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/