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Want to Get Americans Off Junk Food? Pay Them a Living Wage

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page and our Fair Trade and Social Justice page.

Healthy food is expensive and telling people to eat organic, local food is elitist. Have you heard that argument before?

It's true. Healthy, organic, local food is expensive. Calorie for calorie, you get more for your money at a fast food drive-thru than at a farmer's market. And the fast food will be cooked and ready to eat, whereas you might need to take your fresh, organic produce home to cook it.

Now, you might say, that's only a short-term calculation. Today, a $5 burger, fries, and large soda looks like a better deal than a few ounces of spinach, a handful of dried beans, and a bunch of carrots for the same price. But that overlooks the health consequences of either meal. One of these meals, if eaten regularly, will land you in the hospital someday. The other won't.

Factor the costs of medical care needed to treat diet-related chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes into the equation, not to mention the quality of life problems. Can you put a price tag on a year of your life? How about endless hospital visits? Suddenly, the spinach, beans, and carrots look like a better deal.

Yet, this kind of logic assumes that you have enough money right now to make either choice. And millions of Americans don't. How many families struggling to raise their children and pay their bills simply lack the cash needed to buy healthy foods or the time needed to prepare them?

So what's the answer? How do we give more Americans the ability to choose healthy foods? Some say we ought to make them more affordable. I disagree. We need to pay Americans a living wage.

Working hard for 40 hours a week should guarantee a living wage. Who does it benefit if Americans lack the time, money, and resources to feed their families healthy food?


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