A great op-ed in the New York Times from Mark Bittman today entitled Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? in which he raises a critical point that we (by which I mean the collective of grow-your-own or organic-only foodies) often forget:
But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux. The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.
He continues to show the real cost of food and the actual chemical “hyper-addictive” qualities of fast-food. Our neighbors are not suffering solely from bad food choices, but perhaps even from a chemical addiction.
Overconsumption of fast food ‘triggers addiction-like neuroaddictive responses’ in the brain, making it harder to trigger the release of dopamine. In other words the more fast food we eat, the more we need to give us pleasure; thus the report suggests that the same mechanisms underlie drug addiction and obesity.
Just as we came to good food choices over time, we need to remember that to someone who swears by a Big Mac and Fries for lunch every day is not going to easily say “okay, sure, I’ll take a squash!” in short order. In fact, they’ll more than likely clam up like a 6 month old who is quite tired of whatever pureed liver or spinach is being fed to them. But over time, this change can occur to healthier choices that save the person money.
One of the best ways to start the conversion is to discuss the pocket book. It is cheaper to cook at home and make your own coffee and it doesn’t take that much more time if you plan it out. Of course, we’ll probably never convince the Brooklyn Kitchenistas, who use their kitchen as an extension of their closet, to make the change.
Alas, we can’t win them all.