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The Cost of Kale: How Foodie Trends Can Hurt Low-Income Families

a graphic from whole foods reads "collards are the new kale'

Last month, I sounded off about the new Whole Foods campaign rebranding collard greens as the next big superfood. Their efforts have resulted in public backlash over cultural appropriation and the rising costs of food—a phenomenon writer Mikki Kendall succinctly dubbed “food gentrification.”

I’m going to be frank with you: within the bigger sphere of global food justice, making fun of Whole Foods is the easy stuff. It’s easy to pick apart an ad campaign written by ignorant copywriters; it’s easy to ridicule trend-sensitive food bloggers. They’re the little fish here: symptoms of something much, much bigger. Those things are relatively easy because they skirt around the tragedies and pain that many of us experience when we can’t feed our families or are made to feel shame because we can’t feed them in a certain way. The root of the whole issue, as I think many of us can feel in our gut, is the question of how and why so many people in one of the most prosperous nations in the world cannot get enough decent food to eat every day.

food gentrification by laura jones martinez

the weekly cost of feeding a family of four has risen

The phrase “food gentrification” is a lightning-quick synthesis of complex values and ideas into a compact form. Though it may seem unduly weighed down by its provocative nomenclature and its association with the plagues of coffee shop Columbuses that have descended on places like Brooklyn, Oakland, and New Orleans, gentrification’s original meaning holds true: it represents renovation, refurbishing, rebranding—and, some would add, rebirth—seemingly for the purpose of accommodating WASP tastes. At times, food gentrification and neighborhood gentrification can be seen to work in tandem, as in cases where community gardens have attracted wealthier residents to working class neighborhoods. Whether it’s the fetishization of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, twerking, or Sriracha, the gentrification cycle has birthed the momentary relevance of countless ideas and materials. Their blip on the mainstream radar is at once both novel and tragic; typecast Cuban groceries and Korean BBQ joints function as both pawn and king in the game of conspicuous consumption that manifests through venues ranging from Instagram to the Academy Awards.

A quick glance at any food-related hashtag or blog will show you that the presentation of our meals has become a kind of dilettante art form. Like aristocratic incense sniff-offs of Heian-era Japan, amateur-level foodies flaunt works like an arms race where the winners are the ones who can pull out the most obscure ingredient and the most sophisticated combination of aromas. Like it or not, Whole Foods has successfully mastered this process and is now able to mobilize a substantial PR fund to kickstart new trends from the ground up.

For example, Whole Foods’ work to establish certain produce items as cancer-fighting “superfoods” has proven to be an effective and profitable marketing tool. In the European Union, it is illegal to sell a product as a “superfood.” According to a BBC article on the subject, the marketing of an item as a “superfood” has correlated with price increases. In the United States, we can see this at work with kale, which has been heavily marketed as a superfood since 2011. Since then, the average price of a bunch of the hardy green has increased by 25 percent: from $0.88 a bunch to $1.10.

the cost of kale has risen 25 percent

Another master of this marketing strategy is the pomegranate juice company POM Wonderful—the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on POM for promoting their juice as a “superfood” with “false and unsubstantiated claims that their products will prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction.” POM appealed the case but when a federal judge upheld the violation, POM turned around and quoted the judge’s statements that pomegranates have some health benefits in their advertising. 

Though it can be said that the acrid odor of snake oil marketing has always been a hallmark of American laissez faire capitalism, we’ve entered an age where consumer choice and moralizing have combined to turn grocery shopping into an incredibly neurotic experience. If you want to be cosmopolitan, you’ll buy star anise, kimchi, and coconut oil. If you want to prevent cancer, buy collard greens, blueberries, and omega-3 eggs. If you want to eat food free of pesticides and high fructose corn syrup, buy organic meat, flour, and dairy. Compound all of these seemingly innocuous exercises in American Dreaming with diet fads like “clean” eating, Westernized veganism, or the paleo diet, and you’ll get a supermarket full of people staring at labels, searching the copy for proof of ideological and medical purity.  I need to buy this if I want to be good, if I really want to take care of myself and my family As it turns out, this moralistic way of framing choice is extremely profitable for food processors, restaurants, and produce retailers: we’ve been effectively held captive by our own consciences.

Unfortunately for families of modest means who want to eat organic food, the prohibitively high cost of such goods makes them all but inaccessible. The even more unfortunate irony of the situation is that organic produce has become the gold standard of food gentrification as we know it—partly due to its successful rebranding as a health food category by popular health publications, food processors, and grocery retail outlets. According to national data aggregated by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the overall retail price of organic food consistently outpaces conventional food (according to the most recent data available, for 2012). Staple commodities like eggs, flour, and milk currently have the largest disparity in price between organic and non-organic varieties. Organic foods are practically inaccessible to families who receive SNAP benefits, which are doled out according to official USDA estimates of how much it costs to feed a family per week. For a family of four, the cost of a week’s worth of (non-organic) groceries is now a minimum of $145.20, and at the current rate of increase would reach $200 by 2024

If wage inflation matched grocery inflation, price increases wouldn’t be an issue. However, the average American’s wages have become subject to a de facto race to the bottom since the recession of 2008. Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that from 2007 to 2012, real median weekly earnings for all US workers remained stagnant, with a -0.2 percent decrease. Over that time, women of all races received an overall 1.6 percent increase in average wages, When race is factored in, Black women are shown to have experienced an actual decrease in average wages. At the same time, the USDA’s estimate of how much it costs to feed a family increased by 18 percent. Recent cuts to the federal SNAP budget have made this gap even more critical.

chart shows that while wages have stagnated, the cost of food has risen

chart shows the costs of organic food vs conventional food

It’s hard to believe that these forces are working simultaneously: how can we fetishize the act of eating so much while also making food more inaccessible to the people who need it the most? Who is benefiting from this? The setting-aside of food as social capital is logical within the aspirational framework of late capitalism; it makes sense for us to be celebrating the product over the worker and to implicitly shame the ones who cannot afford to shop in the same supermarket aisles as we can. It makes sense for us to colonize others’ traditional foods while critiquing new interpretations of those traditions by the same communities who strive to reinterpret their legacy back into the realm of meaning. In this way we enact little imperialisms that make it possible for us to pat ourselves on our backs, safe from “normal” food and the industrial processes that sustain an illusion of consciousness: trapped in an endless cycle of sleep, false awakening, and BPA-free Breakfast Bars. 

Soleil Ho is a chef and writer living in New Orleans—her last Bitch article about food and identity was "Craving the Other." This article was written with help from Maribel Hermosillo. The infographics were illustrated by Laura Jones Martinez.

Related Reading: Our recent Food issue digs into many meaty issues of food and social justice. 


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Comments

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Farmers and farmworkers

Another issue related to all of this is, What are the impacts of our food system on those who work on farms? There is a great irony in the fact that those who produce our food are among those least likely to be able to afford it; those who have gone organic are in only slightly better financial shape. Moreover, farm workers exposed to pesticides face an elevated risk of many types of cancer. Our food system should not only be making healthy foods available to all people, but it should also be protecting those who produce the food we need to survive from exposure to chemicals that could kill them. We should protect slaughterhouse workers from injuries and protect animals from cruelty. We should also protect our water and our soils from pollution and erosion. Instead we protect only the people and corporations who benefit most from the exploitation of people (both workers and consumers), animals, water, and land. It's utterly insane.

Great article on that topic

Yes! Writer s.e. smith reported a great article about food and farmworkers in our current economy for Bitch's recent Food issue. It's titled "Growing Pains: Why labor is the real food movement we should be paying attention" and it's one of my favorites from the issue. The article is available in the print or PDF editions of the Food issue.


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I enjoyed this blog and found

I enjoyed this blog and found it very useful but I have to say that I felt a sharp slap in the face when I got to the last parts which seemed to be written from the assumption that women are the only ones who shop for groceries. While I can see this as maybe a shortcut around the unfortunate fact that women tend to earn less than men for the same jobs - which would have admittedly clouded the point a bit, I can't help but feel as though you think we're all either CEOs or perhaps don't care about these issues. I'm sure this is untrue and that these slips were simply based on the assumptions that our culture - sadly - does very little to fight, one that I am faced with every time someone sees the fact that I cook as a novelty. Oh, and I'm also straight so whatever assumptions anyone might have that destroys, let's please let it do that.

Anyways, thanks for writing this and giving me a chance to consider the issues in your blog. My level of butthurt about it is very low but still barely high enough that I thought I'd point it out. Again, I am sure it's just an oversight and not any sort of attack or active form of prejudice. And I truly do understand the bigger point is what matters. I suspect, though, that if you were to refer to the average income of families by race - perhaps even adjusted to reflect incomes below the poverty line, since this is what SNAP usually is used for - your result would still be similar if not totally the same.

While I think you've made an

While I think you've made an important point about gender stereotypes, women's median wages are actually really significant in this case! About 40% of black women in America are currently living in poverty, and poverty rates are highest among families headed by single women, which are even higher when you look at people of color. In total in 2010, about 32% of households headed by single women were living in poverty, but the number of households headed by men in poverty was closer to 16%.

Comparing these numbers, it's incredibly clear that women are not being stereotyped here so much as they are facing a statistical fact that they are far more likely than men to be the single wage-earner in their household. The assumption here isn't that women are doing all of the grocery shopping, but that many poor women do not have another wage-earner in their home to depend on for monetary support--which really isn't an assumption, considering that it's true. Basically, women are more likely to have to worry about grocery shopping because they are more likely to be trying to feed a family on a wage that doesn't even begin to reach the poverty line.

The story doesn't end there

First off, I think you are right to target stagnating wages as the major culprit of unaffordable food. However, I think it is worth noting that an increasing price of kale is only a piece of a greater puzzle. Sure, deceptive food marketing can lead consumers into buying more kale, resulting in an increase of the price. But we have to ask the question, what would these consumers be purchasing otherwise?
If it would have been iceberg lettuce otherwise, I think we can say kudos to them on getting some more nutritious greens into their diet. If it would have been spinach or chard otherwise, perhaps the nutritional difference is nil. At any rate, because these consumers are choosing kale it means they are not choosing other greens, and we would expect the price of other greens to fall. I don't expect that the prices of other greens are actually falling (they may be), but do you see how " food gentrification" is necessarily coupled with "food abandonment"?
Furthermore, a rising price of kale means that kale is a more attractive food for farmers. This price signal should push more farmers into planting kale which will eventually put downward pressure on the price of kale. Simply, If lots more people eat kale, then lots more farmers will want to grow it.
Those are my thoughts. also, really cool graphics.

Transparency, Chicken or the Egg

Hi, I'm not sure if I'm really qualified to upload a post here and I had difficulty understanding a fair portion of the article itself, but the article hit deep and I wanted to share what I could as an ordinary citizen. If someone of better qualification and influence can find some value and use to my small contribution it is my earnest hope that they may do so.

The comment I am attaching this reply to is the comment I felt I could best understand and relate to.

In all things I think it is very hard determine to black from white, and thus to determine/achieve an optimal point of balance.

Assuming balance is the optimal and desired destination for all concerned, I believe the journey must begin (not without its own reasonable problems) with the search for a reasonable level of transparency.

The point I would like to share is that perhaps this is where a crucial problem and a possible solution(s) may lie buried.

Everybody has their own and very real situation, and I do not know which of the two came first - the chicken or the egg - but if we were to analyze in this order and come around full circle again:

(Please read the Original Comment that this reply is attached to before continuing)

1. The farmer: There is never absent any risk for anybody when making a crucial decision. However, the farmer must have access to a reasonable level of transparent information in order to make the crucial decision (to change to farming organic produce). Examples include -
(i) can they even get their organic goods across to the retail marketplace on fair terms,
(ii) who and how to contact ,
(iii) are there any factors involved in getting their products across that are yet unknown to them, and
(iv) what risks and costs are involved with farming organic produce

2. The corporation/retailer: Even corporations have their own reasonable multitude of circumstances (mouths to feed, shareholders to satiate, competition with other corporations, contractual obligations with current farmer partners). For the right or wrong reasons, they may limit or block access to doing business with new farmers of organic produce. Even if they do accept all these new farmer partners thereby increasing supply of available organic produce, they may have reasonable reasons for not decreasing retailed prices of these products.

(i) The right (and/or reasonable) reasons may involve upholding contractual obligations with current farmer partners, upholding prices to ensure farmers receive adequate margins for their more costly methods of organic produce farming, upholding prices to distinguish the difference in health benefits between organic and non-organic produce in order to sustain the desirability and hence the marketability of more costly-to-farm organic produce goods at sustainable prices for farmers and sellers.
(ii) The wrong reasons may involve blocking out access to potential new suppliers in order to uphold price levels to monopolize the market and to extract as much gluttonous margins on products as possible. This is why some level of reasonable transparency seems necessary, to the extent that it does not jeopardize the corporations. A very high level of transparency is initially needed to be disclosed to some authority, who can then determine what a future level of reasonable and balanced level of transparency really is.

3. The consumer: Indeed lower prices for daily goods is good for the consumer, but it can hurt the seller and the farmer. Also, forcibly raising wage levels to match rising costs of products has its drawbacks - it may help the consumer, but it could really hurt the retailers who are paying wages to their staff which may either prompt them into raising retail prices again or to lower the margins they pass on to the farmer who does not receive increased wages but relies solely on sales alone. A very high increase in supply will likely result in downward pressure on retail prices, and even if we were to ignore the circumstances of the retailers, I believe that it will be the farmers who ultimately suffer from these downward pressures on organic retail prices given their further weakened bargaining positions and their fixed higher costs of organic foods production. Thus increasing wages or allowing the creation of an over-supply of goods reliant on a costly method of production will only help the consumer.

A view from my small part of the world (a case study):
I run an honest small business, and I do my best to survive.
I am a middle-man trading in dry rice-related products in Asia, for which you could imagine is not a very high margin market at all.
If there were a forcible national wage increase, I would be very hard pressed to continue my business, unless everybody started buying and eating my products because of the wage increase. There is a very real limit to consumption increase of my product even with everybody's increased wages. Can and Would, are two very different concepts.
My rice-related products (such as plain rice noodles) have very small margins (half of my business depends on the thin $2 margin I get for selling a box of plain rice noodles that would serve 198 people).

(i) For me to survive with an implied approximate 18% national wage increase (the same level outlined in the article relating to price of goods increases), I would have to at least triple my current levels of sales just to sustain my wage costs. Having to triple sales would mean having to suddenly increase sales by about 200,000 peoples' servings' worth per month, not only is this near impossible for a small business to do suddenly in that month of declared wage increase, it would mean I would need to suddenly have conquered about 80-90% of my country's entire market share to do that. And it would mean the same for my many competitors. Just for only 1 of us to end up surviving such a wage increase.
(ii) If I were to try and pass this on to the retailer then the retailer would just cut me out and find a different supplier who is not willing to raise his/her price. The only possible and incomplete solution for me would be if an Authority were to declare a minimum retail price level bar as a form of protection. However this could decrease consumer desire or perception of need for my product.
(iii) If I were to try and pass this on directly to the consumer then the original benefit of the wage increase would become null to the consumer, and we're back to square one too.

My belief: Authorities, it may have its own teething problems but, begin with transparency (different stages), then explore your options and hence make options become available to all of us affected. We need to truly discover the what before we expend our energies. And by Authorities, I mean the guys at the lower levels of Authority, make a push, you're a consumer too. Because the big guys at the highest ends of Authority, I think they're hardly affected at all, in fact I think they're benefiting from it, if you know what I mean - because even corporations would be nonplussed as to how to solve this societal riddle without the utmost cooperation of higher Authority (which is what we are actually paying them for), so from the corporation/s' point of view, why choose the road of a useless martyrdom alone when you've got everything going for you, when it's easier to just "make sure" that you'll never be questioned for having everything going for you.

Authority help in enabling farmers to find more cost-effective methods to farm organic produce may be another starting point too. Helping them to get started couldn't hurt either. A bigger picture - isn't that why we leave our funds with government. Perhaps transparency and answerability (with severe criminal liability) of where our funds are going to may be the ultimate origin point of solution. We need new laws governing government, prior futile attempts to push them toward proper actions on behalf of societies continuing to advance on relationships built on distrust, which seems to be what everything is always about. All of us, we're not children.

We don't run from complex surgery.
We are even trying to eat organic.

Thank you.

Farmers and Production Costs

I agree that high quality food, whether organic or not, should be available to folks of all income levels. However, I do not think that the higher prices of organic foods is to be blamed in any way. Americans spend less money, on average, than any other country in the world (http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/america-food-spending-less). We have grown accustomed to incredibly cheap prices and low quality. The production and distribution costs of organic and sustainably grown foods are simply much higher at this moment in time because the industry has yet to streamline and create as many efficiencies to bring down costs. In particular, the cost of producing non-feedlot/corn/soy fed meat is much, much higher. I wouldn't blame people who are interested in food for price hikes in organic foods. These people are the ones opening up opportunities for farmers who want to farm organically and/or sustainably to fund their operations. Without a market for these products they wouldn't exist and we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

How we make this food accessible to folks with low incomes is a difficult question. Margins for most farmers are very tight because the produce market is incredibly competitive and thus prices are pushed extremely low. Let's use the price of a bunch of kale at $1.10 (which is barely above the price of a candy bar) as an example. First off, the institutional market (grocery stores, hospitals, schools) will generally mark up produce by 30% which means that they paid about $.77 per bunch (http://www.agmrc.org/business_development/operating_a_business/direct_ma...). Which means as a producer you would have to mark up that bunch of kale by at least 100% after production and distribution costs to make $.335 per bunch of kale. You have to have a pretty sizable operation or sophisticated operation to be making any money at that price. Just to put it in perspective to make a $1,000, if we assume that average bunch of kale weighs 3/4 lb, you would have to produce 2990 lbs of kale. Which is approximately a 1/5 of acre professionally grown produce. So, to make let's say $60,000/year on kale you would have to plant and successfully harvest about 11 acres (not really all that many). But, this is all assuming that you can produce a bunch of kale for $.335 which would be very difficult to do especially for a small farm.

I strongly believe that the only way for prices for organic foods to come down is for demand to continue to grow. As the market grows the sophistication of operations and fierce competition between producers will create a market that is friendlier to low-income people. The greater problem for low-income people is still that the minimum wage is at $7.25 an hour. And, that we are living in a time when jobs are so competitive that workers can be easily exploited. Just to follow up on what Kellyann was saying, the farm laborer in America (especially on small farms) is not even protected by minimum wage laws if the farm utilizes less than "500 man days" of labor per year (http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs12.pdf). And, this is just one of a number of exemptions specifically tailored for farms that make being a farm worker an undesirable occupation. Tackling poverty and income inequality is incredibly important. However, I do not believe that attacking consumers of organic foods is the way approach the issue of food justice and access in America.

Excellent comment

Wow! What a well researched, thoughtful post!

It strikes me that trying to help poor people by making things cheap, rather than increasing their income/wealth, is highly problematic. If keeping produce cheap is the highest priority, then we should all be supporting Wal-Mart, which offers extremely affordable (and surprisingly high quality!) produce in some of the poorest, least grocery-plentiful locations. We should also be fond of the tiny wages paid to farm laborers, and the hair-thin margins on which most farms operate.

But I think it's pretty clear that's the wrong approach. If farms were economically stable, and farm laborers and retail workers were paid a living wage, then kale might cost even more. But I doubt the price would grow in proportion to the benefits to the working class.

So yeah, the issue is poverty, not food prices. As the previous post pointed out, we have some of the cheapest food in the industrialized world. We need to get over our cheap fetish, not our food fetishes.

I have to say I agree. This

I have to say I agree. This reply is a well fleshed out economical.

This is an excellent

This is an excellent response.

"Average" income?!

Wait, are those figures supposed to be gross or net? And is that individual income or family? Because if it is net individual, I'm making WAY lower than I thought was normal.

Food has not gotten significantly more expensive.

The food prices in the info graphic are not adjusted for inflation, so they are totally misleading. The CPI was 233.92 on Jan 1 2014, and 202.42 on Jan 1 2017. That's a 15.6% increase.

So if you correct for inflation, the quoted 18% figure is really 2.4%. A 2.4% increase is pretty small, but even if we agree it's a problem, it's far from clear that "food gentrification" is the culprit. A far simpler explanation is the increase is that energy costs have increased. The real problem is that the median wage has not grown—in fact, because it's nominal value has been flat, then if you correct for inflation, it has *fallen* by 15.6%. The reasons for that are complicated and hard to discern, but it is probably unrelated to food.

So yes, certain hip items have gotten more expensive. And yes, organic food more expensive than conventional food. But there is no real evidence that organic foods are healthier (for example, see http://tinyurl.com/8ltmufs). Eating organic is significantly better for the environment, but there are probably no benefits in terms of nutrition or safety to the customer. The organic-conventional price gap is irrelevant to the problem of overall food affordability. Lack of access to organic food as a political issue might appeal to overprivileged lefties who shop at farmers markets, but it is not a serious issue of economic justice.

Asian

Conveniently left out Asian women on your line graph there. Why is it that people forget we exist whenever anyone talks about race and poverty?

Asian Women

It's because--when factoring in for statistics about things like poverty, prison, etc.--Asians just get lumped in with the white statistics. I noticed it also when I was looking up statistics on obstetrics & public health in Indiana (where I, and maybe five other Asian women, live) and saw that there was no data kept for Asian women. (As if none of us have ever had a c-section before.)

Now, that isn't to say that it's because there is no Asian presence in things like public health, poverty, prisons, etc. There is. As I'm sure you know the "model minority" stereotype is a myth, for a number of global/sociological reasons. Reinforcing this stereotype risks making outcomes negative for Asians in these positions, and only serves to degrade other Americans of color. ("Why can't you be more like Asians? They aren't even in these poverty statistics!")

OP prob. isn't responsible for the lack of Asian presence on the graph.

Asians

Conveniently left out Asian women on your line graph there. Why is it that people forget we exist whenever anyone talks about race and poverty?

Same story, different food

A year or two ago, I read a similar article about quinoa. It seems that for the indigenous Andean peoples, quinoa is their primary source of calories because it has historically been relatively cheap and easily grown in Andean regions. But with its rising popularity, the price has gotten so high that these same indigenous peoples can no longer afford it -- most of the Andean crop gets sent to other places. Thus, the folks who have lived on quinoa for centuries (millennia, in some cases) are serious trouble because THEIR food has become a fad for (comparatively) rich North Americans.

Generalized angst

This article is a melange of Issues, none of which I have a particular problem with on their own, but together fail to make any kind of argument and I think just serve to get people's heads nodding. It's an expression of (totally reasonable) generalized angst at the interplay of various systems that serve to not serve those what need serving the most.

But this piece misses the Capitalism boat in a big way. The price of kale has risen because supply hasn't met demand. Organics have always been more expensive than chemically-grown food — production costs are higher, big farming companies pay for subsidies in the Farm Bill, demand is lower — and will be until some of those dynamics change. Blaming other consumers for this dynamic is just pissing in the wind.

The article does mention some of the actual problems — wages not keeping pace with inflation, for instance — but it gets most of its milage out of the GRAR of privileged folks eating foods previously eaten only by marginalized folks.

It looks at the whole system and says, "Ain't it fucked up that People A get to eat this and People B can't afford food?" and decides that the issue is People A.

This is capitalism, folks! What we need is a government that understands that its task is to constrain, contain and shape capitalism so that it benefits the most people. Pointing fingers at other consumers is naive at best and seriously counter productive at worst.

Honestly "food gentrification" is a great name for this because people miss the real issues in gentrification discussions in the same exact way.

I was honestly thinking the

I was honestly thinking the same thing. It pains me to to see someone pull "economical statistics" and talk about "wage inflation" but not use them correctly especially to solidify your points. As a few others have said, it's a simple supply and demand model and a low supply puts upwards pressure on prices. Also as someone so thoughtfully pointed out, if you remember to adjust your numbers and in terms of 2014 dollars and 2007 dollars you'll see relatively small changes. Now, yes it is unfortunate that low income people cannot afford food. And you know what instead of even making minimum wage higher... ( I would also not compare farming to a retail job, as I think someone did..it's clear which job is more difficult and therefore should require a higher wage) I'm going out on a limb here, and I'm gonna say EDUCATION. Namely our public school system. The government needs a serious reform of public education policy in the United States... The best way to help low income communities is the upward mobility that education provides, but I digress.

Does she think Will Allen is elitist?

He's the guy behind Growing Power:

http://www.growingpower.org/

How about the people behind Grow Pittsburgh?

http://www.growpittsburgh.org/

Or Grow Youngstown?

http://growyoungstown.org/

Or Keep Growing Detroit?

http://detroitagriculture.net/

All of these groups and the persons in them are working to bring good, healthy food to lower-income, inner-city areas. But acknowledging them gets in the way of bashing educated white foodies, which is her real goal. But hey, she got us to not only click on the article, but comment on it, so she wins.

Does she think Will Allen is elitist?

He's the guy behind Growing Power:

http://www.growingpower.org/

How about the people behind Grow Pittsburgh?

http://www.growpittsburgh.org/

Or Grow Youngstown?

http://growyoungstown.org/

Or Keep Growing Detroit?

http://detroitagriculture.net/

All of these groups and the persons in them are working to bring good, healthy food to lower-income, inner-city areas. But acknowledging them gets in the way of bashing educated white foodies, which is her real goal. But hey, she got us to not only click on the article, but comment on it, so she wins.

Re: generalized angst

Drew Beck nailed it.

I am not sure marketing is

I am not sure marketing is really responsible for increases in the costs of kale and collard greens. I haven't seen much data on that. Especially since so many of our greens are grown in CA, which is in the midst of a huge drought. Midwest growers have attempted to compensate and there have been some advances in extending the growing season here, but our winter this year has been brutal. Kale farmers don't have the same government subsidization and price stabilization as other commodities do. Furthermore, farmers may be subject to more and more onerous regulations from the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will definitely increase produce prices unless the government steps in to financially assist struggling farmers comply.

I would agree organic might have a negative impact if it induces farmers that would otherwise grow more affordable crops of kale and collards to grow premium-priced organic kale and collards. The benefits of organic food, a fairly arbitrary government-set regulatory label, seem to be nebulous as well.

The SNAP cuts are definitely a disaster that's going to worsen things for people struggling to make ends meet.

cause 'n' effect

-how does the rise in the price of kale since 2011 compare to price rises in other vegetables? haven't there been large price rises in other agricultural products? does this particular price rise have anything to do with "food gentrification"?
-when you say the price of organic food "outpaces" that of conventional products does that mean the rate of increase is greater? Or do you just mean that it is more expensive? if the latter that's not so shocking. the difference matters.

i completely agree that there are serious problems with the complex interactions of food, class, and race, but i'm not convinced by the stats in this article that white girls eating green juice is really a bad thing, although it is incredibly annoying. one of the main reasons the phrase "food gentrification" is inadequate to describe the dynamic is that food (in the western world) is not really a finite resource. land in urban centers very much is. when i eat kale, i'm not really depriving a less fortunate person the privilege - unlike when me and my yuppie friends move to once-tough neighborhoods.

let's definitely talk about food gentrification, but let's find better ways to link it to food poverty. implying that elite fetishization of certain groceries causes price rises isn't very rigorous. better to ask why it's so cheap to buy what they disdain.

hmm

I'm not sure there's evidence here to show that rising food prices are specifically the result of food trends. I've watched food prices overall climb pretty high across the board, with different foods fluctuating differently. So many things can influence cost- fuel rates, how big or small the crop was that year, fluctuations in local economic factors like property tax and labor law, general inflation. I agree that food trends are obnoxious and helpful only to the mostly white-serving companies that create them, but usually when the price of something I really like for my health goes up, I just buy less of something I need less of. Like ice cream, or juice, which is a bummer, but it's also not really that big of deal. As far as organic, it's relative expensive to maintain an organic farm, so prices are higher. I personally think there should be tax incentives to farm organically, or it should be subsidized, or something to even out the price. Or pesticides just banned outright. But yeah I it's more complicated than just 'food appropriation' or whatever.

The problem here is not that

The problem here is not that rich people buy trendy foods. The problem here is that rich people are rich, while other people aren't. This whole article is equivalent to saying that when a new iphone hits the market, poor people can't buy it because it's expensive. Yes, the iphone is a new product, whereas kale has been around for centuries. But kale is a "new product" in the sense that it simply was not in supermarkets before. So basically corporations come up with a "new" product, start to mass produce it, market it as a luxury, and sell it to rich people for a premium...shocking.

This is really, really different from "traditional" gentrification. As many people (or more) lived in Brooklyn before it was gentrified. They were just different people, forced out of the housing market in their old home. But kale was never a mass-market product among the poor--only a tiny number of stores sold it.

So do I think it's a travesty that so many people can't feed their families, let alone buy them whatever kind of nutritious (or hyped up) food they want? Yes. Do I think this is occurring because rich people buy kale? Not so much.

Infographic and Statistical Discrepancy

In the paragraph that begins with, "If wage inflation matched grocery inflation," the author says:

"Over that time, women of all races received an overall 1.6 percent increase in average wages, When race is factored in, Black women are shown to have experienced an actual decrease in average wages."

Yet the graph just beneath this paragraph shows that wages have decreased for Hispanic women, whereas nominal wages for black women have increased (though not to the extent that wages have for white women).

some good words

Nice turn of phrase here and there through your article!

"ideological and medical purity" well I do doubt the factor "medical purity" since it's the "organic" food shoppes that are leading the consumption curve.

When a shop gives "free" advice regarding "medical purity" to customers who diet regularly on a blend of mystical fetishism and exotic religious rites, well, it's a marketing phenomena!

Think: when in history has an industry been able to mix moralising and oral fetishism so wholly and completely successfully? It's like the syncretic religions of old empires. Cherry-pick the gods that appeal most and combine them in a slave-class rhetoric focussed on oral rites.

I mean believing putting things in your mouth makes you good! Come into our shop!

(sounds like another Jesus-cult circa 100 A.D. ?)

Hope you enjoyed my angle on this, inspired by your article.
M

Thanks for the insight!

This post brought up an amazing point about how food companies use language and social fads to boost sales, this was an issue that hadn't dawned on me in the past. As someone who has experienced gentrification first hand, I often find myself angered by "improvements" that continuously leave out the wants/needs of natives to gentrified neighborhoods, but with out a clear argument to make. So I do appreciate that aspect of this article.

With all that has been said, the question that always remains after reading articles like this is always how do we respond to issues like the "cost of food", something we really have no control over. When we wanted better food in our neighborhoods we were ignored, now that we have it we can't afford it. How do we join the conversation? How do we join the change?

How you can have better food

Many times people don't use common sense when they think about issues of class, gender and economics. Do you have a window? Can you buy a bag of potting soil and a package of lettuce seeds? If so, you can have fresh organic lettuce. I do not live in a wealthy family. I am fortunate in that I have a little land. We use our free time, in the warm weather to produce food for ourselves and preserve it. Before we had land we produced food for ourselves in containers, potatoes in buckets lettuce and tomatoes in pots. We couldn't preserve as much but it decreased the amount of cheap pesticide laden produce we needed to buy. Some non-organic items are actually more sensible to buy. Do you eat the banana peel? If not then why does it matter what they put on it to keep the bugs off?

This article is

This article is irresponsible. VERY irresponsible. You are correct.....there is a movement going on demanding better food....but my dear (whomever wrote it), this is NOT a fad and it's definitely not a "fetish". This is something that should have been underway many, many years ago before we allowed GMO's, high, high levels of dangerous pesticides and high fructose corn syrup to take over our food supply.......and our health. Yes, I do agree, organic food is more expensive.......but not THAT MUCH more expensive if you're not focusing on packaged, processed food. If your end goal is to get cheap organic potato chips and cereals....well, good luck with that. But if your goal is to focus on the essentials, including IN-SEASON organic produce and if you are willing to actually spend some time cooking rather than turning to convenience food, as well as if being willing to spend some time comparing prices, reading labels and getting your groceries from different places......then let me tell you, it's really NOT that much more expensive. Health-wise (and I think that's pretty darned important), we cannot, and should not afford to eat some of the things that the U.S. government, in cahoots with multi-billion dollar companies ($$$$$$$) have allowed into our food supply and have OVERTAKEN our food supply, so that they can get richer and richer, as the population, the "little people" (so-to-speak), ends up suffering from illnesses that these products in our food supply have ignited. Our only weapon against them is our consumer power. In other words, not buying the crap and buying the better options. The more the better options are demanded, the more they are supplied and the more people buy them, the more the prices will start to go down for these products. That though and process, sadly, doesn't easily fit into American culture, which is based on easy gratification and impatience. If and when you can, we SHOULD buy organic, or at the very least, stop buying processed food that contains the so many of these dangerous ingredients and chemicals and those that are made by the very companies that have greedily damaged our food supply so much. Eating natural isn't necessarily eating organic, even though we should strive to eat organic, aka GMO and pesticide-free, whenever possible. Articles like this only give more power to the real culprits, to begin with.

This article is

This article is irresponsible. VERY irresponsible. You are correct.....there is a movement going on demanding better food....but my dear (whomever wrote it), this is NOT a fad and it's definitely not a "fetish". This is something that should have been underway many, many years ago before we allowed GMO's, high, high levels of dangerous pesticides and high fructose corn syrup to take over our food supply.......and our health. Yes, I do agree, organic food is more expensive.......but not THAT MUCH more expensive if you're not focusing on packaged, processed food. If your end goal is to get cheap organic potato chips and cereals....well, good luck with that. But if your goal is to focus on the essentials, including IN-SEASON organic produce and if you are willing to actually spend some time cooking rather than turning to convenience food, as well as if being willing to spend some time comparing prices, reading labels and getting your groceries from different places......then let me tell you, it's really NOT that much more expensive. Health-wise (and I think that's pretty darned important), we cannot, and should not afford to eat some of the things that the U.S. government, in cahoots with multi-billion dollar companies ($$$$$$$) have allowed into our food supply and have OVERTAKEN our food supply, so that they can get richer and richer, as the population, the "little people" (so-to-speak), ends up suffering from illnesses that these products in our food supply have ignited. Our only weapon against them is our consumer power. In other words, not buying the crap and buying the better options. The more the better options are demanded, the more they are supplied and the more people buy them, the more the prices will start to go down for these products. That though and process, sadly, doesn't easily fit into American culture, which is based on easy gratification and impatience. If and when you can, we SHOULD buy organic, or at the very least, stop buying processed food that contains the so many of these dangerous ingredients and chemicals and those that are made by the very companies that have greedily damaged our food supply so much. Eating natural isn't necessarily eating organic, even though we should strive to eat organic, aka GMO and pesticide-free, whenever possible. Articles like this only give more power to the real culprits, to begin with.

Pizza is not a vegetable

I agree. What is the solution? Stop buying organic so it becomes unavailable to people at every socioeconomic level?
Not a chance. I do use SNAP benefits. I've never set foot in a Whole Foods, but I do shop at our local farmers markets and co-op.
Over a 4 year period I've gone from buying everything conventional to most things local and/or organic. As I've weeded out the packaged foods I found I could afford the organics because I wasn't buying the junk anymore. The more I've researched our food system the less I feel comfortable purchasing in a store and just make it myself. It takes time and effort, but my family is worth it.
I live below the poverty level but I care what goes in to my kids. So I cut down on how much meat we eat. I make our bread, yogurt, even chocolate syrup once in awhile. I've learned about what wild plants are edible and use them!
I will March Against Monsanto and write letters to my congressmen for GMO labeling.

I will be the squeaky wheel!

Bad logic. The current trend

Bad logic.

The current trend for Whole Foods and other upscale grocers will drive up average food costs, but this will not necessarily have bearing on actual food prices paid at other groceries.

This would be like complaining that gentrification in San Francisco is driving up rents in Arkansas. The national average may increase, but that does not reflect change in actual rents in either location.

If anything, this data implies that there is a growing percentage of the population with either more money to spend on groceries or who are willing to spend a larger percentage of their paycheck on groceries, since the average suggests the spending is skewing in favor of Whole Foods-type markets over Key Foods-type markets.

This would be much more informative if it looked at markets by sector. Otherwise it's like talking about how the price of a Tesla Roadster makes commuting prohibitive for Johnny Lunchpail.

Give me a f&@king break

It wouldn't take more than an elementary understanding of economics or the US agro-industry to see that this article makes absolutely no sense. Others have already stated quite nicely that many of the statistics/arguments in this article are true by themselves, but there is a logical leap here that I wouldn't expect to see except maybe on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. I never comment, but seriously? "Foodie trends" and sleazy marketing are causing whole foods prices to increase, and not simple supply and demand/competition/Government subsidies/etc etc. This article reeks of misinformation and propaganda.

There are so many logical

There are so many logical fallacies in this post that I don't even know where to begin. How about we begin with this statement:

"In 2011, kale was sold in 4,700 stories. Now it's sold in 50,700. Over that time, the cost of kale increased 25%."

You blame the price increase on foodie marketing, but you skipped a major step: demand. In 2011, kale was hardly available to the average shopper. Even if a low-income person was looking for it, he or she probably couldn't find it. Now, kale is more readily available, and more pricey, because the DEMAND has gone up. Yes, marketing may have created that demand, but you're ignoring the fact that kale wasn't even physically available to most Americans in 2011 unless they grew it in their own gardens.

This article demonstrates glaring ignorance of economics and food systems. Please do more research and try again.

Other Considerations Other Than Blaming "Hipsters"

The cost of whole foods like kale and other fresh ingredients is only a very small part of the puzzle. In many impoverished areas, there's also the matter of families having cooking utensils and kitchens equipped to cook real meals. It also means you need other ingredients such as seasonings, spices, etc. Cooking from scratch is also something the last several generations haven't been doing a lot. There are many who, believe it or not, wouldn't know what to do with a bunch of kale or collards. There's also the need for storage of uneaten leftovers when cooking from scratch.

Eating healthy doesn't mean you have to have kale on the dinner table. Beans and rice are still a very affordable meal, but when I was trying to work with community folks on preparing better and healthier meals, one of the other issues that kept resurfacing was a lot of lower income housing is prone to roach, pantry moth and rat infestations and storing dry goods became questionable as to how long they could be kept without putting the unused amounts in better containers. We were trying to teach them to use old glass jars from stuff like pickles and spaghetti sauce, but again, many folks opted for the fast food meals because all of the above is simply just overwhelming when you barely have money for food.

I have grown large organic gardens and have many friends who grow for market. It isn't cheap to grow either in monetary or sweat equity terms. This article rubbed the wrong way on a lot of levels, but the most obvious being that it seems to undervalue the efforts of farmers. I got the impression that the author probably has never worked on a farm and has little understanding of the ins and outs of what goes into producing food. My apologies if I am wrong, but that was my take away. To certify a farm "organic" costs money and time in way of lots of paperwork. Conventional farms don't shoulder that extra cost which is one of the reasons for a price difference.

It's better to eat conventional fresh veggies than it is to not eat fresh veggies because one can't afford organic. I always encourage people to do the best they can with whatever resources they have. The cold ugly truth is that if you stand at the checkout line in most low income areas and see what they have in their carts, most of it is processed food crap including lots of sodas, chips and other shelf stable items that are not healthy. In stores around where I live, I see produce left rotting on the shelves because many are not buying it.

I am on a limited income, but I do eat organic and fresh.... how? I don't buy sodas, chips and other processed foods. I drink water. I have the kitchen equipment and storage necessary to cook from scratch. I also plan meals so that I can stretch my meals as far as possible. I am very lucky to have those options and abilities, and I know that many other people do not. Maybe complaining about hipsters ruining it for everyone, the better solution would be to find ways to establish teaching centers in communities where people can learn how to cook healthy meals, store leftovers and unused bulk foods and how to get the most bang for their buck at the grocery store.

"According to a BBC article

"According to a BBC article on the subject, the marketing of an item as a “superfood” has correlated with price increases"

No it does not. Here is what it says.

"Almost 100 products have been described as superfood, and sales of products like blueberries and spinach have soared"

Sales increase is not the same as price increase.