When can we afford to be healthy?

It’s full of neatly stacked recyclable boxes, plant based nutrients and gluten-free ingredients – it’s the organic aisle. It's the aisle that also screams the lovely reminder that I am a poor college student living on ramen.

Is anyone else tired of skipping the organic aisle, because I’m pretty sure that until I have a 6-figure salary I will not be worthy of walking that ground.

Constantly, magazines, television, my friends, my parents all want me to promote a healthy lifestyle. Not just for me but as a whole.

Let’s face it – we’ve all tried dieting. Unfortunately, dieting nowadays just means eating right. It’s crazy to think it is more normal to eat “wrong.” Boy do I eat wrong.

The reason why?

Because I cannot afford to eat “right.”

Just a couple weeks ago I was nitpicking through the avocados at Kroger when I finally eyed the right one, I mean an angel would have picked this avocado for guacamole at its next dinner party. It was pristine. As I reached for a bag to place it in, I glanced at the label – organic. Agh, it was too good to be true. As I placed the beauty of a vegetable (or fruit?) back down, I said to my fiancé, “Hey, we can't afford these, let’s get the non-organic ones.” Yeah, the fake ones.

Why are we punished for eating healthy? I can only afford the genetically modified, barely natural and completely cheap produce. Is it just me or do you feel trapped into fake eating?

Not to mention, a lot of our food intake is from processed machines. Most of my meals weren’t created from scratch before me. What I consider to be scratch is my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and even that doesn't cut it.

Since farming, produce and agriculture are not my areas of expertise, I outsourced to those who know their stuff.

The first person I interviewed was Tech graduate, Kaila Raulston, with a degree in agricultural science.

“Organic food costs more because it is harder to produce,” she said, “and supply and demand doesn't match up for it.”

She then began to repeat the familiar thoughts that arise as I’m standing empty-handed in the produce section of Kroger.

“When I go into the store and I have the option to buy ‘organic’ grapes for $4.99 a pound or grapes for $1.99 a pound, then I'm gonna get the ones for $1.99 a pound,” said Raulston. “Especially when the ‘regular’ grapes look better or just as good as the organic ones.”


Is it crazy to think that that the cheaper items in fact look more desirable and delicious than the produce that’s organically grown by the soil of the earth? Does it really look better or are we just tailored to think genetically modified and pesticide covered food is the standard visual?

In our talk, Raulston had mentioned that we always want our produce to look “pretty” and to have an extended shelf life. Whereas, organic produce can only last so long—making its demand even smaller.

It seems as though we are in a vicious rut. We are in a cycle in which it would take a whole army of people to convert to eating organic and locally for the supply and demand to change. Even then, the margin of change would just apply to locals.

Tech Graduate, Kayla Staelens, with a degree in agricultural sciences interjected a similar truth, “You are better off buying from a local farmer or farmer’s market.”

However, even at local farmer’s markets, prices are still substantially more than what is generally offered at a grocery store. There are a few good perks says a Tech Agricultural student, Kelly Bonin.

“By supporting your local people you are in return supporting yourself,” she said.           True, you are supporting your local economy, well-being and most certainly not your wallet. It seems to almost be a perfect circumstance, minus the non-existent cash it requires from me.

So where does this whole ordeal have a place on campus? Well that’s where the journalist in me wanted to seek answers. As far as the dining options on campus go, I can only think of three places that serve “healthy” food, and even then that’s just my perception, which I’m realizing now is way off.     

The cafeteria offers fruits and vegetables, probably mass-produced and genetically modified, seeing as the, “hey look at me,” organic sticker is not on them. The other option is Which Wich that offers a limited variety of vegetables that can be placed on a sandwich. Lastly, Au Bon Pain, which gives the illusion that healthy food is available, but by looking at the nutritional facts, I was deceived. Besides those three “nutritious” options, I’m stuck with fried food, fake sugars and who knows what.

To see what Chartwell’s had to say on the matter, I spoke with Sam Holm, the director of Dining Services at Tennessee Tech.

“We don’t do a lot with certified organic. A lot of that decision is based off our volume,” said Holm. “Obviously we look very closely at how we want quality but at a fair price on down the road.”

Okay, so maybe we don’t have organic as an option, but Chartwell’s is still making efforts to provide healthy food. According to Holm, we have a dietician in the cafeteria who will figure out food arrangements and diet plans for students.

When discussing the selection of products, Holm said, “When you think we’re pulling bananas from South America, and tomatoes from the West Coast – and they are coming all the way to Tennessee, and still in good shape. It’s a pretty incredible situation.”

So apparently the University’s food is healthy, but we are not supporting the local market, and as of now, organic is not an option.

Where does this put us poor college students who can’t afford to be healthy?

This puts us in a box, a nationwide and nation-ran box where we can only escape if we all decide to leave it. If we all decide to stand against our circumstances and demand real food. Let’s make real food the popular choice. Let’s restore the foods of the earth to those who live on it.         

Today, let’s make the conscious decision to ask what we deserve – real food at an affordable price. Mankind deserves to eat “right,” not ramen.