November 9, 2011
One must never waste an opportunity to find some humor in the weekly grocery shop. After all, it's pretty grim. The bright spot is our produce employees, who are are friends because we are probably the biggest consumers of produce they have. We chat about the status of the mustard greens. We lament together if the scallion order is late. They are cool guys, who value their service to humanity in providing us with fresh, often organic vegetables and fruits.
My other favorite person at our local Giant store is Meg, who is usually working early checkout duty on Saturdays round 7 am when I check out. She works nights at a nursing home as an aide, days in the grocery store, and cares for her grandchildren. She is a really nice woman who also loves veggies. We talk about how we like to prepare eggplant, sprouts, tomatoes, cabbage etc. as she rings up my veggies.
Then at the end of the trip, after I have paid the bill, the cash register spits out my receipt and also some coupons. The coupons are supposed to be tailored to my likes and preferences, based on the data recorded from swiping my store card about what I like to buy.
Sometimes the coupons are helpful, like the time we kept getting $1 store brand cottage cheese. Rode that one out for awhile. Or the coupons on cat treats for the furry one. But sometimes the coupons don't quite hit it right.
For example, a few weeks back we got coupons for Morningstar Farms fake sausage products. Well, I like those well enough, but we don't really eat soy much so we gave them to my mom who loves those things. Close, though, I can see why you'd think that the people who buy a lot of organic veggies and milk and Quorn would want Morningstar Farms fake meat.
Sometimes they just plain hit it wrong. This week they gave me a coupon for the newest Slim Fast shake. Okay, I get it. We occasionally buy South Beach Diet Bars to handle the on the road with no food crisis situation. But Slim Fast shakes: thanks but not thanks.
I got to thinking about dietary profiling and how they're reinforcing what they perceive to be our habits by giving us coupon incentives to purchase similar items. Never once has an offer spit out for more veggies. "$1 off asparagus!" would be a very welcome sight at the cash register, especially considering that we were on AR (Asparagus Restriction) almost all summer because I refuse to spend $3.99 a pound for it. Granted they do really only offer discounts on processed foods, at least to us, they still hit it close enough with something we can use most of the time.
But what about those people whose existing dietary habits aren't that good. Are all those people filling their carts with chips and cookies getting more coupons for more of the same? "You enjoyed Lays ripple chips... try Herrs ripple chips!" More Hostess cupcakes? There is an entire aisle of our grocery store dedicated to ice cream and frozen desserts. If you buy one, do you get encouragement and financial incentive to just keep buying more, week after week? In these economic times, any sort of financial incentive is powerful.
The food environment doesn't so much upset me as it disgusts me. The more I learn about the health care system and about epidemiology the more it becomes clear to me that a) our health care system is about to collapse under the weight of preventable chronic disease b) chronic disease is almost entirely preventable. Yet we continue, in our capitalist madness, to allow the incentives (and the candy bars) to be put in all the wrong places.
Somebody needs to do something about this.
Posted by april at November 9, 2011 4:06 AM
I wonder if it's at all productive to shoot mildly disapproving glances into the carts of these people.
A man at my church runs a coffeeshop in a very small town, and also has a job at Dollar General to help pay the bills. Apparently, many of the people on food stamps use them to buy pre-packaged, fried nutrition-less frozen dinners, because they simply don't know any better. It would be cheaper to buy the basic ingredients.
On a related note: a family on the documentary Food, Inc laments the fact that vegetables cost so much. They say it's hard when you could buy broccoli when for the same price you could get much more rice or processed product, which will fill up the kids. But then they proceed to say how much cheaper soda is than vegetables. Wait, when did soda become a necessity?
But what breaks my heart even more (and perhaps you've mentioned this before) is the percentage of obese nurses here, at the medical center serving a large portion of Kentucky. They should know better (YOU certainly know better!). Kudos on being a positive example!
Posted by: Marie at November 9, 2011 7:08 AM
My fantasy is to one day be able to run a CRON co-op without worrying about a regular income to pay bills. Perhaps if I won the lottery. I could donate to the Mprize, other causes, open up my co-op and live comfortably. Oh, and I would also have an animal rescue.
Until then, though, I can only dream.
RE: Marie's comment above, I would get disapproving looks from people and it broke my heart, because I had to buy some amount of frozen meals (with food stamps, when I was on them for awhile) for my disabled mother when I couldn't be home and she wanted to make her own food, but the only thing she could prepare was a frozen microwave dinner. She didn't want me to "pre-prepare" her anything else because she wanted to maintain a small semblance of independence, and in her mind, popping a Lean Cuisine into the microwave was more independent. Also, she couldn't open Tupperware by herself.
I think more education about nutrition (not pop nutrition) from a younger age would go a lot farther than disapproving looks, but I get what you're saying!
Posted by: Jessica at November 9, 2011 7:54 PM
I'm not sure how to explain to people who have never been poor, but fresh vegetables are really low on the nutrition/dollar. In my grad school years, I did get a variety of fruits/veg only because my local store would do a "reduced produce" rack at 39 cents a pound, which is still more expensive than the $1/10 lb bag of potatos, 50cents/lb for lentils which became 3 lbs sprouted, or canned tomatos. In that mindset, either the soda or the fresh broccoli are a splurge item, but 2 liters of soda lasts a lot longer than 8 oz of broccoli. I tripled my food budget since those days, still cooking all my meals and shopping the sales, but eating a larger variety, fresher, more protein. I ate a lot of eggs and oatmeal back then.
Posted by: RG at November 11, 2011 8:12 AM
Extreme coupon-ing isn't in your household's future :)
Posted by: Ag at November 12, 2011 12:14 PM
You can bet your bottom dollar that those are EXACTLY the coupons they are receiving. All we can do is talk to people, write things in public forums and do what we can to spread spread the word. We are not alone but until the corporations get the message and have the cojones to act on it, this will simply continue.
Posted by: Judith at November 13, 2011 7:59 PM
Hey! Check out these articles about living longer and working. I am a total sucker for stuff like this.
America's Outstanding Oldest Workers - 2011
At 102, therapist is too busy to stop working
Posted by: David at November 14, 2011 4:00 PM
I was curious about your blog after reading an article about CR. I've been vegan for the last six of my 42 years, and am interested in the science behind CR. Unfortunately, you come across as incredibly and unjustifiably arrogant in the blog entries I read, which will ultimately do nothing to help the people who need it most. Whomever made the comment about disapproving glances into other peoples' grocery carts basically describes the overall tone of your blog.
Posted by: Melissa at January 16, 2012 4:24 PM