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30 days on minimum wage, logistics of food 2

Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 in Blog Posts | 4 comments

Here is a link to Morgan Spurlock’s 30 days on minimum wage. It relates to the last post. I mentioned in a comment that I wanted to see a reality show where the kardashians live on minimum wage and food assistance, no perks, no cars etc. I don’t have time to watch the whole series in clips, but I remember them getting very tired of eating rice and beans, and she was a vegan chef… The rest of it is on Youtube…

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  1. Libby

    I found the whole 30 Days on Minimum Wage thing really insulting when I first saw it. I have, at various points in my life, been homeless, nearly homeless and drastically underemployed, and a student with $0 in financial support. The episode was playing in the waiting room of the financial aid office after about 4 months of trying to change that last situation. With his 30 days experiment, it felt like a gimmicky tourism experience which didn’t last nearly long enough for Spurlock and his girlfriend to really understand what it is like to be poor.

    When you’re still saying “oh my gaaawd, how do people DO this?” you still don’t get it. Yes, eating a limited diet because it’s all you can afford is tough. Yes, it REALLY sucks to try to find housing when you are un- or under-employed. Yes, it’s hard to do minimum wage jobs, and yes, it sucks to go to work, break your back all day, and then still have to walk home because bus tickets are expensive and would knock out a full hour of your labor. They experienced that part. What they didn’t get, what you CAN’T get in the 30 day poverty novelty tour, is what it feels like to know you’re poor and how very hard it is and how very lucky you must be to stop being so. It weighs on you and changes you and shapes you in ways even my husband from a paycheck-to-paycheck blue-collar family doesn’t really understand. It alters the way you think about the world.

    It’s nice that they did a little weekend experiment about how much worse it is to live on minimum wage with kids, but they don’t understand the despair that goes into knowing that you can’t do anything to help your children get ahead in life. You simply don’t have the money for a lettuce knife so they can help you cook, or for the classic wooden toys you know would be better than the cheap crap from the dollar store, or for art supplies for your budding artist or the figure skating lessons your child so desperately wants. You have very little time or energy to play with your kids because you’re working so hard to afford morning oatmeal, evening rice, and the occasional treat of fried spam (it was cheap when I was little, though it’s not anymore). If you live in an area where it costs money to join the library, as I have for almost my entire life, you can’t even choose books together.

    My life is somewhat better now, though very wobbly and liable to collapse at any time, but I’m still irked by 30 Days. Do it for a year without a safety net to call into. Maybe then it might be possible for a more well-off person like Spurlock to understand.

    • katja

      I agree it only scratches the surface. I do however think there was some value in the project, particularly for the public health, foodie crowd. The girllfriend was a vegan chef. So many people have never had even a glimpse into a different way of living, couldn’t even begin to imagine that a UTI could be so disastrous financially, or what trying to cook and eat well looks like. Even if it helps someone have an ounce of empathy, or perhaps support food assistance, perhaps it has done some good? It is far too easy for those of us who are comfortable and beyond to never encounter people who live differently.

  2. Twistie

    For another interesting look at the same idea, you might want to read On A Dollar A Day by Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard. Warning: it does contain some kind of scary fat hate here and there in an appallingly casual way, and frankly I think Greenslate comes off as a controlling nimrod whom I would be delighted to kick in the seat of the pants. Still, Greenslate and Leonard decided to embark on a month-long experiment where they had to feed themselves on one dollar a day per person… in the Los Angeles area, no less. After that, they tried thirty days of living off the state of California’s ‘Thrifty Living’ program for food stamp users. And their final experiment was seeing how much it would actually cost them to eat if their only criterion was health. The results of all three experiments are interesting, no matter how short-term and oddly self-righteous.

    It’s made even more profound in some ways by the fact that these people are vegans, so they weren’t even trying to fit meat or dairy into their budgets. In fact, their experiences with the Thrifty Living program literature were particularly frustrating because there is no provision within the guidelines for vegetarian – let alone vegan! – users.

    I’ve had some hard times, and even a few with some very mild food insecurity… but I learned a lot from this book. It does make you think.

  3. Ines

    Thank you for sharing this. It was enlightening to watch. I couldn’t stop watching at 1 or 2 or 3 episodes….