On poverty…

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 12.32.54 PMAs the semester pulls to a close, I realize there is so much left to figure out about poverty in America. We’ve talked about different elements, from pay inequality to housing to food options. So many of the issues are solvable, but it’s hard to find a common solution to all of them.

At the beginning of class this week, our professor asked us if we thought that Universal Basic Income (UBI) would work. We all responded with the usual questions of how would it work, wouldn’t people want to stop working?

To answer how, we looked at different articles. This article, written by an economist and an economy professor, discusses exactly how we could make this work. The article discusses exactly where the money for a $1000 UBI could come from. They talk about cutting welfare programs, taking away tax returns, and adding a slight increase to taxes on goods and service.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 12.30.07 PMThe second question’s answer comes from a TED talk by Rutger Bregman (pictured to the right), a celebrated journalist, historian, philosopher, and economist. Bregman answers the question simply by asking the audience, “If I were to give you $1000 a month, would you stop working? 99 percent of you will say of course not. But if I said that I was going to give $1000 a month to other people, 99 percent of you would worry about them not working anymore.”

This eliminates the entire argument. If the majority of people who receive the UBI still work, then what becomes the problem from then on?

This isn’t something that is just a passing thought, or a passing theory. As reported by The Guardian, Ontario, Canada has decided to implement a UBI for the summer, just to see how it works. It will be a study with about 4000 people who are all low income or in precarious job situations. It’ll be interesting to see how this experiment turns out and if other countries follow the experiment.

By Kate Sahagian


Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 12.21.31 PMSometimes we take for granted the basics in life, such as food. I find myself doing that a lot. I’m an athlete and I’m training for a goal in which nutrition plays a key part.

Some days I go to bed contemplating how I could have eaten so much food. I feel disgusted with myself for not being able to ration and stick to my macro count or I wonder how could I let myself eat that one cookie full of sugar.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 12.22.42 PMSome people go to bed at night starving, or having eaten only fast food and junk. Most people have seen the documentary, Supersize Me, and if you haven’t please take a look at what a daily diet of fast food does to a person’s body. Taking food for granted is an easy mistake, not only in relation to malnutrition around the world, but in our own neighborhoods.

Obesity  is prevalent among the less educated and in neighborhoods with high poverty rates. More than 1/3 of adults who make less than $15,000 a year are obese. In the case of people in the U.S., the most obese people are usually the must under-nourished and nutritionally deficient. If you’re a low-income household, you may look at McDonald’s dollar menu and think you can get more food for your money. However, these foods lack essential nutrient-dense vitamins and minerals that whole foods have.

Even if you have food stamps or choose to spend money in a grocery store, many impoverished families have to budget and plan their spending wisely. That means purchasing and eating foods such as sugars, cereals, and highly processed foods which last longer and are less expensive than fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Another reason families in low-resource neighborhoods go for cheap, processed food is that is their only alternative. Disadvantaged neighborhoods usually lack healthy food options. There are scarce supermarkets, compared to the fast food chains and smaller stores that provide cheap food.

This leads back to education, which is sometimes lacking in lower-income neighborhoods.

If your closest supermarket is miles away, many families are unable to find effective or cheap routes to get there. It’s not practical to walk miles or to pay to get to a grocery store. These ares are food deserts, or areas where 1/5 of the residents are living in poverty and 1/3 live more than a mile from a super market.

In the U.S., extra health care for one obese household member costs a family an average of 8 percent of their income. So not only are households unable to afford adequate food, but they are now having to pay for the consequences.

By Nikki Iannace

Tiny homes may be a solution

Screenshot 2017-04-27 07.18.26Tiny houses are a big trend, but are people really packing (and condensing) their stuff and moving into their new, small abode?

For some people, a tiny home can be a chance to start anew, travel the country, and pay less for bills and more for experiences. According to Zillow, the median cost for a home is around $196,500. At Tumbleweed Houses, a 20×26 tiny home starts at $62,950, not including add-ons like a larger fridge or more shelving. These houses can sleep four to six people, depending on the size and plan of the tiny home. Is this considered the bargain on the lot? Think again.

I also looked at how much trailer homes cost in Wallingford and the prices waiver. What is surprising is that the trailer homes have far more space than the tiny homes. For more room for stuff, getting a trailer or mobile home would be the best fit. For easier mobility and aesthetics, the tiny home would suffice.

Screenshot 2017-04-27 07.18.58Another trending form of tiny homes are “Granny Pods,” or, MEDCottages, a big room/small space in the backyard of an elderly person’s relative. These rooms are 12×24, the average size of a master bedroom. There is more room for activities and storage, while some elements of an average house are not present. Granny Pods don’t include any stovetops or ovens and everything is on one floor. These homes range from $85,000 to $125,000. With the elderly population increasing, I do expect to see a few of these popping up in neighbor’s yards. However, families may prefer nursing homes, because constructing a $100,000 structure in the yard may not be practical for them.

On a lighter note, the stigma for mobile homes/trailers seem to be waning. When people think of trailers, they think of the stigma that the housing is for poor or old people. With younger people trying to find homes, starting off in a trailer might not be that bad if you find the right community to park in.

By Leah Myers



Eat poorly, or not at all?

Screenshot 2017-04-20 19.52.54.pngAs an adult, when I don’t eat I get a little grumpy. And if I eat something that doesn’t have much nutritional value, I may not pay attention to how it affects my body, attitude, and behavior. Usually, it’s nothing major.

With children it’s different.

About 40 percent of children go to school without having breakfast. The saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” stands true, at least in my book. Children who eat breakfast before their day starts at school are more inclined to perform better than children who don’t. A healthy breakfast guarantees improved attention and better concentration. Just think about the children who aren’t eating breakfast before school.

Screenshot 2017-04-20 19.56.06Academic performance isn’t the only influence food intake has on children. Behavior can also be affected. There are certain foods that aid in mood and behavioral changes within a child. Artificial coloring, dairy, sugar, and preservatives all have a negative impact on a child’s mood and behavior. These ingredients can be found in foods that are more affordable and are often found in poverty stricken areas. It is harder to eat healthy when you don’t have the funds to purchase a better choice.

So, we have a dilemma. Do you send your kids to school without eating breakfast affecting their academic performance, or do you give them something to have on their stomachs that lack nutritional threatening their mood and behavior?

By Kendra Key

Food deserts

Learning there is a lack of healthy food options in the inner cities in class this week was heartbreaking.

When I was growing up, my friends and I would meet at the local food mart after school to get little chips and snacks before we go home and eat dinner, never really taking in the fact that some people do not have access to a healthy well-rounded meal.  I never really realized that supermarkets and places to get access to healthy foods are not accessible to a lot of people, especially if you do not have a means of easy transportation.

According to City Lab’s “How Fast Food Cornered the Urban Market,” fast food chains started sprouting up in the early 1950s in suburbs, but today we see them all over the place.

Why is this? This is because the fast food industry already accounted for most of the suburbs and their logical move was to start expanding to the cities. This fast food boom started in the 1970s because television advertisements were on the rise and these chains were becoming a household name.

This brings us to today, were you can find a McDonald’s way quicker than you can find any supermarket. This leaves the impoverished to have to settle for the fast food restaurant down the street versus the supermarket that is 10 minutes away. Imagine if you live in an inner city with no access to transportation close by.

Fellow classmates came up with a great idea to create a sort of “Meals on Wheels” type of delivery system, but for a reduced price — or free if possible, based on your income. If something like this could be done in cities and areas considered food deserts, this would make a huge difference in the diet and health of children in those deserts. This would also lead to children concentrating more in class and having real energy, instead of fake energy that children get from junk foods.Screenshot 2017-04-20 19.45.50By Tyler Jarrett

Poverty and depression

Screenshot 2017-04-27 07.09.09“Money can’t buy happiness” is a phrase that is often said by people who have financial stability. But for those living in poverty, a few extra dollars may be their ticket to happiness.

In the Black community it is often said that ‘Black people don’t get mental illnesses – that’s for white people,’ which stigmatizes mental illness in the Black population.

What do we have after these two remarks? Depressed Black people who do not know they need treatment.

According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4 percent of African Americans are likely to report mental illnesses, but only 7.6 percent seek treatment. With poverty increasing in predominantly minority areas, the correlation is significant. Almost 31 percent of people living in poverty are reported to have depression, as opposed to the 15.8 percent of people who do not live in poverty, according to a report in The Atlantic.

Screenshot 2017-04-27 07.13.56How is one supposed to battle both mentally illness and being poor? If being poor only exacerbates mental illness, then it is vitally important to get people out of poverty. One solution would be to make sure that people are able to receive health insurance, but according to the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), over 20 percent of Black people are uninsured.

Affordable healthcare, available resources and an effort to lower the poverty rate in the United States could be the solution to strengthening Black communities and allowing those who are living with these illnesses, that are only being proliferated through their living situation, to become healthy again and to enjoy the quality of life they deserve.

By Kayra Clouden

Help! I’m in a food desert and I can’t get produce!

Screenshot 2017-04-20 20.23.55What exactly is a food desert? Where are they located? Is there a chance that you could be living in one?

To answer the first question, a food desert is a place where it is difficult to find fresh, healthy food at an affordable price. They’re usually located in urban and rural areas that are impoverished and an unreasonable distance from the nearest grocery store.

If you are living in one, you would know it. You would be living off of food bought at bodegas and fast food joints. If you need to actually figure it out, check out this interactive map. It’ll show detailed county or city locations of food deserts across the United Sates.

Screenshot 2017-04-20 20.24.04It’s not a coincidence that the areas with lower incomes are the areas with more food deserts. A huge part of this has to do with the subsidizing of really crappy junk foods. A two-liter bottle of soda is legitimately cheaper than a gallon of water. This article shows that  people living in lower income neighborhoods eat subsidized food more than any other type. Because of this, people are eating their entire calorie count for one day in a meal.

Cheap calories don’t fill up and last as long as people hope they would. When was the last time you could say you were full for five hours after eating McDonalds? Probably never.

The problem is that people don’t have the means for anything besides McDonald’s or junk food. This can be fixed by having more supermarkets, fresh food at street vendors in impoverished neighborhoods, and creating more grocery stores in those same neighborhoods. There is an answer to how to fix this problem, we just need to do it.

By Kate Sahagian



On being gay and poor

Screenshot 2017-04-20 19.38.22Members of the LGBT community face the same obstacles and struggles as other individuals, but they also face unique challenges based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT people are widely discriminated against in the United States, and although steps have been made in the right direction, there are still many problems to be solved.

In the context of this blog, LGBT people (particularly youth) disproportionately suffer from economic challenges including poverty and homelessness. This isn’t the place for flowery words or platitudes; I’ll just start listing facts and when you feel like you’ve seen enough, skip to the end and get involved whatever way you can — if you feel the need to do so.

These aren’t just numbers; they’re people’s lives – their struggles, their broken families, their tragedies. As someone with a transgender parent, as someone whose friends have been assaulted and raped for expressing who they are, as someone who identifies on the LGBT spectrum but doesn’t act on it for fear of discrimination, these struggles are deeply personal to me. We can do better. We have to.



Fresh fruit! Get your fresh fruit! (Maybe)

Screenshot 2017-04-20 20.15.25In class, we talked about the food deserts. For those of you who do not know, food deserts are parts of the country that are without fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods available for purchase in the area. The problem with these food deserts are that people resort to getting quick meals, which are often fast food, because fast food is close and inexpensive.

If you click here you will be able to type in a location and see how much access to healthy food options are in that specific area. Areas that do not have many healthy options tend to have a fast food restaurant or a corner store that sells food high in sugar, fat, and sodium. We discovered that within these areas, many children were overweight because the snacks that they eat are not healthy. People rather pay 50 cents for a bag of chips versus a $1.50 for a banana.

Screenshot 2017-04-20 20.15.35Some 23.5 million people live in food deserts. Almost half of these people are in low-income areas. Not many people know about because towns will put in small corner stores that are basically placed in the same classification as Whole Foods, or Shop Rite. After learning all this information, my teacher divided us into groups. In my group, she asked us what we can do to not only bring to healthy food to the people, but also bring the people to the food.

After discussing different scenarios, my group came up with a plan that would benefit many people. You see in the rural areas many people live in low-income housing and have the means or transportation to shop for the healthy foods. They are always working, taking care of the house, the kids, and they would rather a faster meal.

With that in mind, we came up with a concept that is similar to a company named Blue Apron, a company that delivers fresh ingredients every week so you can prepare the different recipes. We wanted to design a program that people can sign up for and can have fresh food delivered to them weekly.

It sounds almost like Blue Apron, but the difference is that they will be specifically for the people in low-income neighborhoods. They would need to be making between $10,000-$35,000 a year, and provide proof of income and address. We would get different companies such as Dole, to sponsor the program and bring more attention to the issue at hand.

I am not a government official, I am just a student who believes that we are able to make a difference if we just start with planting the idea.

By Arnelle Pierre-Louis




The cost of eating healthy

Screenshot 2017-04-20 19.29.54Obesity is a major problem in the United States. More than two-in-three adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and more than one in 20 adults are considered to be extremely obese.

Recovering from being overweight or obese is hard enough without financial barriers, but for Americans without much financial support, it can be almost impossible.

According to Politifact, 43.6 million people are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. SNAP benefits can be broken down to about $4 per day to purchase food, or $136.40 per month. What can $136.40 per month buy you?

I went shopping on Stop and Shop’s website and made a grocery list with a SNAP budget. My list, including prices, is below.

This list includes enough chicken and ground beef for 59 meals. It includes enough pasta for 40 meals. With four heads of iceberg lettuce, you could make 16 salads (eating a quarter of a head per salad, but even more if you want less lettuce). The frozen vegetables will last about 52 meals.

Are you wondering about breakfast? Well, with $15 left in the budget, you could buy 15 gala apples at $0.99 each, two or three packs of a dozen eggs at $1.59 each, a bunch of bananas for two dollars each, or any combination thereof.

On the other hand, on the McDonald’s Menu, $4.40 can get you two Chicken Ranch Snack Wraps, four Grilled Onion Cheddar Burgers, four cheeseburgers, three McDoubles, two Bacon McDoubles, or four BBQ Ranch Burgers, all off the Value Menu. If you’re in the mood for a meal, $4.40 could get you two 2 Cheeseburgers Value Meals or one BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich Value Meal. That’s barely one day of eating.

When you break it down, eating healthy (or at least semi healthy) is, more often than not, cheaper than going out for fast food. My list includes plenty of vegetables and healthy proteins. It’s just a question of following serving sizes. Then, too, Stop and Shop is one of the more expensive grocery stores. If you shop at local farm stands or less expensive grocery stores like Aldi or ShopRite, you can get even lower prices.

Moral of the story, even on SNAP, eating healthy and losing weight is possible.

By Lindsey Allen