126 Meals for $20 – show us how?

By   /   June 22, 2013  /   40 Comments

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I need Christine Rankin in my kitchen. She reckons that she can feed six people for a week on $20. While there are not six people in my house, and no young growing minds, if she can make 126 nutritious meals for $20 – a remarkable 16 cents per meal – she is the kind of kitchen goddess I need.

child poverty

Watching The Vote this week it became clear: I need Christine Rankin in my kitchen. She reckons that she can feed six people for a week on $20. While there are not six people in my house, and no young growing minds, if she can make 126 nutritious meals for $20 – a remarkable 16 cents per meal – she is the kind of kitchen goddess I need. I’m not poor but I am down with the idea of saving money. Perhaps I could have Hannah Tamaki as well in my home, and do away the need for those pesky electricity bills. Apparently all I need to do in winter is cuddle under a sack filled with radiating love, the kind of glorious love that fills Destiny Church. At this point, Bob McCroskey could ride on in on his fancy unicorn and rustle me up a happy family unit and we could all cuddle together.

The episode of The Vote this week was interesting because it tapped so clearly into the notions of the deserving versus undeserving poor. While television is a medium that due to the nature of its emphasis on commercial priorities is not really geared to examining complex issues at length, this particular episode was fascinating for the way that it exemplified the reductive dichotomies that shape our discussion of poverty in this country. Cue the highly emotive (and biased) opening sequence where we are introduced to a young boy called Jason who is abused by his parents. The question was is poverty or parenting the main problem? There was no preface that outlined the results of the reports, or even the links between poverty and violence and abuse. This made for a somewhat tedious debate – clearly there are upper class people that abuse their children, making the proposition easy to refute. But it also had the effect of demonizing people who are poor who are clearly trying to look after their children. The resulting vote of 63% in favour of the proposition that it was parenting that was the problem was hardly surprising.

But what are the actual statistics? Is it truly possible to feed your children on the 37 cents per meal or the 16 cents that Rankin later changed it too (as she stated, Weetbix goes a long way). The nutrition costs estimated by the Food Cost for Human Nutrition by the University of Otago in 2012 were $29 for the basic meal requirements for a one-year-old child, meaning that Rankin appears to be advocating malnutrition and starvation as a solution for our nation’s children. While she did state that she based this amount on the estimates that she has seen, she did not state her source. Rankin appears to be completely out of touch with the contemporary cost of food.

According to Family First’s Bob McCroskey, poverty was the result of relying on loan sharks and spending money on the wrong things. I have known solo mothers who have had little more than $5 over in their weekly budget who have not spent their money on the wrong things, so the link here appears to be somewhat spurious. It totally makes sense that if you are not economically literate, or if you receive a big dental, power or car bill that you might approach a loan shark to keep your household afloat after you have been turned down by banks.  The problem he further identified of sending money back to the islands appeared to narrow his assertions to particular racial groups and then undercut his assertion that the problem is the breakdown of families (sending money back, after all, is an act of looking after one’s family).

Destiny Church’s Hannah Tamaki’s assertion that poor families could all sleep together under the same blanket cuts against doctors’ recommendations as it promotes the sharing of infectious diseases, further adding to the 38,000 admissions that doctors saw in 2011 from overcrowding.

Finally, the proposition that Espiner kept forwarding of poverty not necessarily being linked to abuse (this was of course the link that the programme began with) was really underdeveloped (not unsurprisingly). The same Child Action Poverty Group Report that McCroskey kept citing to assert that there was no link between poverty and abuse cites this as a key aggravating factor.

While the debate had some important additions – most notably Celia Lashlie’s explanations of the affect that poverty has on families, it demonstrated how much as a nation we need to move towards understanding poverty rather than castigating people who are poor through stereotypes.

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About the author

Phoebe Fletcher

Blogger and Academic

40 Comments

  1. Bang on, Phoebe! Nailed it.

    It was a shame that no one took up Bob McCroskey’s reference to reliance on loan sharks. That in itself undermined his position.

    Finally, the irony of an image of three, reasonably well-to-do individuals – one wearing a considerable quantity of jewelly (silver?) – pontificating on poverty, should not have been lost on a well-educated, observant audience.

    The fact that this was lost on 63% of voters indicates either a small number of misguided people texting furiously away in that one hour – or a society that prefers repeated prejudice rather than looking at the complex problem and understanding it.

    After all, if people had voted for povery, then entails having to do something about it.

    Voting for prejudice means it’s someone elses’ problem.

    Unfortunately, sending a txt-vote isn’t a solution, and New Zealanders will eventually have to face up to what has become of our society.

  2. Gosman says:

    How about we start being honest about how we define poverty and stop equating relative poverty levels with absolute poverty lifestyles?

    • Alvina Ryder says:

      I think NZ are inclined to quick fix ideas…it helps fit the apathetic and lazy view of leaving it to others to fix…majority…means looking to your neighbour and establishing a comradery of popular opinion fits best view. Pandering to the popular view. We have lost the courage to question our own views against popular opinion…saving ourselves in not wanting to have an opinion…so sad. Sad that knowledge and understanding is undervalued and overlooked for it.

      • Richard Christie says:

        quick-fix ideas, no-thinking-required explanations, get-rich-quick schemes, quick-fired smart-arse retorts from the Prime Minister… the list could go on

    • fatty says:

      True Gosman, I’ve heard so many debates around poverty being dismissed by the claim that NZ has (almost) no absolute poverty – therefore the problem doesn’t exist. Lately, the more appropriate term inequality has been used, which is more difficult to deny.

      The real issue with relative poverty/inequality is that the tories have defined who is responsible for this problem, and centre left have happily perpetuated this blame with bene on the roof stories, or with the ‘third way’ belief that citizenship depends on employment.

      Two buzzwords which come to mind include dependency and entitlement, both of which are thrown at the victims of of our economic system, when in reality it is the rich who assume entitlement. And interestingly, before the accusation of dependency was wrongly placed on the poor, the term dependency was used to show how rich countries are dependent on poor countries for labour and resources.

      Until the so called left begin refuting, rather than regurgitating the lies of the tories, then sadistic parasites such as Tamiki, McCrockey and Rankin will continue to be free to do Satan’s work. I’m sure Jesus is disgusted.

    • Ah, Gosman. Always in on an article to complain about the academic issues rather than acknowledge kids are going hungry in this country and conservatives don’t care.

      • weka says:

        But QoT, the kids are only relatively hungry not absolutely hungry.

        • David H says:

          And that’s the sort of pedantic argument that the Nats are using. And it allows obfuscation to the max. And still the children go hungry.

      • Gosman says:

        If we kept the debate focused on absolute levels of poverty then it could well benefit a more ‘progressive’ response . Even someone like myself is responsive to looking at solutions to that, including redistributive policies. However that is not how it is being framed at the moment.

      • midgetkiwi says:

        appears QoT that some conservatives do care, such as Lifewise that looks like it is doing a great job. Well done on that support too MB.

      • Gosman says:

        “…kids are going hungry in this country and conservatives don’t care”

        That’s patently incorrect. You might not think they care enough but you cannot make the claim that they don’t care at all with any justification.

    • “absolute poverty lifestyles”

      It’s rather telling, Gosman, when you refer to absolute poverty as a “lifestyle”.

      • Gosman says:

        Your problem with the term is what exactly?

        • You really don’t know, do you?

          • Gosman says:

            That was the purpose of the question, for you to tell me.

            By the way do you remember the discussion we had about comments more suited to the sewer? What is your opinion of someone advocating stringing people they disagree with by their necks? Would that qualify in your estimation?

    • midgetkiwi says:

      The definition of poverty used was interesting, was it after tax, and after accommodation, $30k annually? Recently had financial advice and for a family of 4 we are spending 28k… never realized we were living in poverty though 🙁 Anyone know what the pediatrician was referring to being able to compare the figures internationally?

  3. JOdee Fenton says:

    We are a family of 6 and if I manage to feed us all for $200 I feel like Ive achieved a small miracle. I didnt watch the Vote (but i will on demand it) but would dearly love to know what Christine Rankin was expecting this so called family of 6 to eat. Dry toast and bread, weetbix without milk??? What about NZ recommendations of 5+ a day?

    • According to Christine Rankin, it’s Weetbix. And if you have “life skills” you magically know how to feed a family on nothing. She kept framing everything in terms of “surviving” so clearly getting a filling, balanced diet wasn’t considered a top priority, as long as you’re alive.

  4. blue says:

    Firstly, it’s a known fact that rich people totally HATE poor people, (I can’t reference this with a link but just ask any rich person, if they can be bothered to answer, that is)
    Secondly, could someone kindly dispatch Ms Rankin back to the 1950’s where her figures come from?

  5. Anne says:

    What Wankin would allocate as food suitable for poor people I wouldn’t feed a stray dog – delusion & ignorance run strong in that one

  6. Shona says:

    Jodee you’re a financial genius. Clearly a superb manager.
    Christine Rankin is full of shit. Why hasn’t there been a challenge to this spurious claim in the MSM? I couldn’t feed my family of 5 for $20 a week 25 years ago when we were on a benefit and had a 1/4 acre vege garden and raised a lot of our own meat . I still used to spend $70 a week at the supermarket.

  7. weka says:

    “I need Christine Rankin in my kitchen. She reckons that she can feed six people for a week on $20.”

    I’m sure she can. For one week. The following week will be a bit tricky when she’s used up all the staples in the kitchen cupboard though. Not to mention how to do it over a year or the life of a child. It’s an old trick, one that Jenny Shipley used in the 90s when she ‘proved’ she could live on the DPB for a fortnight. Well of course she could, because the really expensive shit doesn’t come up in the first two weeks.

    “meaning that Rankin appears to be advocating malnutrition and starvation as a solution for our nation’s children.”

    Nothing new from Rankin, who specialised in reducing income and the ability to pay for food for beneficiaries in her time at WINZ. I would hazard a guess that what goes on in her mind is that it’s ok for a kid to only eat weetbix for a while, because the parent is going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and then everything will be alright. And if they don’t, well it’s not really anyone else’s fault is it?

  8. Sam says:

    The longer this attitude of ‘blame the poor for being poor’ goes on, the more I fear that some really bad shit is going to have to happen. Maybe a green-mana-labour coalition can turn things around without things having to go that far. I hope so.

    • Sam, once we get a green-mana-labour coalition, that is only the start of the struggle. On Day 2, we are going to have to ride the backs of every politicia. If change is going to come to this country, we will all have to make sure that it happens. Thirty years of the failed neo-liberal experiment has been enough and this country has to set course on a new moral, social, and economic paradigm.

      Otherwise that 25% child poverty will grow to 30%, 40%…

      Enough, and no more.

      Damn, it’s like after the anger and frustration, I’m left more determined than ever.

      • Gosman says:

        The child poverty rate already hit 30 to 40 % in the the early 1990’s and has fallen steadily since then.

  9. midgetkiwi says:

    It really was a sad way to frame the question since both “causes” are so linked…
    Have to commend Hone for the comment that he had less stress when they were poorer than when his situation improved. Honesty even when it appears to be shooting yourself in the foot gives the guy integrity.

    Celia on the other hand, saying yes there are ways to improve the situation such as whatever school Celia and Rankin were referring to, but you can’t tell people about it cos they will be “let off the hook” doesn’t inspire a lot of trustworthiness. If someone rich wants to ignore the problem, and uses 1 example to be “let off the hook”, why would they help even if they felt guilty? Guilt is a poor long-term motivator.

    Mana’s immediate food in schools is looking better by the week, but band-aids shouldn’t be used forever. Just need to get something for that other side of the problem ie: parenting issues in some families.

  10. Countryboy says:

    I’m not blameless here and I don’t mean to sound accusatory but all of the above is the typical Kiwi approach to horrible fuckers doing terrible things to us .

    We yap on about it and the only thing that changes is that things get worse .

    Michael Fay , David Richwhite , Hugh Fletcher etc … those bastards have our money . That’s why we can’t feed ourselves on our own plentiful supplies of the worlds best foods . Seriously , it’s that simple .

    But to be more accurate though , they’re only the detritivores , creatures who feed on the decay that we’re becoming .
    The true villains are those traitorous politicians who brokered the deals . They sold us out and that’s where our collective inquiry needs to be focused .

    That’s why there’s a silent war raging between intellectuals and the Media . I see ‘ The Vote ‘ as a battleground where a fiendish psychological war is running rampant over common sense . Rankin is no fool . She’s just mentally unwell from a Human perspective . Of course what she’s getting out of it though is a frisson that will run through her carcass every time she sees she’s upsetting someone . Or better yet ‘hurting’ someone .

    You normal , loving , caring people have to come to the chilling realization that there are those fiends out there who enjoy being loathed . Why do you think Gosman is always getting negative votes ? He/She thrills at being hated . So , if you get your frisson from being hated , naturally you’ll do what ever you can to be hated even more . I’m fucking serious ! There are those who live like that . And the horrible thing is that those kinds of creatures seek out power , or perhaps ‘power’ per se finds them . Ask yourself ? Who , in recent history has hugged themselves into a position of power , have kindly overseen prosperity and taken care that the most vulnerable are best looked after ?
    Never is the answer .
    Well , not for long anyway . Kirk tried it and died . Lange tried it , was stabbed in the back by his own caucus in preference for douglas then he died . Rod Donald was becoming note worthy , but then he died .

    Enough yapping at the front gate Boys and Girls . We need to become proactive .

    How about two days in the near future where we all gather in Wellington en mass ?

    Day one .
    As big a crowd as can be mustered and have a silent vigil for the theft of our Lands , our love , our safety and security , our romance , our peace of mind , our human selves . We could come and go and / or stand in silent and peaceful protest for one working day and present our grievances to the Governor General . Peacefully , from dawn until dusk . We could all dress similarly and wear masks . The Masses massing .

    That day would be the warning shot across the Fascist , Neoliberal bows .

    Day Two .
    Well , If Day One goes badly I don’t need to explain about Day Two .

    We could call it the ‘ Day Two Ultimatum ‘ .

    Remember ; If you live in a Democracy and yet you’re afraid of the Government , you’re not living in a Democracy . That’s called fascism .
    Paula Bennett is a fascist . Christine Rankin is a fascist . Ruth RIchardson was fascist . Jenny Shipely was Fascist . The Nationl/Labour party’s dark coalition is fascist .

    I think we should invite Rankin into the kitchen then eat her . She’d be a bit stringy but hey ! A little soya sauce and cracked pepper can mask any bitterness .

    Seriously though . Less yap , more action .

    And a final word of warning re Gossman and Fatty et al . ” Beware the wily ways of the Confederate . ”

    And with that , I’ll yap off .

    • weka says:

      Completely agree, we need to get off FB, twitter, the standard etc and make a physical presence. And the idea of standing outside parliament from dawn until dusk in a pan-left, or even just humanist way is good. We could make it a once a month event, presenting new issues as they come to the fore. Use dress/costume etc, but also set up workshop and educations spaces. Make it child friendly too.

      Don’t know what it will take to wake people up and get them out on the streets again. Mostly it just needs organising, not sure why we’re not doing that now.

      • Gosman says:

        Isn’t that idea just a variation of the Occupy movements tactics? How did that work out?

        • Oh, Gosman, it worked out better than you think. The networks that were built up still remain, and people are communicating with each other.

          Don’t you get it? Look around you. Look at the discontent building around the planet. Look at the Arab Spring, Turkey, and Brazil. Even people working within the establishment are walking away…

          And the messages to conform and consume are becoming more obvious, as control slips away… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3xStKYjQKc

          Mate, you’re witnessing a real wind of change about to happen, like Europe in 1848. (Go ahead and google it.)

          Occupy was just part the beginning. We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, as our American cuzzies like to say…

  11. Countryboy says:

    The Occupy Movement targeted the wrong people , that’s why it was doomed from conception . [ We] need to target the fuckers who’re supposed to protect us from the deviant , psychopathic machinations of Business .

    Our politicians !

    It’s they who’re responsible for the catastrophe that is New Zealand 2013 .

    They’ve sat on their fat arses , they’ve swilled at the restaurants , they’ve flown here and there and they’ve shagged God only knows who and what . It’s time they were investigated . Audited .

    That’s why the Collective ‘us’ needs to invade their nest ; Wellington .

    I suggest Fay Richwhite , Fletcher and others have our money , and they do but it’s our politicians who brokered the deals . It’s they who are responsible . I say , make them accountable . Make them explain . If they can’t . Put them in prison ? It’s not the science of rocketry !
    Ask a bennie what it’s like to be probed by the Authority ? Ask the shoplifter what it feels like to get caught when they only did it to have something they couldn’t afford , while out in the street some fucking lawyer waits in his / her BMW for the lights to change .

    Abe Lincoln once argued that we are all equal in our expectations and rights . Yeah right .

    Fuck this ! Fuck the Yap ! Time for action !

    But how ? There in lies the rub .

    If you can’t think of a plan that might lead to course of action ? Then we’re in more trouble than we might imagine .

    That’s why the Unions were neutered at the get-go .

    They set us up and they fucked us over . For not much more than a few baubles and trinkets I might add . Hungry wee kids , terrified parents , freezing , nasty houses . Outrageous costs of living … so those bastards could flaunt OUR finery . ( The Owens Transport guy owns a signature class Aston Martin coupe worth millions literally and we have a limping , rusting rail system that can’t even carry passengers during a fucking energy crises ? ) Jesus ! It’s true . Nothing is learned from history .

    We Kiwis are good people . We’re quick to trust . And that’s been our downfall . How awful . How utterly despairing .

  12. Polly says:

    Food for thought!

    I’m sure that the $20 doesn’t cover the cost of the power or gas needed to cook a home cooked meal!

    • Gosman says:

      I believe the $20 may well have been just for the Breakfast meal and was based on how much Wheatbix and milk would cost. Of course there would be an added extra cost if you included hot water. I’m not sure it would make a huge difference though.

  13. Nick Taylor says:

    Why the hell should people have to try to live on $0.16 meals when 30%-50+% of their income goes to landlords?

    Landlords are the real bludgers – the money they take (without having to do any work) is colossal and crippling compared to what unemployed people take… between landlords and usurers the entire surplus society generates is being skimmed.

    We need to tax banks… heavily. Nationalise them if need be. And we need a land-tax.

    Don’t take my word for it though – ask Winston Churchill

    http://www.progress.org/banneker/chur.html

    The poor “living between the cracks of landlords’ greed” is not an acceptable situation.

  14. Robyn says:

    As a gluten free, lactose free, vegetarian whose digestion cannot take a whole host of foods, I’d love her to work out a healthy diet for me. I certainly cannot afford to see a dietition nor eat the half the “acceptable” foods >:-(

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