Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Follow Up to The Cost of Food

Wow, thank you thank you for the many insightful and thought-provoking comments on the Cost of Food post. I thought a few of the recurring comments re: access and time were excellent and deserved a more-than-comment response, so I'll share some of my thoughts here.

Before doing that, though, I want to reiterate that I am NOT against food stamps. I think they absolutely have a place. I am so glad that those who need it can get help, and I'm certainly not here to judge the merits or need of one person receiving them over another. Several of you mentioned students vs. poor single parents, and while that's certainly given me fodder for thought, my initial honest thought is that I think there's even a place for government assistance in high NPV (i.e., future high-paying job) situations (off the top of my head, for example, if it enables a mother to choose to stay home it MAY be worth it considering the cost of day care, effect of a mother at home, etc. etc.), but who knows.

I was mostly curious about the amount of money given, and from what several of you have noted in comments and via email (including from first-hand experience), I definitely think there is room for reevaluation. While I certainly think it's important for that money to get to those that need it, I also think it needs to be monitored and used efficiently. Why? Because the money isn't endless. Our budget crisis is way too critical to ignore the effects of mismanaged funds. I think it's important for the money to go to the most needy. To me, the risks are too great of someone really needy missing out on assistance due to misappropriation of funds or someone else getting far above and beyond his/her needs. As individuals and as a government, I think that if we can spend less, we should - for the best interests of those contributing and those receiving.

Now on the subject of time. Cooking takes it. Simple as that. I get that, and even more so, Dan gets that. He was pretty shocked when we first got married that he would have to sometimes wait over an hour for food, which he'd never really done before. Still, there's something gratifying in preparing and waiting for and consuming food. I realize, though, that not everyone has that luxury. I'm incredibly lucky to be able to work a part-time schedule from home while taking care of my baby. I have a supportive husband who is an extraordinary father and helps out with both the baby AND cooking. I do, however, sometimes have crazy days in which I have to go into the office and then my Internet doesn't work (I know, you can't even believe how hard my life is) and I'm left to cook dinner in 20 minutes. So I have a handful of recipes that take about that amount of time and that don't involve fast food. I'm in no way opposed to canned beans and store-bought tortillas in a pinch (although the food snob in me thinks the homemade kind is infinitely better :)). The point of this very long paragraph is that I really believe that even when time is scarce, frozen dinners or McDonald's aren't the only options.

Now the trickier question - access. Food deserts are a very real issue, and don't have an easy answer. I have to say that while I obviously admire Michelle Obama's effort to bring produce into the city, I think the $4/pound tomatoes at "her" farmer's market are a little ridiculous (although tasty). Some teammates and I wrote a lengthy paper on this issue in graduate school, and while we suggested a few solutions (investment in supermarkets, farmer's markets, food delivery services, nutrition/cooking courses and clubs, providing immersion blenders, etc.), I'm interested in your thoughts. So, readers, what do you think are the best ways to address the access issue?

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