Student who wonders why eating healthy increases grocery bill

By: Hailey Kurtenbach Columnist

 On a Tuesday afternoon browsing The Market, I was stuck in an ambivalent state of an unsatisfied appetite, slightly leaning towards the enticing pineapple calling me from the Grab and Go. Standing in the checkout, citric sweetness in hand, I happened to catch a glance at the price sticker on the container; a whopping $4.49. I noticed that I was essentially paying the same as the guy behind me with a five-dollar plate of nachos covered in hydrogenated cheese and the makings of pre-diabetes. Witnessing my disbelief, the checkout woman made the comment, “You want to eat healthy, you gotta pay more.” There isn’t a falsity in her statement to be found though; she simply speaks the truth of a modern day lack of emphasis upon the availability of affordable, fresh produce in public eating settings.

In light of the school-wide common read book of choice, “The Good Food Revolution” by author Will Allen, I find it a highly relevant point of thought to acknowledge. As the title suggests, Allen centers his novel on the ideas of providing healthy food to urban, low income areas that do not typically have wide variety in nutritious options, and raising awareness of consumption consciousness. We on the other hand live in the great Midwest, with its “amber waves of grain” “across the fruited plain” as Katharine Lee Bates puts it in “America, The Beautiful’. The heartland of the country and a region known for the strong presence of agriculture and farming, one would think that access to well-priced fruits and vegetables would be much easier and cheaper.

Instead we are faced with the problematic difficulty found in the pursuit of a balanced diet that stays within a college friendly budget. Last time a significant item was priced at almost five dollars and widely protested was gas in the mid 2000’s. Citizens were advised to cut back on their leisure driving; are we now expected to cut down on our fruit and vegetable intake as well? It is a sad fact that South Dakota is 49th in the nation for produce consumption, but when a costly price is imposed on college campuses, a place where such a considerable portion of the population resides, how can we expect for that number to change?

It’s not that our taste buds have evolved to disliking veggies and fruit that may explain the lessening effect of produce presence. No, our instinctive nature, for many the product of generations of ancestral farming, still yearns for the wholesome crunch of the Earth’s crop. But when attempting to satisfy that craving in return is a merciless shot at the wallet, a figurative numbing feeling overwhelms that tasteful desire. We simply accept our losses and succumb to 99-cent heart attacks of Big Macs and Whoppers, rather than pay the excessive price. At what point does one refuse to pay for the expensive food and instead begin paying with the destruction of their health?

It has come to a standoff between well-being of health and well-being of wallet, one in which I feel the scales are tipped towards the latter on campus. Oct. 27 Will Allen will be speaking as the Griffith Honors Forum Lecture here at State, and I hope his insight and passion in relation to his experiences with food may incite fervor among the student mass to call for produce reform. Lets get back to our roots (literally!) to strive to find a beneficial, nutritious balance between the dollar and the diet.

Hailey Kurthenbach is an exploratory stduies major. She can be reached at hailey. [email protected].