Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Naked Truth about how we treat our Sick and Poor


We refuse a few extra dollars in food sustenance and as a result spend that and more in medical care.

I came to this after having done a food stamp diet for two months in the summer in San Francisco to prepare for a benefit for the SF Food Bank. Links to those stories here. 

Summer in San Francisco with masses of pasta and rice is a vastly different experience than winter in New York as a diabetic.

I came to this via Harlem Hospital. I was asked by Dr. Leaque Ahmed of Harlem Hospital to quit my job and come 3,000 miles to NY in order to work with the diabetes department on Stirring the Pot. He was the conduit, making me a part of his department via PAGNY.

Thrilled to be here I began working hard and as my kitchen was (supposedly) being built I began shopping tours and did an enormous amount of outreach. I created our Facebook page and our blog and put in some very long hours preparing for the program.

3 months later gross mismanagement and some very bad decision making caused the hospital to let go of the program. Now patients may see a nutritionist like Amrita Persaud, at least she told me she is one...I never saw her degree. Rather than hands on cooking lessons that work for the community and their budgets they get a session in an office. 

I continued to run Stirring the Pot as a volunteer, hosting some cooking lessons in my home kitchen. 

I felt I had made a commitment to the people of Harlem, not the hospital. 

When January came and I looked at my pledge to do the food stamp budget as a diabetic I decided to go ahead with it. I knew that I would learn more, and I did. 

At the beginning I was raring to go, I was as creative as I had ever been and I worked it. I made ahead foods to tide me over. I sought out pig tails and other low cost items. 

By the end of month 2 I was hungry and tired. 

I ate the same thing 3 days in a row, not because I had no other choice but because I was bored and depressed. 

It impacted my body.

I lost two inches in my chest, 1 in my arms and close to two in my thighs, muscle loss, not fat. 

As my muscle went down my body fat percentage went up. I began at 11% fat and am now at almost 17% fat. Despite a weight loss of more than 8 lbs my waist is slightly bigger. 

My cholesterol has risen and the ratio is way off. I have elevated triglycerides, free testosterone levels are low despite normal/high testosterone over all. 

My sodium is quite fine despite precious little dietary sodium (I need salt so I took a supplement) my vitamin D levels are still above normal and my Iron shot off the charts. 

This tells me that were I to stay on this high meat/low carb what few vegetables I could afford way of eating I would be sick before long. 

In America we love to blame poor people for making bad choices but they cannot afford to make good choices. 

You can get 4 boxes of off label Macaroni and Cheese for .99 at the .99 store. You can get 6 to 8 top ramen for one dollar. Banquet routinely puts pot pies and 'dinners' on sale for .99 at the beginning of the month. 

Garbage food is affordable for most of us. 

Soup kitchens and other feeding programs are strained beyond words. They rely on donations (often of cheap carbs) to sustain people. Those cheap carbs are killing them. 

On paper I did okay. My carbs were right in line for what I should have had over a 2 month period. I was low in certain nutrients but I have enough stored D from the sun. 

I got more fiber than most Americans...

So what went wrong? 

I got way too many calories from fat. Fat is pale blue, carbs purple and protein yellow. As the time progressed I relied more heavily on butter to both flavor and get more calories. Costco made butter cheap at about two bucks a pound. 

Even when I made the wrong choices I KNEW I was making the wrong choices but was too hungry and tired to care. 

Last night I had an entire head of broccoli, something I could never have afforded on the food stamp budget. 

The poor cannot afford good food, Can we afford the health care cost of not providing it. 

I would love to hear from you. wilderkj@gmail.com

Respectfully submitted,

Karl Wilder 

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Monday, March 4, 2013

The Diabetic Food Stamp Project Day 26, 27, 28

I ate exactly the same food for 3 days.

It was not a choice, it was what I had.

Though on a daily basis I show surplus, the reality is that I laid in slightly too much food for the 'end of the month' and the monthly budget was spent.

Because of my skill and planning I was not eating Swanson dinners or frozen pizza as so many others do. I ate well. It may have been a bit dull and monotonous, but there are worse things.

I began each day with...

Peanut Butter .19
Banana .19
Soup with dumplings .66
Coffee with cream .17
Total 1.21
Carbs 47 grams

Lunch was a chili cheese quesadilla, those delicious tender morsels made at the beginning of the month.

Ques .51
Ice tea .03
Total .54

Dinner each night was really good. I made a vegie sauce for pasta with cabbage, carrot, and onion ground in the food processor cooked with a can of tomatoes and garlic. Total sauce cost was 1.63. I loaded it with fresh garlic which bumped up the cost slightly but man was it good.
Sauce .54
Pasta .12
Cheese .20
Total .86
Carbs 54 grams

It was pretty lackluster end to the month.

My understanding has grown. I did EVERYTHING that people say food stamp recipients should do. I grew herbs on the windowsill, I shopped the sales, I baked my own bread, made my own dumplings and took every single measure I could to get both the calories and the nutrition I need.

The truth is that on this budget you CANNOT get both the calories and the nutrition needed to sustain healthfully. Those few dollars we take out of food will be paid in health care costs.

I should have my blood work in a few days to share with you.

For those last 3 days I had 1,009 calories per day. While it is true, I had more food in the house, food that was paid for and I could have eaten more. I found I no longer cared. My drive to make effort had been starved out of me.

I lost 8 pounds, two inches in my chest (while working out daily) so a lot of it was muscle loss.

I will tally my nutrition for the two months...but there is no question it suffered.

My first big meal after coming off the project. 3 ounces of ham, 3 flatbread, a small bit of mac and cheese an ENTIRE avocado with two Roma tomatoes and goat Feta. The meal cost over three dollars, 3/4 of what the average food stamp recipient can spend a day.

Respectfully Submitted,

Karl Wilder

Sunday, March 3, 2013

3 day finale with photos is written

...as soon as google allows pictures again it will be published and quickly followed by my bloodwork post project.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 25 The diabetic food stamp project month 2

I had soup for breakfast....

I can't buy any more food. I need to state that. Even while this will show I am coming in under budget and still have 9.50 towards the replacement of oils and seasonings I don't actually have those funds.

I budgeted monthly and daily. My monthly is gone in that I have frozen dumplings, frozen empanadas, some frozen soup and a few other items that used up the funds. I will eat them, so it won't be wasted.

However to be true to the project once your funds are spent they are spent even if you daily totals seem less SNAP won't put up more money.

So...I eat a lot of dumplings.

Congee .02
Dumplings .66

Coffee/cream .17
Total .85

Carbs 30 grams

For lunch a quesadilla with some of the turkey black bean mix.

Quessadilla .50
Iced tea .03
Total .53
Carbs 39 grams

For dinner my tiny pasta portion with broccoli.
Pasta .12
Broccoli .50
Capers .10
Cheese .20
Total .92
Carbs 40 grams

4.25 plus 4.47 is 8.72 ...which is what I had (theoretically if I chose only from pantry items) This leaves me with an extra 6.42 to apply to what is in my pantry.

I spent 2.30 less than any other day so far. I admit I am bored with what has been on my plate and I am tired of this. March 1 I go off the budget.

Keep in mind that millions in America eat on this budget or less and that many poor cannot get assistance due to the paperwork requirements.

I only had 1,191 calories and my nutrition...

March 1 update

The rest of the project will be uploaded as soon as google figures out the problem with posts that have photos.

I have been getting e mail asking me what my first meal was off the diet so I will take a second and answer you.

Whole grain flat bread, fresh goat feta, and a tomato (a really good tomato, not the 4 for a dollar ones but the romas on the stem from Costco at .50 each.) ...and coffee TWO cups.