Recently I read this article in the Atlantic. In summary, the author posits that the vast majority of Americans eat big-agra food and this is not likely to change, so the best way to address the health issues brought on by consumption of highly processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods is to change big-agra foods.
That got me thinking about WHY processed food is more popular and how, contrary to the assumptions of some of those in the slow food movement, it’s not all about lack of knowledge, or lack of desire to eat well. Sometimes it’s about circumstances that are rarely, if ever, addressed by the likes of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman (the latter is quoted as saying that people eat convenience foods in order to maximize their TV watching time).
So, I present a day in the life of a poor person who is trying to eat according to the Pollan/Bittman school of sanctioned personal habits:
(Prior to the day in question, be born in America with limited privilege.)
Wake at 5:30 AM
Get your grade-school-aged daughter out of bed. Give her a banana and a glass of (affordable, factory-farmed) milk to tide her over until she gets to the morning-care program at school where she’ll have a hot breakfast.
As you’re scrambling to get out the door, your daughter can’t find her other shoe, so you both miss the bus by seconds. Wait 20 minutes for the next one, then ride it 30 minutes to school to drop her off.
Wait for your second bus. The bus gods are feeling magnanimous after their earlier cruelty, so the bus comes quickly.
Make the 50-minute bus ride to your workplace – a garment factory in an industrial park across town.
Arrive at work at 7:30 to begin 10-hour shift packing boxes.
There’s a new farmers’ market near the factory. You have been meaning to buy more fruits and vegetables, so you’re really happy about this. The market is open one day a week – today – from noon to 4:00. If you skip lunch you can get your shopping done.
Miss lunch because the foreman insisted everyone work through to meet a production deadline.
Run out to farmers market on your 15-minute afternoon break. Pick up affordable things you know your daughter might eat; apples, celery, broccoli, potatoes and carrots. Bypass the $6/lb. artisanal rhubarb, but not without a pang of nostalgia for the rhubarb that your grandmother used to grow in herbackyard. Back then it was called pieplant and grew like a weed.
A vendor wants to tell you about how the ($4 a bunch) kale is really fresh – fresher than the apples. And, a superfood! Listen politely as she tells you how much her child likes baked kale chips seasoned with humanely harvested sea salt. “You just have to expose them to new foods when they’re young. Kids WANT to eat healthy. It’s the corporations that have them eating all that junk.”
Try to distract the vendor from her apple-shaming by commenting on her cute sparkly flats – they kind of look like the $7 canvas sneakers they sell at Payless Shoes. “Oh, thank you – these are Tom’s shoes. Whenever you buy a pair, Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to a child in Africa. And they’re a great deal – these were only $55!” Wonder to yourself why people don’t just buy the $7 shoes at Payless and donate $48 to help children in Africa. Remember that your kid is going to need new shoes in a month or two.
To be continued …