This article is for the audience of the NBC News, they reach out to many different audiences, especially those who have experienced life below the poverty line. By reaching out to these audiences, this article could make them more aware of the dietary hardships people face, and what the cause of it is. This article is directed towards fast food corporations and supermarkets because the locations of their services and their prices affects the convenience of nutritious food. Do Food Prices Cause Unhealthy Diets In between the years of 2007 and 2008, this controversy was highlighted in the media because of the world food price crisis that affected millions worldwide (Green, par.
1). However, today, food prices are rising once again. Prices of foods are supposed to rise an average of 1.
5%, and with the general population spending around 6.6% of their income on groceries alone, though it may not seem like a large raise, it still adds up (Weissinger, par. 5).
The rise in food prices may affect everyone differently, but it’s not a question about if those in poverty will be affected, it’s how.
In addition to how people were affected, in 2008, the global food price crisis pushed an estimated 40 million people into hunger with the rise of food prices, those who were most affected by this rise are below the poverty line (Green par.1). With people already struggling to get food, the rising prices, even today, make getting the right food and nutrients for many difficult. Even today the food prices are rising, and expected to rise an average of 1.5%, this year (Weissinger, par. 6). And with the constant rise in food prices it makes sense that many rely on cheap, fast food meals. Even with their five dollar food stamps, it’s still not enough to eat nutritiously. Fruits and vegetables and other foods considered healthy/nutritious are an average of $1.50 more than processed foods (Shaw, par.1).
In contrast to this statement, Mark Bittman, a writer for the New York Times, believes that it’s a matter of convenience, rather than the price of the food/product, and that healthy and nutritious foods are affordable. Bittman states that the “convenience and habit-forming appeal of highly processed foods” is what causes people to choose junk food and fast food rather than the home cooked meals Bittman refers to as a healthy and cheap alternative (Bittman, par. 12). However, even though Bittman’s claim isn’t necessarily wrong, that there are more than just processed foods to eat with a low income, and he explains different options. He doesn’t take into consideration that not all situations are the same, and fails to mention the cost of the equipment to make the home cooked meals he so highly recommends such as pots, pans, silverware, etc, and the home cooked meals he recommends have a slightly higher price which can make quite a difference.
With that being said, anything that isn’t processed or fast food could improve the nutritional intake for those struggling, even if it is only once a week. The cheap prices of junk/ fast food draws in the below poverty population. And since the weather is constantly changing, along with supply and demand, certain food products – especially fruits and vegetable prices, will rise depending on how much the area they’re produced in is effected. For example, the 2011 Japanese “tsunami and earthquake drove seafood prices up nearly 6%” (Odland, par.5). And with this constant change in prices and in the environment where these foods are produced, it can be difficult to find a sustainable source of nutritional food. An example of how people are affected by these prices is a family in Pennsylvania living poverty. They talk about how their son’s meals revolve around processed foods, for example, it wasn’t uncommon for their son Alex to “eat an ice pops for breakfast” (Fessler, par. 5).
Much like Alex, many others are naturally drawn towards highly processed foods, this is not only a result of the rising food prices, but the cause of major health problems such as obesity or chronic illnesses, and health problems like these “exceed the higher price of healthy food”, causing an even bigger struggle for those who live off of food stamps just to make ends meet (Shaw, par.2). The rise of prices, and the pricing difference between processed and nutritious foods drives people into bad eating habits that tremendously affect their diets. Kids such as Alex, are an example of how prices affect their health, not only does he appear “a little chubby”, but “worries about food all the time” , because even though he may not appear hungry, “he always is”, showing the direct effect of the food prices on people’s health (Feller, par. 1, 24). Food producers produced foods that are cheaply made and full of toxins, little did they know, it was their products that negatively affect the diets of those below the poverty line, though this may produce cheaper food, faster, it is harmful to the health of the consumers.
Consumers such as those who live in poverty who choose these highly processed foods, only choose them because convenient stores such as 7-11 are the only “store” close enough to where they live to easily access food, even if it isn’t the most nutritious. In fact some poor, rural areas don’t have an access to supermarkets that could provide nutritious food, the Department of Agriculture states “that more than two million Americans live in low-income rural areas live more than 10 miles or more from a supermarket”, and more than twice that number of people don’t have access to cars or transportation (Bittman, par.8). This emphasizes the fact that those in poverty are forced to choose processed foods because it is the the only type of food that is a reasonable distance from where they are without having to pay too much for transportation. With the lack of transportation in some areas, it makes the cheap, processed foods more convenient, especially if many only have access to a convenience store.
This encourages eating the processed foods that are near where they live, but Shaw presents a solution mentioned by Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist. Mozaffarian proposes “taxing unhealthy foods and using the revenue to subsidize healthy choices”, which is supposed to balance the cost of food, initially making healthy foods cheaper (Shaw, Mozaffarian, par. 6). His idea is similar to that of WIC, “the federal government’s special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children”, which could help use tax dollars for helping provide healthier meal options (Shaw, par. 7). Los Angeles also has a solution to this controversy, “zoning-laws restrict the number of fast food restaurants in high obesity neighborhoods”, helping to cut back on the unhealthy options many are so accustomed to eating (Bittman, par.17 ).
Even in Pennsylvania, a successful food program called “Healthy Food Financing Initiative” is bringing “fresh food outlets into underserved areas”, to help encourage healthier eating, and have an affordable place for people to get nutritious foods for themselves and their families that would normally be too expensive at supermarkets (Bittman, par. 17). Even with zoning laws, taxes, and gardens, millions still go hungry everyday. Though there are many other solutions to this controversy in many other different areas, these solutions are based around making eating nutritiously affordable for those living in poverty. Taking into consideration that everyone living in poverty has a different situation, and had different ways of coming to this point, but over all food prices do negatively affect those living in poverty by encouraging the consumption of highly processed foods rather than more nutritious form of food.