November 4, 2008

Affordable nutrition: the budget pyramid.

Affordable nutrition: the budget pyramid


Do you know how to cook beans and rice, how to make tortillas, how to soak lentils? And if you know how to, do you have (or make) the time to cook between the two jobs you work a day?

I just came back to Boulder from a long trip back home and as it goes when you travel and stop making an income, your budget gets tight until you start producing again. Back at work, I found myself eating junk food to keep me from spending money;  in that mood, when I read The New York Times newspaper this morning the first story that got my full attention was Tara Parker-Pope’s “Money is Tight, and Junk Food Beckons”.

In her article I learned that “The Word Bank says nearly a billion people around the world live on a dollar a day, or even less; in the United Sates, the daily food-stamp allowance is typically just a few dollars per person, while the average American eats $7 worth of food per day.” 

I read about an experiment that a couple in Encinitas, California, conducted this fall to find out what it was like to live for a month on just a dollar a day for food. Confirming what I had found out myself to be true here in Boulder, their story tells that even bread and canned refried beans were too expensive. Vegetables and fruits, completely out of the question, not even an option.

“Last year, Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington published a study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, comparing the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area… The study showed that “energy dense” junk foods, which pack the most calories and fewest nutrients per gram, were far less expensive than nutrient-rich, lower calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. The prices of the most healthful foods surged 19.5 percent over the two-year study period while the junk food prices dropped 1.8 percent.” 

So, how do we keep our energy levels and meet our nutritional needs? With a budget of one dollar a day for food Mr. Greenslate and Ms. Leonard decided to buy raw beans, rice, cornmeal and oatmeal; and they foraged for lemons on the trees in their neighborhood to squeeze juice in their water. Being mexican, I recognized this diet as something familiar. A “third world country since I remember, homemade beans and tortillas are always in a mexican kitchen, and different ways to cook them have been the creativity of each home. This observation made me think that the real challenge America society faces when it comes to saving money in food is ; making time for food. 

One of the biggest changes this experimental couple faced was the time they had to spend in meal preparation. Time is a very expensive”thing” to waste, everywhere, and in working class America seems eating at home is almost impossible. I try to speak only of what i know; In Mexico, food is what unites people, food time means communication time within the family. In civic lessons as mexican you learn that Family is the foundation of society; To have a wealthy and healthy society, a family most have a strong foundation made of universal healthy values and build on love, trust and responsability for oneself in relation to others around you. This vaues are cultivated while the family is eating, together. When somebody shares eating time with you, that person is inviting you to take time to get to know each other more and enjoy the simple values of life that create bonds between people and create community awareness.

Considering present times in our beloved America and the economy changes we are facing as a country, from my very mexican heart and upbringing I would say: MAKE TIME FOR FOOD.

stay happy,


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