Can Poor People Afford to Eat Well in the USA? It Depends.

in nutrition •  8 months ago

Is it Tough to Eat Well When You're a Poor American?

My Impression of Average Politicians Right Now

Food subsidy programs in the USA have generated a lot of heat lately. Naturally, I've grown cynical enough to regard outright critics of these kinds of programs as folks who enjoy profiting or gaining political points by sniping at the most vulnerable targets. While I don't think somebody has to be affluent to eat a decent diet, I understand that there are other factors in play.

Anybody who tries to contend that poor people don't eat well because they're lazy or don't want to stay healthy has to either be a moron or purposefully ignorant because that sort of statement suits their narrative. For instance, transportation, accessible food, adequate cooking facilities, time, and nutritional education are often lacking in low-income parts of the country.

So, the answer to the first question is yes, it may be tough to eat well if you're poor. Low-nutrient, processed food is easier to prepare, tastes good, and provides more calories with less money end effort.

What's the Solution?

Food is Medicine!

We all should know that food is medicine. By helping poorer people enjoy better nutrition, we can reduce the obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country. We can also reduce healthcare costs in a way that nobody could argue about. Sure, people will still get sick, but more people can stay healthy and productive.

The Poorest People in Victorian England Ate the Best in Rural Areas

If She Was Poor and Rural, She Probably Ate Well

Wow, maybe we can learn something from history! I stumbled upon this BBC article about how the poor, rural people in Victorian England had the best diet at that time. ( Of course, they had access to healthy staples like potatoes and other produce, whole grains, some fish and meat, and so on.

In an age when the kind of longevity that modern medicine supplies was rare, 20 percent of these folks reached age 65 and surviving into their 80s or even 90s was not that rare. Meanwhile, poor counterparts in the cities -- and even many more affluent people -- got paid in cash, but that money did not give them access to the same kind of healthy diet.

So, What's the Solution?

I know that Steemit has an international audience, but I'm an American, so that's where I'll start. Yeah, my example in the section above was about poor people in Victorian England, but I've heard similar stories about folks during the US Great Depression. Poor people in rural areas that were not blighted by droughts did alright, but folks in the cities lined up for bread and soup. Here's the deal -- both in England and in the US, a lot more of the population now lives in cities today than in the past.

US Dietary Guidelines for the "Thrifty Menu" Aren't Realistic

The US. National Institute of Health even published a report that said dietary guidelines from other government agencies for frugal menus were unrealistic and not all that healthy. ( . They said these guidelines need to be brought in line with more contemporary nutrition research AND a realistic understanding of what people in many low-income areas actually CAN and WILL buy. Of course, a bit more education might help low-income people expand their diets a bit and realize they actually do like other kinds of healthy food.

They did suggest focusing upon cheaper and nutrient-rich food like fortified, whole-grain cereal, potatoes, frozen produce and canned vegetables, eggs, fresh carrots and cabbage, milk, yogurt, legumes and beans, citrus juice. Does this represent a PERFECT diet? No, it doesn't, but it may represent a better diet for people who need to stretch their dollars until they scream AND who may not have the time or cooking facilities to prepare fresh meals every day.

Making Food Accessible

In addition to supplementing people with cash, it might be worthwhile to figure out how healthier kinds of food -- like fresh produce -- can become more accessible to parts of the country that need it the most. It's also possible to offer semi-prepared versions of healthy food that is still relatively healthy. i.e. canned beans instead of dried ones. Just stop packing them in so much salt or teach people to rinse them off first.

Also, investments in community gardens are paying off, so this is one idea that might be expanded. People are creatively growing food in all kinds of places, so it seems like a program that would train others in all sorts of communities to do the same would provide more healthy food, jobs, and community pride.

Also, if it is true that low-income people don't understand why it's important to eat well, shouldn't that be something they should be taught? It's not like poor people want to get sick or something.

It Stinks That There are Hungry People Anyway

It's awful that people don't have access to healthy food at an affordable price anywhere. As an American, it makes me sick that it happens here all too often. Sure, it's a problem of education, accessibility, money, and time. It's also a problem that was caused by bad advice and unrealistic guidelines and of course, the wrong criticism from people who are supposed to be paid to know better.

Photo: Pixabay


OK, I'm done ranting. Please let me know about your good ideas on this topic. Thanks for stopping by. I'll upvote your RELEVANT comments when I can. Peace out.

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Yeah, I live where there is plenty of competition between grocers, farmer's markets, etc. I know that many urban areas aren't like this. Rant on!


Thanks for enabling my ranting.

As a student who lives off a diet of pizza and cereal, I find this very interesting. I think if I did have more money, I'd maybe variate my diet more. Until then, I'm just relying on my youthful metabolism to keep me in good health :)

Thanks for this.


Well, pizza in moderation isn't that bad. If you would look for whole-grain cereal with fiber (like oatmeal), you'd be doing pretty well. But yeah, young bodies let you get away with more, but you'll have to pay the piper eventually.

They say the most rebellious act One could commit is growing One's own food. Also, have you heard of permaculture?


Yes, I totally agree that food should grow closer to the source. Realistically, not all low-income people can grow their own food, so it has to be a community effort. For instance, the US SNAP program helps millions of disabled people.

great article, well crafted!
I'm surprised that this doesn't have more views and votes, considering the importance of the topic...there are so many shitposts about meaningless stuff getting 100x the rewards..."SAD!" ;-)


Thanks. It's the way of the world. Lots of low-income people put in more hours at work than affluent people. Lots of posts on the front page are from tons of paid votes, but some are really good too. Getting to the front page here is either a measure of a community effort or an investment. It's just the way it is, and obviously, there's not enough incentive for somebody to change it.

not just in usa body, in whole world if you dont have investment value, you will be removed

I can say I'm a poor American lol just kidding


Well, I'm not a wealthy person. However, I do have access to places where I can buy healthy food. I also have access to a kitchen and enough skill to use it. These are actually privileges not everybody has.

Well, there are some places where even the farmers have poor nutrition. They sell virtually all their produce due to poverty and then struggle to have three square meal. Balanced diet is a dream for them. Ineffective policies and corruption are another problems.
Awareness and step-step-down trainings can be good options.


I don't have the solution. I just know that the current solutions aren't adequate.

Back in 2015 Gwenyth Paltrow tried to eat healthy on the $29 weekly that food stamps provide. She failed.

It's tough to eat healthy even when you're armed with all the knowledge and have the money to do it. I agree with you that education is the key to unlock our current health crisis in the US.

If we would spend more time educating our population about what is actually healthy eating to prevent disease we might stop the terrible spiral of chronic disease we are in.

The first step is getting the government to figure out what healthy eating is. They are the ones responsible for a large portion of the obesity epidemic with the whole 1970's low-fat debacle which haunts us to this day.

Ok, I could rant for a while right alongside you but I'll stop here.

In Peace, Love and Health!


You're right. It's hard to eat well even with money. Everything is harder if you're poor. And I totally agree that bad advice has killed millions of people, and it still is.

And yes, the food stamp amount isn't enough to feed people in any sensible way. That NIH article I linked to goes into that too.

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Almost over looked this looking at the photo, lol I didn’t know what the hell that was. But good post, def something to think about .

funny picture!

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