Don’t you just love food palaces? Round these parts in Philly, we have several new Wegmans stores to choose from, and of course Whole Foods. A new Whole Foods opened not far from where I live that includes a little bar – you can have a beer or glass of wine and a little something to eat if you find the experience of shopping for your whole foods wholly exhausting and need to partake of serious refreshment. The big chain grocery stores have even stepped up their games to stay in competition. In downtown Philly, there is Di Bruno Brothers, a gourmand’s shopping paradise, not to mention Reading Terminal Market, the Italian Market, and who knows how many other little gourmet shops throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding environs.
When you’re pushing a cart around at, say, Wegmans – or any other food palace – loading up the goodies, and finally wheeling your way to the checkout, you probably aren’t thinking to yourself, “where do those employees shop for their food?” At least one Wegmans employee in this area, it turns out, shops at a local food bank.
The food bank in question, The Lord’s Pantry in Downingtown, has won honors and praise for its operation. Unlike many pantries that just hand people a bag of food, people who come to the Lord’s Pantry can come in, look around, shop and choose what they need and want. It is a place with dignity. And they help people figure out what other benefits and assistance they might be eligible for, and how to apply for it. Here’s some frightening data from the article:
In 2006, the Lord’s Pantry served just 1,200 people; in 2009, 15,336. Last month, an all-time high of 60 families showed up on a single day. To be eligible, a family of four can earn up to $33,075 a year, individuals $16,245.
It should be noted that the food pantry is located in a upscale community where the median income is $82,979.
The day after this article appeared in my paper, another ran explaining how anger against the poor was on the rise, and how the percentage of people who think the poor have become “too dependent” on government assistance has increased from 69% to 72% in the last few years. This has happened, mind you, at the same time that my state legislature is cutting aid to the poorest elderly and disabled.
A previously undisclosed detail of Pennsylvania’s brutal budget deal calls for slashing the state’s already modest $27 to $42 monthly SSI supplement by 20 percent to 25 percent. Individuals will lose $5 a month, couples $10.
How much does it cost to take paratransit to a grocery store, to buy the groceries you can’t afford? Why, $10. Please remember these cuts are being proposed for people who are getting about $600 a month. I invite you to make out your monthly budget with that figure. No, wait, make that $590. Because we do not want you becoming too dependent upon government assistance.
I know in these past few weeks that everyone has been emptying their pocketbooks for the disaster in Haiti and surely the need is great there. It is great to see the outpouring of support and sympathy. Hopefully we can channel a little of that love and sympathy for the needy right next door – sometimes literally – too, and stop blaming them for their need. A lot of those people using The Lord’s Pantry in Downingtown used to donate to it not so long ago.
I like to give to Philabundance. I like that their vision of hunger relief includes fresh produce and dignity, not dented expired mystery cans from the back of someone’s pantry. I am grateful I have some extra to share.
And yet even the have-nots recognize that others may be worse off.
“If we’re having a good month, I don’t come,” Borden says. “I leave it for someone else who needs it.”
If only the “haves” in the state legislature had half as much empathy and sense.
This is a story about making chicken soup completely from scratch, with local, organic ingredients, and starting with the carcass of a roasted chicken. The soup was very, very good, and looked like this:
The chicken in question came from Pikeland Pastured Poultry. All the vegetables in the soup came from Landisdale Farm.
But the chicken had to do a little traveling before its bones came to rest in my soup pot.
Is the current economy making more people want to participate in human research studies, asks Isis?
In this new study here at MRU, we began advertising online last Wednesday. By Friday, my study coordinator had received 300 responses…I can’t help but wonder if the current poor economy is driving more people to consider human research.
Probably – I wouldn’t be at all surprised. It seems possible to me, though, that is just an exacerbation of the situation that obtained previously – which is that poorer people have always been attracted to participation in clinical research trials either as a means of making money, or as a means of obtaining at least some sort of health care, even though clinical studies are most definitely not about providing health care to the participants. That may be the other motivator for Isis’s applicants. Many people don’t really understand that clinical trials are not really places to receive health care.
When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, a few of my coworkers seemed to have fuzzy ethics around this point, too. At least one of my coworkers was explicit in his belief that it was an ancillary “benefit” for clinical trial participants to obtain the attentions of medical professionals during a clinical trial. He insisted on referring to participants as “patients” rather than “subjects” (which I think is the preferred and correct term).
If you are wealthy, or even reasonable well-off, you have access to the best already-tested and approved health care and treatments on offer. Or you can figure out how to work the system and get yourself into Phase III clinical trials if your medical situation is such that there are no good tested options available out there. What you most likely aren’t doing is saying to yourself, “Hey! I could make fifty bucks if I sign up for this Phase I clinical trial, AND I’ll be helping out science, AND maybe I’ll finally get my blood pressure checked by a real doctor, too!”
I appreciate Dr. Isis’s sense of unease over the recent recruitment phenomenon. But I think it is just foregrounding an issue that has been there all along.
Thought experiment: Sometimes I have imagined a society where everyone is eligible for, and required to, participate in clinical research, akin to jury duty, or maybe like military service in Israel. Only when you were called up, you’d be assigned to a research study that was a good “match” – if you are healthy, you go into a Phase I or II; if you have a medical problem, you go into some relevant Phase III. Spread the risks and responsibilities out across the society regardless of social glass, gender, race. Of course its unworkable, but what would be the pros and cons of such a system? What things would need to change radically to make it work? Would drug development research need to move largely out of the hands of private industry or could it stay pretty much as it is?
Note I am not advocating for such a system, just floating it as a thought experiment to examine how we do things now and how we might do them differently. I have participated in clinical trials – as a student, just to get the money; as a researcher, with the goal of bringing a new therapy for a disease to market; and as a patient, in the hopes of helping doctors come to a better understanding of my particular illness. I’ve helped someone else gain entry to a clinical research study because no other available therapies were helping this person and we hoped the study therapy (it was open label) would work (it did provide partial relief that has persisted over time). So I’ve seen them from a variety of perspectives. The best-planned study in the world can be left with misleading results if participants are overly motivated by money, or by the hope of obtaining medical treatment for illness.
I’m visiting with mom this week, taking her to a number of doctor appointments and dealing with some minor medical issues. No time for stuff I promised you like the second post on Chapter 1 of The Gender Knot.
So what I want you to do, to pass the time while you wait for me to show up again, especially those of you who consider yourselves to be white, is go and read this: Shinin’ the Lite on White Privilege. I promise it will shake up your thinking. It sure made me look differently on my experience as a beneficiary of the land-grant university system. See if you can figure out why, also if you can pick out the answer to the blog post question.
If you are too frickin’ lazy to click and read, here’s a take home message:
…when oppressed whites protest against their own oppression, while refusing to simultaneously challenge racial oppression and white privilege, they can win short term victories (a union, legislative reform, a constitutional amendment, etc.) But when they organize in this way, they themselves become oppressors of people of color. Their silence is consent to racial oppression and white privilege.
And they sacrifice the possibilities for building coalitions with activists of color which could challenge the power of the descendants of the slave owners — the capitalist power which oppresses all of us today.
But you cannot possibly understand the real meaning and import of that quote without reading the full text of the link I provide above. So I urge you to click and read. Then come back here and discuss if you like.
Every manly man of means these days has gotta have a man-cave, right? Every man gotta be a caveman, right?
Wrong. D00ds, step away from your caves! You must read The Caveman Mystique, and if you cannot, as a self-respecting caveman, be bothered to read a whole freakin’ book, at least read this post over at The World’s Fair. Fab interview with Caveman Mystique author Martha McCaughey.
Maybe if you read the book in a techno-geeky way, say, on Kindle, you could preserve your caveman status even as you are deconstructing it????
Image from Flickr, posted by VonMurr http://www.flickr.com/photos/20193184@N00/920433587
What’s a good citizen to do if he or she thinks that cough and sneeze is swine flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
This afternoon I’ve been reading Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich – which is ever so more relevant now, if that were possible, than when it was originally released. Near the end she notes:
It is common, among the nonpoor, to think of poverty as a sustainable condition – austere, perhaps, but they get by somehow, don’t they? They are “always with us.” What is harder for the nonpoor to see is poverty as acute distress: The lunch that consists of Doritos or hot dog rolls, leading to faintness before the end of the shift. The “home” that is also a car or a van. The illness or injury that must be “worked through” with gritted teeth, because there’s no sick pay or health insurance and the loss of one day’s pay will mean no groceries for the next. These experiences are not part of a sustainable lifestyle, even a lifestyle of chronic deprivation and relentless low-level punishment. They are, by almost any standard of subsistence, emergency situations. And that is how we should see the poverty of so many millions of low-wage Americans – as a state of emergency.
One simply can’t choose to stay home from work under those conditions. In an Afterword written in late 2007, Ehrenreich writes that an Economic Policy Institute report found
an astounding 29 percent of American families living in what could be more reasonably defined as poverty [as compared to the more stringent federal poverty line definition]. At least this was the percentage of families earning less than a bare-bones budget covering housing, child-care, health care, food, transportation, and taxes – though not, it should be noted, any entertainment, meals out, cable TV, Internet service, vacations, or holiday gifts. Twenty-nine percent is a minority, but not a reassuringly small one, and other studies have since come up with similar figures.
Can we reasonably expect people living in such conditions to stay home from work while sick – plus two days after symptoms have subsided, as I heard recommended for students at the University of Delaware – when they have no sick pay, no resources to fall back on, and in some cases, not even any real home to stay in while away from work? In some cases, as Ehrenreich observes in her book, work may be the source of one of their free or deeply subsidized meals.
I do not think this bodes well for us as a nation in dealing with a potential pandemic.
Just one more reason why the strategy of short-term gains in the bottom line from keeping workers’ wages and benefits down is not a viable long-term strategy for a healthy economy or society.
McDonald’s is everywhere, of course. But it’s not completely cookie cutter; only about 99.9% so. For example, the McDonald’s at the Heidelberg train station I used to frequent when I felt unbearably homesick in Germany had beer on tap – something you don’t see in the U.S! Most McDonald’s I’ve ever been in, though, feature incredibly dispiriting physical environments. You aren’t really encouraged to linger and enjoy yourself. It’s fast food, after all. It’s not like it’s your quaint neighborhood Starbucks.
But as we knew all along, the very rich are different from you and I, and so is their McDonald’s decor. I drove down to Philly’s Main Line area today for a garden tour of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. (So incredibly beautiful. Two boxes full of lovely native plants climbed in the car and came home with me…) I was feeling migrainey and stopped at a McDonad’s on Lancaster Avenue for some orange juice. This is very much not how the McDonald’s in my neighborhood looks.
It’s amazing what a different environmental feel the (fake) flower vases on the table and framed art shots on the walls give to virtually the same soulless furniture. In the end, though, it’s still the same crappy food.