By now, many of you have no doubt heard about the boycott of Whole Foods, launched by Single Payer Action in response to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Whole Food CEO John Mackey. I do agree that there are parts of this article that are aggravating (I made a smart-assed remark on Facebook about him saying “let them eat arugula”). His argument about preventing disease through good eating habits has some merit, but it overlooks a major reason why folks on low incomes don’t eat nutritious foods — they’re too expensive.
The recent film, Food, Inc., has an excellent segment about a low-income Hispanic family who find it cheaper to buy dollar meals at McDonalds than to buy fruits and vegetables at the local supermarket. Not surprisingly, two family members have diabetes. Since they lack health insurance, they have to choose between medication and food (and other necessities). So, the cycle worsens. The film also nicely explains how agricultural policies have ensured that fattening foods are cheaper than healthy ones.
Yet the film doesn’t offer many solutions as to how to make healthy, locally grown foods more affordable (okay it does talk about Walmart selling organic foods, but that doesn’t really tackle the issue at hand). Neither does the Whole Foods boycott site. They offer alternative places to shop, but they don’t address the issue of cost.
I don’t shop at Whole Foods because it’s too expensive (hence the epithet “Whole Paycheck”) and a lot of their stuff is trucked in from large organic megafarms, not local producers. I’m happy to support local farmers — many are literally my neighbors — but the price is significantly higher than the supermarket. I’m fortunate to have a well-paying, tenured job, but what about those on fixed incomes? Yes, low income people need affordable health insurance, but they also need the ability to buy wholesome food.