The Risks of the Dollar Menu

People who receive lower income are more likely to consume cheaper, processed foods, and have a higher chance of undergoing or receiving obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related health problems. Also, low-income families, who disburse a larger percentage of their salary on food, have been greatly impacted by the proliferation of cheap, unhealthy food. However, no matter the amount of income received, everyone should have the right to access healthy food to maintain a good lifestyle.

Funds from the federal government were given to U.S. farms to assist the wide instability of crop prices during the Great Depression. On the other hand, the federal government now spends about $35 billion every year funding crops in a complex system of endowment. Throughout the years, the prices of certain crops, including corn and soy, have decreased due to this contribution of money.

Low-income families, who spend most of their earnings on purchasing foods, have been greatly impacted by the rapid increase in numbers of cheap, but unhealthy foods. Due to their tight budget, the difference in the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods funded by the government forces them to ingest more processed foods than people would normally consume. An unfortunate outcome is that income has become the most accurate predictor of the two conditions linked to diet – Type 2 diabetes and obesity.  As a matter of fact, diet-related chronic diseases are one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Many people believe that food choices are a personal responsibility, where what we eat and buy is a choice; however, others disagree and believe that healthy food choices should be available to everyone and not just to people who can afford it. As I stated before, expensive healthy foods have caused low-income families to resort to purchasing inexpensive unhealthy food and increased the risk of receiving diet-related chronic problems. Because of this, many people have started to question if something should be done about it.

The author, Michael Pollan states in the 2008 New York Times issue, “That’s what we’ve been heavily subsidizing, encouraging farmers to grow more of, and that’s what makes fast food so cheap. Meanwhile over in the produce section, the head of broccoli costs more than a fast-food hamburger. Why is that? We do very little to encourage farmers to grow what are called specialty crops, which is actual food you can eat,” extremely concerned that national policies are subsidizing the least healthful calories that we eat. He also questions, “What if we had a definition of food that said a food is something that doesn’t just have calories but has a certain amount of nutrients and micronutrients?” Farm subsidies have resulted in significantly lowering costs of the food industry and has caused them to be overproduced and more inexpensive than other crops, when the farm subsidy system should be organized differently to provide foods for everyone.

Not being able to eat healthy foods because it cannot be afforded is awfully unjust. Everyone should have the privilege to access food to sustain a good lifestyle.

~Rebecca Chang


  1. “How U.S. Agricultural Subsidies Harm the Environment, Taxpayers and The Poor.” National Center for Policy Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
  2. “Oz, Daphne. “Why Are Processed Foods Cheaper than Fresh Foods? – Eating and Society.” Sharecare. N.p., n.d. Web.
  3. Schlosser, Eric. “Access to Good, Healthy Food Should Be a Basic Human Right.” The Atlantic.    Atlantic Media Company, 22 Feb. 2012. Web.

Picture Credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=healthy+food&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiy6O-P7szTAhWGRyYKHUkMB1wQ_AUIBigB&biw=1256&bih=699#imgrc=OZD13MYHUSNaaM:

Escaping the Dollar Menu

My latest English assignment was to write an essay on the topic of sustainability in response to a chapter from the film Food Inc.,. The chapter that I chose was titled “The Dollar Menu”, which discussed the concept of subsidized crops- the food industry’s newest, cheapest, jewel. Subsidized crops, which don’t hold all of the nutrients that people need, are mass produced in such a way that allows the products they’re transformed into to be cheaper than ever. Subsidized crops are often the main ingredient in unhealthy options such as fast food, sodas, and snacks. While they’ve become the virtual “dollar menu” of today, fresh, organic, produce is priced much higher in comparison.

In addition, recent developments in genetic modifications have also allowed food industry giants to mass produce white meat. Chickens now develop in nearly half the time that they would some years ago, and can barely stand because of the weight of their own breasts. Faster mass production enabled by subsidized crops and genetic modification helps drive down the price of these unhealthy products, selling more at a cheaper rate. The same industry giants seem to care much more about slaughtering and selling as fast as possible than any idea of sustainability. The same companies also do not seem to be concerned that their products lead to diet-related illnesses, such as the diabetes in the father of the family that Food Inc. interviewed.

The greed of these food companies has destroyed the bodily sustainability of low income families who have only enough money to partake in the “gift of ‘The Dollar Menu’” everyday. The gap between fresh produce of the organics store and America’s famous dollar menu came as quite a shock to me when I first arrived at Southern in August. Being from a sub-tropical island where things such as aloe and avocados have never held a price to me, I was quite surprised to witness my roommate purchase both of these items at the grocery store for more than the cost of a McDonalds cheeseburger. In my home country, although these things are sold in grocery stores, everyone has the choice to instead go outdoors and pick them for free. At first, I thought it a shame that low income Americans have no choice but to partake of the unhealthy quick-meals. As I continued to watch the interview with the diabetic dad, I realized that, though it is more difficult, Americans do have a choice. An article by StraightHealth[1] states,

“Part of the problem with healthy foods being so “expensive” is the definition of price. Healthy foods are higher in nutrients and satisfy you for a much longer period of time. A better way to measure the price of food is to look at price/nutrient or price/satiety ratios. If you look at these comparisons, the price is not so different”.

While the sacrifice to purchase these organics may be expensive- is it any more expensive than future diabetes medication? Each of us must make this decision- before “The Dollar Menu” proceeds to make it for us.

-Mish Hughes

1.  Bendor, Ken. “Why are healthy foods expensive?” Straight Health.        http://straighthealth.com/pages/qna/healthyfoodexpensive.html.

2. Fig 1: Fast Food vs Healthy Produce. https://www.dherbs.com/articles/featured-articles/unk-food-makes-our-brains-less-adaptable/

Meet the Meat

Chicken Little? When it comes to confronting corporate abuses, chicken farmers chicken out. Now we’re left with oversized chickens, corporations, and jeans. It’s time to see what’s really in the butcher’s bucket.

The meat industry seems to have ingeniously invented a way to make food cheap, quick, and uniform, but in the process they are crumbling animal rights by inhumanely turning their farms into factories, destroying the natural environment while negatively affecting consumers, and gaining immense power while abusing chicken farmers as they construct a deceptive environment behind the scenes.

McDonald’s may be known for being unhealthy, but that doesn’t stop the food chain from being one of the most powerful fast-food chains in America. Their game-changing idea of making interchangeable food has paid off. According to Food Inc, suppliers had to create a factory environment to match the fast-food market in order to stay on top of the economic game. Chickens are raised and killed in half the time they were 50 years ago and are now twice as big (Food Inc.). In order to make the animals plump enough for business, they are fed growth-inducing hormones that can cause painful inflammation of the udder known as mastitis (Geer). The animals are forced to live in crowded warehouses where they will walk the crammed spaces on their own feces. Because of the unnatural size, they acquire due to what they are fed, many become too heavy to walk on their own two feet and die of starvation or dehydration (Food Inc.). Old-fashioned farming has disappeared, as money and speed have become the two predominant factors to suppliers, taking precedence over health, quality, and human decency.

Moreover, many of the health issues that plague the animals have now translated to humans. The hormones have caused an increase in the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer in meat consumers (Farm Sanctuary). Huffington Post says that more than 80% of antibiotics produced were fed to livestock because of unsanitary conditions. These drugs are actually contributing to the spread of super bugs that thrive in the absence of weaker microbes (Huffington Post). Diseases like E. Coli, salmonella, swine flu, and avian flu are communicable from animals and are being passed on to humans.

Worse still, the top four meat-supplying companies control 80% of the market, as opposed to the 25% that was controlled by the top five companies in the 1970’s (Food Inc.). Farmers go into debt buying resources and stay in debt because of all the forced upgrades. They have no say in the treatment of the chickens and if they refuse to upgrade to a dark tunnel-ventilated house system, their contract can be terminated. Because of the payment system, farmers who produce fatter chickens with less feed get raises while the others get pay cuts. Last Week Tonight states chicken farmers live below the poverty line. If a farmer dares to speak out, companies will retaliate through pay cuts and inferior supplies (Oliver). Nothing is done about this because these large companies sponsor many of our representatives in congress. Protective rules for poultry farmers were written, but they are not being enforced because a rider is inserted into the Agricultural Appropriations bill that forbids the USDA from enforcing these rules (Oliver).

The path humans now tread is one of misery for animals and consumers alike. In a capitalist system, it is not surprising that corporations will go the extra mile to rake in more dough, but some are now arriving at surreal ends through despicable means. The public cannot continue to ignore the fine print. Together we can make the issue a more prominent topic until change becomes a reality.

-Christine Magnuson


1. Food Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Official Food, Inc. Movie Site – Hungry For Change? N.p.,n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. http://www.foodincmovie.com/.

2. Oliver, John.”Scandals.” Last Week Tonight. 17 May 2017. Youtube. Web. 28 Mar.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9wHzt6gBgI&t=821s.

3.”9 Facts About Factory Farming That Will Break Your Heart.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/factory-farming-facts_n_4063892.html.

The Dollar Menu and Its Risks

Homemade Burger

Fast foods and processed foods are a big part of American lifestyles today. Fast and processed foods are easily accessible and affordable which is why they maintain their popularity. However, only a few consumers are fully aware of the contents that are in those foods. Because fast food and processed foods are cheaper than healthy foods, they are more affordable for low-income Americans. However, they are negatively affected by the processed foods over time. Every American should have the right to know what exactly is in their food and have the right to access healthy food without worrying about costs in order to avoid health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

Many nutritional professionals believe that all Americans, regardless of income, have equal access to a nutritious diet of whole grains, lean meats, and fresh vegetables and fruit. In reality, food prices pose a significant barrier for many consumers who are trying to balance good nutrition with affordability. “When incomes drop and family budgets shrink, food choices shift toward cheaper but more energy-dense foods. The first items dropped are usually healthier foods – high-quality proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Low cost energy-rich starches, added sugars, and vegetable fats represent the cheapest way to fill hungry stomachs.”¹

A consequence of regular and habitual consumption of these types of food is potential of chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, diet-related chronic diseases are one of the leading causes of death in the United States and they tend to greater affect those having low income. “Low-income [Americans] tend to have diets that promote obesity, morbidity, and premature mortality, are low in fruits and vegetables, and are high in processed and fast foods.”²

Sustainability is the capacity to endure or continue. According to the Weisser essay on sustainability, “if a thing or an activity is sustainable, it can be reused, recycled, or repeated in some way because it has not exhausted all of the resources or energy required to create it.” Based on this definition of sustainability, fast and processed foods are not sustainable at all. All ingredients that are put into fast and processed foods are not used appropriately to increase the nutritional value of the foods. Instead, they are used to increase the energy put into the food but at the same time are used to decrease its nutritional value because of all the negative counter-effects such as higher risk of diet-related chronic diseases.

In order to increase sustainability related to the issue of food, which is a necessity in maintaining life, each and every American should know exactly what is in their food and should have the access to healthier food choices that they can afford. A way to solve this problem is nutrition profiling. “Nutrient profiling involves systematically ranking or classifying foods on the basis of nutrient content, through calculation of key nutrient content, relative to dietary energy. Nutrient-rich foods provide relatively more nutrients than calories.”¹

When every American gain access and the right of way to healthy foods, there will be an increase in sustainability.

Hyunji Park


1. Drewnowski, Adam, and Petra Eichelsdoerfer. “Can Low-Income Americans Afford a Healthy Diet?” Nutrition today. November 2010. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2847733/.

2. Lucan, Sean C., Frances K. Barg, and Judith A. Long. “Promoters and Barriers to Fruit, Vegetable, and Fast-Food Consumption Among Urban, Low-Income African Americans—A Qualitative Approach.” American Journal of Public Health. April 2010. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836356/.

Picture credits: http://topreviewtracking.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Dollarphotoclub_61600915.jpg

 

The Potential of Food Labels

Today, about 80% of the food that are processed and bought by the consumers are genetically modified, or known as GMOs (Hemphill). As food technology and nutirion science advance and companies seek profit over nutrition in the food, clear food labeling is no longer there for the people to understand what is in the food that they are eating everyday. The GMOs are products that are made by the scientists who are experts in this field, and it is difficult for those who are not as educated as them to understand how modified foods are made and composed of. Even though it may be difficult to get rid of GMOs due to increase in number of companies that profit off of GMOs, the regulators and companies should label and inform about the GMOs in their product with easier descriptions that many could easily understand what is inside their food.

GMOs are known to cause many health problems in our body. According to an article, “Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks,” the rats were fed with Bt corn, which is a genetically modified corn, for up to 120 days. The result was that the rats developed myriads of health problems such as changes in blood cells, kidneys, and livers (Smith). Likewise, a study shown in an article “Arpad Pusztai and the risks of Genetic Engineering,” DNA of soybeans were altered with a gene from Brazil nuts. While after, scientists saw that those modified beans were altered to cause allergic reactions. These genetically modified foods are hard for us to evaluate due to lack of knowledge on them. However, easy-to-understand descriptions and clear labeling would help consumers to be aware of what they are eating and know how consuming the product can impact their health, helping them to make better food choices. 

The current problem of labeling food product is that big companies have too much power over the regulations with their immense money. An example can be seen in lobbying process by Monsanto, the largest seed corporations in the world. This company produces seeds that are genetically modified in way that the seeds resist herbicides and weed killers. When the citizens try to protest or take action against the GMOs that they are making, Monsanto prevents any laws from passing by paying immense money to the lobbyists. This corporation is said to spend an average of six billion dollars on lobbying every year (Sarich). If their modified products are as safe as they say they are, corporations like Monsanto should not be afraid of labeling their products. And by adding these labels, it would make consumers should feel safer as some may feel cautious of eating GMOs. Even though labeling more on the products may cost more money for the companies, it should be regulated as spending on lobbying costs a lot of money as well, and companies should know that trust from the consumer is a big factor that will make their business more successful and sustainable.

It can be overwhelming to think about the corruption of our government and big businesses that only revolve around making a profit. But we need to take time to learn and look deeper into how things are regulated and what we are eating on daily basis. We need to realize these hidden facts that the big companies are hiding and fix it for the sustainable food system and future generations to come.

Edward Choi


1.Hemphill, Thomas A., and Syagnik Banerjee. “Mandatory Food Labeling For Gmos.” Regulation 37.4 (2014): 7-10. Business Source Premier. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.

2.Smith, Jeffrey . “Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks.” Organic Consumers. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2013.

3.Sarich, Christina. “The 10 Companies Controlling the World’s Seed Supply.”Nation of Change.   N.p., 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

4.Fig.1. GMO Bell Pepper Injection. http://www.naturalnews.com/052550_Venezuela_GMOs_Seed_Law.html#