Recession diet

Higher food prices don't mean healthier eating.

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Anyone who wants to find both a good — and another bad — side to the ongoing economic woes of our fair country just has to look at their bottom line. Or, more accurately, the line of their bottoms.

Lately, local food and health advocates have stapled a silver lining onto the recession by claiming that higher prices of industrially-produced corn, meat and soy — caused by elevated oil prices, among a bevy of other factors — means that people will be eating more fruits and vegetables from local farms, since those prices have stayed largely stable. That's good for the environment, public health and the local economy.

The problem is, prices for local and organic fruits and vegetables are only "bargains" in relation to those industrial products' increased prices. Mass-produced food is still less expensive and easier to obtain, especially for lower-income families, which means the unhealthiest, most inexpensive commercial foods might see as big a jump in consumption as local and organic products.

Burger King CEO John Chidsey nailed that problem in a Wall Street Journal Q & A last week: "It's very hard for me to imagine that the economy could ever get so bad that somebody could not afford to go buy a Double Cheeseburger from McDonald's or a Whopper Jr. from us for $1. If you go to the grocery store, I really challenge you to find something for under $1."

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