Monthly Archives: January 2017

Learning to eat on food stamps.

By now, you may have read about last week’s USDA report on what low-income families buy with their food stamps (officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits). Or more accurately, you may have read the initial media coverage which wrung hands over the amount of soda poor people are buying. (Not actually grocery carts full, as the photo suggested, but 5 percent of their food dollars!)

Hopefully that means you’ve now also read responses from various reputable corners (including the NYT’s own public editor) pointing out how that was a blatant mischaracterization of the report, which found virtually no difference in the soda spending habits of SNAP and non-SNAP households (who put, um, 4 percent of their food dollars towards soda). In both kinds of households, about 40 cents of every food purchase dollar was spent on kitchen staples like meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and bread. In both households, another 20 cents was spent on soda, juice, candy, salty snacks and sugar. (The rest was frittered away on rice, beans, and other cooking ingredients.) It’s not the sexiest graphic, but I’m including the chart below straight from the USDA’s report summary because I think it’s really worth parsing. (Click the image to enlarge it in your browser.) If you do, you’ll notice the only significant difference in how poor people and rich people buy groceries is that poor people buy a lot more baby food. They do persist in feeding their children.

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Filed under Government Watch, On Eating and Writing

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What I’m Reading (And Writing. And Eating.)

Work In Progress

First, a little book update: Last week, I reached that stage of research where you (or at least I) start to despair that none of it is making any sense and everything I thought I knew was wrong. I’ve been exploring lots of disparate threads, having conversations with all kinds of eaters, and was not yet seeing the connections I need to find. I sent a panicked email to a wise writer friend, who immediately called me up and said, “Start writing. 500 words. Go.” And she was right. 500 words turned into 1000 words the next day, and 1000 the day after, and now here we are a week later and I have almost 7,000 words, 5,000 of which are maybe okay and the start of a chapter.

That mess on the big board above is my first stab at said chapter’s outline. Don’t zoom in! None of it is ready for primetime. But I promised behind-the-scenes peeks in this newsletter, so welcome to the inside of my brain. I like to map things out visually, so after I do a bunch of writing, I like to print it all out, cut it apart and puzzle piece it back together with Scotch tape and markers. (The metal board is a recent upgrade, to protect our walls from the creative process.) For some reason, my arguments make more sense when I can see them this way. And it’s just satisfying because suddenly it looks like I have a lot of work done.

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Filed under Freelance Life, On Eating and Writing

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New year, not so new diet trends.

A Mighty Girl

Ah, the first week of January. When my inbox overflows with press releases from weight loss companies, fitness experts and diet gurus, and even sober and reputable media outlets, like the New York Times, propose we all go on crash diets. (This year it’s op-ed columnist David Leonhardt telling us to go cold turkey on sugar for 30 days). It always sounds so possible, and even downright sensible, after the weeks of holiday excess. I know at my house, we’ve had a constantly refilling tray of cookies and a bowl of candy on the kitchen counter for much of the past month, and it was with no small relief that I dumped the last six stale cookies in the trash yesterday, after realizing I wasn’t morally obligated to finish them just because they were there.

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