Dr. Oz has become the object of harsh criticism with his Time Magazine article, “Give (Frozen) Peas a Chance—and Carrots Too.”
He states that organic food is not “very democratic” and that only one percent of the American population can afford to buy organic food.
This is true. Have you ever noticed where Whole Foods sets up its stores? In affluent neighborhoods where the residents can afford the high price organic food garners.
Dr. Oz also advises to eat vegetables, organic or not. This has prompted the most back-lash from organic food zealots; accusing him of selling out to the big corporations.
Regardless of his motives, he has touched on an even deeper issue than the organic argument.
He has highlighted America’s economic inequality currently being played out through an archaic class system.
Neighborhoods defined as lower class—and even some middle class ones—tend to be located in food deserts or geographic areas where the residents lack adequate access to healthy food. Because these residents have to stretch their dollar, or they have limited access to healthy foods, they eat more foods that are unhealthy and cheaper to purchase. These foods tend to be heavily processed and contain a lot of sugar and additives.
The higher intake of unhealthy processed foods correlates with high obesity and high diabetes rates. For those who have little access to fresh fruits and vegetables, eating organic (or not) is a non-issue. It’s even difficult for someone like me, an advocate for green living and sustainability, to buy all organic.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
On an individual level, a good place to start is with Environmental Working Group’s list, Dirty Dozen, Clean 15. This list tells you what foods are best bought organic, like apples, and if we’re on a tight budget, what foods we do not need to, like asparagus. This way we can save some money and still feel good about what we’re eating.
On a collective level, we need education programs that inform consumers about nutrition and engages them in their food choices. Instead of just handing someone a recipe, what if they attended a community cooking class where they actually learned how to cook the recipe? Instead of someone just purchasing vegetables, what if they were growing their own at a community garden? Instead of someone accepting rules that their local government made, what if they attended local food policy meetings and workshops so they could understand the issues and enact change in their neighborhoods?
There are many wonderful grassroots organizations empowering people to do just this. One place is City Harvest, located in New York City. They’re offering nutrition education programs showing people how to cook healthy meals and even taking them to grocery stores and showing them how to shop for healthy foods.
I encourage you to find such places where you live and become active in your local food system. These may be small steps to erasing food inequality but they are a start to a healthier food system for the 100 percent.
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Asst. Ed: Terri Tremblett / Ed: Lynn Hasselberger