Sunday, May 29, 2011

$2/day - Some food, many thoughts

I met up with Paul (ultra-cool guy) this morning, and broke into a light sweat while sitting with him under the sun outside of Big City Small World Bakery. I told him about this week long project I started on, and he recommended making a trip out to By The Pound, another bulk food store in Ann Arbor. We went there, and I bought some groceries that should keep me going for the next few days...roti flour, cranberry beans, black turtle beans, and rolled oats for $3.63. I then made my way to the People's Food Co-op to get some vegetables, and I ended up getting some cabbage, carrots, onions, a lemon, and some rooibos tea for $4.42. Let's see how far these eight dollars go. (Now that I think about it, I didn't even realise that the carrots and lemon need to be kept in the fridge!)

As you may have thought to yourself already, the number of two dollars is largely symbolic and doesn't mean much to us here in the US. Really living on two dollars a day in the US is impossible, I would think. The poverty line in the US is about fifteen dollars per day per person (however that line is determined). What this means is that what fifteen dollars means to us here is not what fifteen dollars means to people elsewhere. This is obvious. What I feel though is that maybe the issues people face, regardless of whether they are poor here or poor elsewhere, are similar, the inability to stand up against the causes of their poverty, and the consequent feeling of powerlessness. Yet there are some differences, particularly when it comes to food.

Having grown up in India, I observed that the food poor people eat, if available, is actually nutritious. They eat hardy grains, rice and fresh vegetables; they just don't get enough of this healthful food. Many of the poor in India are not obese, but they suffer from being underweight or from malnutrition diseases like beriberi, pellagra, scurvy, and rickets. This is in stark contrast to what many of the poor in the US face - a lack of access to healthful foods at all, and an increased availability to processed, highly salty foods leading to obesity and other health risks. And so even though the social manifestations of what it means to be poor may be similar, the outward, bodily manifestations influenced by food, a basic necessity of life, change from West to East.

On that note, let's see what the rest of this day presents to me.

1 comment:

  1. I find this very interesting, especially since recent soc and public health papers have shown that those living on say 15 dollars a day in America seem to be spending that money on "fast food", and salty foods, unhealthy foods so to speak. In certain neighborhoods its easier to get your hands on fast food, not to mention cheaper, than traveling to a market to buy expensive fresh vegetables, and hearty grains. This is quite different from the picture in South Asia, where we see poor people spending their hard earned money on hardy grains, or in Bangladesh lentils and rice.

    But instinctively I have always thought that those living in the same income cutoff in Bangladesh/India would have worse health outcomes. But that is actually not true! I find this fascinating, and would actually like to see how the health outcomes compare. Do you know of any studies?

    I have started to see a change however, even in just the past few years in Bangladesh, these high in salt foods, soft drinks, chips etc. are becoming more available especially to those living on $2 a day here. I imagine that we will see a shift, and even a double burden of disease to come not only communicable diseases that you mentioned, along with malnutrition, but also obesity, heart disease and long term health risks in Bangladesh and other eastern societies.

    Just some thoughts.