Tag Archives: obesity

Food Without Thought

The other day I was in produce section of the co-op and noticed a beautiful blood orange that had recently been cut in half. “Let me know if you’d like to try some. Just had one and it was delicious.” I turned around to find a friendly employee smiling while unpacking bananas. Without thinking, I responded, “Sure, i’d love to!” The slice of orange was delicious, and I ended up buying some. As I proceeded to the bulk section, I found myself ruminating over my instantaneous response to the employee’s offer. I glanced down at the oranges in my basket and realized I had just fallen for a subtle marketing gimmick. By offering samples, City Market can get customers to eat more of what they sell. Similar marketing methods are employed everywhere; it seems anything food related is set up to encourage us to eat more, not less. Why? Turns out that there’s too much available food in the U.S. today. In Why Calories Count, Marion Nestle explains that rates of obesity sharply increased in the 1980’s as the result of changes in agricultural and economic polities that promoted greater food production. The result? The number of calories available in the U.S. food supply rose from 3,200 per capita per day in 1980 to 3,900 in 1990. The average adult needs only needs half of that amount, and kids much less (Nestle, 2012). With the proliferation of cheap, convenient foods in our society there’s no denying that the norms surrounding eating have shifted. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, today half the typical family’s food budget is for foods prepared and eaten outside of the home. I suddenly recalled all the times I’d mindlessly sampled food at the grocery store, eaten because food was in front of me, grabbed food on the go for convenience sake, or conversely, grabbed more food than I need just because it was available. The fact is, companies make money when we eat more, not less. It’s vital that we not let increasingly subtle marketing methods employed by food companies slip past our consciousness and into our bellies. We live in a society where 60% of adults are considered overweight and 1/3 obese. More than ever, we must critically think about our food choices and recognize that companies benefit from us getting larger. Ultimately, it is our choice whether or not we want to bear the brunt of overabundance within the food system.

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U.S. Farm Policy and Consumer Behavior

The other day at the co-op I was paying particular attention to consumer behavior. Essentially, I was paying close and particular attention to the foods that consumers had in their carts and baskets. While a vast majority of people had a least 1-3 items from the produce section, there were the occasion few that did not. I found myself wondering about these occasional few. Did they already have enough vegetables and fruit at home? Do they normally incorporate fruits and vegetables into their daily diet? Are they not buying fruits and vegetables because other foods are cheaper and “more filling”?  These are some of the questions that came to mind.

After leaving City Market that day, I found myself focusing on the last question. That’s when I stumbled upon this chart:

After doing some research, I found one aspect that is often overlooked when looking at the question “why does a salad cost more than a big mac?” is the U.S. Farm Policy which encourages overproduction and driving down the prices of a couple major commodities (i.e. corn and soybeans). The result is food that can be derived from these low cost commodities are what’s made widely available to the consumer for a cheap price. This is why sugar and far are so prevalent today, because they can be derived from corn and soybeans. This also helps to explain why generally speaking unhealthy food is cheaper than fruits and vegetables.

I reflected back to the people I saw in the check out line that didn’t have fruits or vegetables, but had lots of boxed, highly processed yet cheaper products. I couldn’t help but wonder if the situation would be different if the prices for fruits and vegetables were lower. What do you guys think, does the price of fruits and vegetables inhibit you from purchasing them at the grocery store, or do you find a way to incorporate them into your diet while staying within your food budget? I know that I’m able to find a way to incorporate them without spending too much. For example, I often buy veggies from the reduced price section at City Market which consists of vegetables that may have 1 or 2 bruises on it but otherwise are fine. At the same time, I’m not financially independent as I still receive money for groceries and monthly rent from my parents. Anyway, would love to know any tips or suggestions you guys have for eating healthy foods while on a budget!

FN 3/19