The heart of the healthier eating food debate is centered on the cost of healthy food; more specifically the added cost of eating nutritious items over conventional food and therefore poorer people are at a higher risk of becoming overweight. Since we cling to this idea so strongly our food policy aims to make healthy foods more accessible to low-income families. However, there is a huge problem with this approach; the largest consumers of fast food are not the poorest. They are either the busiest or the laziest.
The Journal for Population Health Management published a story stating that middle class American were the most likely to eat at fast food chains. These were households earning more than $60,000 per year. It says that a family earning $80,000 a year is more likely to eat at these restaurants than one earning $30,000 per year and that 50% of obsess adults in the US are earning $77,000 for a family a four.
My guess is that there are many misconceptions intertwined. First, fast food is not cheap. Mark Bittman reported recently in the New York Times, a typical meal for a family of four at McDonald’s in Manhattan costs about $28. That is not the cheapest way to feed a family. So it’s not the money.
They are not the cheapest but they are the fastest. Going to the food store, preparing a meal and cleaning up requires a lot more work than ordering food.
In addition they are EVERYWHERE. I am sure you can find at least a few fast food options on your way home.
Plus they appeal to children. They have playrooms and toys to entertain small children. The toys obviously get kids excited about going, but the playrooms.
So the real picture is that for a few dollars extra one doesn’t have to go to the store, prepare food or clean up the food, but that is just the start. Those few extra dollars not only buy them time but makes parents lives that much easier. Parents don’t have to take children to the food store or entertain them while they cook the meal or clean up the food preparation, dinner or even the toys used to distract the children during food preparation and clean up.
Since it appears parents are buying convenience than the ideas being thrown around to make healthy food cheaper for low-income families are not going to address the crux of the obesity issue. We need new tactics and a new game plan.