Too Poor for Organic? Raise the Minimum Wage
How many times have we heard it?
"Organic food is great for those who can afford it, but not an option for most of us."
This simplistic adage is applied to most proposals that question the
cheap, processed food that is the cornerstone of this country's epidemic
of diet-related diseases. Arguing in favor of organic, a movable feast
of foodies tells us that we simply have to learn to pay more if we want
to eat local, organic, sustainably- produced food. In the United States
that leaves at least 49 million food insecure people (and much of the middle class) out of luck.
Sorry, no healthy food for you.
No one seems to ask why we need cheap food in the first place. The
simple answer is that cheap food helps to keep wages down. This is
especially important when a country is industrializing and needs
low-paid but amply-fed workers. Later, cheap food helps free up
expendable income to buy the consumer goods produced by all that
industrialization. These were supposed to be stages of economic
development, to be surpassed as workers accumulate wealth and climb up
the economic ladder. Somehow, in our current food system both poor
people and cheap food became permanent fixtures -- despite the U.S. food
industry's impressive economic growth.
With over 20 million workers, the food system is the largest and fastest-growing sector in the nation. Unfortunately, with a national median wage
of $9.90 per hour, the vast majority of food workers toil under the
poverty line. The low minimum wage especially affects food service
workers who rely on tips to make a living (waiters, bussers, runners);
their minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. When totaled up, that amounts to just $4,430 per year
for a full-time worker. There is a clear problem with this unlivable
wage for food service workers, yet some still argue against increasing the minimum wage.
Source : Eric Holt Gimenez, Huffington Post, October 5, 2013