Before I start I want to make one thing clear. The context in this article may seem to reflect theories about the Federal Government’s underhanded attacks on minority, disadvantaged, and impoverished populations. I neither support nor deny such accusations and claims; however, that is not what this is. The intention of this article is to examine the negligence in provisions of proper nutrition to low income populations or those seeking affordable food choices.
Grocery Stores such as Whole Foods pride themselves on selling high quality grocery items in their most original state. Their products are void of any fillers or additives made by man and science. You’ll also pay a premium for these items. Additionally, Whole Food stores are usually located in upper middle class and affluent areas as well as upscale shopping centers. Interestingly enough First Lady Michelle Obama launched initiative aimed at providing quality food choices to “underserved communities”.
There is a better than great chance that most lower income neighborhoods won’t have a store like Whole Foods that sells, food that is in its natural and whole state which has not been altered. Instead you’ll find many products that are priced at a value. So what is the problem with value you ask? As a side note it should be mentioned that in 2013 Whole Foods opened a location in Detroit, a city hit hard by the recession and poverty.
We can dispute the prices of stores like Whole Foods all day, but the fact is their stuff costs more than your average comparable product because it costs more for food manufactures to make pure products. To lower costs they utilize different fillers and additives. These fillers cost less than the actual real ingredients and that savings gets passed to the consumer. To make more sense of that look at the following example.
Say I own a company that makes and sells apple juice. The farmer wants to charge me fifteen cents per apple that I buy from him. Now say a bottle of juice takes twenty apples to make. At fifteen cents it is costing me $3.00 to make each bottle. I’m in business to make money and cover my overhead so I sell the juice for $4.50 per bottle.
Here is my other option. I use half the apples, and then I add water, sugar and artificial apple flavors. Now the bottle cost me $1.50 to make and I buy the water, sugar and flavor in bulk so I pay pennies per bottle. Now I can sell it for even less than my cost of using twenty real apples and still make a profit.
It may seem like a silly example, but here is an extreme one. Browse your local supermarket and go to the freezer section. The most expansive name brand ice cream is made from milk, sugar and natural flavors like vanilla. A pint may run you around $6.00. Then on the low end if you pay really close attention to the label you may see something odd. Sure it’s in the ice cream aisle but the carton says Frozen Dairy Desert. They’re not trying to be different or creative; they’re doing this because there are so many fillers in that carton that it’s not actually ice cream.
Turn the box over on this mystery dairy gel. The ingredient list will likely look like a chemistry experiment. Who wouldn’t enjoy a nice bowl of propylene glycol or ethyl acetate? Those are ingredients found in a value brand of ice cream that will remain nameless. I could go for some disodium phosphate, can’t you?
Just for fun these are some of the uses of propylene glycol.
-to make artificial smoke for party smoke machines
-ingredient in hand sanitizer
-ingredient in deodorant
-to deice airplanes (this is my favorite)
-a coolant for liquid cooling systems
One word, yummy.
All kidding aside. The more things we put in the food, the less they are food and the more dangerous they become. If you are rich, then by all means buy food in its most natural state. What if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford this fancy but indeed natural food? You buy what you can afford. Low cost options are perfectly fine, there are many more though that are about as far removed from its natural state as can be. You save money but end up eating a lot of fillers and chemicals. This stuff can build up in your body and lead to some pretty unfavorable effects. The crazy part of it all is that the FDA allows this. Keep in mind as you read on that the FDA is funded by the Federal Government.
Let’s make up a scenario. You have a low paying job and barely get by. So with your small grocery budget you try to stretch a dollar and buy the cheapest foods you can find and eat them daily. Unfortunately, from the added sugars and other fillers you develop diabetes. You don’t have health insurance, so when you seek medical care cost becomes an issue. Best case is you get approved for a state or government plan that insures you. Other way is you get billed, don’t pay and the hospital writes off your bill as a loss and gets a tax break from the IRS. Yes, hospitals can write off bad debt.
Can you see the problem there? The same government that allowed XYZ Foods to load up your food with sugary fillers that lead to your health issues is the same one taking the loss on your medical expenses. Now I don’t want this to be a debate about finances, but it is an interesting perspective.
My problem here is the fact that these value priced foods are easy on your bank account but wreaking havoc on your body. Everything from cancer to diabetes to heart disease can be caused by the additives put in food. For you and the manufacturer it’s all about the cost. However how much savings is enough?
The sad part is that since it’s all about money it will be a long term war to correct this issue. It is unfair that just because you, someone or anyone can’t afford it that they must be taken advantage of.
So what if you happen to be in this boat, what can you do?
How to Eat Less Processed Foods on a Budget
- By all means have a voice. Write letters make calls, organize petitions, etc. Nothing can change unless someone shows it is warranted. Be warned though that when money is the foundation of the problem that change becomes difficult.
- Be a careful shopper. Read labels and find the most natural product for your cost. The fewer ingredients a food product has the better. The easier to pronounce the better. And going back to the apple juice example, the first ingredient should be apples. Look at fruit punch, many of them won’t even have fruit as an ingredient.
- Cook. It is easier to control what you eat when you make it. It can actually be cheaper to buy whole ingredients in their natural forms and make a meal as opposed to buying a readymade meal.
Instead of buying pre-made microwavable meals put together your own meals and freeze them.
Read this breakdown of whole chickens versus packaged frozen.
Fitness Tips: Frozen vegetables and fruits are just as nutritious and usually fresher than what you find in your grocery produce section. These items are flash frozen upon harvest. It’s closer to the tree, bush, or stalk than a grocery bin.
- Try farmer’s markets. Some cities like Los Angeles are famous for their farmer’s market. But a lot of times you can even find small market sets ups if even only for one day. You can get fresh produce and other homemade foods.
In conclusion, this is a problem that shouldn’t exist but has become out of control. I think it is great that there are organizations like the FDA but then again the FDA needs a serious overhaul. There shouldn’t exist a piece of paper saying it is not only legal but safe to sell chemical laden foods.
I believe, or actually I demand that it is vital to assure your children get the best you can possibly give them. Children are growing and it is vital for them to get the right nutrients, not the right chemicals.
And in closing I assure you I face the same financial struggles, I support five people on one income, so I get it. Not only that but I can’t always afford to avoid foods mentioned here. All we as consumers can do is try our best to be aware of the choices out there and make informed purchases.