Recently, I came across a really interesting article titled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?” by Mark Bittman that was posted in the New York Times. I would highly recommend reading this when you have a moment. He makes a lot of great points about the reality of how we eat and what we eat. After taking the $5 challenge last weekend, Taking Back the Value Meal, sponsored by Slow Food USA, this article definitely speaks to the same idea that real food can be just as cheap or cheaper than fast, over processed food we can get through the drive-thru.
Article: Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?
Some of my favorite parts of the articles are as follows:
“In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux. The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.”
“The fact is that most people can afford real food. Even the nearly 50 million Americans who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) receive about $5 per person per day, which is far from ideal but enough to survive. So we have to assume that money alone doesn’t guide decisions about what to eat. There are, of course, the so-called food deserts, places where it’s hard to find food: the Department of Agriculture says that more than two million Americans in low-income rural areas live 10 miles or more from a supermarket, and more than five million households without access to cars live more than a half mile from a supermarket.“
“Taking the long route to putting food on the table may not be easy, but for almost all Americans it remains a choice, and if you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway. It’s cooking that’s the real challenge. (The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook. In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.)“
This article really hit home for me because several of the points brought up are issues that I am currently facing within the development of my thesis. I’ve been trying to figure out what demographic I want to focus on, a demographic that will benefit the most from this project. I don’t want to create just another pretty food project, but one that is effective and reaches those that need it the most in order to contribute to the food crisis we are experiencing and have been experiencing over the past decade or so.
As usual, we as Americans have searched out the opposite extreme as a ‘solution’ to this problem, by advocating the organic and local diet, something I myself am guilty of. However, this is not the solution because these items are not options for low income households or even different areas of the country. The ideal next step is just focusing on what IS available. With the increase of Walmart superstores being built around the country (something you may or may not see eye-to-eye on) the issue of access seems to be ‘lesser’ of a problem. I realize that we still have a ways to go before we can eliminate all food deserts, but for now I want to focus on how to get people to the grocery store versus the fast food restaurants, that definitely have a larger presence than supermarkets (“there are five fast-food restaurants for every supermarket in the United States” Bittman).
So I guess the question now America is:
What would get you to the grocery store versus going through the drive-thru or ordering delivery?
As people who seek convenience, what would entice you to WANT to food shop and prepare your own meals versus picking up the processed stuff?