As an example given in the movie, a family of four goes to McDonald's and gets a bunch of junk food from the dollar menu, running up a bill of about $12. The narrator laments that it is impossible to eat healthy for that amount of money. The father, who is now diabetic and overweight, claims, "We just didn't know that [McDonald's] was unhealthy."
Even at Alaska prices, DW and I were able to easily put together several quick, easy meal ideas for <$12. For example, here's chicken dinner:
- 5 x Chicken Breasts: ~$5.50 (@ $3.50/lb) -- even cheaper if you get the whole chicken like we do, and then you can make stock too!
- Starch (box of stuffing, microwaveable ready rice, loaf of italian bread): $2
- Bag of non-frozen baby carrots: $2
- Family size bag of frozen green beans: $1.50
- That leaves $1 for some sort of beverage; for example, you could put that towards a gallon of milk that might last for several meals or a box of 100 tea packets.
I do a lot of traveling with low per diem rates for work. I've done a lot of cooking in hotel rooms with nothing more than a microwave, coffee pot, and maybe a minifridge. Inevitably, it is always cheaper to go get groceries and cook in the room than to go out to fast food.
I don't mean to trivialize hunger or obesity, but I really think this is more of an education problem. With a little meal planning, discipline, and understanding of unit prices vs. total prices it is easy to put together healthy, convenient menus using grocery store staples. The real problem here is that the family doesn't realize that McDonalds is bad for them, that running up miles on the car to go get empty calorie junk food is a false economy of both time and money, and that even though a gallon of milk costs $3 and the two-liter bottle of soda costs $1.29, there are four liters in a gallon so the prices are really almost the same. I don't know that throwing more money at food stamps or other welfare programs will help those core problems. I learned how to do menu planning in Cub Scouts as an elementary school kid; do we really need to teach those sort of basic life skills in public school?
I don't disagree with everything in the movie. It really was an interesting and informative piece on some of the problems in our food system (which is one reason why we hunt and fish...). However, I am skeptical on the whole "it is impossible to feed a family of four on $600/month!" meme that is floating around these days. Heck, we feed two adults on ~$300/month without trying to save money, clip coupons, or carefully budget for food in Alaska, where everything is expensive.
Sorry for the off topic post; I know this strays from our normal subject material. Given that Snowflakes is also talking about food freedom these days though it is perhaps somewhat related.