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MNB took note yesterday of two stories along the same lines…

The Wall Street Journal reported that one of the casualties of the rising costs of food is likely to be people’s efforts to eat healthier food – since such products are, by their very nature, more expensive than less healthy foods. This won’t just impact people who are eating healthier by choice, but also people who are dealing with specific medical conditions.

And, the New York Times had a story about how some parents are concerned about how the rising cost of food will impact the lunches eaten by their children – both the ones sent from home and the ones served by schools. The general feeling seems to be that increased costs are likely to result in decreased nutrition.

I asked the following question: Is fresh fruit really more expensive than a bag of chips? Whole grain brad doesn’t have to be artisanal…if you look hard enough, there are other choices.

One MNB user responded:

People who consider food prices to be a disincentive to healthy eating aren't thinking about the high cost of a bypass or diabetes. It may be that the crunch right now feels too burdensome to consider whether other cuts might be worth the tradeoff to make sure healthy food stays on the plate, it may be the feeling that time is not available to learn about healthy cooking - or it may be sheer laziness. Someone who has a job with benefits can afford that $20 monthly prescription, after all, so why bother with healthy eating or exercise?

But what happens when the company downsizes and the prescription goes to $100 a month? Does switching to healthier food make more sense then, if there is a significant component of the disease that can be managed through diet and exercise?

I guess what it gets down to is that under it all, people are rational - they may not come to the same conclusions as you or I do, but there is a method to their madness.

And regarding the lunch thing - duh? If input prices are going up but end user prices aren't (or are only going up a little bit), there's only so much economy you can get out of efficiency and worker productivity. Quality is a casualty eventually.

MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

I totally agree with you that nutritious food does not have to be expensive. There is a store near me that sells bananas, onions, and potatoes for 39 cents a pound everyday. We have a farmers market that operates downtown twice a week and you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables for much less than at a supermarket and the quality is better. Aldi has several hundred SKUs of healthy products sold at rock bottom prices. Any lower and they would be giving it away.

MNB user Richard Layman wrote:

Healthier food doesn't have to be more expensive.

"Healthier" food is more expensive if you define it as organic and other high priced items that can only be obtained at Whole Foods Supermarket. Less processed healthy foods cooked well are much cheaper than buying prepared foods.

Supermarkets need to help us learn again how to cook, and how to cook healthfully, and at the same time, inexpensively. But it would mean less focus on processed foods, which tend to cost more (other than store brands, which are improving significantly in quality, taste, variety, and branding).

Last night I made gazpacho using my blender and fresh produce purchased from markets. It wasn't organic. And the cost of producing a few days worth of soup myself was less than the cost of one bowl of gazpacho in a restaurant--and I am not a confident cook.

The reality is that organically produced foods aren't much better for you than fresh or frozen foods. So why pay that extra money to Whole Foods anyway? And most of the time, food my wife and I prepare tastes better than what we get in the average restaurant, especially when you take service into account.

Another MNB user wrote:

I’m glad you said it. I couldn’t figure out how healthy eating was more expensive “by it’s nature.” It seems to me that with a little home cooking, healthy eating is cheaper!

Instead of worrying about what the school is feeding your kids, take the time to pack them a lunch.

KC's View: