Let them eat… nothing

Ellen Beth Gill
4 min readFeb 17, 2024


Remember when this story seemed like silly hyperbole? Well now someone, other than me, and with a lot more clout, said the quiet part out loud. Poor people are supposed to subsist on cereal. That’s the big economy-saving idea from a wealthy CEO.

Carry on


I find the disparity in health and diet messages depending on a person’s net worth interesting.

Sunset Sky, acrylics on canvas, 2024 by me

Panna and circuses went only so far during the fall of the Roman Empire.

During the 18th century, Marie Antoinette got herself into a fair amount of trouble, allegedly saying, “Let them eat cake,” when asked to comment on her husband’s starving subjects.

During Victorian/Dickensian/Civil War/Gilded Age times, plenty of people starved while the rich indulged, but many lived on the land and always had access to some food. A few street riots and fallen monarchies later, it became clear that rich folks were going to have to share at least something with the increasing numbers of poor urban factory workers. That’s when some pretty unlikely suspects, like wealthy New Yorker Teddy Roosevelt and even Lloyd George in the UK, supported at least some limited progressive reform laws, the US going for consumer safety and the UK doing more for miners and factory workers. But monarchs, aristocrats, presidents, MPs, congressmen, and senators ended that in a hurry, and many of us suspect that was what WWI was for.

Snowy barn, acrylics on black gesso wood board, 2024 by me

During the Depression, leaders told the people to stretch their food budgets, and charities opened soup kitchens, and unemployed people sold fruit. Now, fruit costs a small fortune, and charities open up vast real estate portfolios while closing their doors to the poor. But back in Depression days, our grandparents and great-grandparents created recipes for ketchup soup, water or vinegar pie, bean soups, and meatloaf containing more bread than meat. Herbert Hoover, the Marie Antoinette of his time, was shown the door, but at least not the guillotine. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt threw a famous party with some of these recipes. Many…