December 13, 2008

Food Costs

If I had anything resembling free-time in my life, this blog would have regular, daily posts. I think about food A LOT, and I have a lot to say about it, probably more than anyone wants to hear. But I have small children, a small business, a busy life, and I cook three meals a day. The time-cost for putting real food on the table isn't small, and there have been moments in the past months where I've wondered if the pop tarts would really kill us. (Not that I could swallow a piece of chemical-flavored cardboard...)

But this prompted me to post:

It's a young couple, who lived on a $1 a day for food for one month. They went as healthy as they could, oatmeal, peanut butter, beans, rice... but they couldn't afford produce more than a couple times during the experiment. They drank Tang for the vitamin C.

This makes me think a million things, about the people who really do it, about the cheap calories that are available in junk food, about how the looming health care crisis, obesity epidemic, and countless medical conditions could be wiped out with decent nutrition.

Then I wondered what our produce costs us each day. A $27 weekly box of produce feeds a family of four for $0.96 a day per person. I supplement fruit and kid-friendly vegetables (they just won't eat collards and mustard greens 7 days a week, darnit!) to get a greater variety and quantity, from a small local grocery that sources organic and pesticide-free produce from California farms. A typical week means another $25 in produce from this store, which would bring our total to just under $2 a day per person.

It doesn't sound outrageous, and it's certainly cheaper than the produce we ate a few years ago before starting the CSA box. Those days when I bought over-priced, warehouse-aged, hot-ticket items like fresh berries year-round. Now I haven't seen a berry in months (well, I did, encased in Jell-O, somewhere in the American middle-west but that's another story...), and won't until late Spring. Instead we're eating apples, oranges, persimmons and pomegranates. It is in all ways cheaper, healthier and better to eat seasonal produce; we know that. But what is to be done when the cheapest is too expensive?

There are stunning grassroots answers to this question in community gardens, backyards and rooftops,

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