“What you eat is the most political thing you do everyday”
There is quite a debate among nutritionists/dieticians about processed food being cheaper than fresh food. It is also proving quite difficult to navigate the web to find out accurate information in regard to this topic.
I can see for myself that if I go to the supermarket I will “spend more” on enough fresh produce to cook a nutritious meal than if I get an instant satisfaction hit going to a fast food joint.
But let’s look at a few issues:
• If I am a discerning shopper (which I am) I can find cheaper fresh food in places other than my supermarket. If you live in a city you most likely have access to markets where you can buy everything. When I lived in Adelaide we went to the Central Market on a weekly basis for ALL our food. We only ever went to the supermarket for cleaning products and some personal products. In Adelaide all roads lead to the city. It has been a long time since I have lived in SA but I do know there are many Farmer’s markets that a springing up all over the place so you need to look around for them. The beauty of a Farmer’s market lies in the fact that you will reduce the carbon footprint, buy fresh ‘in season’ food, chat to the farmer about how they grew the food, fed the chooks and so on and moreover, they can give you advice about how to grow the food if you would like to try to grow at home.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/how-to-pick-an-authentic-farmers-market/5009746 (About Farmer’s Markets)
• The real cost of eating processed food is largely hidden. People who eat rubbish getter sicker and more often. National health costs may be less meaningful to lower socio-economic groups with less education but it still costs money to go to a doctor who does not ‘bulk-bill’. There is the risk of losing your job if you are taking sick leave or leave to look after a sick child. And dentistry in this country is not affordable for many people.
http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/08/13/why-eating-quick-cheap-food-is-actually-more-expensive/#close (Chronic conditions and eating healthy)
http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/healthy-eating-on-a-budget/ (How to start healthy eating)
• Where does the processed food come from? Australia or overseas? That is a cost to our farmers and burden to our employment, welfare and so on, the whole trickle-down effect of eating food not grown here. There is nothing wrong with eating some foods from overseas especially authentic food for a special occasion but I think it is inherently wrong to eat food from overseas that we can produce here in Australia. Food bought from overseas allows poor people in those countries to enjoy a smidge of what we take for granted here in the way of education and improved health for example. We are moving more towards a global economy. However, I do think it is wrong we buy from overseas because we can rip poor people off in regards to wages and poorer working conditions, which is the very reason that our manufacturing and production is moved off shore. In our country lawyers gain the most which is why we have so many rules and regulations which make it increasingly difficult for business in this country to get ahead. It is not solely about wages as politicians would have you believe. Insurances and litigation issues are to be blamed for exorbitant blow outs in production of goods and services.
• What about you as the consumer when buying produce? Do you put back a ‘scuffed’ piece of fruit because it is not perfect? It is a ‘catch-22’. If I am paying $200/kg for an apple then yes, I have the right to grab the nicest apple on offer, however, because I, as a consumer, demand that my apple be perfect, it will cost the producer more to sort out the apples to get the right size, colour and shape. The wonderful thing about living in Darwin is I can go to the markets, pop down a side street in the suburbs or stop along the Stuart Highway and get a ton of mangoes for far less than the local supermarket because farmers don’t want to throw out tons of mangoes. Why are they cheap? They are too large, a bit wonky in shape, have trunk marks on them or whatever other reason, they don’t fit the perfect mould of what a consumer demands of a mango. Great news for us but bad news for the farmers and consumers who don’t drive down the Stuart Highway.
http://secondbite.org/sites/default/files/FruitVegConsumptionWasteinAustraliaVICHEALTH.pdf (Food waste- pp15-18 and Mango Wastage p17)
• With an increasing number of adults in the household working, of course it is easier to have a ‘one-stop’ shop for all that we need to sustain us. However, most of us see shopping as a chore and a bore. I hate supermarket shopping; I really do, but….. I love going to markets. We need to change our focus on food shopping, in that it should be an enjoyable and, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, a family outing not just left to one person. Having the time to work out menus, getting everyone in the house involved in decisions around healthy meals, the cooking and shopping eases the burden and makes it fun. Instead of a chore, going to the market and cooking up a storm can be relaxing, family time, a hobby. The other day as I was flitting around my local area buying food it reminded me of times past when you went to the fish monger, the butcher, the green grocer, the baker and so on. It felt quaint. But yes, it can be time consuming although having said that I am not lining up in a very long queue in a supermarket listening to crap piped music, kids whingeing, soaking up the negative vibes from shoppers and being served by some kid who has absolutely no interest in being there or know a beetroot from okra. (Seriously, that happened to me once. The only vegetable the kid knew was the potatoes and the onions; he had to ask me what every other thing was! And that was in an affluent suburb of Melbourne. He was about sixteen and I just shudder to think what that kid is either a/ eating or b/ what he will eat in the future as an independent adult.
What can I do to change?
• Herbs per Kg are by far the most expensive thing you will buy and we can all grow them no matter where you live. Polystyrene ‘broccoli boxes’ from your local green grocer make excellent gardening boxes. I have successfully grown capsicum, spinach, herbs, chillies and okra in these boxes.
• Community gardens are on the rise in many communities. Darwin has four that I know of and I am sure there are many more.
• Verge planting is also on the rise in many cities and certainly happening here in Darwin. It is lovely to be able to walk down a street and pluck some herbs, a mango, a lime or whatever and our local council here have been instrumental in planting a series of fruit trees at the Jingili water gardens for community use. (I will be doing a blog on community gardens and verge planting at a later date) Google your local area to find out more in the meantime.
• Some schools are involved in gardening and the children will sell their produce. When my son was in primary school at Black Forest in Adelaide, each classroom had a garden bed. If it is not happening in your school you might like to suggest it.
It is encouraging to know that there is a movement back to local production of food. It behoves all of us to be involved in any small way we can to ensure we have a healthy future for our children and for our country.