Skip an Organic Taco, Feed a Child for a Week

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)
Quantity Price
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

Totals:

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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Skip an Organic Taco, Feed a Child for a Week

  1. Chelsea

    I understand the point you’re trying to make, but you’ve skipped over one of the most-cited reasons people are choosing to go organic: the benefits to the environment.

    I purchase a lot of organic foods primarily to support more sustainable farming and food production, which is better for the environment. I do believe that eating hormone-, preservative- and pesticide-free foods is better for me — I think that’s indisputable — but my main motivation is to do what I can to curb the harm done to the environment by non-organic farms.

    As with anything, people have to be responsible. The preservatives in organic foods aren’t as effective as those in non-organic foods, so they won’t last as long. Fresh vegetables and organic meat should be purchased more discriminately. However, most organic milk is ULTRApasteurized, not non-pasteurized. The higher temperature actually makes the milk last quite a long time. You can keep it in your fridge for up to three months, depending on when you buy it.

    It’s important to keep the environmental element in the equation when talking about the benefits of eating organically.

    Also, I’m not sure netgrocer is the best gauge of organic food costs. Their organic selection is pretty limited.

    • Tom

      I’m not certain you do understand the point. And believe it or not, the health risks associated with consuming “non-organic” food IS disputable. As a scientist, I even find the term “organic food” objectionable.

      Regardless, basic human instinct dictates that human welfare should trump *perceived* environmental concerns. The point to the article is suggesting that perhaps its ok to eat “non-organic” sometimes, and then use the extra money to help those who don’t have the choice to purchase ANY food.

    • thanks for posting! i hope it isnt lame that i changed stuff in my post AFTER your comment, but this is just the kind of stuff i was looking for.

      i am pretty sure they just need to lower organic prices. im with you on the “better for the planet” thing. anyways, thanks again.

  2. Chris

    You make a great point.

  3. Barbara

    Becca,
    Great point.
    So few Americans who have never traveled overseas have the slitest concept of how abundantly, greatly, overly blessed we are in this country. Very few of us cannot go into a grocery store or restaurant and spend at least $10 dollars a week on an unplanned, feel-good purchase.
    For the eat organic for the earth crowd I would say pick a non-food item to give up once in a while for the same purpose.
    You remind me to get my donation off to Henry.
    Love you girl.

  4. I suggest if people are bent on being organic – grow your own food ,(pssst, it’s nearly free! (plus a lot of labor!) ) and donate money to the farmers Becca’s helping out in Africa!

  5. I love your theme, is it custom?

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