Should the Unemployed Also Get Vegetable Aid?

What happens to eating habits in the face of unemployment? Nothing good, according to a new working paper by Dhaval M. Dave and Inas Rashad Kelly. The authors found that “a higher risk of unemployment is associated with reduced consumption of fruits and vegetables … Specifically, among those who are predicted to be at the highest risk of unemployment, a one percentage point increase in the resident state’s unemployment rate is associated with a 2-4% reduction in the frequency of fruits and vegetables consumption, and an 8% reduction in the consumption of salad.” The authors suggest income and adverse mental health are to blame for the substitution — and recommend “income-support programs, counseling, and access to mental health services.” [%comments]

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  1. Christopher says:

    Reduced mobility, lowered income and depression are not good motivators. The easy choice is calorie-dense prepared & processed foods full of subsidies.

    At least in some areas there are urban community gardens. In my town, in one of the lowest income areas, there is a huge garden where dozens of families can get all of the frutis and vegetables they could possibly eat for just a small membership fee. It helps people feel independent, capable, and healthy.

    Small differences to a few lives, but at least it’s something.

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  2. Robin says:

    I recently looked into food stamps because I was curious what the requirements are. To qualify, you must have less than $2000 in assets. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It seems the government won’t help me until I’ve totally depleted my retirement savings. I wonder if this would end up costing the government more subsidizing me in old age, instead of giving me food stamps now.

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  3. Brian S says:

    I have a feeling disciplinary laziness is a big factor here, especially with the boredom that accompanies being home all day. It’s a lot easier to follow a consistent, healthy eating regime when you have a consistent daily routine, which usually surrounds the office for most people. Boredom is a killer for snacking.

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  4. Joel Upchurch says:

    This is hardly news. Theodore Darlrymple has discussed how much the health of convicts improve in prison from eating a balanced diet. They often grow up in environments where they have never set down to a prepared family meal in their entire lives.

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  5. James says:

    You really have to look at it from a socioeconomic perspective. Which jobs are the most volatile? Unskilled labor. It has long been known that the lower classes are much less likely to eat a healthy diet. Many have blamed this on lack of access to healthy foods, but I have a feeling that it has more to do with poor examples set by parents (i.e. lack of skills in the kitchen, or motivation to provide healthy meals, or education)

    If you look at the states by the distribution of skilled labor the numbers will match up. This issue goes beyond unemployment risk, deeper into the class norms.

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  6. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    After our successful project completion–on time and underbudget–we were deservedly expecting a big end of the year bonus.

    As promised, our ‘ generous’, new-age, boss gave each employee of our department a BIG CELERY. “It is good for your cholesterol,” he said smugly. “We all gotta eat more vegetables.”

    He was never seen again. Rumor has it he was whacked and run through a Ronco salad shredder.

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  7. ursonate says:

    that’s interesting because i remember after getting dot-bombed back in the early 2000s my friends and i got healthier because we cooked at home more and had time to work out.

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  8. Jean SmilingCoyote says:

    I’m on Food Stamps as well as being unemployed. I’m always trying to fine-tune my use of these (e.g. getting meat at 30-50% clearance discount on or B4 sell-or-freeze-by date), but it’s possible I could use more $$ for fresh fruits & veggies. I know I need more money for lean red meat, esp. bison. No, beans do NOT agree with me. What’s worse than too little $$ for healthful food is nothing (on $90/week unemployment comp.) for adequate exercise at a gym. My home is overcrowded with no floor space for exercises. I seek work via Internet because there are no jobs I can apply for walking up & down the streets. There’s a gym 3 blocks away and I can’t afford to use it. My city will comp poor people into their own fitness centers on an Rx, which I’ve done, but I can no longer get to the nearest one affordably. I’d rather get “Gym Aid” for the nearest gym, than more Food Stamps. Exercise itself helps one to correct a poor diet. BTW if any government leaders like this idea, I’m available for hire immediately to help implement their program!

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