Tuesday I attended the Museum of Natural History’s “Spring Environmental Lecture and Luncheon”. Each year there is a different theme and a panel of experts assembled. I couldn’t have been more excited that this year’s topic was food. Lynn Sherr moderated and we heard about vertical farming (in skyscrapers), programs educating New York City school children about the environment and healthy eating (43% of city public school children are overweight) and my favorite fact of the day- that the museum’s giant dinosaur’s consumed around 100,000 calories a day.
After the presentation the floor was opened up for questions. An audience member stood and introduced herself as a local farmer. She asked “why is it that people will pay $4 for a latte but not the same for a few pounds of organic carrots? Nevin Cohen, an expert in urban food policy, explained that each of us “votes” three times a day. With these votes we can support smaller-scale farms or whatever it is we deem important when it comes to food.
The day before this lecture I posted about a new drinkable probiotic from Siggi’s yogurt. Some people chimed in that they loved Siggi’s, a couple that they didn’t particularly enjoy it. These divergent opinions were expected. What surprised me was that a couple of commenters, authors of fantastic nutrition blogs, said that they hadn’t tried Siggi’s yet because of its price tag. It was “too expensive.” While I’m all for being mindful of what you spend (with the exception of shoes) I believe we have to “vote” for our local farmers and for small companies producing quality products. We have to vote for them and buy them or they will not be there.
In 1949, Americans spent 22% of their income on food. In 2009 that figure decreased to 10%.
While it seems like saving money is always a good thing, this isn't anything to cheer about. Cheap food is often the product of factory farming and industrial agriculture. With jumbo size products being sold for cheaper, Americans may be gaining more for their dollar, but they're also gaining more weight, losing their health, spending more on their healthcare and supporting environmentally unsustainable practices.
The comments above and this poignant, must-watch video clip are from a Huffington Post piece “How Much do Americans Spend on Food".
Now I’m in no way saying that everyone needs to eat organic carrots or Siggis yogurt. The nutrition bloggers I referenced earlier are definitely not in favor of the processed food harming NYC children and children around the country. I just think we have to reconsider what “value” is when it comes to food and what we deem “too expensive”. The domination of our food supply by factory farms and food conglomerates has been alarmingly costly in other ways. And just in case Starbucks takes offense to the Natural History mention, I have nothing against a latte (make with organic milk) either.
Are you budget-conscious when it comes to food? What do you feel your food splurges are? Would you rather spend $4 on a latte or organic carrots?