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IsJunk Food Really Cheaper?
Inan article by Mark Bittman in the New York Times, a majority ofAmericans are duped into thinking that fast foods or junk food arecheaper, healthy and affordable. Bittman states that for themajority, the notion resonates well because of the advertisementsthat fast food establishments make about how affordable it is to getmeals at fantastically reasonable prices (Bittman 1). While it is afact that one can get cheaper fast foods at these restaurants, forinstance, at McDonald’s, the healthy considerations make thesefoods expensive due to the long-term effects that they create for thebody. Bittman states that the problem leading to the popularizationof fast foods arises because cooking at home is defined as work andthe alternative is fast food that is considered pleasurable (Bittman1). This essay agrees with the columnist that indeed junk food is notcheaper. It is expensive based on several factors that shall bediscussed.
Oneof the reasons that proponents of fast foods put forward is that fastfood is cheaper due to the calories that it provides, particularlyfor poor households, since they require cheaper calories ataffordable prices. However, statistics show that both the poor andthose who can afford consume more calories than needed. Again, sucharguments are baseless since it is possible to have all the essentialcalories in home prepared meals. According to Congressman Tim Ryan,Americans may be paying more money for less nutrition. For instance,the calories consumed from these foods are so excessive that peoplesimply become obese and overweight. Imperatively, such conditionslower access to quality healthcare services, especially among thegroups that are supposed to be getting these calories at lower prices(Ryan 1). As Bittman observes, healthy food is not an option if thenation aims at reducing the cost of healthcare, especially as aresult of lifestyle conditions like obesity and conditions associatedwith the problem. Bittman postulates that the alternative to junkfood is getting a healthy home prepared meals containing usefulnutritional variants for the body (Bittman 1). These include rice,grains, pasta, fresh vegetables, meat, fish, bread, peanut butteramong others.
Secondly,the article notes that fast food is common because of most of thepeople cannot afford real food. For instance, the author notes thatabout half of the population receives food stamps at an average of $5daily. While the amount is ideally not enough, it is possible thatone can survive on it daily. As the Congressman asserts, the nation’sfood deserts that also receive food stamps have the highest rates ofobesity. Ryan notes that Mississippi, with the highest obesity ratein the country, has over seventy percent of its residents enrolled inthe food stamps program. Furthermore, the residents have to travelmore than thirty miles to reach a supermarket (Ryan 1). Theimplication is that despite much of state having food deserts andbenefiting from food stamps, obesity rates are highest yet one wouldexpect the opposite. Therefore, most of us can afford healthy foodinstead of going for junk. For instance, it costs about $14 toprepare the equivalent of McDonald’s “Happy Meals” for sixpeople at home. This translates to about 2 dollars per person.Imperatively, the notion that we cannot afford healthy food does nothave convincing grounding since with $5 one can have meals at home.These meals are not only affordable but healthy. Accessibility offood has always been advanced as the reason for buying fast foods,but if people in Mississippi can travel over thirty miles to get to asupermarket, then it is true that they can access fresh vegetables,fruits, and other foods in a similar manner (Ryan 1).
Thirdly,as Bittman points out, the reasons for people going for junk food arenot confined to money, time, and skills of preparing food. The authorstates that it has to do with the habit-forming appeal of thehyper-processed foods and the engineering behind the production(Bittman 1). Most of these organizations spend massive amounts inadvertising to convince people to buy their products. Furthermore,overconsumption of these foods is said to trigger addiction-likeneuro-addictive responses in vital body organs like the brain. Theimplication is that more and more people yearn for these foodsbecause of their addictive nature. The results of such cravings arenot different from other substance addictions that cost the economybillions to treat, making the cost of healthcare more expensive.
Aspostulated by both Congressman Ryan and columnist Bittman, there is aneed for practical change in the American eating culture. People,especially parents, should view cooking as pleasurable and healthy sothat they can reduce the cost of healthcare. Culture change does notmean that organizations and consumer watchdogs fight fast foodrestaurants like McDonald, but the need to cultivate goodalternatives that are accessible, healthy and affordable (Bittman 1).Most Americans, including the poor, want healthy living to avoidconditions like diabetes and cancer whose risk increases due tooverconsumption of fast foods.
Junkfood cannot be cheaper if all factors are considered. Additionally,the healthcare implications of their consumption can beoveremphasized. However, people go for them because of convenience,affordability, and accessibility. It is incumbent of governments andother stakeholders to encourage healthy consumption through policyframeworks that allow affordable access to these healthyalternatives.
Bittman,Mark. IsJunk Food Really Cheaper?Web, 2011. Accessed on December 13, 2016
Ryan,Tim. DoesFast Food Really Cost Less?2105, Web. Accessed on December 13, 2016