Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't let fast food companies define what a "value" meal is

Image: New York Times
As the economy quickly becomes the only issue discussed in Congress, on television and in conversation, it is powerful for environmentalists and food advocates to point out that, while local or organic or simply fresh food might not be the profitable choice for this financial quarter, it will save consumers and the United States a lot of money in a matter of years (not decades).
 In Mark Bittman’s column in the New York Times on September 24, he asks “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”  He explains that the costs for a family of four to eat at McDonald’s is about $28, while a meal of rice, canned beans, bacon, green peppers and onions is about $9. In fact SlowFood hosted a “$5 Challenge” to take back the value meal. There is another challenge scheduled for October 24, national Food Day.
In 2008 the medical care costs of obesity were estimated to be about $147 billion (Center for Disease Control).  And in 2007 the cost of diabetes was about $174 billion, and people with diabetes have about 2.3 times higher than the average expenditures of a person who does not have diabetes.  Approximately $1 in $10 health care dollars is spent on diabetes (American Diabetes Association).  
Sorry to go on about corporate greed, but this food system caters to expensive food that is truly low value, and expensive health care to address the effects of malnutrition.  Our diet is a personal and cultural choice, more so than an economic one.  Mark Bittman points out that a transition from unhealthy eating habits will have to be as wide and popular as acceptance that cigarette smoking was unhealthy, causing high health care costs, and was a result of corporations prioritizing profit over people. 

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