August 15, 2005

Let them eat white, irridated bread

I remember a few years back I was at a New Year's Eve party where a woman was talking about her trip to India. She talked about how it made her appreciate just what an affluent society we live in. "I mean, even our poor people are fat," she exclaimed. What I thought at the time but didn't say was that it is our poor people who are fat. Poor people don't have the money to spend on healthy food. And they are often working far too much to cook.

What was then just a feeling I had as a fat girl who grew up on food stamps (and lives on them again, along with disability) is now the findings of a study from the University of California at Davis.

Our results show that most people had access to healthier foods, though there was sporadic availability of some healthier items in lower-income neighborhoods. The healthier market basket was more expensive by about $32 to $41 due to higher costs of whole grains, lean ground beef, and skinless poultry. This higher cost is equal to about 35 percent to 40 percent of low-income consumers’ food budgets. (Italics mine)

The study goes on to point out what I know all too well: good bread with real fiber costs two to three times as much as the cheap-ass stuff. Chicken or beef without the fat is also more expensive. A variety of vegetables are often not available. And don't even get me started about organic produce. (Apparently it's okay for the poor to die of toxic overload.)

I can't say that I know the solution to this. I often wonder about putting taxes on unhealthy foods to subsidize healthier ones, though that is also unfair to the poor. But I do think that Americans need to the look long and hard about our relationship with food. And that includes how much we work, keeping us from being able to cook healthy meals.