Contributed by Nereus Fellow Tiff-Annie Kenny,

Nereus Fellow Tiff-Annie Kenny recently published an article in The Conversation, ‘Time and money – the biggest hurdles to healthy eating’. In the article, Tiff-Annie discusses how diet quality and health are socially stratified in developed countries; more affluent and educated consumers report higher quality diets (including more fruits, vegetables and seafood), while those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged tend to consume diets low in nutrients and high in energy-dense foods. She considers several factors that are believed to mediate the relationship between social class and diet quality- differences in food skills, nutritional knowledge, purchasing power, and time availability between social strata, as well as the notion that healthy foods are costlier. On the latter point, she highlights that for many costly healthy food items like fresh salmon, a lower-cost alternative exists, like tinned salmon. This leads her to question weather healthy diets are necessarily more expensive.

Drawing on her research on diet affordability in remote Arctic community stores, she suggests that although inexpensive nutritious options do theoretically exist, energy-dense foods (like grains, fats and sweets) represent the lowest-cost option to the consumer. These cheap calories also tend to be the least nutritious and are extensively reported in the diets of low-income consumers. Moreover,  the “time cost” to prepare food may be the most constraining factor associated with maintaining a nutritious diet at a low budget. Beyond food prices, diet affordability is based on income. While some government income-based policies have had success with reducing the probability of food insecurity, they are a matter of political will. Quoting the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Tiff-Annie suggest that we are perhaps asking the wrong questions about food insecurity (e.g. Can the most disadvantaged people afford nutritious diets? Are healthy foods really more expensive?), when it’s really a political question.  A link for the article can be found here.

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