Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Studying while hungry

I read this study of food insecurity among University of California students with dismay.  It appears that rent is eating their food budgets so they are eating too little or cheap low-nutrition food, just to make ends meet.

I'd like to give a shout-out to the Berkeley Student Cooperative, where I lived for my last three years at Berkeley.  BSC was a key component of my Berkeley education and I am so grateful that I found it.
Home, sweet home.  Rooftop deck and study area at CZ.  Photo courtesy of Victory Garden.
During the great depression of the 1930s, many students suffered from malnutrition.  (I read a long time ago that professors reported students fainting in class from hunger.  If you have a link that substantiates that, can you leave it in the comments?)

Students in the BSC went to the Oakland Produce Market to buy food wholesale and in bulk.  Then other students took turns cooking and serving food (work shifts).  It was and remains a low-cost, and time-efficient way to obtain high-quality food near campus.

Plus, you learn skills.  I know how to operate a Hobart, an industrial dishwasher, how to dismantle and clean a commercial range, food safety laws...

The best part of BSC is the people I met.  I roomed with a black roommate one semester before I collected enough points to live in a single.  I can never walk in her shoes, but walking beside her was a crash course in US race relations.  That's one reason why I feel so strongly about #BlackLivesMatter.

Unlike the 1930s, the hunger experienced by 40% of today's UC students is caused by a strong economy.  Rising rents is literally eating the students' lunch.  It appears that the Oakland Produce Market is also at high risk due to rising rents.

I've come to realize that some basics--basic food, housing, healthcare, education and some types of data--are too important to leave to the free market.  Oops, writing that sentence took a long time because I kept thinking of things that needed to go on that list, such as environment, water, power...

As a society, we have work to do.  Let's push back with data and an open mind to problems and solutions.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything you wrote here. Especially that some things are too important to be left to the free market.

    But as someone raised by immigrants from the former soviet union who came here as refugees (I was 5 when my family moved to the SF bay area), I can understand many of the arguments more government intervention and socialism because I've heard those arguments all my life. It seems that there are real problems with planned economies because there are people doing the planning, and there has to be a mechanism for ensuring that the people doing the planning make the right decisions for the people, not just for themselves. We clearly have similar problems in the US (the farm bill and corn comes to mind). I don't think it's reasonable to expect people to not abuse a system that can be abused. It's not obvious to me how to make a system for providing people with necessities that is sufficiently resistant to abuse, thought I don't think it's impossible, just hard. But still, many countries that call themselves communist have very high levels of poverty. I think it's important to consider how to avoid those problems.

    Scandinavian countries have been held up as an example. My spouse and I visited Norway a few years ago, and had dinner with two american expats who were living in Oslo. They liked living there, but made the comment that not many young people want to go into technical fields like science or engineering because those fields are hard and there isn't much incentive to to into them. She also added that much of Norway's current wealth comes from oil, and that source of wealth is likely to diminish because of increasingly environmentalist policies. It wasn't clear how Norway would sustain its economy without oil. I don't know if this person is right, but those seem like important details to consider.


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