Kathy Edin on Poverty in America, Part 1

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Long ago in 2017 when welfare reform was not on the national agenda and before the new Child Tax Credit was passed into law, we spoke with sociologist, poverty expert and author Kathy Edin ($2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America) and DC social entrepreneur Tom McDougall of 4P Foods about poverty in America and how our current systems – political, social, economic – keep poor people from succeeding. Edin shares stunning statistics and anecdotes about her deep work on poverty in our country. “The idea that you can shame people off of dependency is actually not consistent with research, so maybe we should try something else. When it comes down to it, what people seem to want more than anything else is dignity… but a lot of our social policies systematically deny people that,” she says. Tom’s local work reflects the national picture. “We can’t talk about fixing the food system unless we talk about money and politics… subsidies… institutional racism… the history of farming. … If we move the needle just a tad on food equity, it means we’re moving a lot of other needles along the way,” he believes.

Resources and Mentions:

Kathy Edin

Kathryn J. Edin

Professor of Sociology and Public Policy
Kathryn Edin is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers. The hallmark of her research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income women, men, and children. Edin has authored scores of journal articles and eight books including the critically acclaimed $2 a Day: The Art of Living on Virtually Nothing in America, coauthored with Luke Shaefer.
Tom McDougall

Tom McDougall

Founder
Tom is a member of the 4P family, and after the exciting acquisition by 4P Foods of  Local Food Hub distribution, oversees distribution from the Ivy warehouse. Tom was born and raised in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. He grew to love the rolling country, and learned to question the suburban sprawl that took over one cow pasture after another around his childhood home. After moving to DC to finish school, he was introduced to business concepts that had been foreign to him: corporate social responsibility, externalized costs, triple-bottom line, social entrepreneurship, true cost accounting, and others. His first job after college had him traveling back and forth to China where he saw first hand what externalized costs really looked like. By producing all of our “stuff” elsewhere, he experienced the impacts it had on people’s lives, the environment, and the social construct of a backyard, far far away. It was a jarring, eye-opening experience for him, one that ultimately led him to launch 4P Foods in an effort to be part of the solution. While he and his wife were participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) of their own, and after reading one too many Michael Pollan books, Tom found himself on a life-changing path of working towards food systems change, and more broadly, business systems change. What, really, is the true purpose of business in our society? What should it be? He’d love to know your thoughts. His favorite vegetable? Kohlrabi. Mostly because he gets to reference Aliens when he describes what it looks like.

$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

This revelatory book was the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, winner of the 2016 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism, a finalist for The Society of the Midland Authors Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year, and on shortlist for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project Awards.

4P Foods

Many people in DC can only afford junk food. We think that is an injustice. What would happen if everyone had access to healthy, quality food? We’d like to find out. For every 10 shares we sell, we deliver 1 to our local food bank partners to help get great food to people who otherwise don’t have access to it – yet.

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