J500 Media and the Environment

High Price for Personal Choice by KaylaReg

One of the favorite pastimes of my father, an avid hunter and meat enthusiast, is making fun of my veggie burgers and tofu dogs. It’s actually kind of funny as he announces to his friends while tending the grill that, “now, it’s time to put on Kayla’s VEGGIE dog. More like CARDBOARD dog!” and the laughs ensue.

For a time, I took the joking pretty personally and it really bothered me. Then I realized how he must have felt when I quit the whole “meat” thing. Whether he’d like to admit it or not, a small part of him must have taken it personally, as food, for anyone, is incredibly personal.

Like it or not, our diets reflect who we are and where we come from. When I studied abroad in Ireland, one of my coworkers believed everyone in America ate Twinkies and fried Snickers. I assured her time and time again that nobody really ate those, but is what we really eat as a culture much better? According to what I could find, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, French fries and fried chicken are the foods defining the American diet.

I’m all for comfort food, but as more and more evidence surfaces over the risks of our junk food diet, it seems all the more reason to question what we’re eating. Of course, such evidence could cause us to do exactly the opposite.

As you can probably guess, one of these healthy meals is more than twice as expensive as the other. All together, the salmon dish came in around $20 while the lettuce wrap cost under $8. Both provided tons of left overs for other healthy meals though, so what, I wonder, is the real price of healthy food?

According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, when presented with information that threatens my self-esteem, like the foods I’ve been eating are unhealthy, I’ll take one of three actions. I’ll either change my diet to be consistent with the new information, reject the information and maintain my current diet, or I can justify my diet by believing something that reconciles the conflict like “I can’t change my diet because I don’t have the money.”

With food being so personal to us, it’s understandable why many vehemently, and sometimes irrationally defend their eating habits. It’s why organic food is seen as elitist, even dangerous to some. It’s why a middle school English teacher was ordered to cease and desist teaching nutrition and selling fresh fruits and healthy snacks to students. It’s why even under the scrutiny of the camera, the school Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution focused on met the celebrity chef with scrutiny and even hostility.

Perhaps the resistance to healthy food is a question of rearranging priorities, but it’s also just as much one of accessibility. If we don’t have the same access to healthy foods, how can anyone really challenge the quality of another person’s diet? Until healthy food is made equally accessible, I don’t think we can.

What we can do though, is get educated and in turn, educate each other. That can mean everything from having friends over to make fruit pizzas, to grilling hamburgers with family, to even searching for recipes to use up that left over red pepper in the fridge.

Without my father’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to make the food decisions I wanted and more importantly, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the same family meals or backyard barbeques as I always had. Food is both a powerful personal and social experience. When we have a good one, especially one we’re proud of, we’ll be sure to go back to it again.

-Kayla R.


Gas Station Groceries by mackenzies09

Growing up I never thought of the supermarket as a luxury. Walking the expansive aisles, in awe of the limitless choices, I believed everyone shopped this way. Sadly, I was wrong.

For many communities, those of which are deemed low-income or of minority population, supermarkets are an urban myth. Residents of these neighborhoods must turn to gas stations and dollar-themed stores or take a series of buses to “nicer” areas, to put food on the dinner table.

Milk was available at this gas station.

Milk was available at this gas station.

In one area of Northeast Kansas City, Kansas, options range from Citgo to Quick Pick. There are small ethnic markets that cater to Asian and Hispanic residents, but these are typically the size of an average convenience store as well. The local Family Dollar is the best option for many residents.

One might ask, what types of food can you buy at Family Dollar?

A shopping list might look something like this:
bacon                          lunch meat
fruit punch                  pop tarts
hot dogs                       cheese
cake mix                      cookies
chips                             eggs
frozen pizza                ice cream
frozen French fries

Ok, so you could argue for the eggs, cheese, and maybe the lunch meat. But where are the fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and unprocessed meat? Unfortunately this diet consists of a lot of sugar, sodium, fat and preservatives.

Urban dwellers are forced to forgo the healthiest of staples because they just aren’t sold in their neighborhoods. But these residents have a lot more buying power than corporate giants would ever like to believe. Social Compact, an non-profit organization that researches underserved urban markets, found that nine of LA’s grittiest neighborhoods had been grossly underestimated by the US Census Bureau. The annual income for this area was found to be $1.9 billion higher than what the census had reported.

Frozen pizza of every variety!

Frozen pizza of every variety!

$1.9 billion higher. Sounds like these people have the income to buy fresh produce, if only it was made available to them. If the well-being of these people isn’t a draw for major chains, the cash in their pockets should be.


photos from my local convenience store