Fat, Fillyjonk, Media, No Shit Sherlock

You think?

Breaking news, you guys:

For parents concerned about their overweight teens, new research suggests the best tactic might be to just relax and cook a healthy Sunday dinner.

Pushing diets probably won’t help. Neither will teasing about weight. Instead parents should focus on having frequent family meals, creating a positive atmosphere at mealtimes, promoting physical activity and building self-esteem, the researchers recommend.

The study of more than 2,500 adolescents over five years reinforced several things that doctors have found among their patients – particularly that destructive behaviors such as vomiting or abusing laxatives are prevalent among overweight teens as well as their too-thin peers, and that body attitudes and perceptions can play a big role in future weight problems.

Yes, the shocking news that fat kids deserve love has apparently hit the Associated Press. No longer is it a guarded medical secret that giving kids shit about their fatness causes disordered eating behavior, or that, you know, parents shouldn’t be total dicks. It’s a revolution, y’all.

I can’t imagine being a parent reading this, the cognitive dissonance they must be experiencing, when they’ve been taking in a subtle and sometimes overt “fat shame works!” message for years. On the one hand, here’s an article telling them to love and support their children — that has to be intrinsically appealing. On the other hand, it’s telling them to love and support their children despite those children having bodies that they’ve been told are fundamentally flawed and morally indefensible. It’s certainly interesting to read it as a Shapely Prose blogger or, I imagine, as a commenter — I wanted to shake the paper this morning and say “FUCKIN A, I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU THAT!” For probably the first time, there’s something in the news about the Obesity!Crisis! that actually accords with fatties’ real-life experience.

Of course, we remain a dozen steps ahead of the MSM, since we recognize that it’s not as easy as saying “cook a healthy Sunday dinner” — plenty of parents don’t have the time, money, or energy to cook and serve a dinner that these researchers would consider healthy. But while it’s absolutely crucial that we find a way for all families to get adequate nourishment, I think it’s just as important that we stop poisoning children with hatred and shame. If people can bring themselves to heed this study, it’s more than a baby step. (That is, of course, assuming that people can draw the connection between the counterproductiveness of fat-shaming and their consistently worthless childhood obesity initiatives.)

I’m really curious to see how much attention this gets. It did get picked up in the local commuter paper, which is a digested mashup of AP and WaPo, and I wonder how much further it will go. Common sense on the one hand, challenge to the status quo on the other… will that tension be enough to keep these eminently reasonable conclusions in the news?

57 thoughts on “You think?”

  1. Wow. I’m sure shocked.

    Seriously. Even in my days when I thought obesity was automatically unhealthy, it ocurred to me that shaming fat people probably would do diddlysquat.

  2. The worst part about this article is that, if parents treat their children this way, kids will grow up believing that fat people deserve the same respect as thin people! And maybe even develop some self-esteem! Oh noes!!1!1 (Picture hand-waving and running in circles.)

    : )

  3. Shade, I know, weren’t you totally shocked that the article didn’t end with a caveat about how kids should still diet, or this isn’t a “license” to go out and eat donuts, or this doesn’t really mean fat is okay, or whatever? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  4. This is better than the alternative, for sure. However, some families who have relaxed dinners and do everything else “right” will still have fat kids. For this to be progress, I think there also needs to be an acknowledgment that perhaps fat kids are fat because their bodies are meant to be that way. I don’t see that light dawning on marble head for quite some time.

  5. The problem is, however, that all those parents won’t know how to love their kids properly. They need to be trained, via the PEP® Program. For only $1,250 (plus materials), your problem parent can participate in the six-week comprehensive Parental Effectiveness Paradigm course, outlining proper parental love promotion procedures. We’ll address such earth-shattering issues as:

    * Is hugging your kids the wrong way encouraging “snuggling” behavior which keeps them from reaching their target aerobic heart rate?

    * Is praising your child’s hard work encouraging them to ignore the advice of experts who know more than they do?

    * Is your encouraging your kids to dig a little deeper before making a decision, and to always trust their instincts rendering them incapable of functioning in society, i.e unable to blindly follow the dictates of social services experts and their private sector consultants?

    The PEP® Program — coming soon to a state near you!

  6. Man I wish this article had come out… oh… 20 years ago. That would have saved a few hundred screaming fights between me and my dad. (Who honestly believes that I will not make it to 40.)

    There was a girl in my high school class who was severely obese. We did not really get along, but she was in my girl scout troop (woo hoo cookies!) until senior year. So we occasionally went over to her house to hang out or whatever. I will never forget the day I heard her parents get frustrated with her and tell her to “go eat something.” I think after that I stopped seeing her weight as her problem, and started seeing it as a product of her families treatment of her.

    They were both big people, not necessarily fat, but certainly big. And it was clear that they and her younger brother were ashamed of her, and that they treated her poorly and helped foster her, apparent, bad relationship with food. She lives far away from them now and is married, I hope she is much happier.

  7. Nicole, you’re totally right that there’s an implication here — they don’t say it explicitly, but the implication is pretty clear — that you can love your kids thin. Very dangerous to set people up like that.

    Kell, hee!

  8. Sign me up, Kell! Where else will I spend the money I was going to spend on fat camp?

    I too am shocked at the lack of donut mentions in this article. Also, where’s the headless fatty?

    I snark, but I really hope that this article gets picked up by a million places. I also like that they singled out the ritual humiliation of school weigh-ins.

  9. It’s actually quite similar to the poster that is plastered in every pediatrician’s office now. It’s a big, 4-color affair with the title of “How To Help Your Child Have a Healthy Weight.” I guess it’s supposed to be a non-threatening way to address teh fat in children. Anyway, I’ve seen it so often that I think I know all the advice by heart:

    –Enjoy family meals together at least once per week.
    –Limit soda and other sugary drinks.
    –Do activities together as a family.
    –Make fast food a “once-a-week” treat.

    OK, fine. That’s all fine. BUT you can do all those things–as my parents did, for example, but for the fast food, which was more like a never-ever treat–and still end up with fat kids. And you can flaunt every one of those “rules”–as my godparents did with their kids, for example–and have skinny kids.

    Gosh, do you think that maybe it’s more complicated than “calories in, calories out”? Couldn’t be!

  10. Nicole, that poster pretty much works if you define “healthy weight” the way we do here — as in, the weight your body is when it is as healthy as you can make it. Once a week is a little arbitrary, but hey, if you’re financially able to offer home-cooked meals, they’re almost inevitably more nutritious.

    But of course, most parents reading it are going to think “wow, if I just refuse my kids soda, they’ll be thin.” And what’s to stop them generalizing that to other foods? They’re basically getting no other messages that say anything but “restrict your kids’ eating and regulate their exercise.” I’m not calling parents stupid, but there’s a huge gulf right now between common sense and conventional wisdom. (Which I now realize was the far more consonant term I was looking for above, when I had to go for “status quo” instead. Blast!)

  11. “Dr. Carolyn Ross said she was interested in the way the study linked teasing and pressure to lose weight to an increased risk in obesity and binge eating five years later.”

    The only people who told me I was fat as a kid were my family, and it was often, starting at the age of 5. Therefore, of course I believed it. Which lowered my self-esteem. Which lowered my ambition to do anything. Which led to weight gain. I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell your kid she’s fat, or stupid, or no good, and… that is what she will be.

  12. penguinlady,
    Me too! Exactly that!

    Though my family then forced me to play sports that I hated, endlessly. I am TERRIBLE at sports. Oh god, and the forced humiliation of the swim team was so epic that I will never forget it. Since I hated every second, I never tried, and I didn’t get as much out of it as I would have if I was playing a sport because I actually liked it. (I loved horseback riding, but they HATED taking me and bitched about it constantly, so I quit.)

    It’s funny because they did the exact opposite to my sister, I’m smart and fat, she’s skinny and dumb, thanks mom and dad for mapping out our destinies at 5 years of age.

  13. I wonder how many parents will see this as, “If you don’t ppressure your fat teenagers about their weight, they’ll lose weight.” And when that doesn’t work, I’m worried they’ll end up blaming the kids, because after all, they’re doing everything right. That’s where I was as a teenager. My parents did everything right – family meals every night, no junk food, and so on – and I didn’t lose weight. So their conclusion was, I must have been eating tons of sugary snacks. Sugary snacks that the Sugar Fairy must have been bringing to me, because we didn’t have that stuff in the house…

    Still, this approach is much better than the alternative. So while it’s not ideal by any means (because I can guess how people will react), I still approve.

  14. So their conclusion was, I must have been eating tons of sugary snacks. Sugary snacks that the Sugar Fairy must have been bringing to me, because we didn’t have that stuff in the house…

    And yet I doubt parents with kids who eat incessantly and never gain a pound accuse them of secretly going and vomitting up all their meals, or of sneaking onto the treadmill in the middle of the night and burning off all those calories. Funny how the : “The Laws of Thermodynamics says you’re lying” thing only works one way.

    Anyway… despite the reservations some people have raised, I think this is a huge step in the right direction.

  15. fillyjonk, I’m confused: “…if you’re financially able to offer home-cooked meals…”

    Fast and prepared foods are really, really expensive. I understand there would be time constraints against home cooking, but financial ones? Could you expand on that thought?

    And yeah, loving your kids, what a concept! I was pretty shocked when my mother came to this conclusion all on her own – 20 years late, but still, she apologized for every diet she put me on. That simple act of love and consideration helped me more than anything else on the road to loving myself – imagine if it had happened when I was 5, and the doctor first told her I was fat.

  16. I understand there would be time constraints against home cooking, but financial ones? Could you expand on that thought?

    Baconsmom, first of all it’s a luxury to have at least one parent who can stop working at 5 or so — that’s a financial and a time constraint. But produce is also very expensive. You can get a burger for less than one red pepper costs, most of the year, and I know which I’d choose if I were pressed for money and time.

    It’s true that that’s a limitation on veggies, not cooking per se, but I doubt that defrosted chicken nuggets are fulfilling the researchers’ idea of a home-cooked Sunday dinner.

    That’s pretty awesome of your mom to apologize, by the way. I think a lot of people, even if they realized they’d been wrong, would have been too proud to say anything.

  17. Baconsmom, I think partly it depends on where you live, too–I know that fresh food in general, but especially produce, was cheaper where I used to live than it is where I live now.

  18. Well, for whatever it’s worth, there is a correlation between produce prices and fat kids. Any number of possible explanations for that, though, including the fact that vegetables are generally more expensive in cities where people are also likely to be poorer and working more and have less time.

  19. Also, there are a lot of places in cities that are so called “food deserts” where literally the only place around for miles to get food are fast food joints and convenience stores which sell packaged and convenience foods. For these places, a “healthy” meal with actual vegetables in it can mean hours on the bus round trip.

  20. I don’t think anybody is saying that fast food is cheaper monetarily. For example, my family of three’s grocery bill is about $60-$80 per week, and that covers 90% of the food we eat or brown-bag. When we do go for fast food, it’s going to be close to $20, or almost a third of the week’s grocery bill on a cheap week.

    However, that $60-$80 does not in any way include the amount of time my husband and I put into planning the week’s menus, shopping for the ingredients, preparing the food, making the brown-bag lunches, and cleaning up afterwards. My family eats as well as it does and as relatively cheaply as it does because DH and I can make the time to do it.

    That’s not a luxury everyone has.

  21. I actually would say that fast food is cheaper monetarily, but I don’t buy it so I probably have no idea. I know McDonald’s has a dollar menu, and that there’s not a lot of full meals that I can make for a dollar out of my groceries (I could probably just manage a tuna sandwich, for instance, between the tuna and the mayo and the bread). But maybe the dollar menu is just tiny sides? I’m pretty surprised that your family spends $20, but I admit I don’t really know anything about fast food that isn’t Chipotle (where four people could easily spend more than $20, but I guess I thought it was more expensive than burgery places).

    Anyway, but your main point is absolutely right — the time commitment is significant, and more so when that’s time you need to be working if you’re going to make ends meet.

  22. When we do have fast food, it’s usually Arby’s. Most of their “value meals” (sandwich, fries, drink) are around $7 for the small size. A kids’ meal is usually $3-4. So let’s say $17-$18. That’s close enough to $20 for me. I don’t think we’re eating anything out of the ordinary for that.

    Maybe McDs is cheaper…? I don’t like it, so I don’t eat there unless forced and certainly can’t quote the prices.

  23. Oh, I guess I thought Arby’s was more like TGIFriday than like McDonald’s. Like I say, I’m kind of an idiot on this subject. You’re probably right about the prices, but McDonald’s, some of the other burgery places, and Taco Bell are always crowing about what you can get for under a dollar, so that affected my concept of their pricing scheme.

  24. Yeah, I thought Arby’s did too, but now I realize I’m confusing it with Applebee’s! Shows what I know.

  25. At McDonalds you can eat for $3/person. (A double cheeseburger, small fries, and small drink, all off the dollar menu). $2 if you skip the drink. I don’t think you can really beat that with fresh food.

  26. You can get a burger for less than one red pepper costs, most of the year,

    I wonder if part of the problem with this is the lack of true seasonality in our produce. I mean, I can get whatever produce I want pretty much any time of year, though it would vary by price. I have absolutely no concept of what is in season when it comes to food. (I also never cook, so that could be related.)

    Maybe I’m just oblivious, and everyone already does that. Do most people really consider the season in their meal planning? Theoretically it shouldn’t be that expensive. In the dead of winter, one could pick dishes that you can use frozen or canned produce for. (So.. no red peppers) In spring or summer, get whatever is freshest.

    I do think that we are hurt by the idea that we can eat whatever we want whenever we want. (I can’t help but be reminded of the strawberry cake my grandma used to make for my birthday… in February) Once upon a time people actually had to work for their food, and now we are used to having whatever we want served to us on a platter any time of year. Maybe we take our food for granted.

    I mean shouldn’t feeding yourself well be a major priority in your life no matter how hard you have to work for your money? I have to wonder if we’ve lost sight of that as a society, not that it is suprising in the face of car payments, loan payments, credit card payments, 60 hour work weeks, so on and so forth.

  27. I wonder if part of the problem with this is the lack of true seasonality in our produce.

    shinobi, I think that’s part of the “hundred mile diet” craze, yeah.

    Do most people really consider the season in their meal planning?

    Speaking for myself, only in the sense that I won’t buy a red pepper when it costs two bucks. :)

    I mean shouldn’t feeding yourself well be a major priority in your life no matter how hard you have to work for your money?

    What if it comes down to feeding yourself well vs. feeding your kids at all? I mean, I agree with you that it should be a priority if it can be a priority; I certainly spend money on food that I could get away with saving, if I were willing to live without so many fresh veggies, which I’m not because I don’t have to. But if food and money are scarce, feeding yourself “well” is a luxury.

    Just to bring it back on topic though: Not belittling your kids? Always free!

  28. Just got back here.

    Nicole, I did mention time – I, too, have a family of three, and we spend roughly the same amount on groceries because I stay home and cook.

    Fillyjonk – I’m not disagreeing that produce can be expensive. I think far more families can afford to have a parent stay home than is usually estimated or reported. I’ve also found that frozen produce is available at the same prices all year ’round, and the nutritional content is largely unaffected by the freezing process.

    Is there a reason there are towns without grocery stores? I’ve honestly never heard of this phenomenon, and have always lived within walking distance of a supermarket, in three vastly culturally different states.

    Shinobi, I do consider seasonality, but mostly when it comes to fruit, since frozen fruit loses a fair bit in the translation. But I think that if stores were getting their produce only from local sources within season, everything would be cheaper.

  29. The thing about this is….not only do I wonder how many parents will actually see this article……children are a reflection of their parents, including all their insecurities, obsessions, and dysfunctions. The majority of adults, I feel, are completely inculcated into the culture of dieting and weight loss. How are children – and especially girls (note that in the article, more than twice as many girls as boys are engaged in “extreme behaviours”) supposed to learn “normality” when their parents – especially their female parents – are likely to be engaged in extreme, self-hating, weight loss-related behaviours themselves?

    Maybe I’m just losing my faith in humanity, but I really feel things aren’t truly going to get better for fat children and/or eating disordered children until all of society wakes up to the mess we are making for ourselves.


  30. Is there a reason there are towns without grocery stores?

    In my experience this is usually a problem associated with high crime urban areas (4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5 for crime). The supermarket chains are concerned about making investments in those neighborhoods – and it is difficult to get bank loans for those which do want to invest. I’ve lived in several level 3 crime neighborhoods, which generally have the closest supermarkets to the really crime-ridden areas. For people living in those areas, that would be about a 1 hour round trip bus ride on a good day, plus walking to the stops at each end with all your bags and kids – or taking the bus there and paying for a cab home (adding upwards of $20 to your bill, if you can find a cab which will go there).
    I understand that lack of grocery stores is also a problem (ironically) in poor areas of California’s central valley, but don’t even have tangental personal experice with that.

  31. I feed a family of 4 (3 adults, 1 child) for about $300 per month, and we eat very well. However, I’ll be the first to admit that it takes a lot of time and planning. If I were a single parent working full-time and maintaining a household all on my own, there’s no way I could do it – I suspect we’d be hitting drive-thru’s and/or ordering pizza most nights.

  32. Even if fruits and veggies are grown in your area, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be made available there. Unbelievably enough, my mother, who lives in South Florida, says you can’t buy a Florida orange there. The stores don’t have them and there are no farmer’s markets where she lives.

    Man, do I ever appreciate the bounty we have in the Northwest. I don’t know if I will ever buy a peach at Freddie’s ever again.

    Regarding fast food: Remember that many of those places are franchised and don’t offer the same menu options at all locations. However, my experience, having once been a big fast-food consumer because I was married to one, is that many of these places have specials on certain days of the week — 39-cent cheeseburger on Sunday, $1 Filet-o-Fish on Monday, and so forth — which make them very economical (and easy and fast) dining options. And once in a while I’ll go into one and still see those specials as well as chicken nuggets and whatnot on the dollar menu.

  33. That is, “I don’t know if I will ever buy a peach at Freddie’s ever again, because the farmer’s market peaches are just drooling with flavor.” Yeah. That.

  34. Is there a reason there are towns without grocery stores? I’ve honestly never heard of this phenomenon, and have always lived within walking distance of a supermarket, in three vastly culturally different states.

    As anonymous Kate said, we’re talking more about neighborhoods in major cities. Where I live (in a safe area within a larger neighborhood that has a lot of crime), the closest grocery stores are a mile away — but there’s a convenience store right on my corner. (And the convenience store, unlike many of the grocery stores, accepts food stamps.) When I didn’t have a car, getting groceries was a major PITA. Easy enough to walk to the store, but getting home with the groceries was always a problem — hard to get a cab (which I’m lucky enough to be able to afford), and taking public transportation meant walking half the way anyway. Definitely no fun in the dead of winter. And I wasn’t dealing with kids or multiple jobs or even one job that involved a long commute. Not to mention, I’m young and healthy and live in a neighborhood that’s pretty safe to walk around.

    Without a car, a trip to the store was pretty much a two-hour endeavor, any way I sliced it. Longer if I went on weekends. For a lot of people, especially those with kids, that’s just not possible — and pointless anyway, if the store doesn’t take food stamps.

    And that’s how it is with a grocery store ONE MILE AWAY. There are neighborhoods that don’t have any that close. Within a couple miles of my apartment, two grocery stores have closed in the last year. People who depended on those stores are now pretty much screwed.

  35. A few responses…

    Towns without grocery stores: I spent a few weeks backpacking in Big Bend, Texas. There were some restaurants and a convenience store/fast food joint, and a small, very expensive grocery store. Nearest town was 45 minutes away. The year round population was only around 400 people, but still…

    Seasonal eating: so good! I am blessed to have a great farmers market, and while food isn’t that much cheaper there, it tastes a whole hell of a lot better than those veggies from the store. I like it when my tomatoes are, you know, red.

    Last thing…My stepdad was obsessed with my weight since I was seven. I was just a regular chunky kid, not huge, and when I look at pictures now, I have no idea why he was such a freak. I was only allowed to eat during certain times of the day. One summer he wouldn’t let me swim because I was too fat (I was 120 pounds by 6th grade). So by the time I got to high school, I was sneaking food. When I was at school, I would eat butterfingers for breakfast. I HATE candy, and most sugary things. I just thought about a speech he sat me down for one time, probably around 8th grade or so. He kept naming people in my mom’s family, asking me, “are they fat?”. Yes, yes, yes…You think maybe he would have gotten a clue?

    Sorry for the ramble. I read this blog sometimes and get overwhelmed.

  36. One summer he wouldn’t let me swim because I was too fat

    And if that doesn’t highlight the fucking ridiculousness of the way some people respond to fat, I don’t know what does. DON’T LET HER EXERCISE! SHE’S TOO FAT! *headdesk*

    I’m really sorry you went through that, Kristin.

  37. Just echoing that there are plenty of places without grocery stores. When I was in graduate school, I lived in New Haven, CT. There was one extremely overpriced “grocery store”–more like a glorified convenience store–in a hugely inconvenient area and that was it. To get any decent deals or items, you had to get to Hamden, which was at least 10 miles away. I didn’t have a car, so that didn’t happen very often.

    Luckily for me, I could buy a campus meal plan and have my nutritional needs taken care of. The people who lived in New Haven–many of whom were low-income, outside the gilded walls of Yale–weren’t always so fortunate.

  38. Thanks for all the info, everyone. Why isn’t this a bigger story/concern/public policy issue? I mean, I’m not the best-informed person I know, but I keep up with news and things, and I’ve never heard anyone talk about lack of groceries correlated with crime. That seems bizarre to me.

  39. Baconsmom, damned if I know… probably for the same reasons that other issues primarily affecting poor people aren’t in the public eye. Racism, classism, political maneuvering (see also: SCHIP), media outlets pandering to a mostly middle-class audience, the fact that if we hear about them we might have to DO something about them. It’s certainly convenient for all sorts of folks — politicians, media, middle-class people, the medical establishment — to pretend that there’s no possible reason why anyone would be unable to provide well-balanced nutritive meals, unless they were just too damn stupid to understand that it will make their kids less fat.

  40. Meat’s also expensive. I mean, for us, that’s the bigger expense: I don’t particularly eat beef, so all I get is ground whatever’s-on-sale, but getting even an acceptable amount of chicken thighs (cheaper and easily prepared) is over $3 at a grocery store (in the Midwest). I understand that it might be cheaper if I go to a specialty meat store, but who has time for that? I guess you can get even cheaper canned stuff and whatnot, but I’m a gently-bred middle-class girl so I don’t know about it. (Unfortunately for this comment. Although I do know the price of canned tuna, I know that one can will feed appx. 3 people, unless you make it into casserole or Tuna Helper or something.) (And don’t get me started on the price of ground turkey, or chicken breast.)

    Carrots, celery, green beans, and broccoli, most of which are available frozen, are cheap in comparison. And a bag of carrots is at least 2 meals’ worth (the whole carrots, not baby carrots) for 4 people, and one thingy of chicken thighs is 1 meal at most. Obviously vegetables do not a whole meal make, not for most people, so meat is a considerable expense . . . unless, I guess, you’re eating bologna and hot dogs. But yeah, since frozen chicken nuggets don’t constitute what they consider a meal, you have to consider the price of ‘real’ meat which also becomes a class issue.

    Fast food is cheaper if you’re at McDonald’s or Taco Bell, as far as I can tell, and often more expensive if you go to Wendy’s, or Arby’s, or (God forbid) Chipotle, Panera, or the other suburban elite fast-food places. So it’s probably skewing our perceptions.

    In regards to lack of grocery stores, it’s mostly a downtown thing. If you live downtown (metaphorically speaking), you usually fall into one of two categories: upper-middle-class to upper-class re-urbanizers who can afford to drive to the suburbs to get groceries, or poor who can’t. So while there may be pseudo-grocery stores in a downtown area (see: Toledo, OH), who can afford to shop there?

  41. You’d think the no-grocery-stores thing would be a bigger issue, since people are always proclaiming the evils of fast food. Telling people not to eat it doesn’t do much good if it’s the only option available.

    Also, apparently living in the sticks for so long has skewed my perception of distance; around here, having a grocery store 5 or 10 miles away means it’s pretty close by. The convenience stores are about the same distance. Living around here without a car would be impossible, unless you ordered all your groceries over the internet, and good luck doing that with meat and veggies. (Living out in the sticks also means no public transportation.)

  42. unless you ordered all your groceries over the internet, and good luck doing that with meat and veggies.

    Off-topic, I was into ordering groceries over the internet for a while, and the meat and produce were always great. That seems to be everyone’s top concern (other than cost), but the service I used was well aware of that, so they never sent out anything that wasn’t fresh and damn near perfect looking.

    My only objection was that I could only order approximate quantities, so I’d end up with much bigger heads of broccoli and cuts of meat than I would have picked for myself. But I definitely never had a problem with freshness or quality.

    The cost, however, can be prohibitive. The two services I know of both have minimum orders and delivery fees on top of that. So that option’s out for people on a strict budget anyway.

  43. And farm exchanges are reasonably priced and can deliver, but. you have to a) live near enough to a farm (though it depends — my city has plenty of farm exchanges) and b) be able to pay up front. You get a lot of veggies for your chunk of change, but that change has to be cash in hand at the beginning of the season.

    My local farmer’s market, incidentally, accepts WIC vouchers. I seriously want to know more about WIC — they seem to have the right idea. Anybody on it?

  44. I got WIC when I was pregnant, and until my daughter “aged out” at 5 years old. What do you want to know?

  45. Well, my sense is that WIC actually encourages/requires its users to get produce and other foods deemed healthy. I’m curious how that works in practice — is there enough assistance offered that you can really afford to offer healthy meals? Does it come off as restrictive, giving you only a narrow range of foods that meet the healthiness criteria?

  46. Well, my sense is that WIC actually encourages/requires its users to get produce and other foods deemed healthy

    To my mind, whether it’s “encourages” or “requires” makes ALL the difference. I am so very, very not okay with making assistance contingent on particular food choices. Especially at a time when low-fat and low-cal foods are considered “healthy” foods for growing children.

    Not to mention one thing that always gets left out in all this discussion of how poor communities don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables: fresh produce has to be eaten quickly and replaced regularly. I’m terrible about letting produce spoil before I get around to using it, and I’ve got all the time in the world to cook and shop. For someone who doesn’t, frozen or canned veggies are a much more sensible option, and equally or nearly as nutritious as fresh.

    We do need to keep in mind that there are options in between fresh produce and junk food, and plenty of people no doubt take advantage of them.

  47. Not to mention one thing that always gets left out in all this discussion of how poor communities don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables: fresh produce has to be eaten quickly and replaced regularly.

    Yes, and that’s even more of an issue in subtropical climates where it’s very humid almost continuously. My mom is always complaining that all the fruits and veggies go bad in her fridge in two or three days. Two or three days!

  48. Yeah, Kate, that’s part of why I want to talk to someone who’s actually used it… all I can really get from the website (and granted it was a pretty cursory look) is that there are requirements for a food to be eligible. Whether that plays out as restrictive or liberating would depend a lot on what the rules are and how they work out in practice. I think WIC is perfectly within its rights to only fund certain foods — if they have an agenda that includes things like “make fresh produce more financially accessible” but not “make cookies more financially accessible,” I don’t think I can argue with that. You don’t get to get a federal grant for stuff you want; you get to get a federal grant for stuff the government decides you can have. Problems with that are well out of WIC’s control. But if that means that the people using WIC can only afford to get the food it subsidizes, and if that list is restrictive, that’s a real problem. I think it’s great if it’s a program that lets you buy meat or vegetables where you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. I don’t think it’s great if it’s a program that means you end up with a fridge full of rotten stuff you didn’t have time to cook, crabby kids, kids whose allergies can’t be accommodated, etc.

  49. (Which is not to say that it can’t be both. Bah, I keep trying to clarify this comment and it’s not coming right.)

  50. Where do you get fresh produce on WIC? Not here. Had two children on WIC. http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/benefitsandservices/foodpkgregs.HTM Is the current lists. Arizona only gave carrots and Tuna to nursing mothers. Because I am Lactose Intolerant, I got extra cheese?!?! and Lactaid milk.

    I wish we got produce. I did learn to make a delicious quiche with all the extra eggs and cheese. I also learned to use the baby cereal in the bread I was making daily to help us survive. We owned a car, see. At that time, if you owned a car, even if you owed more than it was worth, worth more than $2K, you did not qualify for food stamps.

  51. Krista, maybe you can only get it if you’re in one of the states that has the farmer’s market plan. This is the stuff I’m curious about.

    Lactose intolerant -> extra cheese is a real head scratcher.

  52. I had a mom who spent my whole childhood telling me I was going to get “porky” if I ate this or that. She called me baby beluga, “the ape”, . When I got my first boyfriend she warned me that boys would think I was easy cuz I was fat, she put me on too many diets to list….when I was little she would not feed me and I remember being so hungry and weak – I learned to hoard and hide food and stuff my face wen she wasnt looking. ANd all her “hard work” to prevent me from the misery of BEING FAT…well now I am a beautful fat woman who is trying to unlearn all the negative thoughts in my head and accept who I am….while my m0m (I am 38 now) offers me financial incentives(the latest is $1000 to buy clothes) if I lose the weight. When my daughter was 10 years old she told her if your mommy loses 50 lbs gramma will send you to disneyland! I am learning to acept who I am bu tit is hard to indo the damage that was odne to my self esteem so young…I am grateful to have found these sites that inspire me. When I wqs gorwing upo inthe 70’s/80’s there were no websites to read, no plus size clothing for kids…it was awful. I am so glad kids these days have these resources to turn to!

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