The thing is I just don’t believe these people

So, you know, food, food banks and all that:

Ask Steve how he is, and he speaks positively – listing recipe ideas as we talk – but he admits he doesn’t feel healthy. “Veg, it’s not cheap,” he says. “It’s easier for me to buy two bags of sugar for a pound. If you can afford Marks & Spencer, you can afford healthy living. When you’ve got no money, your ‘five a day’ go out the window.”

The most astonishing thing about modern life is that vegetables, in and out of season, are dirt, dirt, cheap. It’s a gargantuan change from only 30 or 40 years ago.

As evidence:

Everyone’s been talking about our £3.50 Wonky Veg boxes

So today 5,000 boxes packed with Wonky Veg will be going out to 250 stores – see the store list here – and 10,000 boxes will be going out in 550 stores on a monthly basis from March.

Each box contains 5kg of fresh produce – carrots, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, cabbage, leeks, parsnips and onions – and is 30% cheaper than standard lines. The exact contents will depend on the season.

I’m sorry but this simply isn’t expensive.

40 thoughts on “The thing is I just don’t believe these people”

  1. The entire “food bank” edifice is a tissue of lies. I had a complaint about BBC inaccuracy on the subject go up to trust level and they admitted they had no evidence for claims that 3.5 million children “needed” foodbanks

  2. People like ‘Steve’ tell the interviewer what they want to hear – namely that the poor downtrodden underclass are yearning for fresh vegetables, but are being denied by ‘the man’ in the form of not being given enough of someone else’s money.

    Whereas in reality ‘Steve’ wants to eat pizza and takeaways like virtually everyone else does. And probably does if truth be known, basic value pizza costing less than a quid at Aldi.

  3. Vegetables need to be fresh. Freshness requires high turnover. Your local corner shop doesn’t stock fresh veg because stock turnover is low. A bag of sugar can languish at the back of the shelf for months and still be usable; a box of wonky veg simply won’t last.

    If you’re poor and live next door to an Asda, you’re fine; but if your five nearest shops are all variants on Bindi’s Bargain Booze then you simply aren’t going to find fresh veg.

  4. It’s funny how many comments on that article slag off local shops. I thought local shops were part of the community and a good thing and supermarkets were some sort of monsters.

    Clearly I missed a memo somewhere…

  5. An article in the BMJ (maybe twenty years ago?) had a bunch of bright young medics investigating the notion of “food deserts”. They proved its falsity by the method of walking about and looking.

  6. There are local shops that provide Fresh produce as a matter of course – most of them tend to be in areas with high ethnic minority populations. The areas where poor whites live (by contrast) have nothing other than supermarkets to subsist on – however, if you are willing to take the time to shop around you can easily find these items cheaply (I saw just prior to mother’s day in my parents local morrisons virtually every ‘basic’ vegetable being sold for 28p.

    However, what that does require is a degree of organisation, self-reliance and self-discipline to manage such complex tasks as ‘a meal planner’, and a ‘shopping list’ – the problem for the likes of ‘Steve’ (indirectly) and the Average journalist in the Guardian is that once a person has mastered those basics, he is in danger of developing a greater mastery of his own destiny – no longer being a ‘victim;, and depriving the state functionaries administering his every need of a raison d’etre. Never forget, the ‘small man’ or ‘the poorest in society’ are only to be defended in so far as they need support of the state – woe betide them if they try to break free of those chains…….

  7. If you’re poor and live next door to an Asda, you’re fine; but if your five nearest shops are all variants on Bindi’s Bargain Booze then you simply aren’t going to find fresh veg.

    Bindi’s Bargain Booze may not have fresh veg, but tinned is almost as good and frozen even better than fresh equivalent in many cases. Even baked beans are pretty nutritious.

    And for vitamin C, a carton of orange juice to go with the cheap vodka to make up the screwdriver?

  8. “There are local shops that provide Fresh produce as a matter of course – most of them tend to be in areas with high ethnic minority populations. The areas where poor whites live (by contrast) have nothing other than supermarkets to subsist on”

    And why would that be? Could it be that ethnic minorities WANT fresh veg and the market miraculously provides it, while the indigenous population prefer white bread and chips, and the market provides that too?

    Something tells me if there was money to be made buying fresh produce down your local fruit and veg wholesaler and selling it door to door on council estates then someone would have worked it out by now.

  9. BraveFart,

    Even when it’s worse, it’s not a big difference.

    I did like the comment about “I cook mash and then eat it the next day with cheese”. What do you want? A medal? My Monday lunch is typically Sunday leftovers. If I’m at home, i’ll add some onion to yesterday’s mash and make rosti.

  10. Jim

    I agree wholeheartedly – yet when someone such as Lady Jenkin innocently ventures the opinion ‘The poor can’t cook’ – and fresh produce usually requires a modicum of cooking skills – she is instantly assailed as a ‘Nazi’, ‘Fascist’, etc

    There are two possible interpretations of this – one is that the Guardian reading classes need a class of permanent state supplicants and keep them in a state of childlike dependency as long as they are alive ‘from council house to residential home’.

    The second is that the White Working Class has been earmarked for destruction – and the aggressive reduction of them to dependency status is a staging post on the way to the achievement of this goal. No doubt that will tally with some other commentators’ perspectives on here….

  11. “It’s easier for me to buy two bags of sugar for a pound.”

    Yeah, easier is what it’s all about. Nothing to do with cheap.

    That said, who the hell goes into a shop and thinks: “Mmm… shall I do a baked potato and beans, maybe a salad… or be naughty and have chips? Nah, sod it, i’ll have two bags of sugar and sit in front of Strictly shovelling it in.”

  12. Its not that the poor can’t cook, its that they don’t want to cook. You could offer cooking lessons in every housing estate and there wouldn’t be much interest, and the diet would change be virtually unchanged.

    Hell, I reckon I’m an example – I could cook if I wanted to, I have all the required equipment,enough knowledge and plenty of money to buy produce etc. I just can’t be arsed and buy stuff I can eat without any prep beyond sticking in a microwave. I just don’t pretend that what I really want is a nice salad.

    If I was an evil neoliberal billionaire I’d offer the Guardian the money to set up a fruit and veg shop in a suitably ‘under privileged’ location, just to see how far they got with it, in competition to the usual selection of estate shops – Indian takeaway, kebab shop, Chinese chippy, and mini-mart selling mainly booze and fags.

  13. Van_Patten,

    Third interpretation:

    The Guardian is the Jeremy Kyle Show for the middle-classes. “Look at those poor people! They can’t even cook properly!”

  14. The nonsense about food banks you hear in the press has always bothered me. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that making stuff free is always going to prompt demand, especially when every box collected means you can buy another couple of packs of ciggies.

    I have no objection whatsoever to the charity, but they are hardly reliable indicators of peoples’ real financial circumstances.

  15. Only The Guardian could find a convicted armed robber & fraudster and portray him as an honest victim.

  16. DJ – Indeed, but I suspect poorer people who are hard working and trying to get on with their lives don’t have the time or inclination to indulge the dripping-wet middle class dicks of the Guardian.

    The ‘victims’ are at least partially self-selecting. And also selected by the Graun ignoring anyone who says they’re unemployed but still manage to cook for themselves and don’t want any patronising ‘sympathy’ thanks very much.

  17. I suspect (while staying away from unwarranted stereotyping) that the females in “ethnic minority” households are more likely to have been brought up to cook from fresh ingredients than have the females in poor white households, many of whom, when presented with a potato, could not even make chips. There’s a reason that oven chips were invented; virtually idiot-proof instructions.

  18. Bloke in Costa Rica

    If I decide I have been extravagant and it’s time to go on a bit of an austerity jag, the first thing I do is switch to more veg and less meat. Here in CR, meat is probably more expensive than in the UK, or comparably priced, as is cheese. But potatoes and onions and carrots and cabbage are virtually free. So I make soups and pasta sauces and so on.

    My mother lives in a town of 30,000 or so people. There’s a mini Co-op on the corner and within easy, easy walking distance a greengroc’er, a butcher, a fishmonger, a big Co-op and an Iceland (which sells super-cheap bags of frozen veggies). This is a story that is repeated the length and breadth of the UK.

    Reynolds’ Law says (paraphrasing) that moron social engineers think that providing the underclass with the trappings of middle-class life will by some unexplained process transform them into people with middle-class behaviours, a classic inversion of causality. You could deliver every turkey twizzler-scoffing Jeremy Kyle watcher a daily box of premium organic Waitrose fruit and vegetables and it would have absolutely no effect.

  19. A £1 sack of spuds lasts me so long it sometimes starts sprouting. We’ve spent the decades since WW2 obsessively making food, and particularly veg, as cheap as possible.

  20. I like your greengroc’er gag there bicr.

    I’m not understanding the rest of you guys slagging off the Guardian (it does that by itself) though. This type of article is more of a staple in the Mail or Express.

    And whether you like it or not, most of you haven’t having the faintest idea, the very fact that food banks, or as common in some countries, coupons, are a signifier of social dysfunction.

    The fresh vegetables thing is a broad whitewash of the bigger issue.

    But, yeah, all that “poor folk don’t know what a pan looks like” is condescending shit. Don’t know about you, but my brother and I were brought up on yesterday’s vegetables.

    And to make the sentence worthwhile, I got a lump of lignite for Christmas.

  21. Don’t knock the working class – it’s the non-working underclass that is the problem. Scargill’s declared onbjective was to create an underclass that would provide the cannonfodder for his revolution. I have working-class friends who can cook (well, of course I do – when I was young working-class women *had* to be able to cook as a working-class wage didn’t run to eating out except on special occasions and “take-aways” were fish-and-chips on a Friday night).

  22. Lawrence/arnald, Hugh Fairley-Longname did a prog a few years ago in which he tried to pwrsuade/show poorer people in Bristol how, healthily, to feed themselves, cheaply. They were very grateful for his efforts. But persisted in deep-frying whole chickens etc. Especially this one gal. Size of a bus, she was. Poverty-stricken, therefore, she was not.

    OTOH, calories matter, and they mostly don’t come from vegetables. Vegetables, to some extent, are not a financial luxury, they’re the luxury of caring about your appearance. Which people with few prospects or little hope rarely do.

  23. I can see that veg – and fruit, the expensive part – are cheaper than in the past, but the guy quoted above isn’t wrong: the extra (say) twenty quid a week it costs to buy decent fresh fruit and veg instead of just the basics is something of a problem for the hard-up. Potatoes, carrots, cabbages, etc are dirt cheap. Salads, less so. Fruit, even less. You can buy a few kilos of spuds for a quid or two, but only a few pieces of fruit. (Well, oranges, apples, also cheap. But you want some variety.)

    As for food banks, they’re used by people who actually need other help, because money is fungible – the saving on food can be spent on something else needed.

  24. Oh, and also on the subject of food banks, what proportion of the general populace would you expect to go and claim something for free that they don’t need, just because it’s free? I suspect such people make up a fairly large proportion of the users of food banks, human nature being what it is.

  25. Bloke in Costa Rica

    We lived in the 70s and early 80s in what would a few years earlier have been called genteel poverty. Grew a lot of our own vegetables, went from pillar to post looking for things on offer, shopped late to get stuff that was reduced at the end of the day. It was a slog (bad enough for me as a kid; awful for my mother). Of course we weren’t hungry, but it took imagination and hard work on my mother’s part to give us a nutritious, varied diet given her resources. But we had a shared set of cultural and psychological resources that made that doable. A lot of the underclass does not, which is why they’re mired in the crap and we weren’t.

  26. Edward Lud

    I’m upset that the funding for secure institutional confinement in Guernsey has clearly dried up and the guy has free access to a mobile device or computer to spout this shit – Perhaps since Murphy attacked the Channel Islands’ primary source of income they are having to reign expenditure in….

  27. Interested.

    At least my brother and I are yesterday’s vegetables. you’re some fat barstard’s sloppy seconds.

    At least he said it was second, I would smell his fist again if i were you. What you being clever and that.


  28. What bicr said. Hell I agree with someone.

    It would seem that a lot of basic survival knowledge has been lost. In fact I would tend towards rubbishing the “PC” protection that the Gregg’s generation have.

    Did all of our parents slog their arse off to legitamise lazy cretins?

    Hark at me.

  29. In the autumn here, there are apples and pears lying on and beside many pavements. The only person I’ve ever seen collecting them was a Chinese chap, student I’d think. I have seen natives picking up walnuts, I’ll admit. There are no hazelnuts because the squirrels have nicked them all, but there are free plums.

    WhenIwasalad, hedgerow raspberries were a summer treat. Oh yes.

  30. @ Dave
    There’s a fruit-and-veg stall in my town twice a week from which I buy *all* the fruit and veg (except frozen peas) for three of us for around £15/week which is significantly less than my state pension for one person for one day.
    What extra £20/week? Do you buy from Ocado?

  31. “the very fact that food banks, or as common in some countries, coupons, are a signifier of social dysfunction.”

    No, they’re not, really, they’re not. They a sign of society fixing a problem.

  32. So, Timothy, policy that creates the need for foodbanks is being fixed by creating foodbanks?

    Everything is awesome?

    You’re odd.

  33. And what if foodbanks have always been needed but we’ve only just worked out how to do it.

    That would be awesome, no?

  34. John>

    You make it £15, I make it £20 – both approximate figures, so I don’t think we’re disagreeing greatly. People on JSA or whatever are going to think twice about spending that much extra when they have so many other calls on their money.

  35. @ Dave
    You said “extra”
    “the extra (say) twenty quid a week it costs to buy decent fresh fruit and veg instead of just the basics”
    Someone on JSA has to eat – buying fruit and veg is a cheap way to eat. You are suggesting that if they didn’t buy fruit and veg they wouldn’t need to buy food.
    Rubbish! Unless they are junkies and happy to starve to death in order to pay for their drugs.
    For someone on JSA food should be the primary item on the budget – he/she doesn’t have to worry about rent or council tax.

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