A bag of spinach lasts about a week, fresh meat a few days. Meanwhile a retort pouch of chili or curry lasts forever and doesn't even need to be refridgerated. There are unprocessed foods that last almost forever like dried lentils, rice and oats but most people don't want to eat those things (or at least not for every meal).
What do poor people tend to eat? Fast food burgers and other high calorie, low cost meals that are readily available. No prep/cook time, minimal cost (at least on the surface) and hot and palatable to most.
As someone who cooks all my food from raw ingrediants, that's absolutely a luxury but it's not a money expensive one, it's a time/management/availability luxury.
The african american neighbors are extremely obese and _constantly_ eating McDonalds (I can tell from the litter I clean up in the parking lot...). My ghana immigrant neighbors on the other hand are skinny as rails and can be seen hauling 10 pound bags of rice/beans/etc. into their house.
It's often overlooked, but there's more than just money that passes between generations. Simple knowledge like "how to cook with unprocessed foods" is extremely valuable information to pass on to offspring. We need to somehow tackle that if we ever plan to help people entrenched in inter-generational poverty.
Compare the two and you will see their spending on all needs and wants is different. It won't just be the food they eat. One will plan long term for their gratification and the other will simply take what they can afford right now, that later comes from always having that option.
Go look back a hundred years or more when the Irish; my ancestors; got here. Many came here in debt to others working bare subsistence levels and they would have similar habits to your Ghanians, as in tomorrow isn't a guarantee so plan for the worst. I expect that the second generation after the move the attitudes will change but that is heavily influenced by culture
My step-father, who is a Mexican immigrant, started laughing. He said that's all they ate growing up. He said it wasn't until high school when his dad got a job in a General Motors factory that they had enough money to eat hamburger and cheese along with their beans and rice.
Personally I think the African American community could use less BLM and more of the values and ideals of these migrant groups.
African migrants, unless they came as refugees, were usually upper middle or higher class - with college degrees and some degree of wealth in order to get here. They're typically not the average African, socioeconomically speaking.
Most Africans also haven't been weighed down by system racism their whole lives. For example, a Ghanaian friend told me that how never really understood racism until he moved to the US in his 20's as he had never experienced it in Ghana.
I think it is a uniquely western problem. I know for a fact that for most of Asia and Africa, and even South America, cheap food doesn't include processed food. In fact, foods like lentils and rice tend to be a major parts of the diet. This is usually supplemented with some form of local crop (veggies or otherwise) or easily accessible wildlife (or farmed animals and birds).
A more recent assessment would give a similar growth rate to the one cited in the paper (~13% annually), but for the last six months, COVID 19 has put a damper on things.
> This is usually supplemented with some form of local crop (veggies or otherwise) or easily accessible wildlife (or farmed animals and birds).
Since you're talking about "easily accessible wildlife," please keep in mind that urbanization in Asia and Africa is a big thing.
Yes, but unlike cities in the west, a lot of cities across the world aren't that far from where wildlife is accessible. And this means, people from neighboring villages commute daily to the cities with the fresh catch of the day and make it available in urban markets. And in most countries, a huge population is still rural/semi urban, and this population tends to be more likely to be "poor". For e.g. 65% of India's population is rural and that still amounts to 700 million or twice the population of the United States. Also, although I used the term "wildlife", but I also said "(or farmed animals and birds)" which isn't that difficult to access in urban environments, especially considering lax zoning and unplanned development of cities still allows people to have those in the middle of an urban sprawl.
China is 60% urban now, and that's another number that's only going to increase.
I'm sure it's true enough that India and China, for example, are quite different, but your description that the issues surrounding fast food are a "uniquely western problem" strikes me as pretty obviously not true. The rise in worldwide obesity rates has to do largely with this change in diet, for example.
Same with rice. It takes a little bit more to master rice, but lentils man it's the lazy meal for me. I also buy frozen vegetables that lasts who knows how much, and it tastes as good as with fresh ones.
Most of spanish cuisine is cheap and more or less easy to make. I'm not really sure that processed food is cheaper. A pot of (again) lentils can last a bunch of days and costs nothing.
I'm well off, and eat lentils and rice on the regular. So do all my equally comfortable friends, whether it's from a healthy "whole foods" kind of mentality or just an enjoyment of tasty food.
When I talk about food with my family who is lower income, they often dismiss those kinds of foods as being "poor people food" even to the extent of throwing a bit of shade when I send photos of lentil dishes I've prepared. They feel that because they can afford fast food and eating out, that they should almost like a weird wealth display. Their idea of treating someone to a good meal is a trip to a slightly nicer fast food restaurant.
Obviously, this is a small sample size and is tied to my family so this is likely not a comprehensive answer but it's at least my observation on the matter.
You're not low status, so you can freely display such markers with no fear that anyone would conclude that you're lower class.
It's an amazing privilege you have to be able to do such things in public, and a little empathy towards the little people would be greatly appreciated.
It doesn't seem that many see it as important. I see lots of loud attention seeking behaviour, vulgar displays of material goods etc.
YOU see it as a low status marker because you're higher than them. Being able to look down on people is a sure sign of being higher relative status. It's one reason why we humans heartily enjoy it so much.
Can you expand on this some more?
When you display low status markers like lentils, one of two things must be true: you're high status enough to display low status symbols and obviously nobody would think less of you for it, or you're actually low status. If you're actually low status, you're displaying your low status to the world. This is humiliating. It feels horrible and we humans avoid it like we avoid being burned to death in fires.
My grandmother would never eat beans & rice because she was born Cajun, and she was taught that to be Cajun was shameful and low status. Due to their cultural backwardness, lack of education, their cuisine was things they found in the swamp. They were somewhat rehabilitated by the food revival in the 90s, but when she was a girl it was bad and she avoided displaying those status markers in public.
While many in this thread appear to be assigning the behavior to status seeking, I suggest it has far more to do with convenience seeking. We have the sad truth of poor, honest, hard working families keeping down up to four jobs and still needing to rely on food banks to make ends meet. There are too many factors to say how prevalent but this is a thing that exists in at least some cases.
In fact, here we are at visible status markers again. "My ingroup does this high status display, but your ingroup (my outgroup) has low status and we would never do that (despite the fact that we secretly do that when you think we can't be seen)."
- mostly because of convenience: a (arguably) tasty meal, ready to eat, for cheap
- like all junk food places, you can grab a meal whenever, which is not usual in most of Europe: restaurants don't serve meals outside of lunch and dinner times, in a roughly 3/4 hours window. If you are outside those windows, though luck getting a full hot meal outside of fast foods.
- toilets, wifi and a place to sit, no questions asked is very enticing for a category of people.
I worked surveying consumer habits for a fish supplier in Spain and we saw how people demands more easy-to-eat stuff, but in supermarkets.
Eating out or ordering food is still viewed as leisure time or something you do in a hurry. Younger people has bad eating habits, but they still go to the supermarket and "cook" at their homes.
Parisian friends said during their first push into France, they appreciated that they could buy something and do homework there for a few hours without getting pressured to leave.
Now imagine a community of people where half of them are so poor that the only thing they can eat are lentils, and the other half is 10% richer. By not eating lentils you demonstrate your (relative) wealth within the community. By eating lentils, you show that you are poor even among the poor.
People hate being at the very bottom of the society.
I didn't realize how sensitive I was to the blood-sugar spikes until I went on keto which strictly limits your carb intake. I no longer get the "sugar crash" 2-3 hours after eating. My grocery bills have gone up, primarily due to no longer being able to add filers like bread, rice, and grains which TFA calls "cheapened" food.
Ordering spanish (or really any) food without these fillers reveals how little "real" food most restaurants actually serve.
So quick sugar like carbs like highly processed wheat flour will not give you the same spike as say some whole grain rice that has been re-heated a few times (just as an example of how different carbs can be in composition, not saying you should always prepare food like this)
I think we may have very very different ideas of what that means.
Vegetables of your choosing
Maybe two potatoes
One or two average sized chorizos
A bit of salt
A bit of olive oil (something else if olive oil is expensive in your area)
A bit of cooking wine
Little bit of curry
If you don't have soup from previous stuff, you put one of this chicken soup pills, IDK how to translate to english, this how it looks: https://pepekitchen.com/articulo/nueva-presentacion-de-las-p...
Fill with water, fire and forget until it's done.
You can make it way tastier and more elaborated but this is the most lazy and basic plate, and still tastes good. Well, you still have to cut stuff for a few minutes, if that's any effort.
And I don't think I've ever seen that here in the UK, although I have come across it on the internet beforehand, during a bit of a seach on OTS meat stock and such a few years back.
My go-tos are the Knorr Stock Pots and Concentrated Meat stocks, which seem to have similar ingredient lists to yours.
If I'm cooking a vegetarian meal that needs stock I use Miso paste.
I'd still suggest that Oxo cubes are different beasts to the cubes up there - again, i think Knorr would be an equivalent, as un-British a brand as it is.
Not a fan of Oxo - weird composition and not very nice or meaty taste, to me anyway.
Also below are few more varieties of vegan lentil recipes:
Not as good as home made by a long shot but it is a LOT better than those bouillon cubes (what you refer to as "pills")! Please don't use those ever again, lol
There's one broth brand, Aneto, that actually tastes quite good. I see they even have an english website: https://www.caldoaneto.com/en/caldos/caldos-basicos-en/
Even seasoning doesn't have to require chopping, smash a piece of garlic, don't even dice, throw it in, delish.
I only ever make a full 1 lb bag of dried lentils or beans at a time, what you don't eat immediately stores well in a 1 gallon zip lock bag and keeps for longer than a week. Dish out half cup at a time and hit briefly in microwave.
Lentils (and split peas) are the easiest legumes since they don't even require thinking ahead. But beans with a $60 slow cooker are arguably even lower effort.
I don't even eat oven-cooked premade meals because pre-heating the oven and cooking it takes so long by the time it finishes I could have driven somewhere and bought + ate food already.
This might sound terrible, but since I was 16 and living on my own I've never eaten food that required cooking. Came up with entire mealplans of stuff you can buy that's pretty much ready to eat.
Okay, ready to get grossed out?
Breakfast (~$3.00, 600kcal, 50g protein)
- Eggs, cracked on a plate/bowl and put in the microwave to cook over-medium, with salsa and cheese
- Greek yogurt/Cottage cheese
- Oats with milk and some sort of fake sugar and flavor extract (vanilla, almond, pumpkin)/cinnamon, etc, sometimes with whey
- Fresh cucumber with no/lowfat italian vinagrette
Lunch/Dinner ($4.00, 500-800kcal, 60-80g protein):
- 12oz Canned chicken breast + turkey chili + cheese + tortilla chips
- 12oz Canned chicken breast + canned field peas & snaps + green beans
For years I also only owned a single plate/bowl and spoon and eat every meal with it, then washed it and put it back when I was done to avoid having to do dishes.
But getting into pre-cooked food is like a bad habit, so easy to fall out of the practice, because "just tonight I'll go grab some pre-made stuff instead, and tomorrow I'll make more meals."
Friendship over with other appliances, microwave is my new best friend again ;^)
I also do a salad with lettuce, tomato, boiled chicken dices, onion cut in small pieces, vinegar, olive oil and soy sauce (Kikkoman is good and cheap enough). You mix everything very well so that the sauce impregnates everything. After it's been in the fridge it tastes even better.
It's just a little imagination, you can make tasty dishes with very little money. And if you're a lazy guy in the kitchen like me, tupperware's a given.
And yeah haha, it's just sheer laziness and lack of discipline. I've eaten what my coworkers often affectionately refer to as "cat food" (bowl of canned meats and peas/carrots or chili) for most of my adult life so my bar for taste is pretty low lmao.
I would say it's a "price I pay for the convenience" but I know damn well I could buy an Instantpot and throw a bunch of food in it + push a button and have meals for days, in the heat of the moment it always just seems easier to go "welp, I'm hungry _now_, and this garbage food is r-e-a-d-y-t-o-e-a-t so we've got ourselves a plan." haha.
- The pre-sliced chicken breasts are more expensive than the canned by weight
- You have to get out a pan, do the whole process, and then clean the pan and put it back, plus clean whatever mess you made during.
- And then the chicken will go bad if you don't end up eating it after a few days, unless you freeze it
- At which point, if you want to un-freeze it, now you have to wait for the damn thing to thaw again =/
Canned chicken breast also isn't that bad to be honest. If you've never tried it, it goes really well with burritos, tacos, salads, chilis, etc. (Just don't try to eat it by itself, with no condiments. Really bland.)
Yes. I've noticed a tendency for people to buy 'meals' rather than ingredients. I have relatives who look in my well-stocked larder and say "But there's nothing to eat!". They buy wholly prepared meals that just need reheating, and their idea of a complex meal is to put some diced chicken in a casserole with a jar of curry sauce bought in a supermarket.
Consider most fresh produce is Cheaper than processed food. And it can be eaten raw (or steamed easily in a microwave)
I think education is the major factor here. Commercials will tell you that fast food is cheap, despite it not being cheap. And most people aren't aware how fast you can cook potatoes in a microwave or that kale tastes fine with dressing.
Edit: Potatoes are high calorie. Top with oil.
When I worked lower paying manual labor jobs (dishwasher, landscaper etc.), fast food was much more alluring than the idea of a salad. I suspect it's largely because I was craving a huge influx of calories, not to mention the food is engineered to hijack our taste buds.
I'm going to have to strongly disagree with you here. I've eaten kale raw, cooked, dressed, spiced, dehydrated, blended, and it still tastes foul. YMMV
I think it depends on what produce you want. It's easy to get cheap, reasonable quality fresh veggies, and cheap, low-quality fresh fruit, but good fresh fruit is expensive for me.
They’re about 300 calories per pound. You’d have to eat 7lbs/day to scrape by.
The high calories come from the prep: oil/frying/butter/sauces.
My current housemates are vegetarian, they make great food from scratch. But the only reason they can do that is because they shop every other day for fresh produce. And they have a shit tonne of experience in the kitchen. I do OK in the kitchen, but I have no idea what to put with artichoke or how to make soup from scratch without a receipie. Unless you have been taught both skills and how tk mix ingredients, it's just easier to pick up a packet of something and microwave it.
Poor people in urban America eat vegetables, pasta, meat sauce, rice, beans, chicken. That's why grocery stores targeting poor people (ethnic markets) make whole foods selection of actual food look like a store in the USSR.
Junk food is what people who are not poor enough to cook and not rich enough to buy everything in wholefoods eat.
I don't think talking about poverty in modern societies in terms of economic sectors instead of trying to address it at a societal level is particularly useful. The point of the article should not be "let's all pay more for food" it should be "give everyone a UBI and if that means food costs more because you have to pay people more to work as cooks or strawberry pickers, that's a _good thing_.
If anything, centralized food production in the modern, western world is extremely efficient.
The blood of animals is turned into high-grade fertilizer. The bones into soup stock. Every portion of the animal is shipped off to a country that finds it tasty (ie: China eats the ears and feet, we Americans eat the belly).
I think we should continuously think about how to optimize our system. But simultaneously, we need to understand how our system is far, far more efficient than the historical norms.
Today's machines make the processing and harvesting of food incredibly efficient.
Some plants are still processed by hand (IIRC: Strawberries still need to be done by hand). But for the most part, we're moving towards highly automated, highly efficient, food producing machines.
The progress of farming and agriculture continues forward today. I think there's issues in our system that need to be discussed, but the modern day is clearly far better than the past.
EDIT: The issues of today's era, is the production, distribution, and investment of these expensive machines. Who owns the machines? Can small farms afford these machines? Or will farms centralize into monopolies (who can afford the machines, pushing the smaller farms out of business?).
"Who owns the machine" becomes copyright and patent law rather quickly. Right to repair, right to reverse-engineer. Etc. etc.
Regulation and laws that run counter to pure capitalism are needed. I'm not talking about going 100% communist here, but anti-trust laws, cap-and-trade, taxes, and other such regulations can help factor the externality problem into an otherwise capitalist marketplace.
This is not unique to "Western Civilization".
You're going to get further convincing people to care about human suffering (the goal of the article) here by pointing out what a failure Soylent was. Why?
First you'd have to anticipate that all people are going to talk about here is, "Economics. Costs. Pricing. What about if robots made the food instead? Then there is no underclass." Those people aren't even transhumanists i.e. inhabiting some far-off possibly impossible future.
The kinds of foods you could conceive are harvested and processed entirely by robots, end to end, and thus involves no explicit human suffering, are actually really crappy, and no one wants, even when they were made by humans first. That's what Soylent was, it was one guy's algal flour product that probably, truthfully, could be totally automated. It sucked, let's be real.
It's this sort of capitalistic argument, "if it fails in the marketplace it must be bad," that just gets through to people simpler, and clearer. That's the starting fact that gets people to listen. Not de-humanization. Not that there isn't a place for critical theory.
But that you can just discuss facts, like yes, there is a dehumanized replenished underclass, and yet, here we are buying berries from Costco. Their brains turn off. And I wouldn't just brush that off as ignorance, or claim some conspiracy that people are conditioned to first ask if something does or does not make money, because capitalism.
It's just tough to know which things to pay attention to, so if there's a simple framework that helps you, on average, pay attention to the right things and get through life, buying berries, you'll use it.
Unless you're unfortunately born to pick berries instead. So personally, I believe the reason rich people actually frame regulators literally and John Rawls philosophically as the enemy, unequivocally, is that the veil of ignorance much more clearly threatens capitalism than perpetual human suffering through wage slavery (a factual thing!) ever did.
This seems to turn cause and effect completely upside down. What shopkeeper would not have preferred higher prices? What "coster" was putting forth any effort individually to "keep prices too low"?
Both of those parties were undoubtedly striving to sell for the maximum possible profit. And cheap labor in the large had nothing to do with the actions or power of any individual shopkeeper. There were just a lot of hungry people willing to work for next to nothing because next to nothing to eat is slightly better than nothing to eat.
Now what I'd really like to see are more serious discussions of solutions.
I'm constantly surprised at the modern science (and old, forgotten science!) being deployed by regular homesteaders. In particular, employing the beneficial symbiosis of animals and plants. The pigs till and root up the soil and manure the land, the root crops go in next year, then grazing and rest.
Digest plants as animal manure are healthier for the soil than simply composting them, according to many people. Sounds crazy but we have remember that animals and plants evolved together in the same space.
The whole system becomes a closed loop where the inputs and outputs of the farm are closely monitored. Pest and disease are kept at by with careful rotation. Nothing is wasted, and the fertility of the soil and health of the animals (and humans) improve over time from this relationship.
If you're interested in watching this first hand, I recommend "100 days of growing food" playlist by youtube homesteader Justin Rhodes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpDm5OA-TZE
What is the underlying system? In my interpretation, these low price vendors have succeeded in a market that is foremost cost-sensitive, both in terms of price and time. Eventually competition was priced out and now "dollar deserts" exist in poor neighborhoods. These vendors ignore "externality" accountabilities, in the Dollar cases in particular spending for customer and employee safety, in keeping with minimizing cost. The resulting situation, as illustrated in the article, I'll say is one of immoral public jeopardy. In these locales consumers and employees have no alternatives. It gets worse, because the vendors extract wealth from the communities without reinvestment. The margins, from a community perspective, are exploitative.
What are the characteristics of this system? A subsistence market cannot price safety and dignity into the cost of its goods. Margin-maximizing vendors can ignore it. Regulation and policy processes act slowly and undervalue safety, not to mention dignity. And returns for new entrant competitors are too low to make these markets a priority. I think this illustrates an systems cycle with a very few "winners" and many, many more losers.
The New Yorker article is an argument that the very least, Family Dollar and Dollar General, as businesses, should be ashamed of their conduct. That's a starting point. When you move onto interventions and incentives, to say specifically "what should the new policies be?", I don't know.
Anyone who visits the grocery store knows that the cheapest item is a can of corn.
I just visited my grocery store yesterday. A 101 Oz. can of corn was on sale for $5. 101 Oz. of peas was $5. Etc. etc. The cheapest foods are canned vegetables, by far. 16 Oz cans are 60 cents (store brand) to $1 (brand-name)
People eat refined starches, oils, and sugars, because its tasty. But if you actually were buying the cheapest thing in the supermarket, you'd be buying corn, peas, potatoes, green beans, kidney beans, tomato paste.
By weight, corn and peas are cheaper than bread ($2 per pound of bread, $1 per pound of corn / peas / carrots). You can create a very sustainable, and healthy, diet off of $2 or cheaper food items.
They have to do $0.50/meal, so they eat potatoes, rice, beans, etc.
Low wages are a problem but they aren't really related to how cheap our food is. The cheapest supermarket near me is Aldi but their pay is quite generous compared to their competitors.
On my side, I rarely think about money, I just buy what I need, that's not much (about 100€/month in total for everything)
Someone who grows up in a mud hut with no education and no idea where the next meal comes from cannot be made into an engineer easily. But if you can get them enough to eat they can take their kids out of the child labor market and send them to school to learn. It might be a few generations, but that is normal. Me and my sister are the first to finish college in my family on either side, more cousins have since followed. We started on farms generations back, but have moved on as technology advanced.