Dating out of your social class

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This is my giving to the world,” says Alexandra, finally, as she packs lunchboxes—organic peanut butter and jelly on grainy bread, a yogurt, and a clementine—for her two boys.

“We contribute a lot.”According to data released last week by the U. Department of Agriculture, 17 percent of Americans—more than 50 million people—live in households that are “food insecure,” a term that means a family sometimes runs out of money to buy food, or it sometimes runs out of food before it can get more money.

In a paper published last spring, Drewnowski showed how the prices of specific foods changed between 20 based on data from Seattle-area supermarkets.

While food prices overall rose about 25 percent, the most nutritious foods (red peppers, raw oysters, spinach, mustard greens, romaine lettuce) rose 29 percent, while the least nutritious foods (white sugar, hard candy, jelly beans, and cola) rose just 16 percent.“In America,” Drewnowski wrote in an e-mail, “food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say—social class.

For breakfast, I usually have a cappuccino—espresso made in an Alessi pot and mixed with organic milk, which has been gently heated and hand-fluffed by my husband.

I eat two slices of imported cheese—Dutch Parrano, the label says, “the hippest cheese in New York” (no joke)—on homemade bread with butter. My nutritionist neighbor drinks a protein shake while her 5-year-old son eats quinoa porridge sweetened with applesauce and laced with kale flakes. On a recent morning, my neighbor’s friend Alexandra Ferguson sipped politically correct Nicaraguan coffee in her comfy kitchen while her two young boys chose from among an assortment of organic cereals.

In hard times, food has always marked a bright border between the haves and the have-nots.

In the earliest days of the Depression, as the poor waited on bread lines, the middle and upper classes in America became devoted to fad diets.

In some neighborhoods, a lawyer who raises chickens in her backyard might be considered eccentric, but we live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a community that accommodates and celebrates every kind of foodie.

Corpulence used to signify the prosperity of a few but has now become a marker of poverty.

Obesity has risen as the income gap has widened: more than a third of U. adults and 17 percent of children are obese, and the problem is acute among the poor.

Over coffee, I cautiously raise a subject that has concerned me of late: less than five miles away, some children don’t have enough to eat; others exist almost exclusively on junk food.

Alexandra concedes that her approach is probably out of reach for those people.

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