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The High Cost of Healthy Food

Updated on September 15, 2016
At one time people worked together in the US
At one time people worked together in the US | Source

Paying more and enjoying it less

We are already paying more for food due to the worst drought in fifty years, but soon prices at the supermarket will rise further because of fuel costs. Does the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables discourage you from buying healthy food? Federal dietary guidelines advise us to consume more vegetables and fruits. Food prices, along with taste, convenience, income, and awareness of the link between diet and health, shape food choices. According to recent government data, processed fruits and vegetables were not consistently more or less expensive than fresh produce. Uncle Sam says that it will cost us each about $2.00 to $2.50 a day to buy the recommended fruits and veggies. They also expect food prices to rise this year at a rate of 2.5 to 3.5 percent. The 20-year average is 2.8 percent. Food inflation was even higher in recent years such as 3.8 percent in 2011, 6.4 percent in 2008 and 4 percent in 2007

Surprisingly, canned veggies are almost as nutritious as fresh
Surprisingly, canned veggies are almost as nutritious as fresh | Source

Fresh, frozen, canned and dried

Fresh, frozen, canned and dried vegetables and fruit are surprisingly similar in nutritional value. One hundred percent juice lacks the fiber of whole vegetables and fruit but can still be a healthy choice. Canned fruit may be loaded with sugars to be avoided but the rest can be as healthy as fresh.

Do you consider where your produce came from when you buy it? One of the problems with buying fresh produce is the amount of time that passes between picking and serving. Vitamins and flavor diminish the longer the fresh food sits on the shelf, while frozen and canned foods are processed quickly at their peak.

Want to enjoy a nice fresh salad? Time and again, people get sick from fresh produce grown and or packed with unsanitary conditions. During WWII, we had a national movement for "Victory Gardens", a garden in your yard might be a good idea.

Food prices and droughts

Oil is critical at every step
Oil is critical at every step | Source
That small slice of pie is how much the farmer gets for the food you buy, 10 percent
That small slice of pie is how much the farmer gets for the food you buy, 10 percent

Maybe we should eat oil

The value of fresh fruit and vegetables imported by the United States, nearly doubled from 2000 to 2006. Fuel for international travel and transport of goods, including food, is exempt from taxes, unlike trucks, cars and buses. There is also no tax on fuel used by ocean freighters. Escalating fuel prices are one of the major reasons it costs more to buy fruit, vegetables and meat, economists say. With diesel prices around $4 per gallon, it costs more to power equipment to grow food and get it to stores. Diesel fuel powers the vast majority of tractors, combines and semis used to produce and transport food. Petroleum is also the basis for the fertilizers that allow farmers to grow in depleted soils. As fossil fuels continue to rise in price food will be along for the ride.

Worldwide, the entire food production, processing and transportation system is bizarre, inefficient and completely reliant on fossil fuels. From the online magazine Resilience:

"* Oil refined for gasoline and diesel is critical to run the tractors, combines and other farm vehicles and equipment that plant, spray the herbicides and pesticides, and harvest/transport food and seed
* Food processors rely on the just-in-time (gasoline-based) delivery of fresh or refrigerated food
* Food processors rely on the production and delivery of food additives, including vitamins and minerals, emulsifiers, preservatives, colouring agents, etc. Many are oil-based. Delivery is oil-based
* Food processors rely on the production and delivery of boxes, metal cans, printed paper labels, plastic trays, cellophane for microwave/convenience foods, glass jars, plastic and metal lids with sealing compounds. Many of these are essentially oil-based
* Delivery of finished food products to distribution centres in refrigerated trucks. Oil-based, daily, just-in-time shipment of food to grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc., all oil-based; customer drives to grocery store to shop for supplies, often several times a week"

In addition to the reliance on oil, we need vast amounts of water to raise the crops we eat.

California Agriculture, Cornucopia


California Agriculture

California Agriculture yields almost half of fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States. Unlike the Midwest, which concentrates on corn and soybeans, more than 400 crops are grown in California. Water shortages are already a problem for California and are predicted to get much worse if global warming continues unchecked. Some models show California's water supply dropping 24 to 30 percent over the century, mostly after 2050. Others expect rain patterns to vary wildly, making farming tougher. In 2012, then U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned that climate change could melt the Sierra snowpack and wipe out California farms by century's end. If growers don't have enough water to grow food, prices go up or people go hungry, even climate change deniers will pay more. The chief reason is that much of the state's water supply during the dry spring and summer months comes from snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Meanwhile, demand for water is expected to increase—both because of the hotter climate and population growth. As water becomes scarce, many growers will switch to crops that require less water. Fruit and nut crops which depend on "winter chilling" days may have to relocate while avocados, citrus, sunflowers, wheat, tomato, rice, cotton and maize expected to lose 10-30% of their yields.

The Future of Farming

Click the link below for a current drought map. Graphic shown is the drought,monitor on July 16, 2013
Click the link below for a current drought map. Graphic shown is the drought,monitor on July 16, 2013 | Source
My vegetable garden in June 2012
My vegetable garden in June 2012

A Warming World

Warmer temperatures may make many crops grow more quickly, but they may also reduce yields. In some crops (such as grains), faster growth reduces the amount of time that seeds have to grow and mature.This can reduce yields and raise prices. Higher CO2 levels can also increase yields. The yields for some crops, like wheat and soybeans, could increase by 30% or more under a doubling of CO2 concentrations; other factors may counteract these increases in yield. For example, if temperature exceeds a crop's optimal level or if sufficient water and nutrients are not available, yield increases may be reversed. Alternating years of floods with years of drought may make many crops unsustainable; when temperatures are too high, or the soil is too dry or wet many crops will fail to sprout. The drought in 2012, forced many ranchers to sell off their beef cattle rather than having to pay for expensive feed. This is the cause of rising beef prices now, smaller herds fetch higher prices.

Flowers in my garden, June 2013.
Flowers in my garden, June 2013.

What Can We Do?

If you have the resources, the best thing you can do to avoid higher prices and lower flavor is to start a garden. You will be amazed at the money you save and the improvement in the flavor of your food. You might even lose a couple of pounds and improve your health. You can control how much and how many chemicals used on your garden and you can choose what varieties to grow. If you grow enough, you can even freeze, can or dry your harvest and eliminate expensive produce from your shopping list.

Next, support your local farmers’ market. Find out where one is located near you, visit If you don’t live near a farmers’ market, ask your city to set one up for your neighborhood. Choose local produce when it’s in season at your usual shopping places. Look on the labels to see how far your food traveled and ask your favorite grocery stores, restaurants, even the cafeteria to carry more local foods. Avoid buying produce that has been flown in from abroad. Do you really need raspberries in the dead of winter? Cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, bell peppers and asparagus are the fruits and vegetables most frequently shipped by air. Eating local means, you are buying the freshest and most nutritious food that is available.

What Do You Do About Food Cost and Safety?

what do you do about food cost and safety?

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    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      3 years ago from Citra Florida


      Yeah, I think people that grew up in the Depression had a much better outlook on life.

      My father's parents passed away 67 years ago, if they came back they would think they were in an alien country. They managed to live to their late 80s all while eating beef and butter and even sugar but never saw a Twinky or a Big Mac

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      3 years ago from United States

      When I think big agricultural, I think harmful chemicals. I had never thought about the fossil fuel involved. As you point out, another great reason to buy local and/or grow your own. Your point about climate change also struck me. At the same time we need to stick together, we also need to be somewhat independent in the advent of a crisis. I recall my grandmother, who grew up during the Depression, telling me that her family's life did not change much before or after, as they grew their own food, raised their own meat, etc. When the crisis came, they did not go hungry. Thanks for making me think, as always, Lee. Sorry to drone on. All the best, Jill

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      4 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Larry

      Yeah, unfortunately it's difficult all the time when the store stocks low cost, high calorie, processed junk.

      Let's see, shall I buy a head of organic broccoli or a box of Cap'n Crunch? Or maybe just go get the kids a "Happy Meal"?

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Ver interesting topic. Sometimes it's difficult to by the healthy stuff when funds are low.

      Great hub.

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      5 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Merrci

      There seems to be a "perfect storm" of issues joining to make our food supply precarious, too expensive and non-nutritious.

      I'm lucky enough to live in Florida so I can grow something or other for the entire year. A home garden sure beats the prices of organic and even regular produce and you get a workout

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      5 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      The water issue continues to of great concern, doesn't it? Seems like that can only take prices up. I do love the idea of using local harvests or farmers markets. It seems fresher and more organic that way, though probably some are not. Enjoyed reading your article.

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx EP, glad you stopped by

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very interesting and well-written hub!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      6 years ago

      My answer is "Do the best I can at the time, whether it by organic, local or both". Enjoyed reading up on how much of our everyday life is affected by weather and then the actual cost from harvesting to on the shelf. Thank you for for this very interesting and timely hub!


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