Perusing the aisles in Whole Foods, I can’t help but feel blissful as I practically skip past the variety of healthy eating options on every shelf. For once, I don’t have to worry about whether a pack of fruit snacks will give me cancer or if the milk I pour into my cereal may give my future children diseases.
My enthusiasm took a turn for the worse, however, when I saw the total cost at the cash register. In today’s world, eating healthy comes at a price. But it shouldn’t be this way. If college students can’t afford to eat well, how can people living below the poverty line expect to?
For college students, it’s common to sacrifice health for the sake of money, convenience and taste. Now, if college students paying tens of thousands of dollars on tuition have a hard time affording healthy food, imagine the life of a mother working a minimum wage job to support her family.
Hypothetically speaking, this mother works a 12-hour shift and maybe even overtime at a minimum wage job to support her three children. She is exhausted from working and doesn’t have time to grocery shop or even cook for that matter. She can only afford McDonald’s.
Fast food restaurants are not only more common than healthy fresh vendors and grocers, but also way more affordable. When a person does not have the financial means to provide his or her family with meals other than junky fast food, a connection emerges between obesity and low income.
It is important to consider the notion of dietary convenience for those who live in poverty, those who live meal-to-meal, and those who sometimes don’t know how they are going to feed their families for the week. To them, fast food and processed foods are lifelines. Though it is unhealthy and unnatural, these options are the difference between going hungry and filling the empty stomachs of starving families.
Processed food that can be made cheaper have changed the dynamic of malnutrition, as the most inexpensive way to feed the hungry directly correlates with food that is detrimental to a healthy physique.
Do you think someone who gets paid minimum wage, scraping by to pay rent, cares about whether his or her food is filled with nutrients? The fact of the matter is, it is innate for humans to resort to whatever means they must in order to survive. Health is, and always will be, compromised for cost.
Looking back at history, being overweight was a sign of wealth and luxury because it was a blatant indicator of excess. We must expand options when it comes to affordable, nutritious meals – before obesity transforms into society’s sure-fire sign of poverty.
Jamie Servidio is a sophomore majoring in journalism.