May 1st, 2008
The market news reports that consumer spending is up again this month. The problem is that this is not as a sign of possible economic recovery from the deepening recession we find ourselves in. It’s a reflection of the fact that people must spend more on basics like fuel and food – prices for both rising much faster than regular people can keep up with – thus must spend less on all that consumer junk our capitalistic system expects us to buy with our overrated “disposable income.”
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re like me – I have no “disposable income” because all the income we have must go to simply pay for the necessities of life, and there’s hardly enough even cutting corners. Food, clothing, shelter, transportation, utilities. I have previously posted about the clothing thing, as I haven’t actually purchased new clothing for at least a decade. Used clothing is good enough – even suits and formal clothing – though I don’t dress up much. But the mortgage is what it is. Gas prices are what they are, they cannot be bargained down. And as the price of fuel rises, so does the cost of food and electricity. Thus more of our money must be spent on necessities, even if we never had any left over for junk in the first place!
It’s spring, my tiller should come back from the shop Saturday, and all my garden terraces will be put into production this season. Of course that also means I must purchase seed and starts that I haven’t grown in flats, but all that will pay off as the food comes in. Spinach, lettuce, collards, kale and peas are all up, the asparagus (a perennial) is coming in rushes, and the strawberries will ripen if the nights ever stop dipping into the 30s.
Even if you live in a cramped apartment, you can grow a few tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in pots on the patio or porch. Buy into a CSA for fresh produce as your share of a local farmer’s crops, or plan a weekly visit to your area farmer’s market and buy fresh produce in bulk. That supports local farmers, lets you get to know the people who can keep you from starving, and saves real money over the whole supermarket system where locally grown tomatoes compete with tomatoes grown in Mexico or Guatemala and they all cost way too much.
A series in the Washington Post examines the issues in depth and is worth a read. The final installment appeared today (May 1) and deals with the American consumer’s issues. Clipping, Scrimping, Saving takes a look at how people are coping with the rising price of food.
There are some good hints and resources in the Post series. But there is another issue that people who really are having trouble making ends meet must consider as even more important. The diet for poor people in this country consists of worse than junk. We all saw the class divisions during the Katrina crisis, and understand that the shape of poverty in America is obese. I know it’s hard to think that people are actually hungry who weigh twice or three times what a healthy person weighs, but it’s true. They’re hungry for real food, but limited to eating worse-than-garbage.
We could be smug and say that rising food prices might cure that obesity epidemic, but it won’t. The fake grain paste and high fructose corn syrup diet is designed to pack on pounds even as it starves the body of necessary nutrients and energy. The result is crippling obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and a host of cancers. It’s a “killing diet,” not a basic level of necessary nourishment.
Given the even worse health care crisis in this country, we who live on shoestring budgets cannot afford to get fat and unhealthy. If the best thing I could offer my readers is the advice to pay attention to nourishment – buy fresh food, I offer it now. Sam’s Club and coupon-cutting will save you money on junk food, but it won’t help you stay healthy and fit. Do not be fooled – take the time and trouble to seek out healthy food, don’t give in to cheap obesity.
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