J500 Media and the Environment

Healthy Food for the Poor by jackiemcc

Before I took my Media and the Environment journalism class here at KU, I had a very strong opinion that poor people couldn’t have access to healthy foods because of their limited income. Over the course of the semester, we have studied the impact food has on our society, and how the media is portraying that. Throughout the course, I began to think more critically about food than I ever have before.

This analysis has opened me to see new perspectives and opinions. From this, I have come to realize that there might be more than one side to an issue. And this is certainly true about the common debate of healthy food access for the poor. Since the beginning of the course, my view on this has slightly changed. While I’m still not completely convinced, I have become more supportive of the idea that poor people can and should eat healthier foods at a low cost. I also think society should help support this idea, instead of dismissing it all together, like I did.

After doing some research, I found that there are plenty of tips out there to guide poor people on how to eat healthy. Some of the main suggestions, among others, include: utilizing coupons, sales and bulk shopping, making larger portions so you can have leftovers for other meals, avoiding processed foods, shopping with a grocery list so you only buy the foods you need, and buying more herbs and spices, and seasonal foods, which are generally less expensive, to spice up simple foods.

In addition to grocery stores, many farmers' markets are now accepting food stamps so poor people have easier access to healthy foods. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.igougo.com.

I think this was what modified my thinking the most. Before this point, many classmates had disagreed with my earlier opinions, but no one was telling me how or why poor people could eat healthy foods. It wasn’t until I saw this article that I started to look at the situation in a whole new light.

Even though this proposal will only affect the poor people directly, I think society can play a role in it as well. I think the government is doing a good job with their involvement in it already, with programs like SNAP, which provides healthy food to low-income families, but I think they could play an even larger role in the process.

Some ways in which society and the government could play a larger role in the process could include: placing taxes on foods with low nutritional value to subsidize foods with high nutritional value, link the purchasing power of food stamps with the nutritional value of the food (such as, one dollar of junk food could be worth two dollars of fruits and vegetables), and educate more people on how to eat healthier foods for a lower price. I don’t think many people know if, and how, they can eat healthy foods for a low price. If we educate them on how they could do that, I believe more people would take part in healthy eating.

Although I am not completely convinced that this idea is feasible, I am willing to give it more consideration. I think there is a possibility that poor people can eat healthy foods, and I don’t think society should dismiss the idea altogether.

-Jackie McClellan

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.

Mommy, where do Twinkies come from? by mstinawood
January 30, 2009, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , , ,

road-of-twinkies1An unfortunate question for those who are faced with coming up with an honest answer. Fortunately for my mother I never asked that question, instead I wanted to know how they got the vanilla creme perfectly aligned inside the cake. My mother’s response,”Magic!” That’s the best explanation she could come up with and one I was eager to accept. From childhood on, the creation of the Twinkie, among other cookie cutter mass produced delights, remained a mystery to me and maybe to you too.. until now. The reality of the Twinkie is much more grim than I could have imagined as a child.

You know that glue on the back of stamps that coats your mouth with a weird film if you lick too many? Its the same kind of waxy coat your mouth wears after eating a Twinkie and thats not a coincidence. Many ingredients found on the labels of snack foods can also be found in disinfectants and weedkillers. Of course I must be fair and note that the quantity of ferrous sulfate is much smaller in snack products, so don’t go trying to kill weeds with Twinkies!

There are resources available for those who want to learn how to eat healthy. My advice, if you can’t pronounce a particular ingredient, it’s most likely living a double life as a component of not only your snack but also as an industrial strength chemical. Lastly, to dispell any misunderstandings, Twinkies do not have a shelf life of years. According to Anne Underwood’s article in Newsweek, it’s actually less than a month! I know for a fact that I’ve consumed a Twinkie found in the recesses of the pantry that had to have been approaching it’s first birthday and congratulated myself on an awesome find! I now wonder if some of that petroleum based residue still resides in the recesses of my ingredients.

Tina Wood

Thanks to New Jersy Jewish News for the photo

Snapshots of supper by kimwallace
March 25, 2008, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Food + Health, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

One thing that struck me as I was viewing different families’ weekly food consumption around the world was the lack of fruits and vegetables at the Americans’ table. Both the North Carolina and the California families displayed different colored food at each respective table, but those vibrant colors came from punchy packaging and wild ink splashed across cardboard and plastic. At tables across the globe, greens and other earth-tones showed up on the cutting board, reminiscent of diets lower on the food chain and, seemingly, less expensive on the wallet.

The time-old argument that “Americans eat junk food” almost always falls on deaf ears–we’re immune to this chastisement over and over again because these words are never personified–until now. Without the images attached to the copy, this post would have been just another chart and comparison of eating habits around the world. But, seeing the smiling faces of people with different skin color, clothing and shelter really makes you stop and think about what the food really means in a culture.

For example, look at the Japanese family. They are sprawled out on cushions on the floor, surrounded by fresh fish, steamed rice and juicy fruits. I bet their kitchen always smells good. All for $317.

Fast forward to the North Carolinians. They are seated comfortably on dining chairs with food spread about their kitchen counters and dining table. Bright bursts of red, purple, yellow and blue dominate the image–but these colors come not from delicious fruits and vegetables, but from saturated inks and dyes on paper and plastic packaging. This comes at a cost of $348–and maybe a few extra pounds.

The Mexicans look like they have it best. They have a whole table devoted to bananas, watermelons, avocados, tomatoes and other fresh goodies. I’m not sure if they’re going to turn that into delicious guac or salsa later, but the fact that it will be by their own hands instead of by a machine’s is enough to convince me to dine on some salty chips and guacamole. This, plus other goodies for a week, is earth-shatteringly cheap–$189.

This photo project definitely put how the world eats in perspective, especially for those who have never been abroad. For me, coming from an Asian-American background and having been to my mother’s home country, Vietnam, looking at this post gave me more insight to non-Asian countries as well as European countries and their eating habits. Sure, you can rely on the stereotypical “Germans eat Franks and Japanese eat sushi” food typing, but with pictures, you can see that it is so much more. I’ve always joked that if you could take a look at the different food I was raised on, as a multicultural American, you would see a t-bone steak and a bowl of rice.


What would I see from you?


“Clowning” with the Six Degrees of Food News by jenh

Anyone else find this photo creepy?

Opening of McDonald’s, Beijing

Something about the sunglasses, I guess. Or the export of American culture.

The photo dipicts clowns who were on hand to celebrate the opening of a McDonald’s in Beijing, and it was part of a New York Times article about the company’s record profits in February. McDonald’s profits jumped 11.7 percent internationally, fueled in part by Leap Year sales but also the weak U.S. dollar. You can get more Mac for your Yuan these days.

I’d like to use that story to play the Six Degrees of Separation game. But instead of people, in this instance, I’d like to look at the short distance between food news. We know McDonald’s is doing well – that’s one data point. Let’s put another marker by the story that University of Washington researchers determined that calorie for calorie, junk food is way cheaper than good-for-you food. According to the researchers, who compared foods in major grocery stores in the Seattle area, you pay $1.76 per 1,000 calories for sugary, fatty foods that have the most calories, but you pay $18.16 per 1,000 calories for the lowest-calorie foods (which are most often better for you, such as fruits and vegetables).

Now, here’s our third degree: increasing food costs overall. We’ve endured a 4.2 increase for meats, fish, veggies, fruit, dairy and eggs in 2007, and there’s a predicted jump of 3.5 to 4.5 percent in food costs for this year. May not sound like much to you as an individual, but when you add in higher fuel costs for gasoline and heating your home, you’re bound to notice it.

And finally, there isn’t enough grain to go around. We’re looking at a worldwide grain shortage brought about in part by more people on the planet, corn-hungry biofuels such as ethanol, and fewer acres to grow food successfully. Or, you can think of it the way Daniel W. Basse of the AgResource put it in this comprehensive look at grain shortages:

“Everyone wants to eat like an American on this globe,” Basse said. “But if they do, we’re going to need another two or three globes to grow it all.”

When I look at the big, big picture, taking all this news and more into account, I’m scared by what I see coming together. A faltering U.S. economy. More people are cash-strapped and rely on unhealthy, calorie-dense foods. Those unhealthy foods gobble up lots of resources (transportation, grain for animal meats, land and plastics for packaging, among them). Global warming may restrict those resources even further. At the same time, prices for all foods are going up, driven in part by scarcity of supply. Already, some nations have to safeguard grain supplies that are distributed to keep people from rioting.

There’s no easy way to answer such a complex economic web of problems. But I think that if anything would bring about change to the American, Western diet that the world seems to embrace more and more often, it’s going to be the force wielded by economics. If there isn’t enough money to buy meat, or bread or milk, at some point we will be forced to go without it. I wonder how that will affect that jump in profit at McDonalds?*

*And I’m not picking on McD’s as the evil empire, but they are a mom and apple pie export of American living, as well as an enormous corporate success. About 47 million people each day eat at the 31,000 McDonald’s locations worldwide. That’s roughly the entire populations of Greece, Australia and the Netherlands combined.

–Jen Humphrey