This afternoon, on NPR’s On Point, I’m listening to a conversation about Trump’s idea to feed low-income people meals in a box. Trump wants to tell us what to eat? How crazy is that? Look at him, listen to him – do we want to eat what he eats? We know that he likes food in a box, that he eats MacDonald’s because the food is in a box so no one who wants to poison him will know it is his food. The box will keep him safe. Does it follow that by giving poor people their food in a box, they too will be kept safe?
I don’t think so. I think they’ll be kept malnourished. There’s tons of food waste in America, and he wants children to eat, what? A box of what? No choice of fresh vegetables, fruits. Instead, how about canned peaches, Kraft cheese; remember when Reagan tried to convince us that Ketchup was a vegetable?
I’m thinking about the Republican war on poverty, which more accurately means a war on poor people. The rules are: don’t build affordable housing, take away fuel assistance, refuse a minimum living wage, make sure health care and pharmaceuticals stay unaffordable, get rid of food stamps, legal abortions, contraception and keep them in jail.
I’m standing in front of the stove listening to this conversation, scrambling eggs when Robert walks in. He’s the director of a community action program. He runs the food shelf, he knows about poverty, he’s at the heart of our regional conversation about food. The conversation goes like this: when people are hungry, we have to feed them, but feeding them also encourages people staying in poverty. If we don’t feed poor people, the argument goes, they will have to work, even if the work offered is dead end servitude without a living wage and they will be hungry anyway,
Do we have to ask why people self-medicate? Opioids? Alcohol? Junk food? Suicide? Prison? Join the military? Become twitter trolls?
What if we offered all our people a decent life? We live in Vermont. Here, we encourage gleaners, we distribute organic eggs, we give away chicks to families to raise, chicks turn into chickens who turn into pot pies. At the food shelves, there’s meat in the freezers, whole grains in bulk, food that otherwise will be thrown away. This delicate, crude system depends upon volunteer labor, supported by taxpayers with help from the federal government.
This system is shameful, difficult, unreliable, self-perpetuating – but this is what we have. People – more and more each day – come to the food shelves, and sometimes the food is fresh from the farms because we produce more food than non-poor people can eat. Why would it please us to make it worse?
Robert has brought me a Valentine’ gift. A recyclable jar of CBD Gummies in a bright red package. Let’s watch a movie, I say. Let’s eat them all.