Ok, so most people know that food that is healthier for you is usually more expensive. Kind of a given. So lets rant about it. Here I am in Spokane, not the hippest of cities, searching for some sort of health food grocery store. Bless the Farmers Market here, absolutly fabulous and a Godsend. Yet with this cooler weather creeping in, so in creeps what I like to call my ”winter produce panic”. I am dreading day the Farmer’s market ends at the end of the month when I will be forced to buy over-priced and poorer quality produce from.. Gasp!- the grocery store. Hence my recent quest to find the one place in this city that boasts organic produce. An aside here, I must give Kudos to Safeway stores (also owns Dominicks for you midwesterners and I’m sure there’s an equivolent all over the US) are now offering a new organic line “O”. The price is equal and sometimes less than conventional foods. I’m pretty happy about that. Upon my research I discovered that this store chain has made a promise that by 2008 they will have an organic equivolent for every item sold in their store at a reasonable price. Hooray!! Thanks guys!! A whole other rant would be “is it really organic?” but at least they’re trying and could possibly force other marketers to follow suit. Now back to the story..
It took me 45 minutes to get to this store so there’s a few bucks in gas. Yes, the store was lovely. I get a shiver of exstacy when I am surrounded by happy produce, a grand variety of grains in bulk, wonderful smelling organic body products and of course some free trade coffee and tons of wine Yes, I know its sick but I can’t help myself. To my sadness, it was outrageously expensive. I mean, I’m surprsied they didn’t charge admission just to look at the stuff. Now, one reason for this is that it’s the only store of its kind here (and its downtown) so they can take that “organic markup” and run with it. Nobody would be the wiser. Except for me of course! I can tell you who charges what for foods at every store in every place I have ever lived. Not just because I too am on a budget but because I feel it is my responsibility as nutritionist to be able to tell my clients where to get the foods I am suggesting they eat and how much it will cost them. I can tell you how much Nancy’s organic yogurt costs at 5 different stores in 5 different cities. That being said, this place here in Spokane tops the prices at Whole Foods, if you can believe that. The point that sometimes I cannot afford to eat what I KNOW is best for me. Now that is just a crying shame. Literally. I saw a woman while leaving the store with an entire trunk full of grocery bags. This had to cost her between $200-$300, if not more. No exaggeration. I then look down at my 3 little bags that cost me $60 and begin to tear up. I’m sure at this point I don’t need to mention that my money was spent wisely. I really only bought the things I couldn’t get anywhere else in town or it was actually one of the few things that was cheaper at this store.
Which brings me to the rant . This gap in prices of “fast food” to “health food” is, in my opinion, a representation of the furthering gap between the have and have nots. Unfortunately what this spells out to really is the gap between the sick and healthy. Could it be a conspiracy? I think so sometimes. All my Chicago born friends can concur that you won’t see a Whole Foods in the ghetto. Heck, there isn’t even a grocery store! Yet, in my experince working with indigent populations, they probably need it more than those Lincoln Parkers. Especially to be able to have it close proximity. So what, is it Darwins survival of the fittest? I think that could be it too, as harsh as it may sound. The food provided by government assistance programs is shameful. Not to mention that everyone in the medical field KNOWS that processed foods WILL kill you. We know it!! And not a quick death either. A slow, painful, debilitating, and COSTLY death. Thus the medical field can continue to keep their mouths shut and look the other way while their pocket books get fatter with one hand scratching the pharmeceutical companies backs and the other performing unnecessary surgeries. I mean, there are TONS of Americans who don’t even know how to eat well and frankly are often too broke to care. I saw chicken drumsticks and thighs on sale the other day for 19 cents a pound!! Can you believe that? They were in HUGE containers. Now, throw that in some grease and you’re good to go. Turn right down the isle past the chicken and you see in the “health food” section of the store a tiny package of organic, free range ground beef; I’m not kidding you 2-3 servings at best, and it costs a whopping $5.99 for that package. Seems like a no brainer. How about the apples for 89 cents a pound? You can bet people are stockin up on that antibiotic, hormone, filler filled, chicken which also happens to be the fattest (in fat content) part of the chicken. Yummm. Lets just say you happen to ask the woman with 3 kids in tow (ok, I did because I clearly have a problem) how she feels about that chicken. “Great!” She exclaims. “I’ll be able to eat this chicken for a few days. My family loves it.” Well, “how do you serve it?’ I ask. “Fried”, she responds as if it was a stupid question. “What do you serve with it?” I ask again. “Oh, probably some biscuits”. Mmm. “So, do you eat any vegetables?” “Sometimes some canned corn or green beans. My kids don’t really eat vegetables and my husband certainly doesn’t like them”.
There you have it folks. This woman, from my clinical diagnostic skills, based on appearance is overweight and so are her children. Not the worst I’ve seen but ANY child that’s overweight is one too many in my book. Here’s the crazy thing- even if I took that woman in my car to the health food store in town, gave her $200 and told her to shop, I would bet my money double or nothing that she wouldn’t know what to buy and would probably come back with the same stuff she buys at home. Only this time it would be the organic version of cheese puffs, cookies, ice cream, and frozen meals.
In the past recent months, my boyfriend and I have had $50/week to spend on food. For some that is a lot, for others it is not. This has been quite a challenge to be able to eat well on a tight budget. I somehow manage to pull it off but I have had many, many years of nutrition education. For all you sharp readers, my $60 spent at that highway robbery speicality store was put on my credit card that I will be paying 22% interest for over the next 5 years. Is it worth it to me? Yes, it is. Only because I have some food allergies and restrictions that when not followed leave me feeling miserable. BUT, in the past few months I have also eaten things I am embarassed to admit because we didn’t have the money to buy anything else. Sometimes it comes down to the pain of hunger vs. the pain of trying to digest foods of unknown origin. Tough call. My boyfriend tries to ease my worry by saying “now you can help your clients better by saying you’ve eaten at Taco Time and can tell them what is healthier to order from the menu”. The response to that is I will never help someone choose “healthier” fast foods because to me that is an oxymoron. I will teach them how to cook cheap meals. That’s it. For now, I am going to scrape the change out of the bottom of my purse and from underneath the couch cushions to go buy myself an apple…..
· 1 decade ago