General Question

john65pennington's avatar

Are public buses "too thin" for "overweight" riders? See inside.

Asked by john65pennington (29187points) March 22nd, 2011

The FTA, Federal Transit Authority, has the job of overseeing public transportation in America. It’s FTA’s job to make sure public buses are safe for people to ride and this includes overweight customers. The last average bus riders weight of 150 pounds was calculated back in the early 60s. Since then, we have become a nation of overweight people and bus riders. The FTA now states that the average bus rider weighes 175 pounds. The problem? Public buses have not changed design, in order to cope with heavier bus riders, especially now that gasoline is edging toward $5 a gallon. This could mean that some bus riders will be stranded, since more weight takes up more space inside a bus. Question: the FTA is investigating ways to make public buses more accomodating for overweight riders. So, what is your suggestion? Would “fat buses” be the answer?

Source: USA Today

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

70 Answers

koanhead's avatar

Buses already have lifts so that wheelchairs and other folks who can’t navigate stairs can board. Some buses “kneel” to curb height to achieve the same end. Every transit bus that I have been on has at least two seats side by side with no barrier between. Most have several arranged in this way. If 1 seat is good enough for a 150-lb person, then surely 2 seats will do for a 300-pounder?
Frankly, I don’t see the problem.
Who says that FTA is actually investigating “accomodating… overweight riders” anyway? USA Today? Could you maybe post a link or more specific attribution?
Or are you just posting vague “questions” to stir folks up?

john65pennington's avatar

koanhead, you can read the article yourself. It’s posted on their webpage right now.

The writer of the article is Larry Copeland.

koanhead's avatar

http://www.usatoday.com/ is a dynamically generated page. When new content is added, old articles get pushed off the front page. That’s why it’s a good idea to put a direct link to the article.
I didn’t find it when I searched USA Today either. That’s more effort than I would usually put in to chase down someone else’s reference, and I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t recognize you.
In general, people won’t bother to chase down your references for you but will instead conclude that you are a crank and ignore you. Of course, this won’t necessarily apply here on Fluther where you are well known.

john65pennington's avatar

Thanks koanhead. I had a feeling that I would need a source to back me up, in my question. So,I made a copy of the article. I wish I could forward it to you. The article is genuine and so is my question.

john65pennington's avatar

crisw, thank you. I was attempting to forward it to Fluther. Again, thanks.

Koanhead, did you read the article?

missingbite's avatar

Keep in mind that the more the bus weighs the more it will cost to operate. Prices will go up.

mrentropy's avatar

They should take a page from the airline handbook and handle it by taking out the seats in the bus, replacing them with twice as many smaller seats, then charging double fare for fat people who take up two of the seats.

missingbite's avatar

@mrentropy While not comfortable, each airline passenger is counted as weighing 180 pounds each.

koanhead's avatar

@john65pennington I’ve now read the latimes article that @crisw posted, and followed their link to the Federal Register article they cite.
latimes article says, “The change, if adopted, would mean redesigned buses with fewer passengers and heftier chassis.” However, I see nothing in the Federal Register link that indicates this. It does say, “Testing buses using the 175 pound figure will not result in any mandatory additional costs on transit vehicle manufactures or the public transit operators that purchase such vehicles. ”
I’m not seeing any provision in the Federal Register link that results in bus manufacturers needing to rebuild their buses. The change in testing protocols will mean that fewer passengers can be loaded before exceeding the GVWR, so I think that bus manufacturers will have to change their passenger load ratings. It sounds like it is left up to them to decide whether to change seat configurations or other parameters, and up to the buyers and operators of the buses to worry about safe operation.

Parenthetically, I used to drive a 22 foot truck, similar to a Kenworth t300, for work. This truck had a rear-axle rated load of 24,000lb. I would never load that much, but I think 18k would be an ok load- I’m sure I ran that much in the truck on at least one occasion. That’s 100 175-lb people plus a little bit of baggage. Most buses are on a 40-foot frame, or 60 feet for articulated buses (that’s a basic guess actually, but 40 feet is the length of a standard van trailer and I think they are about the same length.)
According to transplus their 60 foot model has a GVWR of 61,000lb. The spec sheet shows the seating capacity as 41, and standees as 45. Unfortunately they don’t list the axle load ratings, and I can’t be arsed to chase them down. Still, adding the 41 and the 45 gives us 86, which is less than 100.
I feel sure that a 60-foot bus with 3 axles should be able to carry at least as much weight as a t300 with two axles, so it looks like there is some wiggle room with the existing passenger ratings.
tl;dr – It looks to me like this proposed change in regulations won’t have any real impact on bus manufacturers, despite the sensationalism of latimes.com (and possible USA Today as well, but I didn’t get to read that article.

nir17's avatar

I personally think it’s ridiculous to make bigger seats. I ride the bus all the time (in Pittsburgh) and I do see this as a problem. Sure, there are some severly overweight people who take up two seats, but that is not the busses problem. Are we really going to waste more money and damage the environment even more to accomodate bus-goers? I understand that some people have a medical condition in which they cannot mantain a healthy weight, but that excuse does not apply to the vast majority of overweight Americans. Maybe they should pay for two seats? Maybe not riding the bus, but walking instead would do them some good.

Dutchess_III's avatar

There is a difference between accommodating people with handicaps that are beyond their control, and accommodation people just because they eat too much. If you’re overweight and find yourself in tight spots, it’s your own fault.

Dutchess_III's avatar

To me, a smoker, it would be like me demanding all buses be fitted with special ventilation systems so I can smoke.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Well, as the human race, we are decidedly larger now than we were even a couple hundred years ago. Clothes that fit people in the middle ages wouldn’t even fit a child now. I guess if we don’t change with the times, it won’t be long before none of us will fit in the busses, cars, houses, clothes or anything else. I kind-of agree that we shouldn’t have to make accommodations for fat people, but then I am only 5’3” and weight 120 lbs., and the last time I took a US Airlines flight, I felt like the back of the seat in front of me was right in my face and my knees were crammed against it. Maybe we would all like some space, instead of public conveyances just trying to see how many passengers they can cram into a small space.

everephebe's avatar

@Dutchess_III “To me, a smoker, it would be like me demanding all buses be fitted with special ventilation systems so I can smoke.” Do you mean windows? Because I think that windows are a good idea. :D

This is a matter for the FDA to handle not the FTA. There is far too much crap in this country that is produced and called food. It’s a crime!

bolwerk's avatar

Buses can’t really get much bigger in many places. Articulated buses work on arterial roadways, but I don’t know how well they work in a typical pre-war residential neighborhood. If riders really are getting fatter, the only solution is the expensive one: run more buses so they’ll be less packed with fatties. Or build proper rail transit lines.

I think some of the problem is this obsession with finding a one-size-fits-all transit solution. And, if that’s not bad enough, buses are the one-size-fits-all solution transport planners picked. Think about it: they’re slow anyway because they have to share space with congested arteries. Then, when someone handicapped comes along, they have to take several minutes boarding the person with an elevator and securing them – then reversing the process when the handicapped person alights. Fare collection in U.S. cities tends to be a joke, further slowing them down. Really, even New York City doesn’t do surface transport well.

flutherother's avatar

Grossly overweight people should be charged double.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@everephebe No no no! Not just windows! A very expensive and high tech filtration system so that I can smoke on the bus! Because, smoking is genetic, see. It’s not my fault. It’s a sickness. I have to smoke, and just using the windows means it’s just going to blow back in and one wiff of smoke is gonna kill half the people on the bus! (Don’t get me wrong…I’m totally cool with the no smoking policy. In fact, I appreciate them.)

12Oaks's avatar

They were talking about this on the radio yesterday. Said that the bus guys, train guys, and airplane guys all have a different weight average for the genders. Like the plane guys see it at 185 a man, and the bus guys 175 or so. You would think that the average weight is the average weight no matter the type of transportation you use.

But, yes. Since the average size for the average American has grown since those standards were made, it is time to update and make changes where possible. Less passangers per bus would mean higher fares per passanger, as the law of supply and demand would dictate, but that’s just the way things go.

bolwerk's avatar

@12Oaks: Given that wildly different demographics use different transportation modes (and, on top of that, different transportation routes), I wouldn’t be surprised by weight differences. I suppose urban people using buses may have the advantage of getting more exercise – which could have the effect of making them thinner. But there is also a disproportionately level of poverty with bus users – which could have the effect of making them fatter. Either way, it’s probably going to lead to differences.

kitkat25's avatar

If they were to redesign the buses they would then have to increase the fare to ride the bus. Since most buses drive around with many empty seats most of the time it really doesn’t make sense to increase the size of the seats. Every time I ride on the bus which is quite often there is almost always only one person sitting on a seat with an empty seat beside them. So when a larger person gets on board it is easy for them to find a seat where they can take up more room.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

That is true, @kitkat25 . I wish that were true of airplane seats.

bolwerk's avatar

@kitkat25: They aren’t talking about replacing every bus on the road instantly. They’re talking about creating new standards now, that will feature creep in over the next decade or two. Buses have rather limited life cycles, perhaps 15–20 years or so. Compare that to a passenger rail car, which has a life of around 40 years. If the new standards are ready next year, they’ll probably be seen in every bus in revenue service in the USA by before 2030 after the depreciation of current fleets is completed.

And, regardless of whatever anecdotes you can point out, crowded buses are far from unusual.

jca's avatar

I was reading a NY Times Magazine article from November 2010 today. The article was about how our cultural attitude toward food has to change before people’s habits will change, the way our cultural attitude toward smoking changed and then more people quit.

Anyway, the article said that ⅔ of Americans are either overweight or obese. Therefore, since the majority of Americans are overweight or obese, regardless of what we think of overweight or obese people, the buses should accomodate them, because they are more representative of Americans than thin.

josie's avatar

@john65pennington As you know, WE have not become a nation of fat bus riders. Some people are fat and some are not.
Having said that, I think they should design busses and airplanes for fat folks, and then I will have more room!

bolwerk's avatar

@jca: maybe our attitude towards food needs to change, but politics need to change too. For various reasons, healthy food is more expensive than garbage food, which is why poor people often end up fat.

josie's avatar

@bolwerk What do you mean? The cheapest food in the store is in the fresh produce department. A pound of apples is less than a pound of chips.

jca's avatar

@josie: yes, but one can go to McDonald’s or Wendy’s and get dinner off the dollar menu for about $3. All bad stuff. One can buy a box of mac and cheese for about 50 cents which would feed a few hungry kids. those are just two examples I can think off right away.

12Oaks's avatar

@jca You could also go to McDonalds and get a salad and skim milk with that three bucks or a frozen fatty dinner at the grocery store for the same.

jca's avatar

@12Oaks: I don’t think there’s salad on the dollar menu at McD’s. if so, it’s probably a side order (in other words, not meal size). Wendy’s I do go to, and their salads are about $5.50. Whereas, I know these fast food places have burgers and fries galore on the dollar menus. What about mac and cheese at home?

Dirt cheap – not arguing, just saying it’s legend that cheap food is known to be fatty where as it takes more imagination to make a meal that’s cheap and good for you. A lower class family is more likely to default to cheap and fatty that fills the family’s stomachs as opposed to the produce department or something better and maybe a tad more costly.

12Oaks's avatar

Good point. My only points was don’t blame the vendor for the choices of consumers.

josie's avatar

Guys. The point is the problem is not being poor. The problem is being stupid.
I am sympathetic to the poor.
I am not as sympathetic to the stupid.
Especially since most poor people have a TV and can get a free library card.
Poor may not be a matter of choice.
In the industrialized world, stupid is nearly always a matter of choice.

bolwerk's avatar

@josie: I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the important point is the chips cost less per calorie and make you feel filled up faster. “There is an inverse relation between energy density (MJ/kg) and energy cost ($/MJ), such that energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars, or fats may represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer” (Drewnowski and Specter, 2004).

When you disproportionately rely on welfare and food stamps, which have been going down in real value thanks to inflation and increases in food prices in excess of inflation, you’re stuck in a situation where the best (perhaps even only) economic decision is not the best nutritional decision. Coincidentally, those same people, often the urban poor, can’t afford cars either because car subsidies are for the middle class – so they take the bus.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@josie I agree! I am a small person, and if I feel cramped in public transportation, imagine how uncomfortable a full-grown man would be. If they designed the seats to fit a large, kind of pudgy person, then the smaller you are, the more comfortable you would be. And the super obese would still be squashed, but that’s the breaks.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Re the poor: A big part of THAT problem is the fact that they get hundreds and hundreds of dollars in food stamps every month. Seriously, about three or four times as much as any regular person would need for food.

@Skaggfacemutt Good point!

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thanks, @Dutchess_III . Does this mean we are still friends?

crisw's avatar

@Dutchess_III

“A big part of THAT problem is the fact that they get hundreds and hundreds of dollars in food stamps every month. Seriously, about three or four times as much as any regular person would need for food.”

Cite, please?

Dutchess_III's avatar

One cite is myself, Cris. With three kids, total of 4 people, I’d get $500 + in food stamps. This was based on an income of $10,000 per year. I could have made do on $200 and still have been comfortable. As it was, I feasted on things I can’t even afford now…top quality steaks, crab legs, you name it.

I’ll see if I can get more info for you, though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Here’s a chart of the average. Look at the amount for 4 people: $668 a month.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt we never weren’t friends silly kitty!

bolwerk's avatar

@crisw: she’s referring to the maximum benefit, which not everyone gets. Average benefits (an average of what food stamp recipients receive) are quite a bit lower – and since we’re talking about averages, you can bet a lot of people are getting significantly less than average.

And yeah, ~$600 for a family of four sounds like about what it could easily cost cost to make sure every gets a mostly balanced diet. Then I did a bit of back of the envelope math. Generously figure a balanced meal may average $2/kid and $3/adult per meal – this is the approximate cost of FDA lunches at schools, so I’m being pretty generous! For a family of four ($10/meal), multiply by 3 meals/day, and multiply by 30 days, and you’re talking a food budget of $900. Which is why I suppose there are so many people feeding their sprogs canned corn, Corn Flakes, hamburger helper, fast food, and other abominations.

(I don’t even pay attention to my food budget. Guess I should.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bolwerk The problem is, most people don’t use the food stamps to provide healthy foods for their kids! And that’s how they can be poor and overweight at the same time. And seriously, $500 month for just the 4 of us was waaaaaay too much. Way too much.

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: no kidding? Of course they don’t. They might be able to squeeze in healthy meals here and there, but the reality of it is food stamps alone don’t afford you a healthy diet. I don’t know where you are that $500 is enough to feed multiple wholesome meals to a family of four each day (and I mean wholesome, not what is advertised as wholesome), but with urban food prices where they are that sounds impossible for most people who depend on food stamps. And your claims ignore other ground-level realities: food stamp-dependent neighborhoods often don’t even have proper food markets (green grocers or supermarkets), and even if they do they rarely get the best prices.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bolwerk because I lived it, @bolwerk. That’s where I get that $500 is way too much to feed a family of 4. Unless you’re talking about a family of 4 adult, strapping, 10 foot men. Or a family of 4 big fat over eaters. None of which applied to me or my kids who were in various stages of little.

Dinner was our most “expensive” meal of the day. A typical dinner for us consisted of bean and cheese burritos and green beans. It took us a couple of days to use up the entire can of beans and all 10 tortillias and only about ½ an 8 oz block of cheese. Let’s see. Can of beans, .99 cents. 10 tortillias $1.50. ½ block of cheese, $2.00. 1 can green beans, .50. So for two meals for 4 people the entire total is only $5.00 / $2.50 / less than $1.00 per person a day. Another day, spaghetti with hamburger spaghetti sauce. This would last us about 3 days in different forms. Day one spaghetti. Day two, goulash. Day three, taco burgers.

Also, for most of the year, except on weekends, you only have to provide one meal a day. Schools do breakfast and lunch.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, and you’re stereotyping with your comment about “food stamp-dependent neighborhoods.” Even if that made sense, it’s ridiculous. It’s not like you’d have to take a plane to get to a good grocery store.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Well, I am going to jump into this food stamp debate. I have a grown son who was laid off for two years during the recent recession. When he ran out of unemployment benefits, he applied for food stamps so that he could at least contribute something to the household while he was unemployed. There are three of us in the household, and he qualified for only himself. However, we were able to feed all three of us on the food stamps that he got. And that included steak and crab legs. Now that he is working again, its back to hamburger for us.

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: I was going to say, if you’re eating that cheap, you’re probably eating crappy food. Pretty much everything you listed confirms it. Not problematic in small doses, but it isn’t exactly nutritious, and it’s cheap because it has a long shelf life and low spoilage rate. Eat fresh vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats – the things that don’t come in cans, that people are supposed to eat – and the costs go up significantly. And school lunches are so non-nutritious it’s outrageous. (In some cases, replacing FDA-approved lunches with healthy ones improved behavioral problems in impoverished school districts. There seems to be a movement towards improving this now.)

No, I’m not stereotyping about “food stamp-dependent neighborhoods.” Urban poor, living in de facto segregated neighborhoods, depend disproportionately on food stamps – I am not saying that’s ideal, but that’s reality. You don’t need a plane to get to grocery store from such places, but likely do need a car. And since we’re talking about people who can’t afford cars anymore than they can afford healthy food, that’s out. A sometimes alternative is a long bus ride in such places, and some people do that. However, I can hardly blame those who don’t, and I assume many can’t.

And really, you don’t get to play the “generalizing/stereotyping” card when you’re claiming that people on food stamps only get fat because they deliberately make unhealthy decisions. Talk about stereotyping!

crisw's avatar

@Dutchess_III

”.A typical dinner for us consisted of bean and cheese burritos and green beans. It took us a couple of days to use up the entire can of beans and all 10 tortillias and only about ½ an 8 oz block of cheese.”

They must have been very tiny burritos, then. And, if it took two days to eat them, then most people only got one burrito.

An average can of refried beans is 20 ounces, and you say you only used four ounces of cheese. That’s 2 ounces of beans and 2/5 of an ounce of cheese per burrito. Eight ounces of refried beans has 237 calories, so two ounces has about 60 calories. One ounce of cheddar cheese has 113 calories, so 2/5 of an ounce of cheddar cheese has about 44 calories. Presuming these were your average store-bought tortillas, they had about 120 calories. So that adds up to 224 calories per burrito. That isn’t much of a meal, especially for an adult. Even a preschooler needs 1500–1800 calories per day.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, you’re right about one thing. I could have made the pinto beans from scratch (with the dry beans from the evil grocery store.) However that would have significantly reduced the cost of the beans. Hail, you get a sack of beans for a buck, and you could make about 50 cans of refried beans!

Ditto for the tortillas. I tried making them myself, but I never got the hang of it, so I just buy them at the evil grocery store. Along with my bread and everything else I bought. I guess I could have made it all from scratch but….like, I don’t know how I’d make the cheesebecause I didn’t have a cow. Landlord said no pets.

Tell me, what is so unhealthy about spaghetti and burritos? I had fresh fruits around for them to eat when they wanted. As to the rest, I DID buy lean meats etc. I bought cuts that I can’t even afford now. I made bigger meals on Sundays, like roasts and that would get us through a couple of days during the work week. The roast would last about four days, and cost about $9.00 to make, including the carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. And home made bread.

Generally speaking though, during the week, I made meals that any single mother, working full time, would make.

Wow. I didn’t know people on food stamps couldn’t afford cars. Dummy me. I had one. I also shopped at the same grocery store as my next door neighbor, who was the president of our private college. Same grocery store as my doctor, who lived a stones throw from me. My daughter has food stamps AND she has a car. You are most definitely making stereo types.

Overweight people who are on food stamps make the same bad food choices as overweight rich people, deliberately or not. If they didn’t get the food stamps, however, they wouldn’t be as free to make bad choices so much. They’d probably lose some weight.

Want to go back and read what @Skaggfacemutt just wrote? She and I have the experience, you, obviously, don’t. But you’re the expert.

Next I suppose you’re going to tell me that it is absolutely impossible for four people to live on a yearly income of $10,000.

@crisw No, they weren’t tiny, and yes. One was about all they wanted to eat at a time, along with the green beans or whatever else I served. That’s all I ate, too. If they wanted more, they got it. Usually, tho, they just wanted to get back outside. They did a lot of grazing too. I only kept good foods in the house, like cheese sticks and grapes…NO chips, no cookies, no pop (except my Diet Coke!) No crap at all. It was funny…when Rick first moved in my kids were 15 and 17. One day he bought a bag of chips. They sat on the counter, untouched by anyone except him, till they got stale and we threw them out!

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: I don’t think there’s anything especially unhealthy about spaghetti or burritos in small or even moderate doses, but if they’re a huge part of your diet it’s probably not good. They’re high in refined carbohydrates and probably usually sodium if not other preservatives. Even if they don’t make you fat per se, they aren’t necessarily nutritious. They’re far from sufficient for a healthy diet, even if in small doses they aren’t problematic for one. Of course, it depends what you eat – I could make an organic vegan burrito or fresh pasta, but the price inputs of that get rather high too. If you’re buying frozen burritos from the supermarket, you’re probably shoveling poo into your mouth. (Not to say I don’t do it myself sometimes, but I’m conscious of the health implications and try not to do it a lot….)

Please stop putting words into my mouth. I’m not categorically saying all people on food stamps can’t afford cars, but face it, much of the urban poor (a population you seem wholly unfamiliar with if not indifferent to) can’t – and that’s what we were discussing to begin with, given that the topic here is obese people on buses. We’re quite obviously talking about a population that doesn’t drive either for health/physical reasons or because it can’t afford to. I really shouldn’t have to spell that out for you. However, having a car isn’t necessarily going to improve the nutrition situation either. Cars are expensive, and the hundreds of dollars/month it costs to use one no doubt can eat into the food budget of lower income people pretty damn easily. I could see car dependency easily making the nutrition problem in the USA worse, not better.

And yes, overweight people on food stamps make “bad” choices. Thanks for picking up on that! However, some of them, a lot of them, make bad choices because good choices are more expensive for them. That’s been my point all along. Saying their bad choices just happen in a vacuum is sanctimonious at best. The actual situation is sad and needs to be fixed, and it’s even more unfortunate that critical thinking skills have gotten so poor that anecdotes trump real data (what you call “stereotypes”). The Great Experiencer @Skaggfacemutt wrote an anecdote, while funny, that shed even less light on the issue than your list of bad foods. And kindly don’t tell me what kind of experience I have when you know as much about me than you do about food economics (close to nothing), k thx.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It is totally ridiculous to assume that it costs more to eat “healthy” foods. Totally. Really, how expensive are bananas and oranges? Besides, with food stamps, as I’ve said a thousand times, I could “afford” to buy high dollar foods that I can’t afford now!

I didn’t buy frozen burritos. In mine I cut back on the beans and cheese and put lettuce and tomato in (real lettuce and tomatoes. Seriously.) The kids didn’t like theirs that way.

@Skaggfacemutt was underscoring my point….they give you three times as much as you need in food stamps. However sarcastically you might want to call it, it WAS her experience.

You’re right. I shouldn’t have assumed you’ve never had the benefit of using food stamps. Have you? Also, I shouldn’t have assumed you’ve never been in a position to raise three kids by yourself, while working full time, which leads to food economics by necessity. Have you?

Your premise about the food/car thing is totally flawed. Owning a car does NOT cut into the food budget for people on food stamps, simply because they don’t spend any MONEY to get food stamps. It might cut into other things, like utilities or rent, but has nothing to do with their food.

Fine. We’ll stick to the topic. Obese people can ride buses to the grocery store.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Also, whether or not school food is nutritious is off the topic. The POINT is, five days a week during the school year you only have to feed them ONE meal. And if you get food stamps, the school food is free.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@bolwerk I thought my point was crystal clear. They give you 3 or 4 times more in food stamps than an average family would spend on food normally.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Thank you @Skaggfacemutt…I think he though you were joking or something. He said your comment was “funny.”

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week!

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: I’m not assuming. It does, in fact, cost more to eat healthy. I have even posted a link to a study above showing that. You can find plenty more with a simple EBSCO search, and probably even a Google search. A slightly oversimplified description of the actual problem boils down to cost per calorie is cheaper with crappy food than with healthy food. Ergo, it is a “good” economic decision to buy crappy food, while it’s a “bad” health decision. This is a real problem affecting real people, not a “stereotype” or outright lie.

Owning a car certainly could cut into a food stamp recipient’s food budget. Not all food stamp recipients have their food budgets set exclusively by the food stamps. I know the average, but I don’t know the spread, but one single mom I know got $17/month – call me crazy, but somehow I suspect she used more than that every month to buy food (anecdotally, I know a single male with no kids getting $200/mo; above average, and stupid, since he’s able-bodied and lives with his upper middle class mom). Assuming those who get higher benefits also are more impoverished, there are plenty of other reasons to think that food stamp recipients probably have, ahem, below-average car ownership rates.

Sorry, but because of (a) general privacy policy and (b) it’s irrelevant to the veracity of anything I said or will ever say, I don’t discuss my family/socioeconomic situation publicly online. I can say I have shared some of your experiences, but not all of them.

And, again, “sticking to the topic,” I was not making up that there are serious problems with even reaching the store for some urban poor people (≠ all urban poor people, ≠ all urban people, ≠ all poor people). New York City has even caught onto this, and is initiating a program to do something about it – we’ll see how it turns out (in one anecdotal incident, it seemed a store’s potential for accessibility ran squarely into the wall of NYC’s 1950s parking minimum and zoning policies).

@Skaggfacemutt: they gave, you say, your son “3 or 4 times” what you claim to be what an “average family would spend on food normally” – you didn’t quantify any of that, or say what you were contributing, if anything. But even if you did it doesn’t necessarily (actually, it’s quite unlikely to) reflect the norm. I posted an actual link to real average rates per person. Somehow I don’t think your typical USA family can get by on a food budget of $133.79/month, unless they’re living off Oreos or something, and it’ll be even harder if you live in an expensive metropolitan area with high wealth disparities. Hell, that’s not even enough for an especially nutritious monthly diet for one person – although it could go a long way towards supplementing a person’s food budget to allow them to have a nutritious diet, so I wouldn’t scoff at that number either. Either way, your point doesn’t really help @Dutchess_III‘s case very well.

@Dutchess_III (again): I know she wasn’t joking. But it was still amusing. Anecdotes often are!

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I also don’t discus my personal finances on-line, so I am not going to give you specific dollar amounts. I buy the groceries in my household so I should know what my “average family” spends on food normally. I guess if you don’t believe me unless I give you dollar amounts, then that’s your business.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Fine. It costs more to eat healthy. I could afford it on food stamps.

Food stamps are determined by your income level and the number of people in the household. It has nothing to do with whether they own a car or not.

How is the fact that her son received enough food stamps to feed the entire family, although he only claimed them for himself…what about that do you find funny? Can you explain it to me @bolwerk?

Also, your chart lists the amounts “Per Participant.” In other words, each person in the house hold receives that much. I, by myself, could easily eat well, and healthy, on $133 a month. That’s far more than I need.

Buying bad food is a choice. It really doesn’t depend that much on economics. A person can decide to buy a sack of potatoes and make baked or mashed potatoes, or, for quite a bit MORE, they could choose to buy a couple bags of potato chips.

I think it’s very illogical that someone could actually stand there and tell two people who have had experience using food stamps that they’re wrong. My daughter has a 7 year old and a 5 year old. Little kids. She gets $500 a month, far more than she needs. Normally she has about $300 left by the time she gets her next $500. With one exception. She had a boyfriend for several months, and he about ate them out of house and home. He was also very close to obese. She ran out of them early during that time. So that is now THREE people with personal experience who are wrong.

@Skaggfacemutt, What do you mean you’ll be here all week? Where you going after that?

Dutchess_III's avatar

BTW, I just read your link that you posted in your last comment @bolwerk. I’m not sure what your point was in posting it. So the average monthly food stamps came to $200+. Again, that’s an average, and, in my experience, that’s pretty dang low…unless they meant it was $200+ per person, which is more like it. But they didn’t say.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Dutchess_III Sorry, it was just a joke. You know, like what comedians say and the end of their stand-up routine. In other words, I will be playing the “club flurther” all week if you would like some more of my jokes. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Also, @bolwerk I thought you said you posted a link compare the cost of good food v junk food…but I didn’t see one anywhere. I still do not agree that eating “healthy” food costs more than junk food.

LOL @Skaggfacemutt! NOW I see! Throws coins!

bolwerk's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt: fair enough, but you also won’t even post what you think is “average.” Or what cost an average family would need to spend. At least, uh, provide numbers. You basically provided no information, and no way of verifying anything you say. Which is almost as good as saying nothing.

@Dutchess_III: this isn’t about you, or what you call healthy. As far as most serious nutritionists are concerned, it probably ain’t healthy if it doesn’t include a varied diet of vegetables and whole grains (fruit being less important, IIRC) – for most people throw in lean meats for protein intake. That’s easily north of $2/meal per person, which comes to $720 per day for a family of four with three meals a day. Hell, and I’d be shocked if unhealthy meals were easily brought down that low for most people, despite what you say you can do with canned and processed foods. And we aren’t even getting into other totally obvious problems, like how healthier food spoils the fastest (on the retail side, this is part of what businesses call shrinkage).

Yes, yes, I know how food stamps work. I don’t entirely agree with how they work, but I know how they work. $200/month is certainly not enough to feed a family nutritiously, but I guess it might be enough to feed an average adult male in most places (of course, the guy I was referring to lives in a rather expensive area). I really hate getting roped into pointless asides about my friends, but I really have no idea how the hell he got the benefit, though maybe it had to do with his dependency status (too old to be tax dependent). Either way, he’s getting well more than average per person, I presume legally. I personally would prefer to see benefits like that go to, uh, single parents with dependent children or at least legitimately impoverished people – but then, I don’t know his situation intimately, so who am I to judge?

Doesn’t depend on economics? Are you saying buying and economics don’t have to do with each other? I suppose that could be true if you’re subsistence farming, but for those of us in the developed world (maybe you are posting out of a hut in a rain forest, after giving up on western man’s decadent food stamp policies), economics have a lot to do with choices. And not all choices are binary good-bad. A big thing in economics is looking at so-called trade-offs. For instance, which is the bad choice here: “buy a sack of potatoes and make baked or mashed potatoes, or, for quite a bit MORE, they could choose to buy a couple bags of potato chips”? The answer: they both are far from healthy choices, and neither is something you want your diet to depend on. The trade-off is, the oily potato chips probably get you more calories and the feeling of being filled up faster and for longer, so for less money per calorie you feel full longer. Evolutionary psychology meets economics!

There’s nothing illogical about telling you you’re wrong, and I never said you were wrong about your own experiences. You’re only wrong to assume that your experiences automagically translate into the experiences for everyone else, especially given that every bit of government data I’m finding points towards others having different experiences. Goodness, you don’t think I should suppose that everyone on food stamps is upper middle class because of my one friend, do you? I’m also obviously quite clearly more intimate with the lifestyles of people in inner cities compared to you, so perhaps it’s a bit illogical for you to be trying to me I’m wrong.

I posted a link to an abstract on a study about calorie density and food cost – this doesn’t strictly translate into good v. bad, but that’s probably a safe generalization. For that, Ctrl+F and search for (Drewnowski and Specter, 2004). It was in my response to @josie. The problem here is something like, a doughnut an apple cost about the same at a deli. Which has more calories? Even a doughnut isn’t a bad thing a few times a year. Every day, it’s terrible.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(maybe you are posting out of a hut in a rain forest…. I wish. But I can’t get no internet in that place!

What is the deal with jumping on one thing and pretending that that’s all I would try to live on. First it was burritos, then it was spaghetti and now it’s potatoes. Since when did potatoes become unhealthy? How did you come to the conclusion that that is ALL I fed my family?! Must I list every single thing I ever cooked for my family? OK. Here is another sample:
☻Chicken, rice and cheese casserole. About $4.00. Lasted three days.
☻ Burirtoes (family favorite,) lasted 2 days. The beans provided the protein of meat.
☻ Pancakes and cantaloupe.
☻French toast and grapes
☻Tuna w/ boiled eggs, sandwiches
☻Big Sunday meal which might be fried or baked chicken, or a roast (buy one, get one free,) with onions, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes, or ribs or onion soup or lasagna. With homemade bread. Whatever, it took care of three days worth of meals.
☻Potatoes with cheese sauce (nothing wrong with just having a potatoe for dinner sometimes, but I’d say it would be bad to just have a bag of potato chips for dinner.)
☻spaghetti / sloppy joes / gouloush. Add your own veggies. Lasts about 3 days.
☻Hamburgers
☻Beans and corn bread
☻Homemade banana bread.
☻Deviled eggs
☻Corn on the cob
☻Baked beans
☻Green bean casserole
☻crab salad (kids wouldn’t touch it, but it’s one of my favorites)
☻Meatloaf
☻Fresh fruits on hand at all times.

And on and on and on. Tell me, what junk foods could possibly replace those foods AND be less expensive?

Also, I disagree that eating potato chips make you feel fuller than eating a whole potato. Chips are just easier to “fix,” and that’s what it basically comes down to. Convenience, not money.

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: how many times am I going to have to repeat this? It’s not that individual foods themselves are more or less expensive. That doesn’t matter. Set that aside. It’s cost per calorie. If you prefer, any one piece of junk food can be astronomically more expensive than healthier food, and still have way more calories. When you are so broke that you don’t know where you next meal could come from, you automatically are inclined to “fill up” instead of balance your diet – that makes a doughnut or bag of chips preferable to a head of broccoli.

That said, fresh fruit, whole grains, and fresh vegetables are far from the cheapest options. Refined foods are often cheaper, and you list more than one there, so I think you know that yourself.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The issue isn’t really about calories @bolwerk. If it were then we could simply say “One cookie is cheaper than 4 bunches of celery,” and that would be the end of it. It’s about nutrition. Most of us consume way more calories than we need, anyway.
I’ve been that broke, too. This was before I even knew there was such a thing as food stamps. I had to feed the kids. I spent my last two dollars on 3 large potatoes not on chips and donuts. That would be insane.

bolwerk's avatar

Yep, we sure can. On a per-calorie basis, one cookie probably could easily significantly cheaper than four bunches of celery. If you can’t make the connection between that very real problem and nutrition problems in urban “ghettos,” there’s probably no helping you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

But the nutritional value in a cookie is zip, so it’s pointless to buy it. It’s like comparing Koolaid and water….why bother with spending even a penny on something so worthless?

You can continue to focus on the ghettos, but since I have no experience with the ghettos or trying to shop there, there isn’t much I can contribute to your discussion. I can really only speak of the situations that I have been personally familiar with in the past. I had enough food stamps left over at the end of the month to easily buy $100 worth of groceries and trade them up for something else. I never had junk food of any kind in my house. My kids and I were, and are, healthy. None of us were overweight, either.

bolwerk's avatar

You buy it because…you’re hungry and you have a biological imperative, going back to eons before your ancestors were beating antelope to death with thigh bones to make yourself feel full? Human beings evolved in a context that made salt, sugar, and fats taste good because they were scarce and we needed some in our diet. Modern industrial food production has made those things cheap, and healthier stuff scarcer. Even if the healthier stuff were cheaper, people would still be attracted to the fat, sugar, and refined carbs. Obviously you do, but if you were uneducated, you probably would not think that much in terms of nutritional cost/benefit either. Heck, if you were obese and food addicted, you probably wouldn’t think much beyond your next fix.

I was talking about ghettos in the first place, and yes, this problem is a big and real problem in urban ghettos with unique difficulties there. But given rising obesity everywhere, I doubt it’s limited to urban ghettos either. Middle class people with disposable income are getting fatter too, despite having access to, and I suspect being able to afford, healthier foods. Perhaps some of that can be blamed on bad decision-making, but I tend to suspect there are underlying reasons why those bad decisions are being made.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Each to his own, I guess. I know when I’m hungry, but eating till I’m “full” isn’t particularly attractive to me.

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