In case you missed it, please check out this, this, and this.
Okay, moving right along, I’ll be the first to admit that I feel delightfully smug at functions where I’m the only one eating vegan and I feel quite virtuous when I think about the global impact veganism has on the world, I also enjoy torturing my carnivorous family members by putting notes on their lunches like these:
I’m also quick to share photos of slaughter houses on Facebook in the hopes that someone will realize the horrors of the meat/dairy/egg industry and change their ways, but the thing to remember is that the number one goal of veganism is compassion and shaming people who don’t eat the way we do is not compassionate.
Judging people and insisting that the government ban junk food is not compassionate.
True, some people (like my family) are carnivores because they are just set in their ways and not willing to give it a try or hear me out (which is why I feel justified in leaving notes on their sandwiches) but for many people, eating vegan (or even healthy) is just not an option due to poverty.
There are wonderful books out there on eating healthy/vegan on a budget, and I highly recommend Eat Vegan On $4 a Day by Ellen Jaffe Jones, but what Jones and other authors of such books don’t take into account are that:
a) Yes, you can follow the menu plans in the book and eat healthy, vegan meals for $4 a day, BUT the net cost of all the items needed to prepare the recipes will cost more than $28 a week.
b) Yes, it’s possible to buy a weeks worth of groceries for $4 per day, per person, but you have to REALLY like, plain oatmeal made with water, peanut butter (store brand, with added sugars and hydrogenated fats) and jelly sandwiches (on store brand white bread) and beans and rice!
c) Most recipes are time consuming and most people who are forced to eat on $4 a day (the amount the average food-stamp recipient receives) are also working full time at multiple jobs and/or caring for kids.
d) Many of these books recommend buying in bulk to save money. While it’s true that buying in bulk does usually cost less in the long run, if you are given $28 a week for food, and spend $12 on a 20lb bag of beans, $6-$8 on a 10lb bag of fruit, $5 on a 10lb bag of potatoes, that leaves only a few dollars left to spend on items needed to make those basics into meals.
For example, my dear friend *Hannah, (*not her real name) got married a while back and found out she was pregnant soon thereafter. As she did not have health insurance and she and her husband do not make a lot of money, she signed up for assistance from W.I.C..
It’s easy for someone who has never been poor to say things like “That’s no excuse! You don’t have to buy junk just because you’re on *insert government program here*! You can buy whole grain bread and produce!”
Contrary to popular belief, W.I.C. does not cover the most healthy items (it’s usually fruit juices, white carbs, full fat meats and dairy), nor do they cover things like candy bars, beer, cigarettes or soda (save it, teabaggers, I can’t understand your e-mails anyway).
Here’s a statement from Hannah*:
“from W.I.C. we get 1 can of formula, milk, frozen juice, bread, cheese, cereal, beans, eggs and peanut butter twice a month. They also give us a $5 voucher for fruit and veggies. Everything is store brand and the most basic of things….the cereal for example is very plain….toasted corn crisps etc. We normally go shopping maybe twice a month. Before I was preggo, I was buying whole wheat pitas and flatbreads, Greek yogurt, Morningstar breakfast biscuits, Hebrew national hot dogs, whole wheat hamburger and hot dog buns, sweet potatoes fries, whole potatoes, 100 cal packs of cookies and snacks like cheez-its, 93% lean meat, lettuce, tomatoes, almonds and pistachios, cucumbers, Fuze and Propel water, and onions.
For work I would take healthy choice or smart ones frozen meals. I would also go to tropical smoothie for wraps and smoothies. Don’t get me wrong, we still got some junky stuff…bacon, ice cream etc but for the most part it was the light ice cream or turkey bacon that kind of thing. Now that we are cut down to one income we really can only afford the regular bacon or regular hamburger meat, The hot dogs made of every part of the damn animal! lol. When we get chips or cookies we have to buy store brand stuff. Especially with chips I used to buy all the baked lays stuff and so on. Instead of a frozen meal for lunch it has been the $1 tostino pizzas or ramen noodles or yucky banquet meals because they are a buck a pop. Not just because of the money but also prep time. The baby doesn’t give me time to actually prepare food or even make a sandwich for that matter. It has to be simple fast things. a normal day for me is yogurt and a bagel in the morning. Lunch is now a hot pocket or small frozen pizza, If I am lucky a baked potato, but again it took me 2.5 hours the other day to eat said potato. lunch has been just chips….dinner is another meal we normally don’t have time to really cook with her [the baby] being so little so it is normally something boxed and cheap like hamburger helper. I bought the complete eats meals last time because they were $2 a piece at the store but meat that has so many preservatives that can sit on a shelf and not be refrigerated kinda scares me……..I just know we ate way more fresh stuff [before the baby]. I love splenda..or truvia..may not be the best for me but it is so expensive when I could just buy sugar for half the price and make some kool aid.”
“Hanna” also endures dirty looks from other shoppers when she pays for her groceries with W.I.C. checks and when she started supplementing her breast milk with formula as she was not producing enough milk to keep her baby fed, W.I.C. employees accused her of “not trying hard enough”.
Sadly, “Hannah’s” story is far from uncommon.
I encourage everyone who thinks that healthy eating on a budget is easy to follow Cory Booker’s lead and sign up for this and then report back to me in one week and let me know how that worked out for you.
I participated in the hunger challenge last year, and I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it because I consider myself to be very empathetic, but this was a real eye opener.
I lasted less than three days because of a hypoglycemic episode which forced me to spend $1.49 on a soda at 7-11 thus putting me over my budget.
But what if I really didn’t have that $1.49?
I was driving at the time, if I didn’t stop for that soda, I could have wrecked and killed somebody!
After that experience, I will never bemoan shopping for groceries on the first of the month again.
If you really want to help, instead of belittling people for not eating vegan, do your part to make vegan foods more accessible by donating healthy, vegan items to food banks and homeless shelters, donating to Have Heart, and if you sell produce at a farmers market, sign up to accept food-stamps.
And if you want to continue judging people for being poor, making bad food choices, or being fat, just remember that Karma is indeed a bitch.