Amazon recently announced its intention to purchase Whole Foods, which is a big deal for many consumers. Food elites wasted no time trying to sway Amazon into revamping the nation’s food system with Whole Foods’ “organic” approach to produce.
Rich people, particularly in the Bay Area, and chefs like Alice Waters want everyone to purchase only “organic” food. However, the goal shouldn’t be to make sure everyone has the luxury to buy lettuce grown on organic farms, as is the case with Waters’ Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. The goal should be to give people access to affordable food such as fresh fruits and vegetables. In a recent interview, Alice Waters stated,
Why is it $28 for an organic chicken? Because it takes this long, and this much land, this much organic grain, this much pasture. You know, help people understand that food can be affordable, but it can never be cheap. When it’s cheap, it’s part of a fast food indoctrination. We have these ideas about uniformity, about advertising conferring value, about fast, cheap and easy. And food has never been that.
The people that are in need of access to fresh produce are the people living in urban centers and rural outposts who don’t have easy access to grocery stores and affordable produce. Many of these people have few options for food, other than fast food and junk snacks sold at corner markets.
A comprehensive study in 2012 by Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy shows that organic foods are “not nutritionally superior to conventional alternatives,” in addition to costing a third more. If this is the case, then why are the food elites pushing for people to buy “organic” food?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that in California alone, more than one million people live in food deserts, meaning places that have little access to grocery stores. The inhabitants of food deserts also happen to be predominantly low-income and ethnic minorities. This demographic also suffers the most from poor diets that result in obesity and the adverse health issues associated with it.
According to a 2015 article published by the Pacific Standard, “children in the low-income neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Southeast L.A., South L.A., and near the Port of Los Angeles live with a 30 percent obesity rate.” The article also stated, “Compare that with the more affluent and majority-white areas of Bel-Air/Beverly Crest and Brentwood/Pacific Palisades, where less than 12 percent of children suffer from obesity. In South Los Angeles and other low-income areas, McDonald’s and Burger King are on every corner, and grocery options are scarce.”
In order to improve the health of people living in food deserts, the food elites and the environmental community need to stop promoting fear and shaming people for not eating “organic” fruits and vegetables.