Here’s an organic dilemma for you.
A recent turn of events thrust me into a new job in the beautiful city of Boston directly after a lengthy stay in the country of Kenya.
On the one hand, I’m beginning to hang out in groups of educated Bostonians who understand the health benefits of “going organic”. These new connections provide a great community in which to explore healthy options, many of which improve our environment and create jobs. My favorite perk (besides knowing I can now avoid pesticides if I pay a bit extra) is the fact that much of the food is grown locally, cutting down on the high environmental cost of shipping). On the other hand, I wrestle with the cost of these foods, as I’ve got some new ideas about using resources to help disadvantaged families in the developing world.
We buy organic food so that we do not face unnecessary health troubles or other issues in the future, maybe.. later on, someday, and because we can see a positive impact on our planet through the natural growth of resources. Meanwhile, 16,000 children a day die of hunger-related causes. According to this article on Change.org, malnutrition kills 5 million children each year.
What I am NOT saying:
This article is not addressing the question of whether or not organic food even makes a difference. It also is not suggesting that it is simple to provide food or sustainable programs (farming livestock for example) to people in developing countries.
What I AM saying:
While it’s not the answer to every area of suffering in the world, it’s getting easier and easier to purchase sustainable resources for people in poor environments. Gift Catalogs like World Vision’s buy medicines, goats and other items (and must add some administrative costs), while smaller, grassroots organizations provide similar, even cheaper options such as chickens. If you skip one meal, you can use those dollars to provide eggs to a family in Kenya for years.
I’m not a socialist and again express that it’s not always simple. But the costs themselves give me a new kind of sticker shock.
|Item (at NetGrocer.com)
|Organic Refried Beans||16 oz.||3.29|
|Non-organic Refried Beans||16 oz.||1.95|
|Organic Taco Shells||12||3.95|
|Non-organic Taco Shells||12||2.55|
|Organic Salsa||16 oz.||6.59|
|Non-organic Salsa||16 oz.||1.61|
|Organic Cheddar Cheese (Shredded)||6 oz.||4.95|
|Non-organic Cheddar Cheese (Shredded)||8 oz.||2.54|
Organic Tacos: 18.78
Non-Organic Tacos: 8.65
|Serving of beans/corn for 1 student in Kijabe, Kenya*||1 lunch size serving||.16 cents|
|Chicken (can lay eggs for years)**||1||4.00|
|Goat (can give milk for years)**||1||30.00|
Let’s get serious for a minute. I’ll take the (still unproven) chance of health issues later. I choose it over the certainty that a child is dying of hunger now. If we could see the kids affected by malnutrition, we’d be forced to do something.
The point is, I have more money than I thought I did to help, even in a small way. From skipping an organic meal now and then, to buying a more environmentally friendly (or more affordable!) vehicle, we can cut things out that might not be as important as hungry people.
Personalizing this concept:
If the concept of going non-organic is naive (I am not a scientist or nutritionist) or far-fetched, choose a different item (lattes or new clothes) to purchase in a more affordable manner, and choose a cause you care about (like women’s education or stopping the sex trade).
A few more notes.
I support organic farming, just not organic food prices. This little blog post suggests more than “skip organic food, buy a chicken”. I think prices can be lowered. Until they are, this is my plea to friends with resources: (1) find a way to petition these prices, and more importantly (to me), (2) start cutting out that stuff that can go, because your money goes farther than you might think and can help to change lives.
*based on CNN Hero Steve Peifer’s costs for his feeding program.
** based on the livestock I help to purchase in Kenya through a community-based organization.