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Nutritious food shouldnt break the bank

Readers' Letters
by: JAIME VALDEZ Americans spend about $147 billion each year in direct medical costs due to obesity. Though some believe healthy foods are too expensive for low-income households, one letter writer argues that nutrient-dense foods such as beans, chicken and oatmeal are affordable options.

Contrary to one statement in an otherwise well-thought out letter by Emily Calkins (Obesity related to income, employment, Sept. 1), healthy, nutrient-dense food does not have to be expensive.

Sure, the poor are likely out of luck when it comes to asparagus, arugula, Belgian endive and Chilean sea bass. But milk, eggs, peanut butter, pasta, dried beans and other legumes, unprocessed chicken, oatmeal, potatoes and onions are all cheap, healthy, nutrient-dense foods. But we have to use our noggins - or, in the more colorful language of fellow letter writer Ann Friday (People should eat to live, not live to eat, Sept. 1), our 'fat heads,' abjuring processed food and buying produce only when said produce is in season and relatively cheap.

I recently came home from Freddies with 20 pounds of chicken, potatoes and onions for $20, in roughly equal proportions. On the $165/month food stamp allowance for an abjectly impoverished individual, that's 165 pounds of nutrient-rich food per month - or five-plus pounds of nutrient-rich food per day. I think one can live, healthily, on that.

Until the potato famine of the 1840s, the Irish lived for millennia in largely good health on oatmeal, milk and potatoes. During a recent bout of impoverishment, I lived - nay, thrived - on a diet of cream-of-potato soup (using whole milk rather than cream) and oatmeal. As my finances improved I added the odd vice, but it's been my choice.

This is the land of the free, and freedom includes the freedom to live sedentary lives and to ingest unhealthily.

Local school boards could reemphasize Home Economics. Zoning boards could strive to minimize the presence of supermarket deserts. Local governments can work to ensure plentiful parks and recreation.

I don't consume them, so if government wants to tax soft drinks and snacks, I have no dog in that fight, but doesn't government have - pardon the expression - other things on its plate? You can lead impoverished (and otherwise) people to healthier food, but you can't make them eat.

Brian A. Cobb

Northwest Portland

Downtown needs job development

The mixed-use developments all over downtown Portland, the Pearl and Northwest, containing a mix of housing and retail, make for a fun and livable pedestrian experience (Report: Jobs are shifting to the roomy suburbs, Sept. 1).

But we need to be realistic about something: An employee working at a pizza shop in the Pearl cannot afford to live in that neighborhood; s/he must commute, negating the much-vaunted walkable life that we as a city want to create. The myriad of renters that continue to flock to Portland's new housing units need professional job opportunities.

The answer to this dilemma is more office space, and Portland needs to do more to attract office jobs to its central city. Office space creates many high-value jobs in a dense environment - opportunities that are much needed in the city center.

Portland already has an extremely low vacancy rate in the central city. In the same way that the city continues to break ground on attractive housing structures, the city needs to do more to lure firms here and create jobs. The opportunity is right in our grasp, not for hundreds, but thousands of jobs. Cheap utility bills with LEED efficiencies; easy access via public transportation; parks, retail, and restaurant options for all of its employees; access to an educated populace; and proximity to PSU, a major knowledge generator for the city. These are just a few of the things that should be bringing firms here to Portland.

But clearly more needs to be done - hire someone to actively court firms who are considering new locations; work to streamline applications and simplify codes; consider tax breaks; and for the sake of our city, please push to have the Park West Tower completed. A hole in the ground doesn't speak well for our leadership.

If Portland wants to become a modern city, we can't all work in factories in the suburbs or coffee shops in the city center. People need professional job opportunities so that the people with master's degrees can put down the coffee menu and pick up a keyboard.

Michael Caputo

Southwest Portland

County should adopt job model

It is interesting to note that the group credited with helping Washington County is a countywide association of business and elected officials whose sole purpose is to deal with land-use, transportation and job creation. I have watched them for a number of years and they are very effective (Report: Jobs are shifting to the roomy suburbs, Sept. 1). Clackamas County is working on the same model.

Now you have Multnomah County, and the effort that is spearheaded by Mayor Mike Weatherby of Fairview has run into a wall. Mayor Shane Bemis of Gresham is against it, Mayor Jim Kight of Troutdale seems to be for it but won't bring it to Council for a vote. (Portland) Mayor Sam Adams doesn't seem to be interested. Multnomah County elected officials are for it, depending on the details, so my guess is it is a dead issue and Multnomah County will continue to be at the short side of job creation and road funding.

We will have the best bioswales and bike paths in the country, but no way to pay the debt that these are creating.

Larry Cooper

Fairview

Put new jobs where people need them

Regarding 'Report: Jobs are shifting to the roomy suburbs,' (Sept. 1), there was no mention of the unemployment rate in the three counties. I'd think this might be a factor in examining where facilities are built.

In particular, East Multnomah County has had a high unemployment rate for many years. I've recently noticed a dearth of available blackberry patches in East County due to poisoning of existing patches - and I assume this is in preparation for sale of industrial-eligible land.

I'd like to know how well-ordered the process is for matching industries to projected jobs, and how suitable these industries are for the available population. I'd hate to see our land gobbled up by industries that need Ph.Ds when a large number of our unemployed are high school grads or maybe have two years of college.

There needs to be targeting of available workers with training for specific skill sets while the workplace is being built.

Heather Hess

Northeast Portland

Middle class not welcome downtown

About 60,000 jobs have left downtown Portland the last 10 years (Report: Jobs are shifting to the roomy suburbs, Sept. 1). Downtown has become a mini-Third World experiment with high-end restaurants and hotels right next to food cart shanty towns.

Downtown only favors those with money and those without. The middle class is not welcome.

Geoff Rode

Southeast Portland

Measures define county cooperation

If there's anything that defines cooperation in Multnomah County, it is the number of people who voted for Measures 66 and 67 - the supporters of increased sewer and water service rates for bike paths and the folks who believe that the key to solving the regular Portland Public Schools 'In Crisis Festivus' is more money down the drain (Cooperate, don't compete, for job growth, Our Opinion, Sept. 1).

Then there's the unhealthy, codependent relationship between the people flocking to Oregon's sanctuary city to suck up benefits or live out their dream of homelessness and the taxpayer-subsided members of public income indemnification associations that threaten to starve our seniors, stop educating our children and turn more criminals loose if they don't get more money to increase their bureaucracy.

Gee, why wouldn't any business interest or wealthy individual fight tooth-and-nail to live amongst the privileged in Oregon's de facto capital?

Christopher W. Osborn

Southeast Portland

Council needs to protect services

I want to thank LaVonne Griffin-Valade for doing her job well (Auditor raises warning flags on spending, Aug. 18). But, hello Portland voters: the City Council is willing to spend $1 million on food waste at the same time the council keeps cutting city services - even public safety.

I wish someone would do a story on the millions spent on new projects listed by council persons, and then show the millions of city service cuts or lack of basic maintenance in dollars.

Walt Nichols

Southeast Portland

Auditor offers a dose of reality

What a good breath of reality this city auditor, LaVonne Griffin-Valade, brings to a city hall, which primarily is driven by mostly unrealistic pipe dreams requiring large public expenditures (Auditor raises warning flags on spending, Aug. 18).

And as for Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, he must be naive when he says he didn't know urban renewal debt had grown so sharply. This information is readily available even to outsiders and especially to such a key office as his. Cogen spends first and asks questions later, not unlike most of the other public finance misfits sitting on the current city council.

Bob Clark

Southeast Portland

Transportation bureau needs audit

City Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade needs to audit the Portland Bureau of Transportation (Auditor raises warning flags on spending, Aug. 18).

Surely there are some hidden discrepancies where Mayor Sam Adams has discreetly funded some of his misaligned priorities with dedicated roadway dollars that come from motorist-paid taxes and fees.

Terry Parker

Northeast Portland