I put this picture up on my Facebook page over the weekend and then decided I also wanted to blog about it because this is so important.
This bread was on sale at Wal-Mart for $1.08 a loaf. Out of curiosity I picked it up and looked at the back of the package. As you can see, the list of ingredients is long. There is high fructose corn syrup, a lot of preservatives, and added vitamins.
There is also less than a gram of fiber in two slices of the bread.
There is a cost to all of us in cheap food. And I’m not just talked the dollars we spend, but the cheapness of the ingredients that are used by many food companies.
Michael Pollan, author of several books includingThe Omnivore’s Dilemma says:
“Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s charged to the environment or to the public purse in the form of subsidies. And it’s charged to your health.”
That last sentence he writes is what I wanted to open up a discussion about today. The cost of cheap food is charged to our health. It is charged to our children’s health. It is charged to every person in the country.
That bread loaf in Wal-Mart is just one of thousands of “cheap” foods gracing the shelves of our grocery stores today. These foods are full of unnatural additives (no matter if they throw the word “natural” in front of them), GMO’s, and unhealthy but “cheap” corn syrup. The manufacturing process strips out the majority of vitamins and fiber from natural wheat and then they add some back in. And they don’t just use the stripped flour for bread – it is in a plethora of foods both in grocery stores and in restaurants.
The cheapness comes at a cost. Obesity rates are rampant, we don’t know why young women are suddenly seeing significantly increased risks of advanced breast cancer, diabetes rates have skyrocketed, and 67 million people have high blood pressure.
The average American family spent about 9.8 percent of their disposable income on food in 2011, according to the USDA. Of that, 5.7 percent was spent on food at home, and 4.1 was spent on food away from home. A lot of people tell me they cannot afford to eat healthier foods and I believe them. However, there are some people who say that but also spend almost half of their food budget on restaurant meals, which are rarely healthy.
What if Americans took money away from those restaurant meals and put it towards buying healthier options in the grocery store? They could also learn how to save money by preparing more meals from scratch and stretching foods to last longer.
But before any of that can happen, people need to believe that cheap food does come at a cost to their health, to our economy, and even to their lives.
What do you think? Do you believe there is a cost to cheap food? Diane