First, this isn’t about the current economic meltdown. Unless you consider a patty melt gone bad a crisis.
No, it occured to me that we have this problem where it seems like good, wholesome food is more expensive than crap. And as I was looking at a band of chunky high school kids rolling out of the CVS with large bags of chips, sodas and cookies I actually stopped and wondered why, if they were hungry, they didn’t go across the street and get a couple slices of pizza or a burrito.
Because they couldn’t. Because it’s cheaper to fill up on junk than on something more substantial.
So I was thinking about this and wondering what it would take to affect a shift in the way people eat.
People don’t think about the calories they consume because they’ve been trained to obey their whims and their wallets before considering whether the choice is a good one. But what if cost was keyed to the number of calories you were consuming, say a penny a calorie? That magnum of Arizona iced tea that’s currently 99 cents, that would be 80 cents. That’s a fair price. That 12 oz. can of coke would be $1.55. That would make someone think twice (except in movie theatres, but that’s a whole different rant). That Snickers bar? $2.70 Those Doritos – $1.40.
Imagine fast food chains. That McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese: $7.40! Interesting how those “$5 Foot Long” sandwiches that Subway is pushing would come out to around $2.75 each. That sounds about right for both of them.
Okay, so what’s the calorie count on that pizza or burrito? Well, pizza slices depend on size and what’s on them, but a lot of the ones I did a quick search for came out to around $2.75 each, which is a bit high but essentially reasonable. When you think about kids getting into good eating habits (and we’ve just entered the eating phase with our eldest) I guess I’d rather it were on solid food regardless of the calories, because the empty calories in most snack foods aren’t helpful in satisfying hunger or keeping the body healthy. And maybe a 1100 calorie burrito would be better than craving four or five granola bars over the course of an afternoon.
I was thinking: what did teens do back in the 1930s and 1940s when they didn’t have stores bursting with snack foods? Did they eat more fruit? Did they stop by the local bakery and pick up a fresh pastry? Or did people just not constantly need to snack all the time?
I think that if prices were set to calories (a monetary unit against a unit of energy) people would become more aware of what they were eating and perhaps make wiser choices. Or maybe we can just wait for the economic meltdown to deflate the value of the dollar so that it takes a wheelbarrow full of cash just to buy a soda.