Seeing as today is Friday, I'm just going to blog about whatever and not talk about food (again!) I will say that the pictures of this post came from Sao Mai, which is a Vietnamese restaurant in the East Village. We tried four dishes from there and the only minor quibble we had was that their fried spring rolls were... not the same as we've seen in other Vietnamese places in New York. Everything else was pretty stellar, with exception of the price, which is slightly higher due to Sao Mai's location. Today I wan to talk about this pie-in-the-sky idea I have about an experiment the government should run on the food stamps or the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program. So this idea of mine came from a Ruth Reichl interview with NPR in August of 2011.
In it, she was quoted as saying, "I think the big misapprehension that people have is that cooking is time consuming. The shopping part is the time consuming. The part where you're sitting around saying 'What are we going to have for dinner tonight?' is very time consuming. If it's 4 o'clock and you're in your office and you haven't figured out what you're having for dinner tonight, the battle's half lost." I read that and thought it was a very interesting take on the obstacles of cooking from the starting point to the ending point. It made me think about the food stamp program which basically allows individuals to purchase food items and then either consume directly or cook and then consume. Now I know overwhelming research tells us that the best thing that helps those who are poor are not tax credits or vouchers, but money. People know how to spend money and what to buy in order to make ends meet. That made me think about the one thing that cash to an individual doesn't do - it keeps the individual from any ever participating in savings of bulk purchasing.
I wonder if there's some local government out there that would try something different. For example, if you could get a group of people on food stamps to pool their money together to get groceries pre-selected for them instead of going to the store themselves. The benefits of such a process would be that if you pool the resources (read: money, even if its food stamps money from the government) of 1,000 individuals, your purchasing leverage when you want to buy broccoli or milk is vastly better than that of one individual. So then in the end, everyone who volunteers to join such a program would end up with more food than they started with if they stayed on the regular program.
Obviously the downside to the program is that the United States isn't like a small country very a super homogenous population. So the number one obstacle for a program such as this is that Flushing, Harlem, and Washington Heights would all require a very different pantry. Yes that's a bit of a stereotype or generalization but that criticism is valid. For example, would rice be a staple for everyone who joins such a program? Another problem with the idea is how do you get the food to the people? Do you set it up with grocery pick-up areas the way they do when you sign up for a food CSA? Or would it have to be delivery? There are obvious operational questions that I haven't completely resolved. But one benefit of such a program would still mean more food, and also I think you could probably chefs who donate food to all those charity drives to instead donate some recipes and/or perhaps donate time to do short instructional videos youtube. With such an idea basically you cut out grocery shopping time with following recipe time and the end-user gets more food. I'm sure nut-job liberals have tried more wacky things to help the poor, and more startups have been created on ideas less thought out or less useful for society in general. But hey, this is just one idea and maybe it won't work, but who knows?
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