What’s the real cost of food?

My friend Marc and I were discussing this NY Times article earlier this week, that purports that despite what many people believe, junk food is not necessarily cheaper than its healthy alternative, particularly for those living with lower-income. While I think that there were some unfair assumptions made about those living in low-income homes (which for brevity, I will not get into here), I do think that author Mark Bittman illustrates wonderfully the two-sided responsibility that is being shirked – by consumers, for making choices not to cook, not to slow down and choose better options (because cooking now equals work), and not demanding more of their food sources and suppliers; and by the corporate food industry, for playing into every opportunity to literally shove their product down people’s throats, making them crave more, and think less, with no regard for consequences.

Many arguments for food reform are one-sided, but if we’re to ever to make any progress, we need to hold everyone responsible for their role in doing what is right. People have a right to healthy, accessible, safe food choices, but as long as we’ve got food being chemically engineered to spur addictive tendencies, marketing strategies designed to manipulate people into repeated consumption, and representatives of food corporations lobbying on the hill, with politicians in their back pockets, the only interests protected are those of big business food. Like Bittman said, we DO have a choice. We not only have a choice to decide to plan and cook our meals, but we also have a choice to demand better from our food, its origins, and our government. We’re ultimately what makes that system thrive, not the other way around.

At the end of the day, it’s not about financial cost. It’s about what it’s costing our bodies and health, our lives, our future generations, and our planet. Sustenance is a right, not a privilege, and it certainly shouldn’t be about putting money in the pockets of those who aren’t concerned with any of the aforementioned consequences. We all have a right and responsibility to understand what’s truly at stake, and to send the message that it’s no longer tolerable.

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