Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Poor people don't need food anyway.

South Los Angeles resident Curtis English acknowledged that fast food is loaded with calories and cholesterol. But since he's unemployed and does not have a car, it serves as a cheap, convenient staple for him.

On Monday, he ate breakfast and lunch — a sausage burrito and double cheeseburger, respectively — at a McDonald's a few blocks from home for just $2.39.

"I don't think there's too many fast food places," he said. "People like it."
With statements like this, it's no wonder the government of LA had to step in and make this decision. With people like Curtis showing such utter disregard for their health by picking something they can afford rather than something that's good for them, we need those who know better to step in. The poor need the rich to help them make good decisions.

Poor people need to slim down by picking something like organic, free range, locally made granola and home made yogurt with local organic clover honey instead of that fatty Egg McMuffin. After all, I'm sure that once we push all the multinational corporations trying to take advantage of the poor by offering cheap, unhealthy food that they can afford too easily, more healthy restaurants will move into poor neighbourhoods. Once we tell people how to budget their (very limited) funds, I'm sure they'll find a way to make it work.


It's depressing how common it is to see such condescending, callous and thoughtless decisions being made on behalf of people just trying to live their lives by people who have forgotten what it's like to worry about having enough money to put food on the table and have nothing better to do than tell the rest of us how to spend ours.

For more info check out the full story here. For more on why California really sucks lately, read this.

Cross-posted to Bureaucrash.


rabbit said...

I just had this debate over at another web site. Here's a decent breakfast:

Quick Quaker Oatmeal with milk and sugar, and half of a sliced banana over the top.

Glass of orange juice (from frozen concentrate)

Piece of toast with peanut butter

My back-of-the-envelope calculations puts the cost at less than a dollar, especially if you shop at the cheapest stores.

There are lots of barriers to eating healthy, but price is not one of them.

Janet said...

Fair enough, though this entire law seems to rest on the assumption that poverty is a barrier to being able to eat healthy food. Either way, though, there are a few ways in which I'd address that defense:

- While making yourself some oatmeal, slicing a banana, making toast and preparing some orange juice (from concentrate) might be affordable coming from the store, preparing everything takes up a lot more time than grabbing an egg sandwich on the fly (especially considering the specific targeting of drive-thrus in this legislation). The opportunity cost of cooking raises the real price of a healthy breakfast slightly. This small increase in cost would only make a difference to the very poorest people, but they should be the people we want most to help.

- Removing other options and limiting choice doesn't make healthy food items cheaper or more available - in fact, if oatmeal didn't have to compete with McDonald's, I have a hard time believing anyone selling healthier food won't take advantage of the fact that they no longer have to compete with a cheap alternative.

And finally, on top of this, the poor are as able as the rich to make their own dietary decisions. Even if you believe (foolishly) that taking away fast food options will somehow deliver a healthy and happy society, I can't see any justification for this assumption that poor people are less able to decide for themselves and therefore they alone should have the restaurants removed from their neighbourhoods. (Especially since, as you've pointed out, the poor have access to healthy options without this law.)

rabbit said...

I agree with what you say, and I strongly disagree with governments attempting to control every damn thing we do. My only point is that healthy food need not be expensive. Some (mostly on the left) contend the opposite when all they have to do is visit a supermarket and check the prices.

Some of the real barriers to eating healthy are...

* Taste. People like the taste of fast foods.

* Ignorance. Some people don't know better, especially the young and poor.

* Time needed to cook and shop. Cooking should be almost every day, or perishables perish.

* Availability. Big supermarkets often shy away from poor neighbourhoods in the U.S. because of security and vandalism problems.

* Transportation. It's best to have a car to buy groceries.

* Skill. Some people are poor cooks or don't know healthy recipes.

I'm sure one could add to this list.

Perhaps LA should be looking at addressing these kinds of barriers. If a neighbourhood lacks a good grocery store, for example, maybe LA can provide incentives or extra security for a new store.

Eddie Blue said...

I eat and like fastfood sometimes, although less than I used to. Its not really cheaper than staple goods - even at Candian prices, you can buy a pack of regular ground beef for about $2.50, and a couple of pork chops for about the same price. This guy could buy a lot of bacon and eggs for the $2.50 he spends at McDonalds.

Fact is though, as a citizen he has the right to drink, and eat crappy food if that is what he likes and makes him feel good.

This is the highest order of nannystatery.