The True Cost of Food
Without fail, when I am speaking, someone always asks about how to eat well on a budget. In other words, you can’t eat healthy and cheap, or so they think.
If we’re comparing a box of cheaper-than-dirt mac & cheese to the organic mac & cheese, yes, you’re going to pay more for organic.
But honestly, I don’t think people in this country need to be eating more mac & cheese, even if it’s organic.
I kindly and patiently point out that if you are eating less processed foods, less sugar, less meat and more whole grains (not foods MADE from whole grains, but the actual WHOLE grain – millet, rice, quinoa, amaranth), more vegetables, more beans and drinking more water instead of sugary drinks, then you WILL save money.
But the truth is, I have come to a different conclusion recently – that eating well means more than just choosing the right vegetable, it means choosing where that vegetable came from, too, and that, friends, should cost more.
My CSA is wrapping up next week, and we are ready to renew our membership for next year. When I received the renewal form, I was surprised to see the cost increase dramatically for next year. What gives?
Luckily, our farmers are thoughtful people and never do anything without explaining it all. I love this sentence they wrote:
The farming we have chosen to participate in takes good care of people, animals, and the land.
Costs should be higher if we are paying the farms a LIVING wage and taking care of all aspects of the farm, not just getting healthy vegetables in the process.
Americans have grown accustomed to cheap, quick food – to the detriment of our health and the health of our land. Truth is, it’s not sustainable long term, either in our budgets or our belts.
In a recent interview with PBS, Alice Waters says:
I feel like food should cost more, because we aren’t paying farmers a living wage. It has to cost more. Even to arrive at the right price for conventionally priced food we have to pay more. But if we want organic food, if we want people to really care about nourishment and to take care of the land, we have to pay more for our food. And every country in the world pays more for its food. It’s simply that we don’t value food. We don’t think of it as something precious and the people who grow it as indispensible. I think the biggest impediment to fixing the food system in the United States is that we expect food to be cheap. We want to by other things with our money. We’re so disconnected from agriculture – from the culture in agriculture.
And we do, we want to spend our money in other ways because we feel like it’s our right. It’s because most Americans don’t understand that food matters. It matters what we eat and how it’s grown. It matters for our health and it matters for our planet. Food matters.