I always thought it was true, but it is appalling to see it for oneself.
In my hands were two grocery items - one snack-sized cream filled yellow cake that is the opposite of good for you, and one red apple.
How could the apple cost MORE than the snack cake?
More important, it struck me that the item that is healthier comes at a higher cost. Conversely, we all pay the higher costs of unhealthful food.
This past Sunday was World Food Day and "food prices - from crisis to stability," is the theme for this year." The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N wanted to emphasize the fact that drastic changes to food prices are a major threat to poor people, especially in developing countries.
But what about right here at home? What about the neighborhoods and communities where I live? What about families struggling post Great Recession in this "developed" country of ours?
As a proud American, I am mindful of the greater scale of hunger and suffering in other parts of the world, but I have always felt a sense of responsibility for embodying the change I wish to see in the world, by starting with myself and my community.
So to reflect on the theme of World Food Day, I was looking closer than usual at food prices in my grocery store. The difference between the cake and apple, in fact, wasn't that much. It might seem insignificant to you and me. But it matters to more folks than we think. And after my little assignment, I was even more troubled by the reality that food prices force many individuals and families to have to choose between eating (at all) or nutrition.
It's easy for me to say that I hate fast-food chains, and that that food will kill you, but I'm also not trying to feed a family of four with just ten dollars.
In fact, through my work, I have heard too many stories about people having to choose between buying food and buying meds. Or older Americans deciding to buy food for their grandchildren or pets, before themselves.
Where nutrition is concerned, too many food deserts and food swamps (urban areas concentrated with unhealthy food) exist across this country. Several of our Meals On Wheels programs struggle to deliver and provide meals in a desolate landscape where the only thing for miles is a lone post office that may be closing shortly.
Politics and policy aside, isn't it in the best interest of our communities, our businesses, our country to have a people that are in good health and productive? If so, shouldn't we all have access to food that is nutritious AND affordable?
For our part in addressing this imbalance, the Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA) has some ambitious yet achievable plans.
In collaboration with the federal government, we recently received the great honor and responsibility of establishing a new National Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging. Through this new initiative and challenge, we hope to raise important questions about nutrition and access to it to older Americans across the country. We will work diligently and collaboratively with others to find dynamic solutions to end senior hunger and malnutrition.
On a personal level, as a consumer, I will also continue asking important questions and do my part to hold our food providers in their many forms, accountable for offering healthier, affordable options.
Because a good, crisp apple on a cool autumn day shouldn't be an option only for the privileged.
Enid Borden is the President and CEO of Meals On Wheels Association of America.
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