THE WHAT: FOOD AND MONEY – THE TANGO TANGLE
My heart pinched inside my chest as I listened to the cashier’s announcement of the total price of my Publix grocery purchases. “Absurd amount of money!” is the first reaction internally followed by a justification speech by the concerned mother/caretaker in me that knows it’s better to spend money on good food for my family even if it tightens the household budget in other areas. This scenario repeats itself and the outcome is the same at least for me: I choose quality of food over cheapness and quantity any day. What are the economic and environmental factors that any of us face today when making our food choices on a daily basis?
The perspective on who we’re buying food for obviously affects our choices. Whether you’re single, married, living with roommates, with children, with elderly—all these groupings carry their respective needs, wants and overall themes. Personally I can attest to the interesting blend of tastes I accommodate in my cooking and choosing of groceries as I have a husband, two boys under 4 years old (one an infant) and two octogenarians. When I look around at many of my colleagues with children, it seems a majority of parents today are very sensitive to the question as to whether the produce they purchase is organic or not. It turns out that there are some produce items that are more critical to buy organic like spinach and berries because of how porous the skin is and therefore easily absorbs pesticides. Some websites you may find helpful for resource information: www.organicconsumers.org , www.organic-center.org , www.non-gmoreport.com , www.healthychild.org , www.texasgrassfedbeef.com , www.centerforfoodsafety.org , www.chemicalfreekids.com , www.foodnavigator.com
Organic, non-genetically modified and local are some of the current buzz food words. The term organic always makes me chuckle for a nanosecond as there’s hundreds of years of human evolution coursing through my blood that reminds me all food was once “organic” without the labeling. It’s just that in the last century or so that our civilized societies started to meddle beyond what hybrid practices were in place already in agriculture. It is interesting to note that recently many farmers are returning to using more natural methods in their crop and livestock management—part of it could be the increased consumer demand for organic products and another part may be that it has been found more cost-effective to use better sustainability practices on the environment when cultivating the Earth or animal stocks. Again, my own battle is complicated when it comes to whether I buy organic, conventional or local food products. I prefer organic but it’s not always available or cost-effective. Local produce is desirable because I like supporting the farmers in Florida and it’s fresher with less gas emissions spent on its transport to my kitchen. At the same time, a pint of blueberries from Peru may be farmed with the best ecological-friendly practices and taste better than the pesticide-laden ones from a few counties away. Here are a few more resources that may be helpful: www.farmigo.com , www.localharvest.org , www.slowfoodusa.org , http://foodnews.org/ , www.foodnavigator.com , www.environmentalhealthnews.org , www.biointegrity.org , www.localfoodswheel.com , www.greenling.com
Sometimes I wish I were ignorant and just went to the store and was able to buy the cheapest of everything to feed my household. The truth is irreversible once attained; I know what is best for my family’s situation and it happens to be a diet that contains the freshest fruit, vegetables, dairy, legumes, meats and then on to the grains, pastas and et cetera. Making the conscious choice to use less canned products and other foods that contain more harmful ingredients in process/preservation means that our grocery bill is higher than it would be if I blindly chose based solely on cheap economics. Not everyone thinks through what they buy when at the grocery store but it’s only a matter of time when many if not most of us will realize that how we eat is like a form of preventative medicine for our bodies. The cost you may incur now can serve to defray future medical costs after years of eating products that can slowly sabotage your body’s ability to fight off infection and other illnesses. Then there’s the question of the effect on our environment by our agricultural practices and that factors into many people’s choices of food economics. Social impact in the form of “fair trade” practices is yet another factor weaving into our ethos as consumers of groceries for ourselves. Some more websites for your personal research: www.fairtradeusa.org , www.greenamerica.org , www.fairtraderesource.org , www.kidsorganics.com , www.rodaleinstitute.org , www.opensecrets.org , www.allergykids.com , www.usda.gov , www.fda.gov
This blog post is woefully inadequate in addressing all the various facets involved in the economic and social challenge we face in our food purchases as the commodity prices continue to rise on a monthly basis. I hope it at least helps in starting a conversation or a journey for information as this is an issue that will continue to grow in importance as we face upcoming agricultural changes and trade practices that can affect both the quality and quantity of our food in America particularly.