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KULTUR KAMPF – McGriddle Edition

I was going to post this as a comment, but it’s pretty goddamn long.

In comments to this thread, commenter protagony writes:

and even taking insurance out of the picture, obesity effects other people besides the individual, for example that persons children, who will probably grow up to burden the system as well.

If you take the things government does to disburse this effect across many, many pocket books, you’ll notice that being a fat ass only kills you. I might also suggest that learning the difference between affect and effect will help you communicate your unfortunate ideas more clearly. I’m just looking out for you there, mate.

What you’re neglecting is that the same informational problems faced by the poor are faced, in aggregate, by the government. In fact, third-party decision makers have less information than first-party decision makers do so you’re looking at even more informational difficulty. This LA ban is especially ironilicious given that the said same politicians worked hard to keep out Wal-Mart and its large, cheap selection of produce. If South LA is anything like San Antonio, it wouldn’t surprise me if many times the produce quality is actually better at Wal-Mart than it is at the local grocery. About 60% of the time that’s true for me, and I live in a fairly affluent part of town.

That’s not to say that cultural and food access issues are easy to solve for those who are living in poverty.

First, and most obviously, there’s the money issue. Sometimes healthy food can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be, but it can be. Anyone who’s tried to shop at Whole Foods knows this. If you’re living in poverty that’s one barrier, but because vegetables from the local supermarket aren’t ipso facto expensive that’s probably the smallest barrier.

Secondly, a lot of people living in poverty don’t have a clue how to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables, or how to cook outside of their own food culture. Now, we shouldn’t find the latter particularly surprising, but it is one issue to overcome. Using San Antonio as an example again, a lot of the poverty here is in Mexican neighborhoods, and we all know that a lot of traditional Mexican cooking is basically meat, cheese and fat. While delicious, it isn’t particularly good for you, but it is pretty cheap – being, as it is, descended from centuries of peasant food. Think about the first time you tried something alien to your own food culture: if you’re naturally adventurous you probably remember that quite fondly and with great excitement. If, like me, expanding your preferences has taken years of deliberate effort you probably remember that with trepidation. That sort of nervous reaction can happen with any new food stuff that’s alien – for some folks that’s fresh vegetables or salads, or completely delicious healthy foods.

Third, and again I only have one city for reference, is that often grocery stores make a business decision about whether or not they think they can profitably operate in the area. If they can’t, they don’t go in there. If they do go in, they often ship the lower-quality produce to those stores on the assumption that nobody will buy it anyway, so why bother? Med students my girlfriend works with were apalled to find rotting fruit in the bins at HEB on the west side – but from HEB’s perspective, if the fruit isn’t going to sell that makes some sense. But, that reinforces the above and becomes self-perpetuating.

Fourthly, residents of poverty-stricken neighborhoods often cannot afford their own cars (some can, some can’t, but a lot of folks in those neighborhoods in SA don’t drive) and are underserved by public transit. This means that, again, they have limited access to stores that aren’t within walking distance. I know over on the west and south sides of town, it can take two or more hours, one way, to get to a non-walkable grocery on the bus. Add in time for shopping and that’s five hours, I don’t have five hours in my day to grocery shop, and I’m guessing you don’t either. This is especially true for folks who work a lot of minimum-wage jobs where five hours poses a significant portion of their income (presuming they were working during those hours). This is a non-trivial concern.

So, you add that to the other endemic issues like teen pregnancy, crime, and violence – the latter two of which limit the possibility of using the neighborhood for exercise – and pretty soon you’re looking at a pretty tangled web of cultural issues that need to be addressed in order to accomplish the seemingly simple task of getting folks to eat a better diet. I don’t think the same government that’s brought you the post office and the DMV is the best agent to even attempt solving any of those problems.

  1. Vincent says:

    You made my day, Jackson.

  2. Jackson says:

    Carl Winslow.

  3. Vincent says:

    I think the quote is about the once-popular sitcom “Perfect Strangers”. While it may have been eventually overshadowed by the success of its spin-off sitcom, “Family Matters”, one must applaud Black Student Union Co-Director Abrina Wheatfall for refusing to forget that, before Urkel, there was Balki.

    No longer will they sit back, as they have in past years, and silently let continue the criminal indifference to “Perfect Strangers”.

  4. ASUO Senator says:

    Forget what?

  5. Sean says:

    Probably a BSU Co-Director’s quote.

  6. ASUO Senator says:

    Where is Jackson’s quote from? What is that referencing?

  7. Sean says:

    I think my impulsive responses are becoming more and more like Sakaki’s…which is scary.
    Kind of like Vincent’s approach to hipsters: Cold-blooded murder.

  8. CJ Ciaramella says:

    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. A similar body with more ASUO-types would be horrifying.

  9. Sean says:

    LOL a House?! Senate barely runs, what makes you think a similar body with MORE ASUO-types is giong to work?

  10. Program Representative says:

    Jackson please stop appropriating via your white male privilege. Screw you and failed policies!

  11. Jackson says:

    It has been leaked that a senate resolution will be presented in late Fall to form a house of representatives within the ASUO. It has been discussed that the new body will be made up of one representative from every student group on campus. The body’s purpose will be to share diversity initiatives with the senate and exec, as well as control surplus funds- a way for the senate to concede that they never had control of it in the first place.

    “Don’t think we are going to forget,” said Black Student Union Co-Director Abrina Wheatfall. “Do not think we are going to sit back as we have in years past and not know what’s going on.”

  12. Horatio says:

    Hamilton for ASUO Exec

  13. Chris Holman says:


  14. Sean says:

    Yeah, I stopped caring about people unless they made my life better somehow after studying Econ. No incentive.

  15. Timothy says:

    Affect is a verb.

    Effect is a noun (but sometimes gets its verb on with “effect change”).

    And I’m a dick about most things, not just grammar. They teach us that in the Econ department.

    Point is, anyway, one can think that the government is doing something churlish, uncalled for, and unlikely to have the desired effect while agreeing that the problem as identified is real. The main difference between a libertarian and a liberal (or a conservative, for that matter) is simple: when faced with a situation that objectively sucks and seeing no good solutions, the libertarian observes that there are no solutions and goes on about his or her day attempting to do something useful about a solvable problem. A liberal or conservative, on the other hand, sees the same thing and DOES SOMETHING anyway because that kind of thing is good PR and gets your mitts on more power.

  16. protagony says:

    fun example about non rational liberals on campus. One time I was shitting in deady hall reading this article about how Israel has fucked up repeatedly to uphold UN treaties, and the article was in the Student Insurgant, and all I thought was “fuck, this legitamate issue just looks all the more crazy because these fuckers published it”.

  17. Sakaki says:

    As I like to say, not everyone in the world will agree with you. And sometimes, you have to be the lone dissenter.

    Other than that, all I can say is…have a double cheeseburger. With tons of pickles. And I literally mean…TONS of pickles.

  18. protagony says:

    OK, probably not the response you’re looking for. But are you 100% positive about affect/effect? I never really got the difference. And I actually looked up both on google and decided to go with effect because it seemed more likely. But I will trust you since you’re probably a journalism major. Although I completely disagree, that slight grammatical error would really cause any confusion, and your just being a dick because you’ve taken grammar.

    Other than that, I’ve read this blog for probably about two years, and have commented twice. Mostly, because frankly I’m greatly outnumbered, and probably not as well educated in things like grammar, and persuasive writing. But I feel like the Commentator attracts a lot of people that are more intelligent and aware than most of the lemming liberals on campus, and being a past libertarian I’m sympathetic to the ideals, but believe democrats and environmentalists are actually less idealistic and more pragmatic.

    So I saw that post as being just kind of another pot shot at “big government bad, corporations good” . I see it as a city council that just wants to be a little more proactive about what kind of businesses their going to allow and thought I’d comment. Which I may or may not do again. Its really nerve wracking knowing your gonna get 5 people disagreeing with you.

  19. CJ Ciaramella says:

    I did my info hell project on eminent domain, and I ran into this story over and over. People on the left vehemently opposed the practice on the grounds that it “targeted poor and minority neighborhoods.” (The fact that the government was forcibly seizing property didn’t seem to bother them so much. In fact, some of my sources belittled the Kelo case because the defendant was white and middle class.) They felt they had to protect all those inner-city neighborhoods from evil corporations trying to bring them cheap products and jobs.

    Of course, using eminent domain to accomplish this is a whole other can of worms, but you can see the same anti-corporation mindset.

  20. Vincent says:

    I think that’s part of the reason that, when I was living in Chicago, there was a Subway every few blocks or so. It’s at least nominally healthier than other fast food joints, and the prices aren’t outrageous. The market is there, but there just aren’t very many choices. And, of course, Subway isn’t exactly “health food”, either, though it is a step or two above a Big Mac and fries.

    It seems like, instead of banning the construction of new fast-food joints, the local government would be doing everyone a favor if they instead worked on encouraging lower-cost, healthier alternatives to open up in some of these neighborhoods.

  21. Timothy says:

    Vincent – That’s an excellent point, and related to the money point above. If you’re not comfortable in a store, you’re not going to shop there. There’s this Westside restaurant here that’s considered the “expensive” restaurant in the neighborhood – it’s probably $6-8 an entree. We could have dinner there for under $30 and not even think about it.

    As a consequence, everybody eats at the Malt House, where you can get a burger, fries and a tea for $2.95. And the burgers are good, I eat there from time to time, but that doesn’t make them any more healthy.

  22. Vincent says:

    It doesn’t help that a lot of the “healthier” alternatives simply don’t cater to a lower class market. There’s a reason you don’t see many trailer park-dwellers shopping at that new Market of Choice up on 29th street — you know… the one with stone floors, a fireplace with seating near the front doors, and classical music playing over the PA system. The cheaper alternatives, Wal-Mart and WinCo, are loaded with people who’re scraping by on two minimum wage jobs.

    The same dynamic applies elsewhere. You can get a burger for a couple bucks at McDonald’s or Burger King or you can get a nice, healthy vegetarian meal at some locally-owned cafe for $6-8. Guess what sort of people are in McD’s versus Cafe Zenon?

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