I just heard a story on NPR's 'All Things Considered' that got me all fired up. The piece followed three different women to show how rising food prices have effected them. The first was a single mother of 3 who brought home only $300+ dollars every TWO weeks. She mentioned buying less meats, switching from 12 grain bread to white, and buying cereal in bargain basement bins that had bugs in it. The second woman was more middle class, yet she was still devoting a huge chunk of her Sunday to clipping coupons and then mapping out the grocery stores they were for so that she wouldn't ever have to drive out of her way while running other errands etc. during the week. She would go to Costco and just buy cheese, and then to Giant and just buy bananas etc. Both of these evoked empathy and sympathy in me. The first lady stated that she grew up in the country and she would not let her daughters go hungry. If she had to she could shoot a deer or a turkey!
And then there was the last woman. She described herself as living in an affluent VA neighborhood for several years with her husband and children. She said they also have a house on the Shenandoah river that they paid for with cash and finally a building in Chantilly that they also paid for in cash.... so she said she guessed she was "upper middle class".
Three properties, two paid for in cash, all in prime locations, and yet she was horrified to realized that at Whole Foods it was costing her $300 a week to feed her whole family with organic produce. "We just can't afford that" she said.
This is the problem... I really don't want to presume anything about these people, and if I had a vacation house on the river I would do everything to hold on to it. However, how many t.v.s hooked up to cable do they pay for, how many computers, cars, hair and nail appointments, dinners out, cleaning services, nights out? Whatever the answers to those questions, it is clearly not an issue of her not being able to afford organic healthy food, but an issue of priorities. Of course I would suggest shopping from her local farmers markets, but her choice was to give up all organics, to shop at a second tier grocery store whose prepared foods section contained only breaded and fried items (another big part of the problem- How much of her bill is for prepared foods?)
She stated that she would no longer buy any organics or shop at Whole Foods, and that she had other friends who had taken the same step.
What is going on.... why do people in our culture believe that food is the first place they should skimp? That her family is better off if she buys conventionally grown, 2,000 mile produce, hormone, antibiotic, and corn feed beef, as well as breaded, fried, prepared foods, than say to give up a digital cable hookup or some other unnecessary expense? Why does she see providing healthy food for her children as the unnecessary expense? This attitude is clearly not her alone. On average, Americans spend a lower percentage of their income on food than they ever have in our countries history. On average, Americans spend less of their income on food than the citizens of any other developed country in the world.
I wondered what the other two women felt if they heard the piece. How they must feel about this woman with all of her wealth willingly choosing the lower food options compared to the first woman doing every thing in her power, cutting out all toiletries, paper towels and most meat to provide sustaining meals for her children.