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]


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.


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.

Brian S

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.

Joel Upchurch

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.


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.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

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.


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.

Jean SmilingCoyote

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!



No need to worry, just follow around a wealthy person eating an apple, and hope they leave a few bites when they throw away the core. I believe the GOP calls this trickle-down economics.


I think there's a comfort food and boredom eating aspects, but there's a somewhat hidden economic factor here -- the huge subsidies paid to commodity farmers. Those processed foods are high in corn, wheat and soy ingredients, meaning taxpayers foot part of the bill for junk food and 99 cent fast food burgers.

It's food stamps by another name and without the potential for recipients to make healthy choices.


You can keep throwing money at some people but any aid isn't going to be beneficial if they are not educated as to why they should receive it. They will just receive it and treat it as "something to munch on" so they won't starve... some of the lower, lower class are basically barbarians.

Brenda Avadian

Here in Southern California, farmers have collaborated to bring fresh organic seasonal fruits and vegetables year round to subscribers.

They deliver to a central location each week. Since we're in a rural area about 30 miles from the delivery location, we rotate crate pick-up duty with others.

If we have reason to "go into town" we'll offer to pick up for the others. If not, they'll pick up our crate in the rotation.

The crates are delivered (large sized for families of four or more) at under $30 and the small-sized for couples and singles at $22

Since we started this six months ago, we have saved hundreds of dollars eating in-season organic produce while reducing trips to the grocery store.

With California being one of the states with the highest unemployment, this program saves money for subscribers who eat wholesome foods (instead of processed).

Bottom Line: We feel better!

The organization we use:

BrendaAvadian, MA



Fast foods (i.e. McDonald's $1 menu) are calorie efficient - meaning, you get the maximum calories per dollar. I live in NYC where a salad can cost anywhere between $5 and $10. Two to three hours after I finish my salad, I'll be hungry again though. However, I can buy more chicken nuggets and burgers than I could possibly eat for $5 from one of the fast food giants. When people become unemployed and money gets tight, they resort to foods that are calorie efficient. Fresh fruits and vegetables are far less calorie efficient which is why "food deserts" (see are prevalent in historically poor neighborhoods like Harlem and the Bronx.


To start it, it is a lot easier to go wendys, mc donalds, burger king ext, and get something off the dollar menu, unhealthy food for real cheap. And those that are more likely to get laid off are going to be the one's that eat a high fat low vegetable diet.

Colin Holmes

I have been unemployed for a few years now and have never eaten badly. I eat the best vegetables, meat and fruit. Attitude and low IQ are more likely to be the real problem. A well known author, Theodore Darlrymple made an excellent point when he mentioned the fact that families regarded as living in poverty also lived near Asian Groceries where they sell many item of nourishing food at prices below the supermarket. The initial excuse given was that they were disadvantaged because of the distance they lived from the supermarket which demonstrates the never ending misinformation and palpable lying from a left wing media or administration. The comment above about income is from my experience not true.


Causal or coincidental? Don't go saying it's causal where there's as yet unreconciled ambiguity.

Chris in WV

Yes, absolutely! I can tell you first hand that when you are not working the first thing you want to do is cut back on all expenses, and guess what; the bills are the same, the payments aren't any less, and unless you have several expensive habits to nix there just is not any where to "squeeze blood from the turnip". So what to do? Well,you figure you can go to one of those discount grocery stores and try to feed you family "on the cheap". It seems great at first, ohh more food and junk that the kids love...Until your conscience kicks in and you realize that you are bringing home nothing good or good for you. And the produce that is there gives you the feeling of "Dumpster Diving" to find the LEAST rotted, AND having to pay for it! I would love to feed my family better especially for our health! Unfortunately when faced between eating bad food each night and eating 3 meals a week...