There is a long article in Newsweek about the relationship between class and diet in the United States. The only mention it makes of Walmart is positive, and from Michael Pollan no less:
“Essentially,” he says, “we have a system where wealthy farmers feed the poor crap and poor farmers feed the wealthy high-quality food.” He points to Walmart’s recent announcement of a program that will put more locally grown food on its shelves as an indication that big retailers are looking to sell fresh produce in a scalable way. These fruits and vegetables might not be organic, but the goal, says Pollan, is not to be absolutist in one’s food ideology. “I argue for being conscious,” he says, “but perfectionism is an enemy of progress.”
While Walmart has done much to make better food cheaper, they do that in order to attract middle and upper class people into their stores. Besides, we have a whole category of posts here describing why organic food at Walmart is basically a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, if the apocalypse came to Pueblo and I had no other choice but to shop at Walmart I’d certainly be thankful for a healthier option.
The problem is not the food. It’s our income levels. Every American should have access pure, healthy food as their birthright. Instead, people feel compelled to eat processed poisons in order to get enough energy to live. As the article suggests elsewhere:
Adam Drewnowski, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, has spent his career showing that Americans’ food choices correlate to social class. He argues that the most nutritious diet—lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, and grains—is beyond the reach of the poorest Americans, and it is economic elitism for nutritionists to uphold it as an ideal without broadly addressing issues of affordability. Lower-income families don’t subsist on junk food and fast food because they lack nutritional education, as some have argued. And though many poor neighborhoods are, indeed, food deserts—meaning that the people who live there don’t have access to a well-stocked supermarket—many are not. Lower-income families choose sugary, fat, and processed foods because they’re cheaper—and because they taste good. In a paper published last spring, Drewnowski showed how the prices of specific foods changed between 2004 and 2008 based on data from Seattle-area supermarkets. While food prices overall rose about 25 percent, the most nutritious foods (red peppers, raw oysters, spinach, mustard greens, romaine lettuce) rose 29 percent, while the least nutritious foods (white sugar, hard candy, jelly beans, and cola) rose just 16 percent.
That’s where Walmart should have popped up again. When the largest private company in America drives down wage levels with its obsessive anti-unionism and its 28-hour full time work weeks it should be singled out as part of the problem as well as part of the solution. Too bad Newsweek missed its chance.