By Matthew Yglesias
Julie Gunlock complains at NRO that “food snobs” are ruining America by serving unduly fancy food at soup kitchens. It’s actually rare that conservatives get to combined their hatred of poor people with their hatred of “cultural elites” in a single argument, so Gunlock gets so busy dishing out the sarcasm that she can’t quite seem to deliver the “so what?” point where we see who is being harmed by this alleged trend.
But more perniciously, throughout the piece she runs together the idea of soup kitchens being too “snobbish” about what food they serve with the idea of soup kitchens being health-conscious about the food they serve. This is an important distinction to make, however. When people can’t get enough to eat, they become malnourished. The point of charitable food assistance is to help people avoid that fate. That means, however, that it’s foolish to ignore the nutritional content of what you’re serving. Oftentimes, the situation is so dire that you can’t afford to fuss too much about this. People in Somalia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa are teetering on the brink of starvation and need food by any means necessary. But fortunately for us, even in this economy the United States is not a drought-ravaged, famine-stricken, war-torn, malgoverned third world state. We’re not facing imminent mass starvation. So it’s eminently sensible for people trying to bring food to those in need to be paying attention to the differential health impact of different meals.