Can low-income families afford to eat healthy?
By BlazonLaurels on June 11, 2012
When discussing social and environmental justice issues, I hear many comments and questions. One keeps repeating itself...
"How can lower income families afford to eat healthy?"
I understand the argument and have participated in this dialogue. The inner-cities do not have the same access to grocery stores. Their choice is primarily corner stores that do not offer fresh fruit and vegetables. Rather, the least expensive things to buy include Cheetos among other non-nutritional food items. Or, there is always a McDonalds nearby.
I am not going to debate the need for more healthy choices in every neighborhood and all socio-economic populations. What I am going to do is change the focus of the conversation. Why is the question directed at what 'others' can or cannot do? I believe the question should be...
"What can I do?"
"If you think the price of organic is expensive, have you seen the price of cancer lately?" -Joel Salatin, Founder of Polyface Farms
Granted, I am considered a part of the American middle-class. I have access to healthy foods and, with proper budgeting and prioritization, I can afford to pay for a wide variety of organic food. I live within a three-mile radius of four grocers, including one that offers a wide selection of organic, USDA-certified and non-GMO foods. I have a car that I can drive, any day of the week, to a farmer's market. I can afford to pay, in advance, for a CSA package that offers organic, seasonal and local produce packages every two weeks (aka Community Supported Agriculture).
I appreciate the choices I have that others may not have. I have made lifestyle choices accordingly:
- I have chosen to SUPPORT the farms, grocers, farmers markets and manufacturers that provide healthy organic foods.
- I have chosen to AVOID eating foods with pesticides, hormones, GMOs, additives, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives.
- I have chosen to REDUCE my consumption of meat and dairy. Although, when I do, I choose sustainable fish, organic grass-fed beef and organic poultry. All USDA-certified organic.
The question remains, what can YOU do?
How does Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs relate to you?
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs states the primal need is PHYSIOLOGICAL which includes food, water, and sleep. The next stage of development includes SAFETY.
If the lower socio-economic population is ultimately concerned with survival. Then the safety of their food isn't their primary concern. However, people that are addressing higher level needs may be concerned with the safety of the ingredients and production methods. Rather than just feeding the immediate hunger or thirst, they may be concerned about improving their own nutrition and reducing cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol or weight issues.
As individuals move higher up the developmental stages to LOVE AND BELONGING, ESTEEM or SELF-ACTUALIZATION, awareness may increase to include, respectively: family and friendship; respect for others, and; morality and problem-solving. These are the stages where individuals are concerned about the welfare of others, not just themselves. The health of others, not just themselves. This is where social agents of change can influence an entire population to do what is fair and just as global citizens. This is where we make an impact.
Where do you see yourself in YOUR development?
Wider adoption of healthy eating habits could lead to more opportunities for everyone
I struggled through Micro- and Macro-economics but the one takeaway was the Theory of Supply and Demand. I would like to invite all the people who have access and can afford to pay for healthier organic foods to do so. This is a lifestyle change for some. A budgeting issue for others. Mostly, it is an awareness issue. It could save your life and the lives of the people you treasure most.
If you are unable to purchase organic foods, I would ask that you increase the fruits and vegetables in your diet and reduce the meat consumption. This is more affordable and much healthier.
Lead by example. Lead with your purchasing power. Make educated choices by reading labels. Help to reduce the consumption of foods that are unhealthy. Help to increase the demand for foods grown and produced ethically and sustainably.
What if our only choice was organic USDA-certified foods? The Theory of Supply and Demand also rules the prices charged. High demand + High supply = Affordable for everyone!
We, as responsible consumers, can and WILL dictate the market.
Hollan McBride, M.A.
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