Is Eating Trash More Nutritious than Using Food Stamps?

Dollars & Sense on 04.08.11

Photo: gabriel amadeus/Creative Commons

How far would you go to feed your family? That's the question Corbyn Hanson Hightower and her husband are facing in the wake of their Great Recession, which found them living off their savings account for more than a year; selling their car and transporting their family by bike; and, for a time, going without health insurance. 

In a post on, Hightower talks about her next step in the fight to keep her family afloat: dumpster diving for food. Since many of the "sell by" and "use by" labels don't indicate when food will actually spoil, she says, she's able to find items that are still edible (often in sealed containers), and organic, raw produce that supplements the processed foods her family gets by using food stamps and WIC. 

"There’s lots of goodness going to waste, and getting what we can use from the castoffs makes a difference for my family while we struggle to cover our grocery bills," she writes. "And although it marginalizes me, I would rather root through these dumpsters than buy my family the kind of processed, low-quality food that better conforms to our budget."

When she worked full time, Hightower says she bought the highest quality food she could find -- regardless of price -- and assumed that she was using her money to support organic farms and local agriculture. And now that she's shopping at Costco and eating "government cheese," she's faced with other people's judgments about what, exactly, she spends her limited food budget on:


"There is a strange sort of shame in wanting the best when you have so little allotted for your family’s needs. I’ve talked to so many moms who’ve suffered reproving looks or even disparaging comments when they’re buying organic, high-quality food using a food stamp card. The judgment being made is this: how dare you opt for quality over quantity? How dare you want better food even if it means less food for your family?...They want to witness us realize that the way we’ve been eating is an elitist luxury, and that, indeed, it’s not feasible for a family that’s struggling financially to make these ecological, ethical, and political choices with our grocery shopping."



But when it comes down to feeding your children bulk-packaged, sodium-packed instant noodles vs. raw bagged spinach, which do you think is the healthier choice?

Follow Corbyn Hanson Hightower's blog for more.

(Via Motherlode)


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