The Cost Of Being Poor

Filed in National by on May 18, 2009

As a city resident I have a corner store several blocks from my home.  While it has a steady flow of pedestrian traffic it isn’t located in the best of neighborhoods.  But that’s not why I don’t pop in for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread.  I don’t patronize the store because the prices are exorbitant.

Poverty 101: We’ll start with the basics.

Like food: You don’t have a car to get to a supermarket, much less to Costco or Trader Joe’s, where the middle class goes to save money. You don’t have three hours to take the bus. So you buy groceries at the corner store, where a gallon of milk costs an extra dollar.

A loaf of bread there costs you $2.99 for white. For wheat, it’s $3.79. The clerk behind the counter tells you the gallon of leaking milk in the bottom of the back cooler is $4.99. She holds up four fingers to clarify. The milk is beneath the shelf that holds beef bologna for $3.79. A pound of butter sells for $4.49. In the back of the store are fruits and vegetables. The green peppers are shriveled, the bananas are more brown than yellow, the oranges are picked over.

(At a Safeway on Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, the wheat bread costs $1.19, and white bread is on sale for $1. A gallon of milk costs $3.49 — $2.99 if you buy two gallons. A pound of butter is $2.49. Beef bologna is on sale, two packages for $5.)

Go on and read the entire article.  Yes, it’s five pages, but it’s worth every minute.  How in the world are people supposed to attain the American Dream when the entire system seems to function as a vicious cycle designed to make sure they don’t get ahead – even when they’re doing everything right?

Now about that corner store I don’t patronize… wonder how often I’d shop there if I didn’t have a car?


About the Author ()

A stay-at-home mom with an obsession for National politics.

Comments (24)

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  1. anon says:

    Dead on.

    The decrepitude of the store is a function of the low residential population of the city. With enough population comes high turnover (so stuff is fresher) and competition.

    In NYC neighborhoods, every block is lined with tall buildings filled with apartments, with stores at ground level. Prices and freshness of fresh goods are top-notch. Bulk dry goods are still cheaper in the suburban supermarkets, though.

    Prices are always going to be higher in the city due to the cost of real estate.

  2. The prices sound similar to WAWA. Is WAWA exploiting middle class coffee drinkers who decide to pick up a gallon of milk or loaf of bread?

    The people at the corner store aren’t there for your weekly or monthly shopping. They fill the gap. These people who own them are not getting rich. They are getting by.

    Go to Shop Rite and you will find that milk is not usually 2.99.

    I have an idea. Do what I do and offer to take some poor or elderly person to the store with you. I do agree that a convenience store is not the place to shop and lack of transportation does make people waste money. You can’t carry 15 bags on the bus or walk 3 miles in the rain with them.

  3. anon says:

    CD/DA – that whooshing sound high over your head? That was Pandora’s point flying by.

  4. liberalgeek says:

    This is a great article. We lack solutions to these problems.

    A person in The Riverside area told me that the ShopRite that went in down there is inaccessible to the DART bus, so the buses don’t stop there. What a FUBAR.

  5. pandora says:

    I’m use to David missing the point. There’s an extra price – in money and time – for the poor, and it is levied due to their reliance on public transportation, lack of appliances (washer/dryer), and inability to get a bank account.

    Love those Christian values… which seem to fly right out the window when profit comes into play. And, while you’re at it, David, drop the BS holier than thou attitude. You act like people commenting here do not help out the needy or elderly in their community, which isn’t true.

  6. liberalgeek says:

    I’m a million times more humble than thou art…

    -Weird Al

  7. Susan Regis Collins says:

    Who should we look to remedy this, and other equally deplorable situations?

    There must be an outcry speaking out to expose the illegal actions of incompetent or corrupt public officials, and bring the bright light of scrutiny upon the misdeeds of public officials in a broken municipal government where the system of checks and balances has failed.

    The administration & council could not find 18 M to repair/replace our sidewalks. It was no problem to give (and I do not mean loan) 15M to developers who continue to hold on to the ‘build it they will come’ fantasy.

    The Mayor of Wilmington has been in (various)offices since the late ’60s early 70s’ and is the one continuous thread in the whole debacle….30 years of watching a police department which has used abuse of power regularly and excessive force to kill at least one innnocent civilian.

    We are now in a new age of ‘Black on Black’ crime. Hopefully, in twenty years things will improve…..

  8. anonone says:

    pandora, get with the program.

    Real Christians hate gays and spend money on breast implants.

  9. pandora says:

    Oops, I forgot! Forgive me, A1, for I have sinned! 😉

  10. anonone says:

    I can’t forgive you. Apparently only Saint Donald Trump can do that. But he will have to closely examine your pictures first.

  11. h. says:

    What are you talking about. The poor don’t pay for their food. The government does.

    Those who contribute and actually pay taxes should be the ones outraged.

  12. Von Cracker says:

    Shorter h. = Let’s do THEM all a favor and put a bullet in the back of their leaching heads!

    Your reliance on hyperbole to support your beliefs ultimately undermines them….or is that what the h. stands for?

  13. Von Cracker says:

    Poor people don’t pay sales tax, utility tax, registration tax, and so on…in the world according to h.

    Which is all disproportionately harsher on low income workers and families…

  14. Jason Z says:

    The people profiled in this article will most likely never get out of their situations.

    “You don’t have a car to get to a supermarket”–
    Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31% own two or more cars.

    “You don’t have three hours to take the bus.”–
    Shoprite and ACME on 202 are 10-20 min by bus from downtown, not to mention ACME in Trolley Square.

    Ever stop at a WAWA or rest stop along the highway? Their prices are ridiculous for many of the same reasons as the corner store. Are they targeting the poor?

    Most “poor” households have a washer and dryer.

    80% of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36% of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
    Unless you are over 65 and/or infirm, you don’t need A/C in Wilmington.

    Whiner: “Organic is too much,” she says.
    Lazy: “I don’t have time to mail it. You come here and get it done.”
    Scammer like the bums who hit you up in parking lots: “He says he lost his driver’s license and now his regular bank “won’t recognize me as a human. That’s why I had to come here. It’s a rip-off,”
    Idiot: Jacob Cater can’t read prices on the shelves and add it up. He buys prepared food that would be a whole lot cheaper to make at home. He doesn’t have a *free* bonus card that he doesn’t need ID for! He wastes all this time in the store and comes away with nothing.

    The closest this article gets to any sense is when it blames government programs for making it worthwhile not to work. That and single motherhood are at the root of most of the ills of the “poor.”

    People with more resources HAVE more resources, this will never change in a capitalist society, thank God. Get used to it, it is better to be rich than poor. I hate to use such base language, but, uh duh.

    Oh yeah, Obama just raised taxes on the “poor” disproportionately with the tobacco hike.

    Numbers from (

  15. Von Cracker says:

    Like everyone smokes, LOL!

    Get that weak shit outta here.

    Here’s something that’s a little stronger – the Shop Rite behind the train station is the first REAL supermarket built in the city since the ’50s.

    All city residents had before that was the Trolley ACME unless you want to count Johnny’s on Maryland Ave….and I think there’s another old one similar to Johnny’s (in size and limited selection) on Walnut, but I think it was closed last decade….

  16. The Buffalo News did a really great series a few years back on how the banking industry screws the poor and working poor. The fees for minimum balances, account garnishing and check bouncing fees basically force the poor out of the regular banking system. That’s when they go to the usurious check cashing places.

  17. Jason Z says:

    Cigarette Tax Will Affect Low-Income Americans Most
    More than half of smokers earn less than $36,000 per year

  18. pandora says:

    It’s sad really. When we were first starting out and could use a break we kept getting hit (exactly like you explained, UI). Now that we don’t need a break our bank does bank flips to keep us happy. You know the drill:

    Poor = fees for minimum balances, account garnishing and check bouncing fees

    Not Poor = Of course we’ll waive fees for such a valued customer.

  19. poor people are poor b/c they decide to be poor. Don’t you get that. “they” don’t mind it.

  20. That’s right DV. They like being poor because they don’t have to pay income taxes, which are like the most burdensome thing ever.

  21. Von Cracker says:

    So half of 20% is everyone, right?


  22. I got your point, but I am sorry that you missed mine. The people who own those little stores are not getting rich off of the poor. They are barely making a middle class living themselves. They do not have the volume that a huge store does. That is why WAWA and Shore Stop have the same prices. To act as if the small business man is involved in some evil conspiracy because he/she is serving a community that others won’t is dead wrong.

    Without those little stores, what would happen when the kid next door drinks up the rest of your milk? Do you go without for a couple days or go down to the corner and get more. The milk is free to a lot of the poor anyway because of food stamps.

    Are you forgetting that we are doing something to help the poor?

    Now I think the solution is to reach out and help. Give someone a ride, you can do that today. That is why I support Angel Food Ministry. I encourage you to look into it.

    I would also add that tax cuts would go a long way to solving that problem. Establish enterprise zones which encourage supermarkets and other services in low income areas.

  23. Christianity and Tax cuts are the solution to the woes of the inner city. Low tax states create 89% more jobs than high tax counter parts. I read that on Delaware Politics.