Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Hunger Awareness Week #HungerWeek



I originally posted this back in 2012. As it’s national Hunger Week, and I must confess, I don’t know what to blog about, here it is again:

Food Insecurity is Not Simple Math

A recent study showed that healthy food is actually less expensive than “junk” food. This study eschewed the usual caloric comparison of foods for a portion-based comparison. Based on this comparison the researchers found that many healthy foods are, in fact, cheaper than their less nutritious counterparts. For example, a serving of carrots was found to be less expensive than a serving of potato chips. I agree that healthy food is not necessarily all that expensive and some options (e.g. beans, legumes, and root vegetables) can be quite economical. However, I have several major issues with this study.

Having worked with people experiencing food insecurity I know that the first concern of most of them is getting enough calories into their family members and keeping them as full as possible. So, even if this study is showing that by portion size and by edible weight, healthy foods are less expensive than unhealthy foods this is not how the majority of people who are suffering from food insecurity are thinking. They’re trying to get caloric bang for their buck. Sadly, carrots are not going to give them as many calories for their dollar as pop and hot dogs are.

Even if we accept what the study is telling us, there is a lot more to consider beyond the face-value of these foods. Many of these healthy food items are not ready to eat as is. Do you know anyone who’s going to eat onions straight-up? How about dried chickpeas? These foods require cooking skills, equipment, and additional ingredients (e.g. herbs, spices, oils, etc. to make them palatable). Many people, be they food insecure or not, are lacking in the food skills department and may not have the confidence or knowledge to cook a rutabaga. Do they have a stove to use? What about pots? Knives? Vegetable peelers? All of the additional ingredients and supplies can add a considerable amount of cost to the meal.

Another major issue when it comes to food insecurity is oral health. If your teeth are sore or missing it’s going to be mighty difficult to chow down on raw carrots and apples. Potato chips and spam are much easier to manage when you’re lacking quality teeth.

So, sure, serving for serving some fresh vegetables may be less expensive than “junk” food but food insecurity is not simple math.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

5 thoughts on “Hunger Awareness Week #HungerWeek

  1. I agree with you Diana. There are more and more programs coming in the area of cooking skills but do the families/individuals have the equipment to use? Another area I think of often is time – do they have the time?
    Every day for over 40 years my father (only parent) took two sandwiches, a fruit (if we had them) and some chips for lunch. He did what was affordable.
    So much more than making the better choice because it is cheaper, so much more


  2. This is really great Diana, and its so important for individuals to realize this. Another important issue with purchasing healthier options (which are usually perishable) is storing them. Not everyone has access to a refrigerator and they may only want foods they can keep on them.


    • Storing them and using them up. If you’re on a tight budget you’re probably not going to want to buy more than you need of a perishable item and potentially have the excess go to waste. Something I know that I’m guilty of!


      • Very true! I’m definitely guilty of it as well. My school is actually starting a Food Recovery Network chapter which will help reduce food waste on campus and bring perishable donations to organizations that serve those in need in our own community. This has all put things in perspective for me for sure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s