Because if You’re Poor, You Can’t Eat Salad: Institutionalized Classism

Do you have money?I had a craving for a spinach and artichoke salad (random, I know), so I decided to make a salad at the grocery store salad/pasta bar. While searching for my dressing, I suddenly looked up and saw a sign “Food stamps are not accepted for salad bar purchases.”

 OhhhKay. I decided to (as discreetly as possible of course) take a picture of it with my camera phone as I continued to fix my salad. I giggled a bit. A little ridiculous?

 Maybe it was too hot outside. Maybe it was the fact that I HATE going to the grocery store at 6:00 pm. Maybe it was because I just left work/school. As I ate my salad at home, I became increasingly annoyed. There was sudden a flash of indignation when I thought about the sign.

 Oh, so you are telling me that poor people can’t eat that salad?

 Why did I feel the need to write a blog about this sign? Did it create annoyance like hearing someone drop the “N-Word“? Well, no. This sign worked my nerve for several reasons, but there is an acknowledgement that 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to eat that damn salad. So, by getting some degrees, I was finally deemed worthy enough to eat at said salad bar. Kick rocks grocery store chain!

 Maybe there is a logistical reason that food stamps cannot be used to purchase… food? I don’t know.

 Am I being ridiculous or is this representative of a larger systemic social problem?



14 Responses to “Because if You’re Poor, You Can’t Eat Salad: Institutionalized Classism”

  1. 1 achodge April 13, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    It never ceases to amaze me that all things that are cheap (or in some cases accessible by food stamps) are food that is bad for you. The food that you need like water, veggies, whole grain items, or fruit is always sky high in price. In lower income areas, even alcohol is cheaper than milk. Coincidence?

    • 2 nanreh December 4, 2011 at 6:00 PM

      There is seven eleven in my neighborhood that accepts EBT food stamp cards, the problem is that they charge twice as much for their food, a pre wraped sandwich that cost 3 to five dollars they sell for six to eight dollars, i can not afford that kind of gauging.

  2. 3 jaidevivre April 13, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    That is a ridculous sign, YouMissMe!

    “Maybe there is a logistical reason that food stamps cannot be used to purchase… food? I don’t know.”

    I’ve been mulling this over since early this morning. I’m not sure that I have to come to a conclusion. I definitely don’t think you’re being ridiculous, but I also don’t know if I would go so far as to label it classism. I might be totally off base, but I think that implies some malicious intent or feeling of superiority by the perpetrators. I feel certain that there is some logical/legal reasoning as to why this is. I think, in the same way, having a literacy test at a polling location is actually completely justifiable. NO, I’m not excusing the practice. And NO, I’m also not truly making a comparison to this sign and disenfranchisement. What I am saying is that whatever the perfectly reasonable justification for the ban at the salad bar is UNFORTUNATE in that it will only affect low-income/at-risk populations. Arguably, the ones who might benefit most from a more healthy eating. And while unfortunate, I’m not sure I can agree that it qualifies as classism. The age-old (and probably unsolvable) problem of the haves versus the have-nots? Yes, that it is…

    • 4 youmissme April 13, 2010 at 12:49 PM

      @ jaidevivre:
      The sign was conveniently placed near the salad dressing such that you fix the whole damn salad and then, when you finally get to put the finishing touches, realize that you can’t even buy it!

      I’m sure there is a rule somewhere, so I don’t necessarily blame the store. I know that the chain has made some efforts to include cultural diversity, though there is a noticible reduction in the amount of available produce depending on “what side of town” you are on :o)

  3. 5 klassy_inquiistion April 13, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Do people always have to express the “reason why” they do the things that they do? it could be that there is a legitimate reason why this business is operating they way that they are. but the fact that hey do not accept food stamps for the salad bar purchases leads one to believe that they do accept food stamps, just not at the salad bar. Was it possible for the consumer to purchase the items necessary to make their own salad at home with the same ingredients?

    ok so yeah, it comes off as discriminatory against those who have less financially abilities than others, but our society is structured to keep the rich with a feeling of exclusiveness(if thats not a word, it is now) and to make those with less money continue to feel inferior.

    Is it about the salad or is it about the message that is embedded within the sign? society has come to understand how to segregate inconspicuously and still have their separate but so-called equal practices in operation.

    • 6 youmissme April 13, 2010 at 12:46 PM

      It’s definitely the implication of the message. I mean, what is the logistical reason that food stamps cannot be used for the salad bar or deli meats? Preparing a salad (with the fancy fixins) is more expensive than just getting it at the salad bar where you are just charged based on weight (I think my salad came up to a little over $3.00, but imagine the cost had I purchased all of the individual items to make the same salad). Additionally, making your child a sandwich with deli meat is much more healthy than using processed,prepackaged meats.

      I think for me it is the knowledge that poor people, largely ethnic minorities, are in neighborhoods where fresh produce is a rarity. I remember hearing a story on the news of a woman in Harlem that had to make a 45 minute (one way) bus trip to get to a market that had fresh produce. There is a separate story of a nutrition activist in Chicago that planted a garden just so people in the community could have access to healthier foods. In both cases, most of their “grocery” shopping was done in convenient stores OR they ate at the fast food chains that were littered all over the place.

      Lastly, it’s the realization that for some reason (in an exaggerative stance) that I am somehow worth more than I was 10 years ago. It’s also the thought that the sign may have been put there after a mom was trying to get a healthy dinner for her children and was declined.

      • 7 jaidevivre April 13, 2010 at 1:02 PM

        I agree that the message automatically provokes in me a kind of revolutionary feeling. I want to stand up for all those children who aren’t being properly nourished and properly cared for. But once I come down from my internal moralistic rant, the truth is that there are always going to be some poor little babies who get the short end of the stick. Not that they are less worthy, but that life doesn’t work in a way that is obviously equitable.

        What bad PR you’re doing for this store, YouMissMe… 🙂

        In related news, I read a similar article about air quality in an “urban” neighborhood. It was saying that something like 80% of the hospitalizations in that particular area are asthma-related. THe implication was definitely that kids on the other side of the bridge/tracks/river aren’t having similar issues…

  4. 8 tim woodson April 14, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    they can’t use foodstamps because stamps don’t cover already prepared food… They an buy all the ingredients and make it themselves, however

  5. 9 jaidevivre April 15, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    THank you, Mr. Woodson for bringing us the other side. I figured there must be some legitimizing rule. Do you have any idea why the ban on prepared foods?

    • 10 ontez April 23, 2010 at 3:21 PM

      Because they don’t want the assistance to abused. If you allow foodstamps to be used that way, then what would stop people from being at the “Sizzler” with their children’s food money or Papadeauxs with a line of Swamp Things in front of them?

  6. 12 William July 28, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    I can kinda understand it. On the one hand you can get the fixings cheaper . In the long run you can have three or four salads for the price of one at the salad bar. On the other hand if you take blu cheese (I know it’s an expensive cheese) for example, it costs about $4.50 a pound if you just buy blu cheese at the salad bar here. If you get it at the dairy section it is $6.50 plus.

  7. 13 Lisa January 11, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    To say poor people can’t eat salads is ridiculous. Of couse you can !!! You can buy lettuce , tomotoes , cucumbers , cheese , salad dressing. Etc. And MAKE your salad . The reason you can’t do the salad bar is because this Is considered prepared food … This a CONVIENCE . Just as you can buy a cake and frosting and MAKE a cake , but you can’t get a cake from the bakery … That is a convience !! It’s always cheaper to make your own … I work full time and sometimes can’t AFFORD the LUXURY of these concience items … No one on ebt should ever be allowed to purchase them !!

    • 14 Dan yates February 7, 2014 at 5:01 PM

      Lol, im pretty sure everyone saying u cant buy prepared food are missing the point. A salad bar a a grocery store is not the same as “going to sizzler”. Not to mention if they allowed people to use their food stamps at say “the salad bar” or “deli” then the people using food stamps would be able to provide MORE FOOD to their families and we all know the processed, and prepackaged items to make sandwiches and salads are

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