By 5 p.m. Curtis had made his first two purchases: frozen chicken wings and a can of beans ($4.75); a T-shirt and pair of socks from a vendor on the street ($2.00).
Meanwhile, Michael drove his rental car around the neighborhood. When he returned to meet us he was exasperated. “The food here is awful! No fruit, vegetables are moldy. Only meat, canned food, and soda. What do kids eat? The guy at the store told me no one would eat fruit unless it’s in a can. Is that true?”
Curtis shook his head. I told Michael, “When we get back to New York, I will talk with you about diet and quality of food availability in poor neighborhoods.”
But Michael was growing upset. “All I see are liquor stores and dollar stores and fast food. There was one guy who said he’d buy my food stamps — 50 cents for a dollar in stamps? How can people live like this?”
Curtis laughed. He asked Michael if he’d like some chicken and beans. Michael said, “No thank you,” and sat on the cold linoleum floor. He was silent.
“How much does a banana cost,” Curtis asked Michael. Michael looked embarrassed, unable to answer.
“You don’t know, do you!” Curtis laughed. “See fruit is expensive; raw food is too much for low income people. And we don’t always have a fridge, so you got to keep things in cans. That way it can move with you. And one thing you need to know: low income people always are on the move — not just squatters, all low income folks.”