Remembering Privilege

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First off, I’d like to thank Plant Based on a Budget supporters for your constant support, kind words and wonderful feedback. We donate all of our free time to this blog …  and personally speaking, your kind words of encouragement keep me motivated to continue.

Through this blog, I have become incredibly interested in fresh food access issues and lack of nutrition education in low-income and communities of color. I remain heavily focused on animal advocacy and I believe that is absolutely imperative to know where your food came from, but part of my attention has definitely shifted to the unfortunate state of hunger and poor health in our community. I have had the pleasure of connecting with some  readers of this blog who are truly forced to live on a very tight budget, and to be honest, that group of people specifically keeps me inspired to use the privileges and knowledge that I have to educate anyone who will listen about the importance of making plant based food accessible.

Although I try to keep the positive feedback and heart-felt stories in mind, I occasionally let the negative comments get the best of me. Last night as I was watching A Place at the TableI found myself becoming more and more disappointed in some of the comments that we received about our meal plans. Of course I believe that everyone has the right to their own food preferences, but it was absolutely unnecessary for people to e-mail letting me know how “ripped off” they were by my FREE meal plans, telling me that I set them up for failure, calling Terrence out for using food in cans, e-mailing me to say that I don’t follow a plant-based diet because I use Earth Balance, and the list goes on and on and on. Not only that, but the movie also made me reflect upon some of the comments that were from people who were very privileged and probably don’t even recognize it. Many comments were along the lines of, “I’d rather spend extra money than … [shop in a bad neighborhood], [eat food in a can], [eat white foods/ processed foods/ etc]” — those comments were all most likely meant to be harmless, but they are extremely insensitive to those who don’t have the luxury of spending extra money to avoid “bad” neighborhoods people were referring to (which they most likely live in), or processed foods.

I think it is extremely easy to forget the privileges that you have in life. I encourage you to check out your local food bank and ask some questions about the types of foods that are available to those without homes — I guarantee a large majority comes from BPA cans, when you drive through an underserved neighborhood check to see what grocery stores are available, volunteer at your local chapter of Food Not Bombs, and lastly, reflect on the advantages you have in life (sanity, support from family and friends, shelter, income) — doing that always helps me put things into perspective.

A Place at the Table – I highly recommend watching it. It’s available to watch instantly on netflix and I know that it is available to rent at my local library:

From Wikipedia:  “As of 2012, about 50 million Americans were food insecure. This was approximately 1 in 6 of the overall population, with the proportion of children facing food insecurity even higher at about 1 in 4. One in every two children receive federal food assistance.[5][6] The film sees directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine the issue of hunger in America, largely through the stories of three people suffering from food insecurity:

  • Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two children;
  • Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and
  • Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health problems are exacerbated by the largely-empty calories her hard-working mother can afford.

Other Americans struggling with hunger are also featured, including a cop whose monthly paychecks only leaves him enough money to buy food for two weeks, forcing him to use a food bank[6] A Place at the Table shows how hunger poses serious economic, social, and cultural implications for the United States, and that the problem can be solved once and for all, if the American public decides – as they have in the past – that making healthy food available and affordable is in everyone’s best interest.”

Also, I recommend checking out information about food assistance programs. You have to make virtually nothing to qualify for a very small amount of food money, and from all the people I’ve personally known to receive government help, they say that it is made to be a very demeaning process. It reminds me of The Clash song Know Your Rights, “You have the right to food money. Providing, of course, you don’t mind a little investigation, humiliation … and if you cross your fingers … rehabilitation!”.

These are your rights. Know them.

Comments (21)

  1. posted by Emma on November 18, 2013

    Im soo new to this blog (eg 4 days new) but I love it!! Thanks to everyone who puts in the hard yards.
    Much love 🙂

  2. posted by Caitlin on November 18, 2013

    Thank you for writing this- nutrition as it relates to lower-income areas and food deserts has always been a passion of mine. I’ve seen idiots behind a keyboard be total ass holes to bloggers for no reason and I’m sorry you had to be victim to this. What you’re doing is awesome and appreciated. Haters gonna hate.

  3. posted by Megan Garcia on November 18, 2013

    I can’t agree with you more. This movie broke my heart. I can’t imagine having to take multiple buses to get fresh food. I live in chino ca where there is agriculture all over the place and a few farms that you can buy from. We support our family of 6 on one income and are blessed to be able to provide better foods then most families. Keep up your hard work and don’t let the negitive people get you down. I have enjoyed a few meals from your blog.
    I think that more people should try living a different life style so that they can be more great flu for the one that they are able to have. Maybe if more people did we wouldn’t be as greedy. Just a thought.

  4. posted by Gina S. on November 18, 2013


    I understand what you mean by ‘harmless’ words provided by others. I have worked very hard since I was 16. (Trust me a lot more then 40 hours a week) Just to try to make by on my own. I have, at one time, supported 3 families including my self, (12 people total), and understand these struggles all to well. I have supported this idea since the first time I saw you post about it. I wish I had the time to help in this matter. But since I am to busy working all the time all I can do is thank you so much when I can, to all the hard work and help you are giving me and mine. You help me stretch the few dollars I have to help make a better life for me and mine. I have studied nutrition for a long time. I’ve been battling my weight since I was a little girl (grew up very poor), and feel that for once in my life I might be able to manage my weight and actually pull some of the extra weight off (in a healthy manner). I hope that you only let the negative in enough, to remind yourself, that people that have options, don’t know that they are more privileged then others. Being poor is a humbling experience. I pray no one has to walk in my shoes, but I also know there are others far worse off then I am. And I hope your kind words of wisdom reach all those who are struggling like myself.

  5. posted by Jennipher on November 18, 2013

    I am so sorry you have received so many negative comments. I know for me, I was really excited to see what ideas you all had to give me! I am new to the vegan/vegetarian/plant based thing and really appreciate your blog and all the information that is provided on it. I know it is easy for me to say this, but please try not to let the negativity shake you too much. For every negative remark you receive, there are probably 5 people with positive thought that they just didn’t post. Keep your head up, you are greatly appreciated!

  6. posted by Carolyn on November 18, 2013

    I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had to endure such unnecessary criticism. I, for one, really appreciate your efforts and expect to try each of the meal plans over time. People who think they could never find themselves in a situation where they would need such a limited budget are kidding themselves. Financial reversals can happen very rapidly. You can go from a nice income to no income quite unexpectedly, and you’ll find you go through your savings much more rapidly than you expect. You just never know what is around the corner.

    I really like the different approaches the menu planners have taken and that some of the meals are so simple.

    Thank you for this wonderful series.

  7. posted by jane on November 18, 2013

    All bloggers expose themselves to both positive and negative comments when posting online. Please do not be discouraged because we appreciate what you do.

    For all those that like to be negative, the main purpose behind these menus is to help people eat healthier without the stress of creating a menu. This is a free service and people’s personal time and effort has been poured into these posts so that we can benefit from it. As for having to hunt down stores for the cheapest can to save the most money…seriously???!! You should be ashamed! These recipes already have minimal ingredients and reuse ingredients that week to obtain the most bang for your buck! It is seriously questionable that you would really be in such dire straits to have to “drive into dangerous neighborhoods” in order to save money. I have been shopping at Whole Foods for my items and with what I have in my pantry on hand, I’m still saving and pretty darn close to the per person weekly cost. I suggest that you look at your current purchasing patterns and choices in foods and if you think you don’t need guidance then do what you want on your own and stop bringing down everyone else.

  8. posted by Kathy Kuhn on November 18, 2013

    Thank you for this article, I too watched A Place at the Table. I also grew up as one of those Food Insecure kids, so I know first hand that you eat peas out of can because that’s the only food you’re going to have for dinner tonight. I also love your meal plan challenge! I myself decided to give it a go this week and even though I spent $28 instead of $25 I know it’s going to be good for me to keep things tight, I’m planning on making the goal of $25 next week! Keep up the hard work! You guys are awesome!

  9. posted by alice on November 18, 2013

    keep up the good work. Do not let the negative egomaniacs get to you.

  10. posted by Cara on November 18, 2013

    I’m so glad to have read this. I work for an organization that promotes a plant-based diet for good health (although I became a vegetarian originally for ethical reasons) and we just had a conference at an extremely nice hotel. The hotel’s five-star restaurant agreed to cook us all vegan food for lunch and yet people were turning it away and asking the staff to re-make new meals because it wasn’t “gluten-free”. I would have been a little less put off if they had gluten allergies or sensitivities (I had a roommate with Celiac’s and I totally understand how awful it can be) but they didn’t even bother to notify us of their preferences ahead of time. I understand that a gluten-free diet may make some people feel better about their health, but it was just so disrespectful and snobby to literally turn away a meal that was already prepared especially for a group of vegans, and when a majority of the dish was gluten-free (there was a salad, lots of gluten-free sides, and most of the desserts were gluten-free too!).

    Sorry- just a moment to vent…

  11. posted by SusieQ on November 18, 2013

    As a new-ish Vegan (under 1 year), someone who relies heavily on food assistance such as Food Stamps and food banks, it means a lot that there are Vegan’s out there like you who take the time and effort into putting together a site like this and can put privileges aside to help those of us that have less than most. My food prices aren’t as wonderful as yours, being in different states, and having different grocery stores, plus only having certain stores be within walking distance, but, I take what I can from your weekly budgets and it has made a wonderful impact on my entire monthly budget. Not to mention your savory meal ideas. I for one cannot express how much your blog has meant to me. (Also, 1000 bonus points for quoting a song by The Clash!) <3

  12. posted by Margaret Tolbert on November 18, 2013

    Thank you for sticking it out through all the BS that you are putting up with. I enjoy getting everything that you post on FB and was truly moved with this particcular article you wrote. Please keep you postive attitude and giving all the information to all that need it. Loved the clip of Place at the Table. I will go and view the real thing. Thanks again for your hard work in trying to make a difference in this Mad World of ours.

  13. posted by Judy on November 19, 2013

    You’re great!! I love this blog! Thank you – keep writing. That’s all. 🙂

  14. posted by Sarah on November 19, 2013

    I just wanted to say thanks for the great blog! I think it is important to call out privilege with the hopes that people will learn to recognize it within themselves. Keep up the good work with the blog – I love seeing the various ideas and recipes.

  15. posted by Deanne O'Donnell on November 19, 2013

    Gee, how sad. I am so thankful for the posts and don’t have any problems with any recipes or any content. It is very unfortunate that some people are such asses, that is why I usually prefer the company of animals. PLEASE do not allow anyone to affect you this way. I for one couldn’t be more thankful for the blog and the recipes. KEEP UP THE GOOD INFORMATIVE WORK.

  16. posted by Lori on November 19, 2013

    Thanks for this. There was a time when my daughter and I relied on food banks, and the kindness of strangers, and no, we were not picky. I love what you’re doing- keep it up!

  17. posted by Sarojini on November 19, 2013

    How sad that some comments have been so thoughtless/ critical- I guess a few people are always going to miss the point, however good you are. You are doing such a great service for so many; truly life-changing- people like you can really change the world for the better 🙂

  18. posted by Kmel Williams on December 4, 2013

    Great job on the blog and the menus! It’s not easy being on a plant based diet when you work as many hours as I do. As a nurse I understand the importance of eating well, but planning a menu, shopping, etc. isn’t easy when you never see the sunlight! Keep up the good work!

  19. posted by Norma on January 26, 2014

    I think privilege Is a very hostile word. Not that you Intended It that way, but personalty I find this word unnecessary, negative, confrontational even. & I am by no means “privileged” or like one of those ungrateful people who messaged you. Ie. I live In the part of my town that friends are afraid to visit. So, It Is not out of personal offense that I say any of this. I think this blog would have been a lot more positive If Instead of privilege, It was about *gratitude*–like the one those rude people seem to lack. I know It seems like a subtle distinction but the attitudinal shift Is monumental. I like to think In terms of Intent& goals& from that perspective, I fail to see the necessity of ever using the word privileged. The point of that word Is supposed to be to remind people of gratitude, selflessness, kindness. Shouldn’t we all concern ourselves with those things regardless of privilege or lack thereof? Should people be kind to the degree of their privilege? Of course not, we should /just/ remember to be mindful, kind, grateful, conscious regardless of who we are. Our place In society should not effect this whatsoever, we all have these responsibilities to the same degree In our hearts. Privilege Implies people should feel bad or hang their heads In shame for having more In life, when the focal point needs to be on the Individual attitude displayed. Ungratefulness Is a disease of the cynical&negative, not necessarily of the wealthy. Also gratitude means feeling very positive about what you’ve had In life, even If It’s been very little or very much. The part of amounts& who has ‘more’ plays no role In the human call to gratitude. I’m not looking for a debate, I just wonder If some people use that word not realizing It’s Inefficiency In the broader scheme of things. So, if anyone understands my concern& Is compelled to swap these words In their vocab; then that’s all I’m suggesting. Personally, I think we need to think more In terms of Values {Inspiring gratitude In /all/ people} Instead of targeting any kind of persons. It Isn’t necessary, human corruption belongs to us all. Values don’t discriminate; all people can use the same daily dose of them.

  20. posted by Krystal George Brown on April 3, 2014

    I haven’t yet seen the documentary that you mentioned, but I felt a lot the same when I read the negative comments for the plant based on a budget challenge. I have really loved these budget recipes! I appreciate all the hard work put in to planning them and I wish people who do have the privilege to buy higher quality ingredients would follow these challenges exactly so they can see what it is to not be able to get fresh everything.

  21. posted by Lizzie on April 23, 2014

    I think we all need to be reminded now and then that not everyone has the freedom (financially or otherwise) to make all the choices they would prefer to make. We can all just try to do our best, and make the changes/choices that are currently possible for us where we are right now. When you don’t have to agonize over choices, it’s really easy to forget that not everyone has it as easy…