As a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver has garnered both praise and criticism for his reality TV-backed mission to put healthy foods on tables around the world.
The British import most recently went back home to the UK to launch a new series, “Jamie’s Money Saving Meals” to give consumers tips on trimming their grocery bill.
But it’s not an easy job to do, Oliver told the Huffington Post UK.
“The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods,” he said.
He went on to compare poor families in developed nations to those he’s met on his travels to countries with excruciatingly high levels of poverty. You won’t find Big Macs on a lot of their tables, he argues.
“I meet people who say, ‘You don’t understand what it’s like [to be poor].’ I just want to hug them and teleport them to the Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes, and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta,” he said. “You go to Italy or Spain and they eat well on not much money.”
We don’t find much at issue with Oliver’s overall mission here, but he seems to have missed a crucial point: Poor people in developed countries often find themselves literally surrounded by convenience foods. That’s what makes them convenient. Hopping on a train or using precious gas money to get to their nearest green grocer 5 miles outside of their neighbourhood isn’t exactly worth saving a few bucks.
Just visit any street in the South Bronx, one of the poorest New York City’s neighborhoods where the unemployment rate has been the double digits for years. Count the number of fast food restaurants and convenience stores per block versus the number of fresh produce markets and that might explain how Easy Mac and Hamburger Helper wind up on the menu more often than Sicilian seafood pasta.
In any case, hopefully shows like Oliver’s (and plenty of other like-minded initiatives around the world) will help attack the issue from both sides: not only teaching people that they should eat healthy foods, but also dispelling the myth that they must always be the pricier option.
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