The Answer is Access, Access, Access


The “It’s Too Expensive to Eat Healthy Food” Debate


There are some views held by well-meaning reporters and food bloggers that are so specious that it makes me want to hammer a nine-inch nail into my head.

The worst of these shibboleths is that it’s too expensive to eat healthy food.

Except that it’s pretty well-documented that eating a healthier diet IS more expensive, whether you go by the price-per-calorie model or not. And, what constitutes a healthy diet varies by person, so just because one person is able to eat healthily and inexpensively, doesn’t mean we all can.

What bothers me the most about this post, though, is that the author seems to ignore the fact that the expense of eating healthy foods is NOT just about the cost of food itself. It’s about access. How many grocery stores are in your area? Do you live in a food desert? Do you live out in the middle of nowhere, where there’s only one store around for miles? So much for comparison shopping. Do you live in an urban neighborhood, where there’s a fast-food joint on every corner, but the nearest Whole Foods is 15, 20 miles away? Do you have a car to drive to that Whole Foods? If not, what about mass transit? Does it even go there? Is it affordable to take it that far?

It’s also about time. If you’re working multiple jobs just to keep your bills paid, food shopping several times a week for fresh food might not be an option. Neither is taking the time to venture out to the suburbs to the aforementioned Whole Foods. Or taking the time to read through labels to avoid government-subsidized ingredients in processed foods, like HFCS. Or going to different stores to compare prices. And what about the time that goes into preparing a meal from all these fresh foods? What about the space required to store them? I’d love to stock up on boneless, skinless chicken when it’s on sale, but my freezer only holds so much.

And while the author keeps his/her post strictly about food, let me go beyond that to the subject of exercise. Being able to afford a gym membership is a privilege. Being able to go for a walk or jog in a relatively safe neighborhood where random shootings and muggings and rapes are not a huge threat? Also a privilege. As is having a home big enough to store exercise equipment. Or having time to devote specifically to exercise as well.

These are not excuses; it’s reality, for many, many people. We’re privileged enough to be sitting here on the internet, yammering on about all this, when people out there can only be concerned with surviving. And for a lot of people, that’s grabbing a cheeseburger and a caffeinated beverage from the McDonald’s dollar menu while on the way to work, just to have enough energy to work, because that is all that time and money allow.


-Julia Childless