Story last updated at 5/7/2014 - 1:22 pm
You're an American shopping in your local grocery store. You see a bag of chips for $1 and a container of mixed fruit for $3. You remember you have to pay your rent bill, health insurance and loans. You lean in to grab the bag of chips and head toward the checkout counter. This story has many problems that many Americans fight every day.
A lot of Americans look for the cheapest food so they can use their money on something more valuable to them. Many of those people have thoughts like, "Why would I pay $10 for a salad when I can get and cheeseburger for $1?" or "The cheaper, the better."
Other Americans have no choice to eat healthy, so they practically live off of unhealthy foods. I believe everyone deserves access to a happy and healthier life, so healthy foods need to be affordable to all Americans.
As most of you know, when you see cheap food, it's probably unhealthy. Researchers from Harvard have found that eating a healthy diet costs an average of $1.50 more per meal than an unhealthy diet.
This may not seem like a lot of money, but when I tell you it costs an average of $550 per year to feed a person in America, and you multiply that by four or five family members, that's when it seems like a lot of money. Dr. Adam Drewnoski, a director at a nutritional science program at the University of Washington, states, "If you have $3 to feed yourself, your choices gravitate towards foods that give you the most calories per dollar, not only are empty calories cheaper, but healthy foods are becoming more and expensive."
That leads me to my second reason. Young adults and adults being paid minimum wage or less tend to have a small budget for food. The Pew Research Center found that 3.55 million people work at or below minimum wage, and 64 percent of them only work part time. In an interview with Carrie Macaulay, she describes what it was like to live as a struggling student in college. She only worked jobs in the summer; those paid about $8 an hour. She said her food budget was $75 per week for her and her roommate, so that limited her grocery options. Another limit she had was that she didn't know how to cook as well as she does today. When she did go shopping, she found items that could be prepared quickly and easily, such as Top Ramen, appealed to her most.
She thinks one solution to this problem is to find recipes that have some cheap healthy foods. She also thinks that if prices were lowered on healthy foods, more people could afford to eat healthy and it would give a chance for people to fight obesity.
Obesity is another outcome from the high price of healthy food. Logically thinking, if you have $3 for lunch, would you spend that all on two oranges or get a full meal of French fries, a hamburger and a chocolate milkshake from a fast food restaurant?
If you keep eating unhealthily, it can lead to worse medical problems like diabetes and obesity. People of all ages have bigger chance getting these diseases if they can't afford to buy the nutritional foods they need. Obesity is responsible for shortening lives and causes 11,000 deaths every year. Government researchers expect 42 percent of all U.S. adults to be obese in 2030, and the CDC expects 1 in 3 adults to have diabetes by 2050.
Some may argue that the reason healthy foods are more expensive is because farmers put in more time and effort to grow healthy foods. I still think healthy food should be an option for everyone, but I also think that it is fair to pay the people that grow our food.
As a result, I came up with a new plan to keep our society healthy. My new idea is to switch the prices of healthy and unhealthy foods. This would not only stop the temptation, but we would still be able to pay our farmers. Another solution would be to raise minimum wage. If we can't bring healthy prices down, should we try to make our income level rise?
It is time to make the healthy choice affordable. Using these solutions, we could change people who have low income, give people healthier options, and save people from diabetes and obesity. As many of you have heard before, all changes start with you. If we can start this change, we can make the world a healthy place. There could be a world that has less obesity, poverty, and fast food. This change could be a start to forming a world that has always existed in our dreams.
Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a series of 10 essays that will be running weekly in the Capital City Weekly. Each year for the past 10, students at Floyd Dryden Middle School compose, edit and pick editorial essays for publication in the CCW. Essays are picked by a student editorial board, and the Capital City Weekly is pleased to donate space for these young writers.
The students who served on the editorial board are Andyn Mulgrew-Truitt (Editorial Board Leader), Gabrielle Scales (Editorial Board Leader), Cassie Dzinich, Matthew Edwards, Mason Fowler, Janessa Goodman, Taia Hadfield, Dang Xue Loseby, Luis Medrano, Cierra McCain, Emily Mossberg, Gray Price, Maxie Saceda-Hurt, Abby Schmidt, Anthony Simpson, Colton Tersteeg, Jillian Tracy and Kasey Watts. The Capital City Weekly does not advocate or oppose the opinions expressed here.