Today, at another site I write for there was a bit of a comment war surrounding food, which fits right in with my whole childhood obesity and healthy lifestyles series.
I stated that I hate seeing parents feed their kids crappy food day in and day out. A few other people got upset and said the following:
- “Don’t judge. you should consider that when parents feed their kids junk food, it’s because it’s just what they can afford…. It’s EXPENSIVE to buy fruits and vegetables, much less organic.“
- “Don’t judge parents just because it’s cheap to buy processed meals that serve everyone for just a few dollars.”
- “There are many low income areas where healthy food aren’t available. But, McDonalds is a block away and has hot food that everyone enjoys and it’s quick too.”
- “Education surrounding food takes time and motivation and often money. You’re jumping to the conclusion that low-income = lazy.“
- “It takes too long to make a healthy meal.“
- “There have been many links between socioeconomic class and junk food and it’s not always due to lack of information.”
I’m too poor to give my child healthy meals?
If in fact being low-income was a criteria for poor parenting, and serving up fast food daily, then I’d be screwed. I work full time as a freelance writer, which may sound all glam, but trust me, I’m not rolling in extra dough.
Since I’m freelance, I don’t get awesome perks like company-paid health care, sick days or anything like that. I pay out of pocket for my son’s and my own health care and we’re talking hundreds of dollars a month. It’s insanely expensive.
I also pay for private school for my son, which isn’t cheap. Then there’s all the typical bills like rent, water, electricity and so on. Plus, on top of all this, I’m a single mama and I get zero child support.
In spite of all of this, I do buy a majority of our food organic and I do serve my son healthy meals. What’s that about?
We all make choices
My priorities are few. Have enough money to live simply, pay for private school and health care and feed my child in a healthy, green manner.
Now, although it may sound like I make bank, considering I buy mostly organic, health care and send my son to private school, that’s not exactly true. I’m making a living, but it’s not like we have a ton of extra money laying around after bills. The ONLY reason we can afford the stuff we afford is because I make our choices priority before other stuff.
We don’t have cable or go to movies. Unlike most kids his age, my son doesn’t have a cell phone or his own laptop. We rarely eat out and we shop for clothes at thrift stores before buying new. We don’t take vacations or buy new books or tons of holiday gifts for people. We make sure to turn off the heat and lights when we don’t need them and try not to waste food.
If need be, I’ll even work more hours in a month to be able to afford what I consider priority.
Our lives don’t suck or anything (you don’t need cable for fun). We buy a few board games a year and play together a lot. We do art projects, go hiking and attend free events when they come to town. We’re not living badly, we’re just living on a super, no-room to spare, tight budget. Do I wish we had more money? Sure, that always makes life a bit easier. Do we need a ton more to eat healthfully – not really.
The argument doesn’t hold up
There are people living with very few funds. I know that. However, I’m not talking about the extreme situations. The people I hear say, “Organic and healthy are too expensive” are seldom those living with almost no money.
The people I know who say eating healthy is too expensive have cable TV and two parent families where one doesn’t work. I know families who have a ton of money, as in triple what I make in a year, and they still say eating healthy takes too much time and costs too much so they feed their kids cheap fast food 5xs a week.
Back when food stamps were actually paper, I knew families who would complain about high food costs even as they traded their food stamps for beer and cigarette money. I know many families who put material goods before healthy food. I even know families where parents won’t take a job they feel is beneath them – so what if it feeds your kid?
Again, we all make choices. People are for sure allowed to make their own choices, but there’s a false sense of “Healthy is too costly” going around when in reality, healthy food is simply a choice the person chooses not to make.
I’d maybe buy the whole healthy food is too expensive argument, if I quit seeing so many families who always have soda and chips in the house. If fewer families had cable, 5 cell phones, cigarettes and new sports equipment it would go a long way towards convincing me that people really are too poor for healthy food.
As for the time issue…
If I hear, “Healthy meals take too much time” one more time I’ll scream. As pointed out in my New Year’s goal, I’m short on time, but I always make time to feed my child well. In the time it takes to run to the fast food joint any family could whip up something healthier and likely for the same amount of money.
Coming up, I’ll post some examples of homemade meals that are healthier than fast food meals, cost less and are not time consuming.
Do you honestly believe that healthy meals cost more and take more time than processed meals and fast food? Tell me in the comments.
Image ©Viktor Hanacek via Picjumbo