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"Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?" By Mark Bittman

THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Besides, that argument, even if we all needed to gain weight, is not always true. A meal of real food cooked at home can easily contain more calories, most of them of the “healthy” variety. (Olive oil accounts for many of the calories in the roast chicken meal, for example.)In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.

“Anything that you do that’s not fast food is terrific; cooking once a week is far better than not cooking at all,” says Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University and author of “What to Eat.” “It’s the same argument as exercise: more is better than less and some is a lot better than none.”

THE fact is that most people can afford real food....

(Read the rest of the article here:


New Video from My Homies- JusCuz: "Hold Up"

Check out my cameo in the new song from my homies, AD Odot and Young Mischief, the Hip Hop duo called "Jus Cuz." (You may remember my feature on their awesome song called "Reel Love"). A lot of cameos from some dope artists: Honey LaRochelle, PhaseOne, Tess, Vikki, Janelle Simone, and more! Shoutout to the homie Azzie of Azzie Direct Media who shot this video. I can't wait for him to direct mine! :)


30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

Many prominent bloggers were asked to participate in this simple blog post to help spread awareness during Invisible Awareness Week (September 11-18th). I'm a lil late, but I still wanted to contribute, especially since many invisible illnesses, like Lupus, don't get the press or attention they deserve. 

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: Systematic Lupus.  

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: I was diagnosed in July 2004, right after my Sophomore year.

3. But I had symptoms since: I remember the serious ones beginning in 2003 (migranes, joint pain, stiffness in the morning, and more). I'd had many of the symptoms for a while but I chalked it up to being a college student, being achy from my dance troupe, even from being a female. But when I lost my hair in June, that's when I couldn't deny something was wrong.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: not being able to rip and run 24/7 the way I used to. I'd feel guilty for not helping everyone, for saying no, or for not supporting every event out there. Now I have to balance more than the average person, relying on naps and rest days to keep myself healthy. I have to listen to my body or risk being achy and flared up the next day (or few days).

5. Most people assume: that I don't have my insecurities about the illness. I worry that I will get worse, that I'll develop more accompanying complications, that I'll have trouble having kids, or that it will effect my quality of life. I stay positive and try not to let the illness take over my life, but I have my fears.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: the initial wake-up process. There are days when I'm perfectly fine, and others when it takes a mental yell to my joints to get them to move. Also, how I wake up can actually determine the kind of morning I'll have. I've been abruptly waken up or had a REALLY high anxiety dream, and woke up so tense that it put me in a flare for the whole morning even achy till the afternoon.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: House. I always get excited when they say "Maybe it's an autoimmune disease? Lupus? Start them on 60mg of Prednisone." I'm like, "Yea, I take that too!!!" lol.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my cell phone. I handle EVERYTHING with it: phone, scheduling, poem/songwriting, business, etc. I swear, I've forgotten my mom's birthday because it wasn't in my phone calendar.

9. The hardest part about nights are: not always being able to enjoy the nightlife. I wish I could party till the sun comes up, but in most cases, unless I get a serious nap in, I'm super drained for at least a day or two. My body takes so long to recover. I also hate how drained I am at the end of the day...damn near narcoleptic. 

10. Each day I take: 10 pills & vitamins. (Trying to get off of prednisone... sigh)

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: believe in a healthy combination of both. I think the idea of totally ignoring western medicine is crazy. If something goes wrong, best believe you aren't going to a herbalist. However, it's also crazy to think that an illness INSIDE of you isn't effected by our diet or an influx of meds in your system. I detox and take supplimental herbs & teas in hopes of finding a balance in my body.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I would choose to have an invisible illness. In the beginning I hated telling people I had Lupus because it made some people treat me like I was an invalid. I can only imagine if it was visable. It'd be more likely to control my life. However, it does make it hard to explain to others when you're feeling sick.

13. Regarding working and career: I've become such a structured person. It helps me get work done when I need to. Also, being diagnosed with Lupus made me see how valuable life is and how important it is to do what you love. It helped me choose my career.

14. People would be surprised to know: that I have used Lupus to get myself out of some sticky situations. I don't like to do that because I feel like that puts out bad karma that will come back to bite me later.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: thinking of myself as a person with an illness. Prior to Lupus, I'd never even been to the ER. Except for one minor surgery, I never saw a doctor for more than a check-up and ringworm when I was 12. Now, I see my rheumatologist every month, different specialists every few months, giving everyone damn near a pint of blood each visit. I can't always get everything I want to accomplish done, and I have to think about things that "normal" 20 something year olds don't. Yet, my mind is the same healthy person it believed it was before I even knew what Lupus was. 

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: live a normal life. It took a while to realize that there is no such thing as a "normal" life. We are all given our own obstacles and trials to deal with, some more than others, but not without our gifts, blessings, and the ability to find light in dark situations. It's our job to take OUR lives and make it a meaningful, amazing, and love-filled experience. 

17. The commercials about my illness: There are no commercials for Lupus, but I was excited to see a few print ads throughout NYC. Lupus is the disease where many have heard of it or know someone with it, but have no clue what it is. Hopefully more awareness can happen in the future.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: organized dance. It always feels like I'm putting so much strain on my body when I push it to get choreography or do too much jumping. I still take a few classes from time to time. 

19. It was really hard to have to give up: not being invincible. Many of us think we can treat our body like a machine, overwork it and play it till it's run down. It's what we're told life is. "We'll sleep when we're dead." For a person with an illness, we can't afford to treat our bodies that way. I miss the freedom of being able to just wild out, but in the same breath, I have learned the true value of optimal health and taking care of the gift God has given me: my body. 

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: I'm a movie girl... Netflix is my way to relax and get lost in the plot of another world.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: I would spend an entire day outdoors, in the sun, exercising, eating grapefruit (as much as I love it, some of my medications conflict with it), and dancing.

22. My illness has taught me: Value your health and love life!

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: "Why are you taking that medication? Oh, I know a cure for Lupus. Just go to this website about this doctor in the East Congo/ France/ India/ etc." I'm so tired of people, who aren't medical doctors, trying to tell me what I'm doing wrong and that they know how to make everything ALL go away. While I do practice elements of Eastern/Alternative medicine, I cannot completely abandon Western medicine. I know you mean well but stop trying to fix me, people!

24. But I love it when people: open up to me. I appreciate the kind words, the understanding, the laughs, the deep discussions. It doesn't just have to be about Lupus. Sometimes just remembering how a like we all are can brighten my day.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: "There is always someone out there who has it worse than you do; count all of your blessings." Puts things in perspective.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: to learn how to listen to their bodies (it'll let you know when to expect a flare), to make sure they fully take an active role in understanding & managing their disease, never be afraid to go to the doctor, and to always stay positive. The mind is a powerful thing. 

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: that you can actually LIVE with one. So many people think life ends when bad things happen, but there is SO MUCH worth living for. I really value every moment I get and I'm proud of how strong I've been in dealing with this disease. I surprise myself constantly.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: surprised me with a massage. I thought we were just going to hang out and I ended up at a spa. My joints felt so amazing afterwards.  

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: so many people ask me questions about this disease. Although I'm a week late, I still want to do my part in spreading awareness that you don't have to look ill to be ill. Also, I want people to know that just because you're ill, doesn't mean you have to live your life as a sickly person.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: optimistic!


What Is Your Cupcake Worth?

As a Utica College undergrad living in Bell Hall, I frequently made use of the kitchen that they had on each floor of the dorm. It was my way to relieve stress and to stop myself from binging on creations from the cafeteria waffle maker. One Sunday morning, I was up making what Trinidadians call "Bake & Saltfish," a traditional breakfast dish of fried dumplings and seasoned salted codfish. While making her rounds, my floor's Resident Assistant (who happens to be White American) walks into the kitchen to see where the lovely aroma was coming from. After explaining to her what was in the pot, she says, "That smells great! Wow. You people are ALWAYS cooking." She leaves, and I have one of those delayed reactions. "Wait…who are YOU PEOPLE?" Then I thought about the demographic of people that really do cook in my dorm (myself, the african student upstairs, the other West Indian girl down the hall, and an African American guy who used to be a chef). I shrug my shoulders, and continue cooking. 

Funny how food can lead to sharp discussions on race. We see this in the battle against the UC Berkeley Republican Student Group regarding their controversial "Increase Diversity Bake Sale" scheduled to be held tomorrow on campus. The goods sold would be priced according to race, gender, and ethnicity as a satirical way to show opposition to the SB 185 bill in the works that would allow the University of California and Cal State University to consider race, gender, and ethnicity in student admissions. So, that freshly dorm-baked cupcake you might want to buy will cost $2 if you're White, $1.50 for Asian/Asian Americans, $1 Latino/Hispanic, $0.75 for Black/African American, and $0.25 if you happen to be Native American. And, even better for me, all women get $0.25 OFF!  The UC Berkeley student senators voted yesterday to condemn discriminatory behavior and they believe this falls into that category. I disagree. I don't believe that's the real cupcake issue.

My problem with the bake sale is not that prices were put to ethnicities and genders. If this bake sale was ACTUALLY about increasing diversity, I would have been all for it. This would have been a creative way to illustrate to the campus the way value is placed on people of different backgrounds in our society. However, this event was strategically placed "across from the Affirmative Action Phonebank" which supports the passing of the SB 185 bill. The bake sale wasn't meant to reduce the value of the ethnicities and genders represented, but to show how they believe Affirmative Action works to make it so terribly easy for things to be attainable for Native Americans, Black/ African Americans, and Latinos. This is just another round in the perpetual battle against Affirmative Action which many Whites, see as a form of reverse racism while some ethnic minorities view as a form of unwanted coddling. Even Francisco Loayza IV, the treasurer of the Republican group, stated "People are being judged by their skin color (in Affirmative Action policies). I don't want to be judged because I'm brown." Sorry to break the news to you, Francisco, but you will be judged because you are brown. That's the way America works.

Affirmative Action is NOT the act of bringing in unqualified applicants to take the space of "good ole American White Folk." When used the way it was created, Affirmative Action doesn't give preferential treatment to minorities. It understands that educational and economic biases and barriers still exist in the world we live in. It realizes that resources are NOT equally distributed throughout our country, and this puts some individuals at a severe disadvantage. As documented by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we see there is an achievement gap between the races. Children of color tend to be concentrated in low-achieving, highly segregated schools, and this plays a role in the quality of education they receive. During my career, I have witnessed extremely bright students in the inner city public school system that, if given better access to higher standards and exposure to better surroundings would have excelled beyond even their own imaginations.

Affirmative Action also realizes that certain races and ethnicities HAVE been wronged throughout America's history and that there are some lasting effects on their growth as a people. Fighting against this is almost saying, "How dare they offer new opportunities to the descendants of Native Americans who were victims of genocide in order for us to have this lovely land we live in. They should be happy with the tax-free reservations we gave them that shrink in size every year." Also, due to the negative experiences and labels given to women and many races in the history of our country, what Claude Steele labels stereotype threats exist, where these groups are "at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about their group" regardless of actual high-ability and talent. Women are still paid less than men for the same jobs, Latinos are viewed as illegal immigrants used for cheap labor, and African Americans are viewed as ebonics-speaking thugs. Without the proper support, it's easy for members of these groups to fall prey to self-fulfilling prophecies and stereotypes. Affirmative Action sees these exterior barriers to their success and tries to help balance the equation.

Diversity should not be such a dirty word. Promoting it doesn't mean lowering standards, nor does it mean the 33% of White undergraduate students enrolled at UC Berkeley will end up much closer to the 4% of African American/ Black or the 1% of American Indian/ Alaskan Native student percentage presently enrolled. In fact, it may actually help White males since there are 6% less men than women enrolled and 10% more Asian/Pacific Islanders in the UC Berkeley population than Whites. Diversity doesn't just mean more women or minorities; it means more EVERYBODY. It is not a hand out to undeserving individuals especially when studies show that "black students who attend the most selective schools in the country go on to do just as well in postgraduate programs and professional attainment as other students from those schools" and every year, we see a large increase in the undergraduate enrollment of women. The UC Berkeley Republican Club should seriously take note of their prices and understand the implications of how races are actually represented and viewed in the education system. Instead of discussing the Affirmative Action way for a "cupcake" of equal value to another to be attained easier, they need to question why the White "cupcake" is for many places valued at a higher cost.