J500 Media and the Environment

Did I Eat That?? by lindsaycr
March 2, 2008, 2:40 pm
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags:

Food Diary for Saturday, March 2nd, 2008:

Breakfast: One Krispy Kreme glazed dougnut from work.

Lunch: One grilled cheese sandwich.

Dinner: One order of calamari.

That might sound like an unusual food day for most people, but for me it was pretty normal. I hate doughuts, but I was late to a work meeting and didn’t have time to eat before I left.

I didn’t have any groceries at home, so after digging through my pantry, all that I could come up with was cheese and bread. I didn’t even have anything to drink with it.

And later that evening, when I went out to happy hour at the Hereford House, all that I could afford was an appetizer of calamari.

As far as nutrition goes, this certaintly wasn’t my best day. A sugar encrusted pastry is never a good way to start the day, and I had even forgotten that I gave up sweets for Lent.

While grilled cheese might be good for a growing kid, white bread is never a healthy option. For some reason, I just can’t seem to make myself enjoy wheat.

And even though calamari might be healthy by itself, when it is coated in bread, that has to take away from the nutritional value.

What I learned about myself is this–I definitely put more emphasis on budget and time constraints than I do on nutritional quality. If I had woken up just ten minutes earlier, I probably could have made myself oatmeal or cereal instead of eating the doughnut. If I had more money, I could have bought wheat bread for my grilled cheese instead of white. Or I could have bought a salad on the regular menu, instead of an appetizer on the happy hour menu.

There are two questions I want to ask. First, when we don’t have a lot of time and money, how are we expected to eat healthy?

And second, after reading the ethanol article , how are average Americans going to be able to afford feeding their families when it is obvious that the cost of food is definitely going to rise?



7 Comments so far
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Re: Question 1:
I think you have to be creative with your food choices. Even within a fast food joint there are healthy, inexpensive options. Chipotle sources sustainably-raised meat and Amy’s offers organic frozen dinners.
Re: Question 2:
The cost of food has risen. Corn, the food staple of Mexico, has become too costly for most residents. You can learn more here.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

I totally understand where you are coming from. I sort of have the same problem. I choose the cheaper route as opposed to the healthier route just because I am trying to save money (or just do not have enough of it.) All I know is that food is just going to get more expensive, which means I just need to have more of an income. I am glad places here in Lawrence are making an effort to be more ‘local’, but it is still so expensive.

Comment by denah

Why are organic foods more expensive?

In part it’s due to fewer of the costs being externalised, less reliance on cheap oil, and greater reliance on labour.

A proportion of the price is also due to the cost of certification and inspection to ensure organic status is legitimately met and maintained.

Handling and processing costs are also higher as processors and transporters are dealing with smaller volumes, which means lower efficiency.

Much of the rest of the cost difference is due to marketing at a retail level—organic food is a niche market aimed at affluent people with a conscience and retailers believe, rightly, that most of these consumers will pay more for a premium product.

But the real question you should be asking is where do your priorities really lie?

I don’t know the figures for the US, but in the UK average household expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks, for instance, fell from 23% of total weekly expenditure in 1980 to 16% in 2003-04 and to 10.16% in 2005-06.

On the other hand, in 2005-06 Britons spent 13.1% of their household expenditure on recreation and culture. Spending on restaurants and hotels was also higher than spending on food and drinks.

In other words, people have decided to prioritise recreation, culture and entertainment over food.

If they spent less on those areas, they would have more to spend on food but because they don’t, the pressure is on food prices to fall and keep falling.

Retailers then compete to drive prices down to keep consumers coming through their doors, which means producers are then forced to cut their prices if they wanted to get their products on the retailers’ shelves.

At the moment, most conventional food is being sold to consumers for less than the cost of production. In the UK, pig farmers lose between £20 and £30 per pig at the moment, while most milk is being sold to retailers for less than the cost of production, too. (And no, it’s not sustainable which is why farmers are going out of business at an ever increasing rate.)

What it means is that organic food is not expensive, but that conventionally grown and produced food is actually too cheap.

Before you call for the government to tax other people to support your lifestyle choices—and how many “pure” market capitalists would support that—perhaps you could consider your own priorities?

If you do want to buy organic or locally grown food, then you have to give it a higher priority than some of the other things you spend money on.

Could you cut something from what you spend on recreation? Entertainment? Technology and gadgets? Clothing? Transport?

If you want to maintain your spending on those at their current levels and buy organic food, then I’m afraid you’re going to have earn a lot more money a lot faster.

Either that, or drop out and grow your own. (And from experience I can tell you that’s a very tough option, especially if you have little cash to play with.)

When asking questions like the one you posed, I’d suggest bearing in mind a few tips that I used to pass on to the journalists I trained:

Ask yourself if you’re asking the right question—question your point of reference, look wide before you look narrow, and when you do go narrow, back off and go wide from time to time. Discern between causes and effects, and remember that perspective matters.

Look backwards—journalism, like society, has the memory of a goldfish so you have to work hard to overcome that intrinsic flaw. Use your organisation’s clipping library, look to other sources, and dig out the back story (as I did with the household expenditure figures). The now is important, but something always came before and something will always come after.

Never, ever stop asking questions, particularly of yourself, and, even more importantly, always listen to the answers.

Now one for you. Why can’t we sacrifice capitalism if it would mean mean less impact on the environment and healthier lives? If capitalism is a sacred cow, does that mean we can’t use it to make a better, more sustainable burger?

Comment by Stonehead

Here’s a few tips I’ve learned from helping host cooking classes at the Merc:
1. Try preparing food the night before, oats soaked in water with salt overnight cook the next morning in under 10 minutes.
2. Never underestimate the power of your freezer: if you do find time to cook, try making extra to freeze for meals on hectic days.
3. Trail mix is chock full of protein and energy – plus it can be so tasty. (Watch out for some that are filled with sugar and hydrogenated oils).

I don’t want to lecture, just thought my experience working with a nutrition educator could be useful 🙂


Comment by jkongs


That was a really interesting article you sent me about corn in Mexico. I remember hearing about how the price severely increased but I couldn’t believe it was by that much. Also, it was interesting to hear that for every 30 tons of corn, the U.S. gets two illegal immigrants from Mexico. The issue of immigration appears so black and white, but it really is not. Everyone is just trying to feed their families, but with the increasing food prices, that is going to be more and more difficult.


Comment by Lindsay

Your question about capitalism is really intriguing. I wish that we could sacrifice captialism in order to help the environment and live healthier lives, but I don’t think that is possible. I say that because America is based on the principal of capitalism and without it, people fear we would crumble. Also, we live in such a greedy society that people are more concerned with making a quick buck for themselves than helping someone else. If we all came together to demand better food, something might happen. But the people in power will have to be moved enough to ultimately make that change.

Lindsay C

Comment by Lindsay


Thanks for the cooking tips. I will definitely try those!


Comment by Lindsay

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