Friday, April 8, 2011

Nutritionally Worthless Foodlike Substances

"Nutritionally Worthless Foodlike Substances" - I like this description of junk food and have used it many times since I read it in Michael Pollan’s letter to the Farmer-In-Chief-Elect before Obama’s inauguration 2+ years ago.

He was referring to the substances that make up about 75% of the floor space in most grocery stores. 

Pollan encouraged the president-elect to modify the items that are allowed to be purchased with food stamps.  Worthless substances like most chips, crackers, cookies, candies, desserts, fruitless drinks and many prepared foods like pizzas should not be allowed. 

Recently, I was behind a lady in the grocery store check-out line who had her cart overfilled with NWFSs.  And you guessed it, she was paying with food stamps.  This was frustrating for little ole judgmental me. 

And, she didn’t have any coupons.  This store (Safeway) had a coupon in the paper that week for $10 off a $50 purchase.  Safeway runs run these coupon ads about every four weeks. 

Since Safeway doesn’t limit the number of coupons a customer can use (the only limit is one per store visit) I usually buy four copies of the newspaper and make four trips to buy $50 worth of groceries at a time.  The coupons are good for a week, so I have plenty of opportunities to use them. 

Limiting my purchases to just over $50 and using a coupon means that every single thing I buy is 20% off.   And if I limit things I buy to things that are on sale, many items can net out at around 50% off or more.

Mainstream stores like Safeway do have several worthwhile substances like toilet paper, laundry soap, some organic produce like bananas, and whole grain high fructose corn syrup free breads.  So my family of four can benefit from many purchases at this mainstream market

Most of our food shopping though is done at our local food co-op.  They aren’t totally void of worthless substances, but the percentage that is worthwhile is much higher. 

But I digress. 

I would love for somebody to figure out a way to change food stamp policies.  Can we do it for our children’s health, if not for any other reason?   


  1. Great post, Laura. Too bad the president and congress can't or won't do anything about this problem. It's depressing to think of the waste.

  2. Thanks. Great thoughts perhaps, but bad proofreading. I cleaned it up a bit just now.