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I believe we were asked to read this book because community nutrition focuses on the health of people in a certain area, and while some areas may be affluent and successful, there are others that are impoverished, and it is important to understand how differently those two situations would need to be handled. It sheds a different view on community nutrition that we all might not have completely understood prior to reading. Nutrition and health are all directly correlated with one’s socioeconomic status, and this book explains a lot about how interconnected it all truly is.
From single mothers, to immigrant workers, to fathers trying to provide for their large families, this book discusses the impoverished from all different walks of life in an attempt to show how difficult it can be for people to escape from poverty. Shipler highlights health concerns, public policy, immigrant workers, and how to fight poverty amongst other topics. The author is also careful to point out that he realizes that many of the poorest people were given choices in life and they chose to do the wrong things, leading them to where they are today – showing that he understands the part that each individual plays in their own success. However, his main point is that the lack of wages and employment opportunities leaves less room for error in the lives of the impoverished because each decision they make has a more drastic effect on their lives.
Something I had not thought about prior to reading this book is how benefits such as healthcare can easily be revoked if you make above the income cap, so just for making a couple thousand extra dollars during the year, an entire family could lose their health benefits. To me, this seems counterproductive, because then someone would not be able to work and make extra money out of fear of losing their health benefits, because that loss would cost them a lot more in a long run. Another specific topic that I had not thought about before was when the author discussed how preparing taxes for the impoverished can be such an important task.
A lot of these people rely on their yearly tax returns to pay off large bills and having someone who knows the ins and outs of the programs and benefits that are available to low income families and individuals is a must. Unfortunately, a lot of times, people cannot afford to pay accountants and their firms the prices they want to file a tax return, so they end up either filing incorrectly, or spending a lot of their return just paying for the original service. This was really interesting to me because something as simple as getting your taxes done is a make or break moment for a lot of people in these low income situations.
Finally, as a nutrition student I found the discussion of the effect of a poor environment on the eating habits of children to be extremely interesting. While malnutrition is something that is typically apparent in low income households, I was unaware of how destructive a bad eating environment can be. For example, in chapter eight, the author discusses the constant stream of reprimands a mother gave her daughter, Cathy, during meal time. She was upset that her daughter was dropping small pieces of food and making a mess. Her harsh reactions caused Cathy to burst into tears, and ruined the rest of her dinner time. I had not really thought about how a chaotic and tense household could affect how well a child eats their meal, so this was really an eye opening section of the book.
I think that this book makes me more empathetic to people’s individual situations and also more aware of how widespread the issue of extreme poverty really is. I’m not sure that this will necessarily change my thinking about people that I interact with as much as it will make it easier for me to understand what low income families are really going through. I will be more careful to offer my support and connections to people who may not have those same opportunities so that they can get the best help possible. On a large scale level, I would love to continue staying up to date and educated on public policy so that I can affect change for these families and individuals in the future.
This book puts into perspective the reality of food spending in low income households. It is stated that food is not a fixed amount, so unlike rent or a car payment, the amount you spend can be increased or lessened depending on the amount of money someone has to spend per month. I think knowing this fact will help me to understand and be realistic about what certain clients can afford, and that this can change frequently throughout the month. Also, it helps explain why so many impoverished individuals end up malnourished, because food is something that gets pushed off until there is only a little money left in the budget.
In many situations, babies become malnourished simply because the parents do not follow instructions given to them by healthcare professionals, either because their lives are too hectic or because they simply don’t understand the recommendations and why they’re being made. The specific example of a family substituting cheese curls for potato chips after being told not to feed them to their infant really shows how these low income individuals can struggle with compliance due to misunderstanding important instructions. Overall, I think that this book will help me to make realistic and achievable goals for patients in low income situations during my future career as a dietitian.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. At times it was a little repetitive and dry, but it was really informative and did a nice job at evoking emotion and understanding towards impoverished people. I learned a lot about what can be done to help these individuals, and also how to help them from a nutritional standpoint in my future career. The format of the book, specifically the way it bounces between the stories of different individuals and families really helped me to understand and sympathize with the daily struggles of living below the poverty line, and spending each day trying to climb above it. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend, especially one with interest in public policy, healthcare, or sociology/psychology.
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