poverty and nutrition

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Vegan,

I just wanted to email you to say thank you SO MUCH for helping me regain my health and quite possibly saving my life. Here’s my story:
I found you, along with High Carb Hannah, around this time last year. I was living in Belfast, Northern Ireland while studying for my master’s, and I was literally starving. I was about 210lbs (and have been over 200lbs since I was 12-13 years old) and still stuck in the low-carb, high protein diet mentality. Meat in the UK/Ireland is crazy expensive, and I could only afford the equivalent of about $20-30/week in food. I was eating fatty chicken thighs and salmon and soaking my food in oil just to feel satisfied. At one point, I counted calories and realized I was eating less than 1000 calories a day. I lived off of the free coffee in my university’s study halls. In addition to eating so little, I was walking between 5-7 miles a day because I didn’t have a car and Belfast’s public transportation was inconsistent and less than stellar.
Despite literally starving, I wasn’t losing a lot of weight. I had lost about 20lbs before then but my weight completely plateaued from there– for obvious reasons. I knew something needed to change. I can’t remember how it happened exactly, but I stumbled across one of High Carb Hannah’s videos and from there found you two. I read the Starch Solution because of you and my life changed completely! Not only did a lose a ridiculous amount of weight– dropping from 210 to 155lbs– but I was finally eating enough food! Although meat was expensive, guess what’s plentiful and dirt cheap in Ireland? POTATOES. I started eating a high carb diet, eating potatoes and porridge every single day, along with pounds of fresh veg that I could pick up at my local farmer’s market for pennies. I tracked my calories to make sure I was eating enough, and on just $20-30/week I was able to eat over 2500 calories a day. I had tons of energy and felt healthy for the first time in my life. I am FINALLY at a healthy BMI (I’m 5'8’). I want to lose about another 15-20lbs, and I know that I can without feeling deprived or miserable.
I want you to know that your message for WSLF is life-saving, not just for health but also for people like me who were living below the poverty line. I’m back in the United States for now, and I’m planning to work with local non-profits in Orlando (where there is a huge amount of poverty) to tackle the inadequate nutrition of the working poor by encouraging starch-based diets. There is a misconception that the vegan diet is one of privilege. And indeed, if you’re eating mock-meats and Chao cheese or dining at expensive vegan restaurants, it absolutely is. But a healthy, starch-based diet is not, and I can say I am proof of that. 

Here’s my before and after, and you have my permission to share my story and pictures if you wish. 

​This ended up being a way longer email than I intended, but I really felt like I had to reach out and share another perspective/compelling reason to advocate for the starch-based diet. Thank you again for doing what you do! You’re doing more than you can possibly imagine, and I hope my story continues to inspire you.  

Marisa J.

Here’s a quote captured from a person waiting in line at a food bank in Vancouver, BC. At this time of year, when it’s common to see food drives happening at businesses and schools, consider two things: 

1) If you’re going to give food, don’t give crap food. Consider the mental and physical health impacts of living in poverty, having limited to no choice in what you eat, and then being handed a tiny box of unhealthy, preserved, processed food. That’s not supporting that person. Where would your mental health be at if you were in that position?

2) Work to end food banks. They’re evidence of systemic failures in our society. Throwing some cans in a box doesn’t address the inequalities and injustices that created that need. Take a look at that quote again up there. Do you think people should have to live in that position? If not, this coming year is a great opportunity to get engaged in investing your time and energy to support change instead of a canned band-aid (like a food bank). Advocate for policy change at all levels of government, volunteer with food security organizations, donate your skills to innovative organizations that are tackling poverty. 

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This elementary school cafeteria worker chose to quit her job rather than participate in a harsh new policy that would deny students their hot lunch

Not only does Koltiska believe this shames students who cannot afford school lunch, but it just makes the problem worse. The students who are given the alternative lunch are still charged the same price as the hot lunch.

Gifs: Media24

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Next Time You Judge Someone on Food Stamps, Remember This…

Recently, a few courageous lawmakers took the food stamp challenge, living off SNAP in an attempt to show that hunger is more than just a statistic. As U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who took the challenge, wrote: “All spontaneity is out the window. Feel like buying a cup of coffee? Forget it. Those pretzels in the vending machine look tempting? Keep walking. They’re not in the budget.”  Governor Ted Strickland said “For the week [I took the challenge], I walked as much as I possibly could to avoid paying for transportation, skipped meals to save money — and I ate much smaller and less healthful meals when I did eat.”   

I didn’t need to take the challenge, I lived it. And I learned a lot from it but mainly that I should never feel ashamed for reaching out for help. I also learned that I had my own stereotype of what being poor should look like. When I had to go to the SNAP office, I admit I was expecting to see the depths of poverty exemplified. Instead, I saw people from all walks of life: young and old, clean and dirty, black and white. I am Ivy League educated, worked for years, had decent savings, and wore nice clothes before times got hard and I lost my job. Besides being a black woman, on paper I didn’t look like my idea of a typical SNAP recipient. Anyone could easily slip into poverty.  

Read on: http://bit.ly/1bZ7zRP

Literally your weight and size depend a lot on genetics. Like you’re either born with a fast metabolism or a slow one, a large frame or a small one, huge hips or tiny ones, a flat stomach or rolls, like i cant control shit like that. Ive been the tallest and the chubbiest in my class ever since i was little and when i was little i was actually being fed well, decent meals 3 times a day, veggies and fruits and all that healthy jazz. I wasnt experiencing poverty and poor nutrition until i was around 6 or 7, and even then i was eating poorly but i was eating much less every day. And ive been TRYING to lose weight since i was fucking 8 no less, but every time i did something like try to change my diet, go out and play more often, fucking go to the YMCA (which i shouldnt have been worrying about at 8 holy shit????) nothing changed about my body type. The only thing that changed was i got a little extra muscle. I was still fat i was just strong and fat and my cardio was a little better. Like skinny people think its so fucking easy to just “lose weight” but it is seriously not. Those people you see whove lost like hundreds of pounds are people who went to fucking extremes, literally were killing themselves to get down to that weight, or had numerous surgeries to shrink to that size. And now they have to live life soooo fucking carefully and torture themselves dietarily to stay where they are. And honestly? Id rather be fat and happy than do that shit. I dont have the fucking money or time to be having lipo or gastric bypass or taking diet pills or going on runs for 3 hours every 12 hours or eating only a palm full of nuts and drinking a glass of water every day. For some people weight loss is super fucking unrealistic because news flash, unless youre going to literally starve yourself, healthy weight loss costs time and money, which are two things a lot of fat people DONT have considering the largest portion of fat individuals are living in poverty. I dont want to be miserable. I want to live my life and eat what tastes good to me and spend my short time on this planet being happy and enjoying my friends and family and loving the shit i put into my body. To tell me “if i dont like how i look/if im getting shit for my weight, JUST LOSE WEIGHT!!” Is to be super fucking rude and ignorant. Ive been trying to look like those skinny girls on tv since i was a tiny fucking child and ive gotten nowhere and nothing except for extremely disordered eating patterns, a shit ton of trauma from weight-based abuse, and shitty body image. Im finally at a good place in my life where i can do what i want and love myself and enjoy myself, so fuck right the hell off.

The privileges that money brings to the upper classes have often been displayed through their consumption practices - and food habits have been one of the social markers used to reinforce class distinctions - what Thornstein Veblen (1899) referred to as conspicuous consumption. Increased understanding of the link between diet and health has been accompanied by popular and scientific assumptions that the ‘poor diets of the poor’ are partially responsible for the persistence of health inequalities between classes. The diet of the working class is often viewed as uniformly 'unhealthy’, while the upper classes are often assumed to be consistently 'healthier’ - yet the available evidence does not support such an oversimplified view of class-based food habits.
—  Germov, J (2008) Food, Class and Identity. in A Sociology of Food and Nutrition.
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NDP MP, Charlie Angus on Nutrition North and Treaty 9 Issues

NDP MP Charlie Angus on Nutrition North and Treaty 9 Issues