Sunday, July 22, 2012

National Food Study

The US Department of Agriculture is funding a study of where people in the US buy their food, whether they have access to healthy food and how much it costs. Read about it HERE.

I had actually never heard about the study until one day, someone from the USDA showed up at my door and told us we had been chosen at random to participate. She then asked if we were interested (of course after showing me her ID) and  I said absolutely we would help.

It is a week out of our lives to let the government know what kind of access we have to food; what kind of food we are able to buy; where we buy our food; most importantly too, how much it costs. The woman from the USDA also told me that this study would be used to make certain that our area received the right amount of food stamp support for needy people. Seriously, how could you not want to help with that? Why would I not want my federal tax dollars used to help my fellow Americans be able to afford descent food for themselves and their children?

I remember a few years ago I was in the market and the family in front of me, with a baby about a year old was using food stamps to buy nutritious food for their child. Actually I think it was WIC stamps. They had a hard time understanding what they were allowed to buy and not buy so several people from the store were helping them. The personnel kept apologizing to me for taking so long. I replied, "Get the baby what he needs and I can wait." Inside I felt good that at least some of my tax dollars were going to do something good instead of paying for self-indulgent political class bullshit.

The market did give me a ton of coupons for my patience. I didn't ask for anything in exchange, didn't expect anything. Was quite content to wait. But the cashier seemed rather taken with the fact that I was concerned about the young family and was not being a bitch. Leads you to wonder about some of the nastier people that they face in the market.

Listen, that baby needed to have the right nutrition to learn and educate himself. He afterall is going to inherit this country along with my children and I want him to be as productive as I want my own children to be. Yes, sometimes you do have to support and help others. Those who rail against the safety net are short sighted and quite frankly just plain mean. Also, one more thing...what makes you think that it couldn't be you one day? There is not guarantees in life. You can hope and pray it won't be you or yours but noone has a crystal ball..even Yoda can't always see the future.

Honestly, hunger is a real problem in this country.  My SIL volunteers at the food bank for the backpack program. This is where they pack dinner for needy children to take home at night so they have food for dinner. They also pack up food for the weekend meals for these children as well. I had originally looked into getting the boys to volunteer for the program this summer, but it didn't work into our timeline. So the boys ended up at the Audubon society helping grow fresh food for the food bank instead, among other duties they perform for the environment.

Anyway here is what we had to do this week for the study:

1. Every purchase has to be logged...supermarket, convenience store, dunkin' donuts, starbucks, vending machine, movie theater.

2. Every adult in the house has a book with one main book for the overall lists.

3. You scan the supermarket purchases if you can. If there is no barcode you can turn to certain pages that might have food and fruits listed. Worse come to worse you just list the food and how much it cost.

supermarket sheet

daily page of where items are purchased

snack list sheet

barcode scanner

I have to tell everyone I had so much fun using the scanner. I know it is silly, but hey its the little things that can give us joy right? And I love how technology works and makes things easier.

Anyway, today is our last day and Monday we will turn in our data. The interesting thing is that we had done our monthly large shopping the week before and they didn't want us to go back wards. So what I did was go early to the huge box store and supermarket so the government has an idea what we usually buy and how much it costs. Luckily alot of what we buy doesn't go bad and quite frankly even the fresh food doesn't really last long in our home, not with three adult males living in the house anyway. We also don't usually go to the movies, but the boys went this weekend and hubby kept the junk food receipt. We also don't tend to buy Sunday morning bagels but are doing it anyway, not that they won't be eaten. But I also think the government needs to know how much,  even the most simple food and the most inexpensive drinks, all costs in this area.

OK, I don't really know if this is cheating or not. But if the government wants to know what you can buy in a week then you have to buy the items. They were very specific about it being items that are purchased, not items consumed, so anything that was already in the house did not count for the study. In the end then, we are giving them what they need to know. It's not like we are making up the numbers. Just doing our shopping earlier than normal.

I hope this helps people in the country and I hope that the government uses the data to make sure that people have access to healthier food stuffs. Yeah I know, there will be those who still say that the government will use this to divide the nation and promote class warfare or use it for the coming political election season....I know they may not be entirely wrong. But I keep thinking of that baby and young family in the market who were using the WIC stamps. If in the end my tax dollars will go to help my fellow Americans feed their children then I don't care how the venal may use this study. To hell with the cynical. Lets work on  making sure that in the richest nation in the history of human kind people stop going to bed hungry.

Meanwhile, one of the more fun aspects of the study was that the hubby's first job out of law school was for the USDA. His job consisted of reviewing documents for nuclear power plants. No he doesn't have an engineering background and no he has no idea how nuclear power plants work(ed). He just reviewed the contracts.  But that's a story for another day, after everyone has had something really strong to drink.

Until next time,