Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?
The answer is NO.
The “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli …” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”
this bullshit fills me with a very specific kind of rage. so, TIME TO DEBUNK!
- that meal from mcdonalds takes virtually no time to acquire AND is available almost anywhere.
- the second meal? that “salad” is lettuce … with nothing else, not even dressing unless its just olive oil or some milk i guess? gross.
- also thats the price of each serving, not an entire loaf of bread, a bottle of olive oil, etc. that stuff adds up which means you have to have a lot of money at one time to buy it all.
- that meal probably took an hour and a half to make, which is a long fucking time when you work multiple jobs or are caring for a lot of people or dont have help! seriously, if you are a single parent of three who works, is spending an hour and a half every night preparing a meal a likely option?
- same with beans and rice! also, you know whats a fucking bummer? eating beans and rice every night because you are poor. ask any person who has done it and they will tell you (you can start with me).
- there is a “nutrition” argument here that lacks a follow up: poor people are more likely to be doing physical labor and need more than 571 calories per meal.
- you know who is less likely to know how to bake or prepare a chicken? people without access to the internet, or libraries, or who werent taught how to by their parents because their parents worked all the time. access to healthy foods is a classist issue and classism is cyclical, you fucking morons.
- seriously, these sorts of infographics make me want to fucking flip tables. do you know why people don’t eat more fresh fruits and vegetables? because fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, because they take a long time to prepare, because they dont live near a grocery store that has a decent produce section, because they dont have reliable transportation to get groceries to and from the grocery store, because they dont have the energy to plan all of the shit that is involved in making healthy, intentional, filling, balanced meals. basically: poor people get fucked, and then we get BLAMED for being lazy.
- eating “healthy”, aka access to fresh fruits and vegetables, is a privilege, first, foremost, always. so fuck you new york times and your ignorant goddamn infographic.
- there are SYSTEMATIC REASONS that we do not have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables. they are very REAL problems. besides, you know, systematic poverty in america, the total mis-distribution of farm subsidies is a perfect place to start. read about that, then either get bent or start working on the actual problem.
YES YES YES YES YES
I am so fucking tired of seeing these misleading as fuck infographics about how “healthy eating is cheap!” No. No it is fucking not.
AND where the FUCK are you getting your food that salt and pepper are 5 cents?!??! or bacon for $1.85? or a CUP of oil for 55 cents? FOUR pieces of bread for 75 cents? 3 cups for rice for 50 cents?
this stuff just doesn’t make sense, is extremely shaming, and is extremely misleading.
Making homemade food affordable and healthy is very important to me, but let’s just point out a few things.
1. If you have very little money, you will *not* be eating Big Macs. You will be ordering off of the dollar menu. Off the dollar menu, that $28 is going to buy me two cheeseburgers, a fries, and a Coke for a family of SEVEN.
OK, six, really, because tax, and the double cheeseburgers are actually $1.19 now, but still. The point remains that I just bought 12 double cheeseburgers, 6 small fries, and 6ea. 16 oz. “small” sodas for about $26 plus tax. Trust me, I’ve actually done this…many times. Hell yes, I’ve dug under the seats of my car for that last nickel to get a $1 double cheeseburger when I had nothing else. Oh, wait, we were serving only four people? OK, so now we’re down to only $18 plus tax. Plus, I get free salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, straws, napkins.
Now remember, each person in the family got TWO double cheeseburgers (that’s four small meat patties, four slices of cheese, and four slices of “bread” (sic), with onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard, a side of french fries (or *two* apple pies), and two cups (16 oz.) of Coke, because I asked for no ice. No one is going hungry here, and as things go, there are a whole lot of much more unhealthy things they *could* have eaten, instead.
2. And I don’t have to clean up. No soap, no hot water, no dishwasher, no sponges, no dishes, no nothing involved that would be necessary to serve the equivalent at home. You forgot to add the prices of all those things. All the remains get binned.
3. Which means I didn’t have to pay for gas or electricity for my stove to cook this stuff, I didn’t have to pay for power to run the refrigerator, I didn’t have to go shopping for it, I didn’t have to cook it…the list goes on. I think you’re getting the point. And you forgot to add all the prices of those things into the cost of your homemade meal.
4. Do you actually know how much a chicken costs? Let’s say $1.69/lb, which is pretty average in my area for a factory-farmed chicken. Now, the chickens you find out there rarely exceed about 7 lbs, which will be called a “roaster”. Anything you see above that is kind of freakish and is probably going to taste like it grew in a vat, not in a battery cage, but you get my drift. In any case, that’s the size chicken I’m going to need to feed a family of six, and that 7 lb bird is going to cost me…$11.83, not $5.96, as the illustration shows. OK, so the chicken you picked is for four people, so I guess I can get a 4.5 lb bird, instead, for $7.60. Wait, that’s still more money than $5.96. Oh, and can we spice it up with something besides salt and pepper, and *maybe* a squeeze of lemon? That’s pretty boring. For Goddess’ sake, pick up a box of Bell’s Poultry Seasoning, and a head of garlic!
5. That salad? Does it contain anything other than lettuce? I guess I have to make a vinaigrette out of oil, lemon, salt, and pepper, too? Good thing for you, I know how to cook. It’s still going to be a pretty boring salad…but whatevs, I’ll let you slide on that one.
6. One quart of milk? That’s half the volume of drinks I got at Micky D’s, hon. Better make it two quarts. Wait, scratch that, I’m Asian, and my family is lactose intolerant. Try again.
OK, I think you’re starting to get the picture. There’s more to food security, cooking, health, nutrition, food access, and money than meets the eye. I forgive you. After all, I’ve got actual experience at doing all of these things, so I have a visceral understanding of all the processes involved. Maybe now you have a little bit more insight into it, as well.
Umm Gemma can we please just elect you Queen of the World because this is literally everything I wanted to say but didn’t and yes, sweet jesus, yes.
Thank you from all of us who have been there and regularly find sugar packets in their pockets to attest to it.