Originally published January 21 2008
Poor Americans Struggle to Find Affordable Quality Food
by Stephanie Brail
(NaturalNews) As obesity soars in America, studies are finding that access to good food is a problem for less affluent Americans. HealthDay recently reported that poorer Americans not only have issues with affording quality food, but they have fewer places to buy good foods. One prime suspect: the convenience store now outnumbers the grocery store in many rural areas. The findings come from studies by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in their November 2007 issue on poverty and human development.
According to the HealthDay article: "People with more money eat more fruits and vegetables than those with less money, research shows. In turn, poorer people also assume a greater disease burden relative to their wealthier counterparts."
Poor Americans would need to spend 70% of their food budget on fruits and vegetables to meet the new recommended daily guidelines, but some studies show that only 10% of all Americans are meeting these guidelines.
While some bloggers are skeptical that cost and selection are an issue with food purchases ("The only hurdles that really exist are personal choice, prioritization, and zoning," states one blogger) , others confirm that price and access are an issue.
"It is easy to scoff at this but I agree that fresh fruits and veggies are a little bit pricey," writes one commenter on the conservative Free Republic website. "Here in Jacksonville, FL, a head of cauliflower is $2.50, the same price as a Big Mac. I bought my wife a juicer and it takes $5.00 worth of strawberries to make 12 ounces of juice. Oranges are a buck a pound and apples aren't much less. Cucumbers are a buck each. Sure, lettuce is cheap but it doesn't really have any nutritional value."
Never mind regular fruits and vegetables; organic food can cost 50 to 100% more than regular food, and it seems that the more affluent are the ones who consume it more. BusinessWeek reported that the customers of the organic and health-oriented Whole Foods grocery chain have incomes that average over $50,000, while the average income of a Wal-Mart customer is $35,000.
Regardless of income, Whole Foods isn't even an option for many Americans as Wal-Marts dominate the suburban landscape. Yet Wal-Mart has been making some strides towards offering more "healthy" food options, with mixed response.
In a move that has angered organic farmers and concerned some environmentalists, Wal-Mart has stated a commitment towards providing organic foods at lower prices than organic foods found at other venues.
"We know that customers at all ends of the income spectrum want organic and natural foods," CEO Lee Scott said at one of Wal-Mart's annual general meetings. "But, frankly, most of them just can't afford the high prices the specialty stores charge. Well, we don't think you should have to have a lot of money to feed your family organic foods."
Questions have arisen, however, about the quality of Wal-Mart's organic food or whether it even meets organic standards at all. In January of 2007, the Cornucopia Institute filed a legal complaint with the USDA against Wal-Mart over what it called "deceptive consumer practices" in labeling certain items organic.
Wal-Mart's green initiatives aside, environmental organizations such as Local Harvest are calling for a return to local production and consumption of basic food items.
Many environmentalists and health experts recommend the local farmers market as the best place to get fresh, organic produce at lower prices. While the conventional wisdom might assume that farmers markets are a dying breed, in fact, they are growing in number. The USDA has recorded 4,385 farmers markets in the United States, an 18 percent increase from the 3,706 farmers markets listed in 2004.
HealthDay: Many Americans Can't Afford to Eat Right
Journal of the American Dietetic Association
Many Americans Can't Afford to Eat Right - Blog Response
Many Americans Can't Afford to Eat Right - Free Republic Response
BusinessWeek: Wal-Mart's Organic Offensive
Organic Fraud: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Accused of Widespread Distortion Nonorganic Food Products Misidentified as "Organic"
CNN: Organic food: When it isn't worth it
USDA Farmers Market Facts
About the authorStephanie Brail is a wellness coach, healer and hypnotherapist. She provides information and perspectives on alternative health, well-being, spirituality, and more at www.feelgoodgirl.com.
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