Can People With Low Socioeconomic Status Afford Healthy Food?

There’s a wealth of healthy food out there that won’t break the bank.

The advent of cheap, plentiful, over-processed foods has made it less expensive than ever to maintain an unhealthy diet. The rise in obesity in first-world countries can be largely attributed to the fast-food restaurants on every corner. Fast food restaurants that market themselves as “healthy” charge more for their fare than the average fast food place, which has led people to wonder: “can people with low socioeconomic status afford healthy food?” and believe that people with less money are doomed to obesity and poor health.

Alarming Trends
So many people are dependent on fast-food that they are out of touch with how much food actually costs. The costs of unhealthy fast food are driven down by the bargaining power of the fast-food giants, while the costs of healthier fast-food options are artificially inflated by companies looking to cash in on our desperation to be thin. It’s easy to see this trend if you compare how much your favorite Subway sandwich costs compared to how much it would cost you to buy the ingredients and make a sandwich like that yourself. Organic food is slightly more expensive for a good reason, but fast food places that charge you through the nose for the same vegetables you can get at the supermarket are taking advantage of your desire to be healthy.

Even many people who pride themselves on avoiding fast food are still eating it—but because they get their over-processed pre-packaged food at the grocery store they don’t realize what they are doing. Individually-wrapped snacks and “pop-in-the-oven” casseroles are usually full of salt, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives. Consumers pay more for these products than they would pay for a fast food meal, because they believe they are feeding their families healthy food. The truth is, just because food isn’t take-out doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

The Facts
If you believe that you can’t afford to feed yourself or your family healthy food, take a look in the produce section of the grocery store. A three pound bag of carrots costs less than three dollars, and can be chopped up into carrot sticks that will supply perhaps 15-20 snacks for school lunches. Compare that to how many individually-wrapped snacks you will get for the same price. You might find a box of 6 sugary, unhealthy, pre-wrapped treats for the same price, if they’re on sale. The same applies to any produce. Buying ingredients for homemade salads, soups, stir-fries, wraps, and casseroles is far less expensive than buying preservative-laden frozen foods.

The list of meals you can prepare using the inexpensive products from your grocery store, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, milk, pasta, and lean cuts of frozen meat purchased in bulk is endless. On nights where your family craves “junk food,” you’ll realize that homemade burgers are healthier, cheaper, and more filling than the fast-food kind. In fact, burgers made with lean ground beef, on whole-grain buns, and piled with fresh vegetables for toppings can be a very healthy meal. Your body will thank you for foregoing the fast-food version that is pumped with salt, preservatives, and artificial colors. So, the answer to the question “can people with low socioeconomic status afford healthy food?” is: “Yes! Healthy food is more affordable than junk food.”

Beau Giannini
Beau Giannini