The cost of cheap food

Image via Tara Whitsitt on  Flickr

Image via Tara Whitsitt on Flickr

My husband’s sermon yesterday served as a good reminder that evil isn’t always some outside force in the world.

Sometimes, it’s in choices we make. Or, we’re perpetuating evil when we stand by and do nothing.

God puts different issues on our hearts to fight for; we can’t solve every problem on our own. Food and what we eat worries me. It’s the cause I can’t ignore.

I argue that we as a country need to be willing to pay for better ingredients. For more local ingredients. For higher-quality meat. Some might say that just isn’t an option for poorer people. They have to buy the cheapest food possible because that’s the situation they are in and we shouldn’t judge them for making those choices.

That’s true. But we’re forcing our poor people into a vicious cycle.

According to this Mark Bittman column, the cost of treating and/or trying to cure preventable lifestyle diseases is more than a seventh of our GDP. If you’re a person that feels the government is spending too much money, think of how much the government spends on programs like Medicare. Our poor need medical care as much as anyone else.

In the same column, Bittman estimates by 2020, Type II Diabetes will cost the U.S. $500 billion annually. Think of where $500 billion would get this country if it was spent somewhere else, instead of going to the treatment of illnesses brought on by what we eat.

So much of this is preventable. Avoidable. It’s not an earthquake or a hurricane. We’re just eating too much crap. That’s it. But, we’ve made it really cheap, so that’s all some people can afford to sustain themselves. So they eat it, get sick and need medical care that they can’t pay for. Sometimes, the government is going to have to foot the bill for that.

“One reason that obesity and diabetes become more prevalent the further down the socioeconomic scale you look is that the industrial food chain has made energy-dense foods the cheapest foods in the market, when measured in terms of cost per calorie,” said Michael Pollan in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma.

He also says in later in that chapter that researchers learned a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips and cookies. A dollar only bought 250 calories of carrots.

With or food system they way it currently stands, we aren’t giving our poor people any other choice. And it’s making them sick.

Whether you care about food issues or not, this does not line up with our call as Christians to help the poor. The Old Testament is filled with laws that require the Jewish people to leave some of what the grow or earn for the poor. In the New Testament, we see many examples of Jesus helping the poor.

As followers of God that this is a call we can’t ignore.

James 2: 15-17: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. IF oen of you says him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”






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5 thoughts on “The cost of cheap food

  1. The Lily and The Marrow May 6, 2013 at 8:16 am Reply

    What a great reminder! Food does so much to contribute to our overall state of well-being, and I am starting to learn how the foods we purchase effect those all around the world. I blogged just this morning on my journey to buying more local and fair trade products.

    • Mandy @ Spiritual Table May 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm Reply

      Thanks for reading Jen! I liked your post as well! I definitely agree that most of us aren’t paying attention to what we buy, and as a result, we’re supporting things we shouldn’t. Thanks again for reading. I’m glad I know about your blog now!

  2. Jim Settlemoir May 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm Reply And remember, “the government” doesn’t fund anything. The taxpayers do.

    • Mandy @ Spiritual Table May 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm Reply

      Yes, oh-so true Jim! It makes it even more of a reason to care about our nation’s overall health.

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