There was a great article in the New York Times this weekend by Mark Bittman called Is Junk Food Really Cheaper in which the author refuted the typical excuses people give for eating junk food over real food (he even used that term – real food). He also offered some very sound solutions to the problem like making fast food uncool and other grassroots movements.
Argument 1: Healthy food is actually cheaper than McDonald’s
Bittman used grocery store prices and not Whole Foods or farmer’s market prices so the comparison is not meant to be ideal, but even still, making dinner from grocery store food is way healthier than eating food prepared at most cheap restaurants.
You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9.
Argument 2: You get more calories for you buck when you eat fast food
Oh come on! Olive oil offers 9 calories for every gram and you can pick up a 2nd press bottle for just a few bucks. It’s not the best olive oil but it is still better than GMO, overly processed soy or corn oil.
But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content.
Argument 3: 2 million Americans living in rural areas are 10 miles or more from a supermarket
Ok, yeah, that’s gotta suck but check this out, 93% of those people actually do have cars. Maybe they just don’t want to make the trip to the store and then come home and cook after a long day’s work? Awe, pobrecitos!
Argument 4: There’s not enough time to cook
In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there.
Caught you again!
Argument 5: They don’t know how to cook
He only briefly listed this point but, indeed, we hear this all the time. “I never learned to cook so I just eat stuff that’s prepared for me.” So, they can’t figure out how to cut up some meat and veggies and throw them in a pot? Or is it that they don’t know how to read? I’m not buying it.
Why All the Excuses Then?
He argues that people are financially capable of eating healthy food. The money is in their wallets, they have the time but they’re not doing it anyway.
So we have to assume that money alone doesn’t guide decisions about what to eat.
The ubiquity, convenience and habit-forming appeal of hyperprocessed foods have largely drowned out the alternatives: there are five fast-food restaurants for every supermarket in the United States
Furthermore, the engineering behind hyperprocessed food makes it virtually addictive
I am so glad he broached this topic! He sites references to accuse the industry of manufacturing addiction. He unflinchingly blames the fast food industry when he says:
This addiction to processed food is the result of decades of vision and hard work by the industry.