I've been reading a lot about how unhealthy foods are cheaper than healthy foods making it difficult for people living in poverty to obtain food that is nutritious. In Champaign, the Champaign Farmer's Market on Thursday is involved with the WIC program. But I also know other families who I see making WIC choices at the supermarket that leave with a cart full of nothing but processed, sodium-infused carbohydrates. And it makes me think...
The government (particularly in Illinois) taxes the hell out of things that aren't good for you as a financial way to deter you from something. Cigarettes, alcohol, even regular soda carries an extra tax in my state. And I wonder if it's showing any kind of decrease in behavior. In New York, they've had the law where chain restaurants have to put the calorie count on their menus for all of their meals -- but research has shown that not only are these calories count off (and by off I mean higher) by up to 30 percent (it all depends on who is making your food) but also that people don't seem to give a damn -- unless they're making choices for their children. A federal law mandating this kind of calorie info be printed in the menus of all chain restaurants is supposed to be in effect for all states by 2012, barring any legal issues.
So, as I sat in line at Dairy Queen the other day, making a choice to have a small cherry sundae for 280 calories. I wondered: what if the cost of things equalled their caloric value minus some kind of healthy incentive. Take the miserable Tier system for prescription drugs. Can't we make fruit (particularly the organic kind) available to everyone by labeling it Tier 1? While making microwave pizzas and Combos a tier 3? What if you could get 12 oz of organic spinach for 60 cents but pay $14.40 for 64 oz of leaded soda? Not that I'm at all advocating this as a real structure, but what it makes me wonder is if this kind of pay for the crap you eat was introduced would Americans, who have created such a emotional and anatomical dependence on food making their brains chemically happy while duping their bodies into obesity, still continue to eat at the same rate? I mean, I watched some guy unhappily pay $9.50 for a pack of Camels at Walgreen's this week. That's 1/10 of my weekly food budget for two adults, one kid, a dog and 4 cats... And as a country, I realize that we're eating ourselves to death.
Hell, maybe if we all started smoking, we wouldn't have any money to eat. Or would we just continue to charge things to our credit cards and look away in denial?
If you're wondering where this is going, I kind of am, too. :-P But mostly, I'm procrastinating the idea that I have to get out on my bike and do 9 miles. I want to go, but somehow I don't feel woken up yet. Maybe it's time for me to start some kind of friendship with caffeine?
Oooh, wait, that would be another way to trigger my brain. Is nothing thought typically American safe to do any more when it comes to food?