Anyone who's met me knows (or ought to know) that I love food. I love talking about it, cooking it, thinking about it, buying it, heck, I even dream about it on occasion. And I'm something of a "foodie", meaning I have an appetite for really good food, the kind you typically find in nice restaurants, Whole Foods, and Gourmet magazine. Or the local farmers' market.
Given this passion for food and a number of articles I've read recently, I've decided to write a series of posts on several food-related issues, including the rising cost of food (globally and locally), the higher cost of healthy food versus junk food, the recent farm bill passed by the Senate, the food aid debate, and maybe a little bit on fair trade to mix things up a bit.
If all of this sounds too political, intellectual, or old hat for you, don't check out yet, keep reading! Call me Captain Obvious, but our lives revolve around food, and not just physically. Wars are fought over food (read Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond if you don't believe me), economies depend on it, and relationships thrive or disintegrate because of it.
For those of you who already know a good deal about food-related policy (agricultural subsidies, food aid, ethanol production, etc.), the fair vs. free trade debate, or the nutrition issues facing low-income people in the States (and elsewhere?), I openly and readily admit that each of these issues is far more complex than I could ever justly address in the context of a blog. I love talking about each one of them, though, and hope to further educate myself through your insights (and more internet searches on these topics).
Enough explanation, here's the first article (a blog entry from The New York Times): "A High Price for Healthy Food"
This is a short article - the real meat is in the comments section, which I highly recommend browsing - but one that points to a sobering reality: junk food is cheaper per calorie than healthy food. Based on a study done by the University of Washington, the conclusions are a bit extreme: a 2,000 calorie diet of junk food costs approx. $3.50/day, while a 2,000 calorie diet of healthy food can cost as much as $36.32/day. Granted, very few people actually spend $36/day on food, but the point is, fresh meat, veggies, fruit, and whole grain products tend to be more expensive than their prepackaged, refined sugar/starch counterparts. This contributes to obesity among low-income families, as well as higher health costs for treating diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
Left out in the article but addressed in the comments section, junk food is more accessible in inner city grocery stores and more convenient to "prepare". This also contributes to the problems mentioned above (obesity & rising health costs). Also in the comments section, some suggest diets of rice, beans, lentils, and root vegetables; often these are cheaper than junk food and certainly provide better nutrition.
How about you? If you want to save money on food, what kind of food do you purchase/prepare? Junk food for me is more expensive (but that's because it has to be gluten- and dairy-free) and I usually prefer things like rice, beans, & lentils, but I'm also known to spend a pretty penny on out-of-season produce, organic and/or free range meats, and other "healthy" food items.
The next post will cover the "why" behind this article - why is healthy food more expensive (hint: think grain subsidies)? But I'd love to hear your thoughts...