High Price of Local Foods?

By Shawn Dell Joyce
We Americans complain bitterly about the rising cost of food. Most Americans don’t realize just how good we really have it in the land of plenty. In other countries where people make much less money, they spend a much higher percentage of their income on food.

In their delicious book, “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats,” photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio document the weekly food budgets of 24 international families in full-color photos. A family of eight in Guatemala spends 573 Quetzales (equivalent of $75.70) on groceries each week. The average yearly income is around $4,000, making groceries the highest expense for most families.

Meanwhile, back in the states, a family of five can spend a whopping $242.48 per week on groceries out of an average income of $35K per person. While the cost sounds much greater, compared to income and other expenses, Americans eat the cheapest food in the world, and plenty of it.

Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health,” writes, “Here we have the great irony of modern nutrition: At a time when hundreds of millions of people do not have enough to eat, hundreds of millions more are eating too much and are overweight or obese. Today … more people are overweight than underweight.”

In the U.S. 72 percent of men, and 70 percent of women are overweight. Cheaper food does not translate into healthier food. In fact, our current agricultural policy is to subsidize corn to the point where it is ridiculously cheap and ubiquitous in our food system. So cheap that we even burn it as fuel for our automobiles, a crime against humanity when you consider all starving people that could be fed.

Looking back at our Guatemalan family cited above, their weekly diet consisted mainly of potatoes, rice and beans, and vegetables from their garden. Meat was added to a meal less than once a week. While the American family ate mostly processed foods like canned soups, frozen meals, packaged cookies, cakes, and crackers, and lots of meat. Another major difference is cooking. The Guatemalans eat every meal at home and one person spends most of her time cooking, preparing, and purchasing ingredients for meals. Americans eat one out of three meals at home.

How can we curb our national eating disorder?

—Eat local! When we eat what is grown in our own region we eat healthier, and at the peak of freshness. This is better four our health and the environment, as well as boosting the local economy.

—-Grow your own food! Victory gardens helped our grandparents survive the wars and Great Depression. Save money at the grocery store by skipping the imported produce and processed food.

—–Eat lower on the food chain! Meat is a threat to our health and environment. Treat it as a condiment and purchase locally-raised meats from farms you trust. www.hvfoodnetwork.com  or www.localharvest.org

2 Responses to “High Price of Local Foods?”

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    when we talk about “food’ and Americans vs. Guatemalans there’s a vast difference. glad you covered that in your insightful piece. i have a habit of checking people’s supermarket carts and it’s amazing the amount of junk “food” – which we shouldn’t even be defining as food. the percentages of obesity that you cited astounded me! i try to eat local as much as possible and to freeze as much as i can. small – very small – garden is growing.

  2. evelyn gaylor Says:

    Another very timely important article. This info can not be reiterated enough! Evelyn

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