's really not a lot.


What's enough? We have a grocery budget of $500 a month for a family of 5. That's $3.30 per person per day.


We used to have a much lower grocery bill in a very expensive part of the country... for nice stuff! But now we eat out a lot less and our grocery bill has doubled cooking at home all the time (and no lunches for either of us at work).

I'd say it matters a lot where you live and how you live. It's easy to live on far less than 100$/person_week in NY (or Tokyo, or Paris) with a tiny fridge and single burner stove, when you eat out 15 meals a week, or when you work at Google, or when you live in a rural area where prices are lower. But if you're urban, without a car, buying from tiny expensive bodegas, with growing kids, and can't afford to eat out, your bills will be significantly higher... Dog forbid you're buying pre-packaged or snack foods 'cuz it's easier than listening to home-alone teenagers complain.


How much is your restaurant and eating out budget? Or are you saying that your entire family gets 100% of it's dietary needs from your $500/month grocery budget? If so, that's impressive and you should share you shopping lists somewhere... I know I'd be interested in seeing that :)


I had a look on the whole foods website and found a store in NYC. you can buy 1lb mince, spaghetti, tinned tomatoes, carrot onion garlic, for less than $12. that's a meal for 4. you can get rolled oats for about $.75 a portion with real milk and a half a banana, and as a lunch you can get bread, pastrami, cheese for <$15, for about 8 sandwiches. that's $6/person/day from whole foods in NYC not buying in family quantities.


I would to as well. I can easily have a smaller grocery budget when my kids are in school and I eat at work. But if we are eating at home time is not always there to cook. The poor usually don't have time to cook. I have more time to cook now and eat at home which has lowered my grocery budget quite a bit. My cost of food dropped the wealthier I became.


Economies of scale. A $16.50 meal for five is going to be a lot nicer than a $3.30 meal for one. I get that you can cook in bulk, but having variety is in your diet is very important.


That’s where a freezer and fridge come in.

Make 3 days worth of rice in the fridge. Freeze small batches of stews/soups/vegetables. Scramble eggs with different ingredients. Different spices/sauces. Eat fresh stuff on shopping days.


You're assuming a lot about people's ability to thoughtfully shop at a grocery store once per week. It isn't just about money per person.


But then why criticize money if the issue is that people are not good enough with money to budget it? Either the suggestion will be that we provide people without enough money that even with poor budgeting and planning they will stay fed (and do we really cover everyone, the difference between 99% of people and 100% of people is like the difference in 99% server up time and 100% server up time). Or is the suggestion to remove the need plan by providing them food instead of money? You probably provide more food this way if optimized (economics of scale) and you would get more buy in from some people, but you would face heavy criticism and inertia from others who see this as looking down on others.

We could go for education, but many people do not take education even when offered for free.


So what do you propose?


Including all lunches too?


This average isn't quite right, since it assumes that everyone is in the program for the full 12 months. That's certainly not the case. (In fact, many people without dependents are limited to 3 months of SNAP in 3 years.)


SNAP is a SUPPLEMENTAL program. It's not intended to pay 100% of your food bill.


[flagged]


if the compromise made by congress is that it should not cover 100% needs, then the program is supplemental by definition. it doesn't matter what each party would prefer the program to be, only what is passed


Incorrect, SNAP and other federal/state programs do not go far enough to feed a family. And the poorest families are constantly demonized as some sort of "Welfare Queen" living large on steaks and top shelf liquor.


>> living large on steaks and top shelf liquor

More like frozen foods and sugary drinks


Which is just as pejorative. Please don't say that we're at the point where microwave meals and canned soda are too much a luxury for people who come home exhausted from work.

Are we really gonna ask someone who's already poor and tired to spend even more energy they don't have to make something from a few kinds of cheap dried grains.

Either give out enough money to buy food that actual humans want to eat or just cook and deliver it. A commercial kitchen and a few trucks would probably do wonders for an area that's underfed because individuals don't have enough time and money to make food cheap.


Frozen foods are cheap and healthy. Freezing is a cost-effective way to distribute vegetables and meat.


and yet according to the USDA, "11.1 percent of households were food insecure at least some time during the year, including 4.3 percent (5.6 million households) that had very low food security".


"food insecure" may be a relatively low bar: it looks like it includes "reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake." https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/fo...


I don't think that's a low bar. The US is an advanced economy. Why would people being unable to get fresh produce or have a balanced and varied diet be acceptable? Especially when you consider the obesity problems the country is facing.

I think that food insecurity meaning literal hunger pains is way too low a bar for the US. That number should be literally 0%. Food security for us should mean food that is healthy and excellent.


"food insecure at least some time during the year" includes people who at some point during the year didn't like the food they had available ("reduced desirability"). For example, someone could be getting their food from Meal Hubs and still be counted as food insecure.

If you surveyed specifically on whether people had access to fresh produce you'd get a much lower number.


I personally don't think that ~10% of people who are in the low food security box are doing great. They still seemed to do horribly in some of the metrics they gathered. For example, 80% of them felt they could not afford a balanced meal.

Then if you look at the very low security group, roughly 4% or 5 million people, it gets really worrisome. 32% of households said an adult had gone an entire day without eating anything.

And I think this is compounded by something like Covid-19. 85% and 95% of the low and very low food security groups said they were worried food would run out. What happens to them when people make a run on the stores like this last month? Their ability to buy food is strongly tethered to the day of the month when their EBT card is reloaded.

I think a lot of this is subjective, and globally the US is doing quite well compared to all countries. But I suspect we do poorly compared to other industrialized/advanced economies.


I'm relatively sure that saying "That chicken was alright, but the brine set in too strong and it was just too salty" doesn't fall within anyone's definition of food insecure.


The USDA definitions are extraordinarily misleading. “Food insecure” includes people who are at no risk of going hungry, but wish they had better food or a larger variety of food.


You'd be feeling pretty insecure if your only options for food was the boxed garbage from a gas station.


Whose only option is that?



That's not what that article says


You have to read past the first sentence

"A food desert is an area that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food,[1][2][3] in contrast with an area with higher access to supermarkets or vegetable shops with fresh foods, which is called a food oasis.[4] The designation considers the type and quality of food available to the population, in addition to the accessibility of the food through the size and proximity of the food stores.[5]

In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 23.5 million Americans live in "food deserts"


What does that have to do with boxed food at gas stations?


Are you just being pedantic?


Either that, or you are being melodramatic.


Giving people money won't solve this problem. The food desert phenomenon is very real and very unsolved.


Hot take: You need a food equivalent of Medicare, where you can walk into the equivalent of a public good supermarket (Aldi would be my example, perhaps adjacent to a library and community center, with a "dine in" meal area), and walk out only with healthy foods or a healthy meal. Regarding food deserts, you need to force the distribution chain where it isn't, even if it isn't profitable (we don't look at the profitability of school lunches, soup kitchens, or food banks, for example).

Citizens also need help understanding nutrition and health diets (existing efforts are woefully inadequate), and direct cash benefits (SNAP) are suboptimal for that, considering food industry marketing efforts (looking at you Coca Cola).


The purpose of Coca-Cola is to sell fizzy sugar drinks. Why would it be to blame for food deserts or people not managing their purse strings?

I mean, if you want to ban Coca-Cola (like many want to ban marijuana), that's sort of a valid belief?


One cannot ban soda (or other unhealthy foods), see what happened with the uproar over choice over a minor tax on soda in NYC. You can not provide it at your establishment though. That's what I'm advocating for; free food (basics or prepared), but only healthy food. Making something difficult to obtain is somewhat equivalent to banning it, without the fight. "Choice" is what got us into the problem of so many having "Western" disease [1] (overweight, pre-diabetes do to diet choices).

Small nudges [2] in the right direction. If I'm providing free meals for those who need it, I'm going to provide water (cheap, healthy, and readily available in the developed world) with it, not a can of Coke.

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and...

[2] https://smile.amazon.com/Nudge-Improving-Decisions-Health-Ha...


So where’s the disconnect here? SNAP is widely available, so we need to investigate the gap.


57 billion into 40 million people = $1425. That's without any overhead. Say there was no overhead, that's $3.90 a day.


SNAP is $200 per month per person for low income, at least it was when I was on it.


This is a crucial move. A LOT of kids in particular relied on school breakfasts and lunches. This will make sure they stay fed.

And with a lot of people out of work, unemployment offices backlogged, and a long turnaround time for SNAP eligibility (and many of the newly unemployed ineligible for it anyway), the alternatives would likely involve some combination of mass starvation and food riots that destroy grocery stores.


It was already the case for several weeks in NY that school-age kids could pickup free packaged meals from any school, the change in this announcement is expanding that to include adults.


In Chicago the schools are still handing out lunches to parents/kids to come and pick up.


This crisis is revealing a lot of things we could be doing during normal times.

Releasing unconvicted people from crowded jails while they await trial. Why were they locked up to begin with?

Allowing restaurants to offer sealed alcoholic beverages as take-out or delivery. Why was this not allowed already?

Offering all COVID-19 treatment and testing free of charge. Why not do this with EVERY health problem, like cancer or diabetes?

Allowing large bottles of hand sanitizer in your carry-on when flying. Why were we banning liquids in the first place, if the exception to the rules is a flammable liquid!?


Feeding people was solved in the 20th century, perhaps almost too easily. See correlation between poverty and obesity in the 21st century, vs the 19th century.


Obesity is strongly tied in with the fact that the food we're consuming is unhealthy - rather than the fact that it's purely excessive. One of those unhealthy factors is an overabundance of sugar and salt both of which fight satiation fueling the brain to overeat.

We have plenty of food, but we've turned a large portion of it into unhealthy crap.


That's interesting-- I hadn't heard that sugar or salt might counter satiation. I have seen a bit of correlation between sugar intake combined with fat intake, though. Which makes sense some given fast food menu items (high fat food + a soda).

Do you have any links to papers about salt and fat counteracting satiation?


I think everyone can benefit from eating less irrespective of if they are consuming fast food or very clean diet.

A lot of people use food for emotional pain management. Consuming food releases dopamine which is same as taking a drug hit.

My girlfriend used to be obese and I learned she felt very lonely and when we got into relationship - she got lot better and now she's very fit.



Right. Food insecurity need not be a problem for anyone in the 21st Century. It should be like running out of oxygen: nearly impossible because it's essentially free and widely available.


By essentially free, you mean easily attainable, but not "free" in the economic sense of costing nothing?


Even oxygen has a cost from the pedantic point of view.


I can't understand in what sense you mean. Oxygen is so widespread in the environment that nobody has to expend any energy or resources to produce it, it is just there. Unlike food.

(This comment is not meant to argue for or against the position that food should be provided by the State. I'm just trying to understand what you mean.)


Do you get food banks in the US?


Yes we do, but they are charities, and generally related to religious organizations.

My experience with homelessness and lgbt issues taught me that relying on the charity of others, and not a formal social safety net, will only drive marginalized people further to the margins. Relying on someone else wanting to feel good about themselves to get what you need to survive isn't a good model.


Our town went into lockdown. I talked with Craig, a homeless guy I see occasionally. He said first day, kind young people came by with gloves, vitamin C tablets, some kind of facemask. After that - nothing. Its been weeks now.

Charitable organizations can run down once the volunteers have done enough to feel helpful. Not a good thing to rely upon, not in our modern society.


And food banks tend to provide groceries, which is good for people with fridges and pantries..not as helpful for homeless or people living in their cars, friends couches, etc.


I’m sorry you feel this way. The food bank I’ve volunteered with “in order to feel good at myself” literally just puts a bag of groceries in your trunk, or as much as you can carry.


That statement isn't intended to be mean or hateful. It's a statement of fact. Our current foodbank system is reliant on people wanting to help. There is no obligation. Many do it because it makes them feel good inside, and that's fine.

The rest of my argument is still valid. Relying on charity for human survival is not a good system.


Have to have a trunk...even carrying groceries works only if you have someplace to put them.

Don't get me wrong - bless you for your good work! But there's a difference between helping folks with some problems, and helping the homeless.


If you have a stable tech job and are in a good position right now please donate cash to your local food bank. Many people have lost their jobs and schools are closed, lots of kids in lower income areas get most of their food from school meals.


But donate cash, or at least contact them to see what, specifically, they need. Donating that 3 year old can of creamed corn hiding in the back of your pantry is worse than doing nothing at all.


We have food banks in the US. Many are under heavy stress right now from what I understand. At least one food bank near me has already expressed needs for donations through local media sources.


The sad reality is that the supply chain is all messed up and there’s weird expectations still with food banks. For example, I can’t take my 50 lb bag of rice and divide it up into 5 lb bags because of food safety issues and regulations. So rather than getting a huge shipment of some grain and doing that, they’re stuck scrounging for the small stuff.

They’re also still tossing expired foods even though Best By dates are largely irrelevant.


> I can’t take my 50 lb bag of rice and divide it up into 5 lb bags because of food safety issues and regulations.

While the food bank can’t, you and your friends can split things up.

Even if you can’t, if you’re getting 500calories a day from rice for 1 person, 50lbs will run out in 6 months.


Yes, but they usually rely on donations.

Also, a lot of needy children get their primary meals at school.


Indeed. Our local school system has implemented a drive by food pickup so that the children and their family can pick up food.


Our district has been doing pick-up but mainly at the larger middle schools and high schools. Starting next week they will also be running a bus route through neighborhoods where kids can get lunch delivered between 10 and noon.

I'm not sure how well it will work, but it at least shows an understanding that not all families can get to the handful of schools that are offering meals.





Feeding people will always be a matter of profit: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-dairy-...


> Feeding people will always be a matter of profit: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-dairy-....

I agree, sadly; I have actually been focused on mitigating the losses inherit in the Supply Chain itself, as on a solely Calorie basis we could easily feed the entire population, and is for the most part already at a post-scarcity level despite all the turmoil with Factory Farming and especially State subsidies that distort the commercial aspects of Agriculture (see last paragraph).

This underscores the 'what and why' better than anything I've seen so far and what can lead to Dairy Farmers being asked to dump milk to maintain prices via artificial scarcity:

> The dairy industry’s woes signal broader problems in the global food supply chain, according to farmers, agricultural economists and food distributors. The dairy business got hit harder and earlier than other agricultural commodities because the products are highly perishable - milk can’t be frozen, like meat, or stuck in a silo, like grain.

Other food sectors, however, are also seeing disruptions worldwide as travel restrictions are limiting the workforce needed to plant, harvest and distribute fruits and vegetables, and a shortage of refrigerated containers and truck drivers have slowed the shipment of staples such as meat and grains in some places.

Leedle could likely sell his milk if he could get it to market. Dairy products in grocery stores have been in high demand as consumers stay home during the pandemic, though panic buying may be slowing. Earlier this week, a local market told Leedle’s wife she could buy only two dairy products total per shopping trip as retailers nationwide ration many high-demand products.

Dairy cooperatives oversee milk marketing for all of their members and handle shipping logistics. Leedle said he will be paid for the milk he and other farmers are dumping, but the payments for all cooperative members will take a hit from the lost revenues.


>[...] Dairy Farmers being asked to dump milk to maintain prices via artificial scarcity

That's not the impression I got from the article. They're dumping milk because the supply chain can't transport any more milk, not because of cartel-like behavior to jack up prices like you suggest.

>the milk supply chain has seen a host of disruptions that are preventing dairy farmers from getting their products to market. [...] Trucking companies that haul dairy products are scrambling to get enough drivers as some who fear the virus have stopped working.


> That's not the impression I got from the article. They're dumping milk because the supply chain can't transport any more milk, not because of cartel-like behavior to jack up prices like you suggest.

I knew I should have made that point clearer before I hit submit but I had to get started on something else.

I was making an allegorical reference to how dumping milk can become commonplace, as was done in WWII all while food was being rationed and such. Things we still to this day find abhorant, but can easily be normalized.

I saw how farmers in the EU were paid not to harvest citrus in order maintain prices and supply in other member nations and bountiful fruit orchards were left neglected, I saw how massive amounts of cucumbers were destroyed (without being accurately tested) in Spain when an outbreak happened in the EU, only find out they came from Germany after the destruction. Same with Horse meat etc... my point being that that bureaucratic meddling distorts the ability for producers and consumers to be able to find the most efficient way to exchanged good and services, because of a series of obtuse and poorly formulated regulations and this more the norm than most people think.

The broken food supply chain is the best example of that, its seriously a miracle it has 'worked' at all thus far if I'm honest.

*Can provide links later


"milk can’t be frozen, like meat, or stuck in a silo, like grain"

...but it can be dried. I bought some powdered milk during my preparation and have been using it to cook with, for which it's been great. In a pinch you can drink it, or use it to extend fresh milk, if you have any. It can be stored for a long time, too.

I know it's not ideal, but it's better than throwing milk away.


Or do what we’ve done for millennia: make cheese.

Hard to DIY (I think? Or I overestimate), but at an industrial scale, already a thing.

Takes up a lot less space too.

Finally, milk can be UHT’d and is then shelf stable for ~40 weeks. Then is starts to form sediments... dunno if that’s actually bad.


> Or do what we’ve done for millennia: make cheese.

Or do the next best thing as cheese making requires elaborate infrastructure, preps and a very refined skill-set (its basically bio-chemistry), which is to feed local livestock with it directly; when I worked in Bern I got the honor to apprentice for a day under one of the most highly regarded Emantaler Cheese Masters in the Country. My day started at 3am where I got there and began reaching out to the local livestock farmers by phone or email asking the list of regulars if they would be available to pick up the whey until about 5am while the cheese maker and his staff sterilized everything and got there preps ready. In addition to it being a sustainable practice I learned at lunch that he was also paid for this by the local farmers which helped him offset expenses and provide a very valued service to the community.

By 10am when the cheese wheels had already been formed and was in the brine we had 5 livestock farmers ready outside to come pick up ~3000 liters of whey to feed their animals and we just emptied the hose from the fermentation vat to their containers. It all just made perfect sense and moved me to try and model this in my bahaviour moving forward.

By my 2nd year when I went to Italy and ran the farm and the Kitchen in the agrotourism I worked directly with the owner/artisan Cheese maker (much smaller operation and herd) and he was just dumping the whey into the drain after production.

I told him I'd get a couple of chickens and would upcycle the wasted bread and whey and provide to provide them with feed in addition to the food scraps we had and could have egg laying hens producing in a month or two and would highlight it on the menu, as well as have another attraction for the patrons to visit before/after Dinner. By the time I left, our group of volunteer and BnB guest's food budget went down 50% because I was able to feed them and also sell them by the dozen to restaurant patrons at 5 Euros/Dozen. One of the front of house girls started to make nice woven baskets from straw and we included fig jam (that could be made for pennies) she'd make from the excess harvest.

I honestly think the real core issue is that we've normalized this expendable resource narrative to its furthest extreme, which the Earth cannot take any more, and its such that that only a generation ago your grandmother (if you're millennial aged) would be aghast at the sight.

The bigger problem is that these people then have entered office, or roles of supervision and created or enforce legislation that rewards that disastrous mentality and it keeps Food producers content (just enough) with subsidies that distorts all of this and has ripple effects all down the supply chain.


We're fortunate to be in a position where the profit incentive has led to a situation where, when there is a disruption in the demand distribution points (restaurants), the biggest problem is that we have too much production.

Without the profit incentive, we have seen time and again, far more severe disruptions to the food supply (USSR, Venezuela, DPRK). Capitalism does not provide for everyone, but it does an excellent job of providing for the vast majority of people. Charity and welfare programs are a good supplement to that, but profit itself is an immensely powerful and useful tool to keep people fed.


> We'd be so much better off as a society if we could at least keep our people fed.

We need to bring back town farms. There is more than enough land within NYC that's currently being used for literally nothing that could instead be growing free food for anyone who wants it.


Seems like an extremely obvious thing to do, and yet so few places are willing/able. The food kitchens in the bay area are being hammered right now and we're barely 3 weeks into the shutdown. This is not something that private charity can handle.


I wonder if the food will be delivered home, or you'll have to go to some store.

Going to some store and lining up is very demoralising thing.

If food comes to your home from normal delivery with no different labeling then for paying customers, we could achieve new moral highs.


There's no delivery. You have to pick the food up.

According to NYC:

> Starting today, 3 free meals will be available for ALL New Yorkers in more than 400 Meal Hubs, Mon-Fri: http://schools.nyc.gov/freemeals.

Since it's being run by the Department of Education, the pickup locations will probably be at public schools (the same as when the program used to be only for school children).


> Going to some store and lining up is very demoralising thing.

Perhaps, but also it might be just annoying enough so that everybody who really needs the food is able to get it, and people who can afford food don't take it. If that works effectively, we're saving a lot of administrative costs and reducing barriers to entry compared to food stamps where you have to convince the government that you need it.


Is this satire?

Not only should people get 'free food' but someone else should have to deliver it to them as well so that they have 'equality'?


>We'd be so much better off as a society if we could at least keep our people fed.

this is not a statement you can make without qualifying. it is either a useless tautology (society would be better if society were better), or an actual argument about policy and procedures (if wealthier people paid more taxes, we could feed poorer people and society would be better).

of course, no one says the second thing when that's what they mean because it is not self-evidently true. the core issue is complex and then the second- and third- order consequences are even more complex. this is to say nothing about which morals you presuppose about what a "better" society would be.

> I wish could out last this virus.

I have been wishing the opposite. my greatest fear is that the virus and soon-to-be depression will be used to push through some extreme political policy that will reshape America in a near-uncontrolled way.


If you're going to make a rebuttal, then make a rebuttal. So far you haven't really said anything to refute his statement that society would be better off if everyone was guaranteed 3 meals per day.


I rebut that it is ok to offer "society would be better" as an argument. its an emotion, not a debatable proposition. here, let me take your side:

"given that good nutrition and a lack of stress from worrying about food allows people to develop more intellectually, raising taxes to pay for food welfare will actually raise money by introducing more workforce"

there are principles you can attack (good nutrition aids brain development, less stress aids brain development), an action to attack (raising taxes), and projected results to attack (better brain development yields higher workforce participation, higher workforce participation will raise more money).

this is an argument, something to be debated. "we'd be better if less people were hungry" is a useless platitude.


Sure if one is attempting to write an academic paper or PhD thesis, then "society would be better off" is indeed not rigorous enough, I'll give you that.


In all of your discussion, you never actually took a policy position. It's clear the OP is advocating for a public program to ensure no one in NYC/the US goes hungry, and that the government is the responsible party in that obligation.


On the other hand, the second and third order consequences to providing a stronger social safety net to people might be highly beneficial.

We can apply creativity to solving the world's problems without resorting to the slippery slope fallacy of the abandonment of capitalism completely.

Not every social experiment is a one-way door that cannot be tweaked, improved or abandoned. We need to be less cynical and be willing to experiment more without so much fear.


> On the other hand, the second and third order consequences to providing a stronger social safety net to people might be highly beneficial.

Possibly, but not necessarily. I'm in Germany. We have UBI for all intents and purposes, you get an apartment, utilities, TV, a washing machine etc, health insurance and money for food and stuff. Yes, you are expected to take a job if you can find one, but you're not pushed too hard if you half-ass it and don't find any.

We're still looking for those highly beneficial consequences. We have plenty of intergenerational poverty and our social mobility is worse than in the US.

It's apparently not that simple, unfortunately.

> Not every social experiment is a one-way door that cannot be tweaked, improved or abandoned.

It pretty much is though. It's very, very, very hard to turn back the clock on benefits once people have gotten used to it.


[flagged]


youre really showing your true stripes here.

>Especially if it takes taxing the "rich" more.

im not sure why you put rich in quotes since that's not what I said. however, the majority of tax revenue already comes from businesses and high-income tax brackets. what do you think is a "fair" share, since theyre already footing the bill?

> Imagine the chaos that would ensue...

youre being sarcastic, but im not sure why. American capitalism has helped catapult the world into a standard of living previously unimagined. most socialist experiments have ended with millions of dead, and the current socialist successes are either brutally authoritarian and/or 1/100 the size of USA.

> This can only push innovation!

if you want to stop using technology that was gained in some part by the "needless" (whatever that means) suffering of others, then good luck; you've got quite the task ahead of you.

> That would certainly make for a better society!

im making good-faith arguments including first-principles. you respond with false dichotomys, straw men, putting words in my mouth, sarcasm, and generally being a piece of shit.


A general leftward trend is inevitable after this crisis passes. Neoliberalism is facing its toughest challenge; the nordic socioeconomic model has never looked better.


Nordic countries are pragmatically ethnocentric, mandatory military service, have state Churches and official state religions, popular Monarchies (Sweden's royal family is more popular in Sweden than the UK Monarchs in the UK), and people, in general, are nice but the furthest thing from 'PC' as we understand it. They are economically left-wing, but the culture is very closed.

The very consideration of the 'Nordic Model' is almost absurd because it ignores the other 80% of the situation which is the social fabric that's not part of the political system.

New York has 23% of the population functionally illiterate and there's a perfect correlation between literacy and success and health in every domain. So that would be a really good place to start.

And there are a zillion obviously unfair things in the US that could be fixed.

So much low-hanging fruit before a comparative basis is even needed.


I agree. It’s not great news in that it shouldn’t have to be this way. We’ve


This is actually the case for new york kids in school allways.


It's good that society is able of achieving that.

It's very, very bad that it's achieved through the mechanism of central government, which uses coercion and a giant monopolic beurocracy apparatus in order to implement that.


would be better if they could deliver staple food, like rice, fruits/vegetables, rather than transformed products


A bag of uncooked rice doesn't help somebody who's homeless or has had their gas/electric shut off.


After the lockdown is lifted, do you think the fast food chains will allow for this to continue? How much of this could potentially eat into their revenues?


Ad freebies usually create net positive impacts


Maybe we can make it out of this mess better than how we were when we got in it.


With more people obese than not in this country, keeping people well fed is not a problem that we have.


There's a big difference between "well fed" and "properly fed." "Well fed," to me, usually means "gets enough, or more than enough, to eat." "Properly fed" means "gets the right amount of food, and sufficient quantities of most nutrients."

People don't often die of starvation in the United States. I don't have exact numbers, but if you exclude people who have eating disorders, I'm sure it's insignificant compared to almost every other cause of death. But, malnutrition is certainly a problem, and that problem gets worse when you have people who literally don't know where their next meal is coming from.


Obesity in this country is closely linked to poverty. The foods that people in poverty have access to (because of cost but also because of food deserts) offer excessive calories but poorly balanced nutrition.

That means that people are obese but at the same time essentially starving to death from lack of nutrients. Which causes more food cravings that people are able to attempt to satiate only with more food with poor nutritive value.


I think obesity dis-proportionally affects impoverished African Americans vs. other impoverished races.

At least based on one point of anecdata - my neighbors. I have lots of poor families in my neighborhood even though I am middle class myself thanks to HOC (a Maryland social program where middle class housing is subsidized for the poor). Long story short - my poor African American neighbors are extremely obese; and it's no wonder why. I only ever see them eating McDonald's/dollar tree chips/soda. I know they are on SNAP, but I don't know if they are trading it for booze/cigarettes. It's my opinion though that they lack education on how to prepare/cook cheap raw ingredients into meals.

Yet my other equally poor immigrant El Salvadorian neighbors are skinny as rails and from what I can tell they eat tons of rice and beans and such (I often see them carrying 20 lb bags of rice into their house).


There is definitely a genetic component. A very clear example is the obesity rate of Pacific islanders after they were introduced to the western diet. They were genetically isolated while subsisting on a very specific diet for thousands of years. As a result, they no longer thrive on the same diet that Europeans do.


https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/facts

> More than 38 million people are living in poverty in America. In 2019, most families living in poverty earn less than $25,750 per year.

> More than 37 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children.


Curious what their definition of "struggle with hunger" is? I couldn't find it on their site.


The people that run these organizations have an incentive to make this problem appear larger than it really is. I have never in my life seen in this country a starving person or a malnourished person for that matter and the government health statistics back me up. It is not a problem the U.S. has.


With so many billionaires in this country, poverty is not a problem we have. With so many condos by Central Park and mansions overlooking LA, neither city has a homelessness problem.


Tone deaf and self-righteous moralizing is absurd in this era


I am a fan of fasting, keto, and IF. But a sudden loss of daily calories for the unprepared can be severely physiologically damaging for many, no matter how much you have stored.


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