Friday, April 4, 2014

Back to the discussion about a $9.00 chicken

I read an article in the Harvard Review (my mother-in-law is an alum...not me) about the cost of eating "healthy" vs "non-healthy" food.  It was a review of research (which I haven't read yet, but will on my day off), so it was less specific on some things than I would have liked, but it did highlight some things that I have also found in my daily life.  First, the cost of eating "healthy" food is not as great as most of us think.  It is only about $1.50 per person per day more.  Second, that cost may be insignificant to most of the readers of the Harvard Review, but it is a big deal to the people at the bottom end of the income scale.  Third, the food production and distribution system is heavily subsidized to favor "non-healthy" food, so it is less expensive.

There are many things that were not addressed in the review (which may be in the research...) that I have found impact my food choices.  I've recently had the eye opening experience of living (as a family of 4) on a $9.00 an hour income.  Changed some of my assumptions about why people make the food choices they make.  For me, $1.50 per person per day is huge.  That is almost a whole week (after taxes and all the other "benefits" they take) worth of work.  Some how I can't fit an extra week in every month to pay for "healthy" food.  The cost also doesn't address the fact that "healthy" food is either more perishable, so I cant buy it once or twice a month when I shop, or only available in bulk quantities that cost a lot up front but will last me for months.  I don't have the upfront cost, so those are out.  and I cant afford to buy stuff every week.  We shop twice a month.  That's it.  We are lucky.  We have a big garden, and animals, and we have been putting food up for years.  We have the equipment and the skills to do that.  But, when jobs went south, we found that our pantry was not as well stocked as we thought, and the run-up to spring has been grim.  Most people at my wage level don't have the space, equipment, skills, or existing storage to make it.  That's why the $4.50 chicken at Walmart, or the cheap bread, or other cheap "food" is the option they choose.  It isnt because they are stupid and cant make a good choice.  It is because they only have a few $ for the days food and they chose the most BANG for the $.

What's your experience with the cost for eating well?
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