Is Food in America "Too Cheap"?


Image credit: Paul Swansen, used under Creative Commons license.

When I wrote a post about what vegan or veganic farming might look like, commenter Junico took issue with the farmers' statement that "food in America is too cheap." This, said Junico, was deeply offensive to the many folks experiencing food insecurity. On the other hand, Lloyd has shown that the cost of our waste food alone reaches well beyond what we pay for it. So how can we make sure the price of food reflects its true costs on society, and still make sure that everybody eats? Food Insecurity a Real Problem
With poor childhood nutrition and hunger still proving to be a major problem in America, it must sound pretty bizarre to many on a low income budget to hear organic advocates arguing that "food is too cheap". But, just as some people argue we should be thankful for $5 gas, there is a strong case for saying that food should reflect the true environmental and social costs of producing it. We've already seen that consumers change their behavior when food prices start to rise, including cutting back on meat consumption and other high-cost (often high-impact) items.

The uncomfortable fact is that from farm run off to pesticide poisoning, it is often the poor that face the brunt of the external costs involved in our food production anyway.

Sustainable Food and Fighting Hunger Must be a Joint Cause
As is often the case, both Junico and our farmer are right. Just because decent food is too cheap does not mean that it is not also too expensive for many. Ensuring that food prices reflect true costs of production would level the playing field between sustainable agriculture and its less responsible competition, and it would increase the availability of quality produce for all. Combine such an approach with serious efforts to fight food deserts, offer affordable organic food, and tackle poor nutrition and you might just be onto something.

No problem exists in isolation. We need to connect the dots.

More on Sustainable Agriculture and Affordable Food
Organics as the Private School of Food? Big Organics, Affordability and Integrity
Chicago Fights Food Deserts One Seed at a Time
Food Hub Model Makes Organic, Local Food Affordable (Video)

Tags: Agriculture | Economics | Farming | Poverty | United States

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