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food snobs vs. poverty

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 

i think this headline will probably catch some attention, and might make people mad. i don't mean to. but i'm not sure how to raise this question, but i intend this post in all seriousness and without judgement. i do have some questions for our great sounding board community.


i know a couple families that i am fairly close with. the moms and i are friends, the kids are friends. in both cases the husbands are a little controlling with the money and the moms are pretty strict about not "lowering themselves" to buying regular food (or in the case of one of them described it as "crap" food). this would be your standard lower quality grocery store food. (aka: what i buy. i shop at aldi. my husband is also a little controlling about money and he criticizes me when i go to trader joes. he thinks it's too expensive to buy organic.) anyways... 


in both of the cases of the families where the mom buys high quality organic... it has recently come to my attention that they are on medicaid and can't afford gym shoes (family 1) and now going to the food pantry for food because they have literally none (family 2). 


i feel in a bind mentally/emotionally. part of me wants to offer some of my food if we have left overs or things that we would *send* to the food pantry. but i recall the words that she doesn't want to lower herself to buy crap food.


and part of me wants to buy the kid a pair of gym shoes if the family is so broke. but then i think that eventually my own husband is going to start questioning what i spend "his" money on and i guess i better not. not to mention, here i am saving money by shopping at aldi, while they spend more on groceries but run short for school supplies.


i just don't know what to think of it all.


i guess we all have our own priorities. maybe there is nothing for me to really do.


does anyone have a different perspective for me to think on??



post #2 of 66
The food you eat affects your health, not just now, but long term. My kids are on Medicaid and we get Food benefits as well. I feel no compunction about buying high quality real food. Yes, it means we spend more on food than we would I bought chicken breast for .99 a lb, but that chicken doesn't actually cost that little. The real cost of that chicken is absorbed by the people who work in the ammonia filled factory that produces it, and the people who live in the town that is affected by the massive amount of waste that factory produces. We undervalue food as a society, and the poor suffer for it. Just because we don't make much money right now, doesn't mean that I should have to feed my family the worst the supermarkets have to offer. We eat the way we do in an effort to be as healthy as possible and while my kids have Medicaid, we rarely need to use those benefits. I'd like to think in part, it's because we make good nutritional choices. It's an important example I set for my kids. We buy good food and use every part of it. Meat, fat, bones, vegetable "offal" for stock or compost, etc.

Because it's important to us, we live frugally where we can. I reuse as much as possible, I make my own as much as possible. I'd rather go without fancy shoes than good food.

Do the gym shoes fit? Who cares how new they are? How wasteful is buying new stuff every year when last year's is still serviceable? Why not shop at thrift stores or on eBay?

If you want to help your friend stretch her money, get together and make homemade cleaning supplies, hang out and mend old clothes or make napkins,etc. from them, have a freezer feeding party. All of these things are frugal and will benefit you both.
post #3 of 66
My son and I both have food allergies, my son reacting to chemicals in many conventional foods. We decided to eat totally organic in the hopes we could avoid future reactions. So far that seems to be the case. Is it expensive? Maybe. But we have no idea how expensive it would be to eat conventional food and have to also buy meds to cope with various symptoms and reactions.

We cut things others would keep, because we feel the food is a top priority. My son calls conventional food 'crap' in spite of my efforts to help him understand that others have different experiences. I don't think there is a right or wrong. Each family does what they believe is best for them, with their personalities, priorities, needs, wants, etc.

You can offer the food you would donate to your friend, as long as she doesn't insult you by calling it crap. As for the gym shoes, if the current shoes still fit and function, new is not needed.
post #4 of 66

Food is not my top priority. Once upon a time I would buy 100% organic, now I can't think of anything that is organic that I buy anymore. We are a family of 6, food is expensive anyway, and if it comes down between paying for my kid's sports and buying organic chicken, I'm going to Sam's Club (ideally Costco but there are none here) I'm sure other people place higher priority on the food and that is excellent for them, but not for me. 

post #5 of 66
Thread Starter 

the gym shoes don't fit. the daughter is in my kid's class and missing out in the play during gym class b/c she's without gym shoes. don't know why they don't buy a used pair at the local resale store. they are available for $1.99. seems they tend to like new stuff. i myself shop resale all the time.




different priorities. and that's fine.


yes, the family now utilizing the food pantry has basically called the food we eat "crap." which IS insulting if you want to make it so. i have not let myself be offended. but now that she is having to eat whatever's available at the food pantry, it makes me think maybe i should have donated my "crap" food to her instead of giving it to the church bag going to the food pantry. ?? but it feels weird b/c she did call it "crap."


i just don't know what to think of it all...

post #6 of 66

This is it entirely.  One persons priorities don't have to be yours.  I don't like many peoples idea of needs but that's my opinion.  It sucks when kids are left lacking but if these families know enough to think organic is best, I am sure the mom knows the kid needs shoes. 


Originally Posted by tropicana View Post

i guess we all have our own priorities. maybe there is nothing for me to really do.


post #7 of 66

I think we all say things we regret. I've actually said that exact same thing without thinking only to find out my neighbor exculsively shops at the store in question. I regret it but the damage was done.


People value food very differently and income seems to only be a small factor. I know wealthy people who eat what I consider to be terrible food, spend very little on it, and let their kids eat horrible school lunches. I know people who really cannot afford the food they want but buy it anyway.


Facing financial hardship wouldn't change my values about food. It would just make the budget struggles worse.

post #8 of 66
Originally Posted by JudiAU View Post

I think we all say things we regret.


I agree. I'd try to let it go. Maybe this experience will be humbling for them and they'll be more thoughtful about what they say in the future. I've said some really dumb stuff in the past -- I think we all have. 

post #9 of 66

OP the newly poor need acclimatizing time. its a v. v. v. shameful place to be and i am sure they are trying to figure out how to deal with this. 


i know this because i have been there myself. sometimes when even 1.99 is too expensive for me to afford. sometimes teh car insurance, electric bill is more important than gym shoes.  with food benefits i can eat like a king, but if those benefits allowed me to buy anything i would surely not be buying the great food and instead take care of needs. cash is one thing, but food stamps dont equal cash to buy foods. 


it is a v. touchy subject to figure out how to help. i would give them space. till you figure out the right time without insulting them. 

post #10 of 66
Yes, it sounds like they just have different priorities.

Food is definitely a priority in my house. I've had to make a lot of compromises in our diet due to financial constraints, but I do my best to feed my family as well as I can. I would (and do) go without many other things -- clothes that fit & are seasonally appropriate, home repairs, etc. -- because I feel that what we eat is so important. And if I was desperate, I would turn to a food bank, while trying my best to adhere to my dietary standards... but I would have to be really, REALLY desperate to eat food I consider "crap"... and I have no idea where that family is drawing the line -- is it no cheetos and soda, or more like no conventionally-grown produce?

As far as whether/how you should help them, I think you need to follow your heart. If you want to help, you could offer to buy the $1.99 thrift store shoes. You could give a bag of food you were planning to donate anyway. You can just preface it with something like, "I know these things may not fit into your diet, but I was about to donate them & wanted to offer them to you first. Feel free to drop them off at the food pantry if they don't meet your needs." Do what you feel good about & what you can afford. It does sound a little judgey when I read what you wrote, so I would be cautious about doing anything out of obligation or pity or annoyance... they have made their choices and I'm sure they are doing their best. Maybe they grew up hearing the whole "never buy used shoes, it will ruin your feet," thing. Or they have allergies & special dietary needs that you aren't aware of. Or a parent lost their job or took a paycut and they're too embarrassed to share that with anyone and just want to keep up a certain standard or perception for themselves/their kids/their friends. Having experienced multiple job losses & other financial setbacks that were in no way our fault -- while raising a kid -- and dealing with medical issues that seem to be helped by following a certain (expensive) diet -- I think I can understand where your friends may be coming from, and I urge you to have compassion. That doesn't mean you have to give them anything or help them out if you don't want to, though, and I understand how it feels to be on the outside looking in and wondering why on earth they are making such poor financial choices! I have a friends like that too but I just remind myself that no matter how close we are, I will never truly know what it is like to walk in their shoes.
post #11 of 66
Giving a friend cash or food can have an unpleasant effect on the friendship. Handing items that you are truly finished with, such as outgrown clothes, does not have the same effect.

I would practice active listening without judgement. Things change in people's lives. We tend to learn from these experiences. They may just need a chance to talk about what is going on for them, they may not want solutions or handouts.

You might mention in passing about the store with the good, inexpensive shoes. If they haven't needed to budget so tightly before, they may not know about this option.
post #12 of 66
Why not get the used shoes, and tell her you found some that might fit her dd (in the closet, in a bag, your friend was getting rid of them...basically whatever you feel right saying and feel will not make her uncomfortable.)

I don't think many people would have a problem taking something they can use, if offered by a friend.
post #13 of 66

I agree that food's a tricky one. Money's tight for us at the moment, and I occasionally feel... odd... about buying some of the food we buy, because when I was growing up poor, those foods would have been luxuries. Cream, for instance - we're TF, so we value the fat and use it in a lot of day-to-day foods; but to my mother, it's an occasional luxury. And I won't buy battery-farmed chicken, so, while we eat less chicken these days, when I buy it, yup - it's the expensive, free-range stuff going in my trolley. I am a bit of a food snob, and I've stopped buying a lot of the purely fancy/yummy foods (no more vanilla paste or Lepanto olives for us!); but that doesn't mean I always get the cheapest, and I'm OK with that, KWIM? It isn't ignorance, it's a deliberate choice based on ethics, health, whatever.


I'm not sure what to do in your situation - couldn't hurt to mention the gym shoes on sale though, right? Just in a heads-up kind of way?

post #14 of 66

What does it matter though?  Food is important to me.  Very important.  Quality food.  I don't think it's fair that you brought up medicaid and inability to buy gym shoes.  Even on my salary I've had tough times and shoes and such had to wait.  Also Medicaid is nothing to be ashamed of and it's really none of your business.

post #15 of 66

Maybe that is her ideal, or maybe she feels she needs to put out the imagine that they eat organic when they don't really? If they are getting food from the food bank, it sure isn't going to be organic!

post #16 of 66
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Imakcerka View Post

What does it matter though?  Food is important to me.  Very important.  Quality food.  I don't think it's fair that you brought up medicaid and inability to buy gym shoes.  Even on my salary I've had tough times and shoes and such had to wait.  Also Medicaid is nothing to be ashamed of and it's really none of your business.

ok, i'm being unfair? i'm just looking for people's thoughts in how to think about this. i'm not judging anybody. i feel an internal dilemma about how to think about this, a common scenario. of course medicaid is nothing to be ashamed of. did i say it was?. it's none of my business. ok, then forget i asked. i will keep my thoughts to myself from now on. 

post #17 of 66

Seriously?  Why do you need to worry about what someone else is doing?  What kind of advice were you looking for? 

post #18 of 66

I read Tropicana's post as a etiquette question about how to handle a friend being so broke that they are currently using a food pantry. I thought the other information was additional background. Tropicana kindly wants to offer her friends food (which is a really positive sentiment) but because these friends have put down her food choices in the past, is in a bit of a quandary about what to do.


I have given friends food and money for food. For example, I had a friend call me one day hysterical about her money/food situation and the fact that our food pantry had rotting food, and I told her to drive to my house immediately and loaded up bags of groceries for her from my freezer and pantry.


Honestly, unless they are desperate, don't do it. No one wants to be that needy, and being that dependent on a friend for food to feed your children is not a happy feeling for someone one. Even though I did the right thing (I also got her electric bill caught up) it had a negative impact on our friendship because she felt icky about it. You can give charity to someone or you can be their friend, but it's very hard to do both.


Few people want to be the recipient of that kind of charity.


None the less, if it is a truly desperate situation, do the right thing with your eyes wide open that your friendship may never be the same.


I think the difference is food preferences is side issue. I think diverting the thread to the organic vs regular food is  taking the whole question off topic.

post #19 of 66

Yeah not what I got from it.  Especially after her second post.  As in it's good enough for her why can't they just deal with it too.  It was obnoxious. 

post #20 of 66

It sounds to me like they used to buy organic, but are now having to use the food pantry? I think if I were in the same situation as your friend, I'd rather you just donate to the food pantry and I'd get it from there, no discussion of how we're getting food from you... because it sounds judgmental on both sides, her to you before and you to her now. Not interacting directly on food would just be more comfortable IMO.


On the shoes, can't you buy the thrift store shoes for $2 and offer those to her? Say you bought them thinking they would fit your kid, but they don't, so would her daughter like them? That would be kind and not so expensive that your husband will comment. If she says no thank you though, just let it go. Donate them maybe. 

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