About a decade ago, while I was wandering in and out of the shops in Provence, I noticed that the really crappy foods – the sodas and candy – were markedly expensive. The “good” food – you know, the dark leafy vegetables and other organic matter that forms the girth of the food pyramid – were, well, dirt cheap.Back home in Canada the inverse was, and is, still true: bad food = cheap; good food = expensive. In Avignon, I found a perch near a carousel in the town square to people watch. I saw a man walk by, ripping the knob off a baguette. Someone else passed by talking on two cellphones at the same time Michael Pollan, a consummate food writer and a kind of agro-activist through journalism, has pointed out the skewed value North Americans put on food in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and countless articles for the New York Times Magazine. Charge more for the crappy food and less for the good stuff, the reasoning goes, and we’ll consume more of the good stuff. Kind of like with gas: high prices force us, more than environmental conscientiousness, to re-consider our consumption habits.The issue is more complex than this – subsidized farming, for starters – but you get the point.The flip side is the person who can’t afford to pay more for crappy food, let alone an organic chicken breast served with 100-mile asparagus and potatoes you grew yourself. This is where two friends, Tracy Hyatt and Jennifer Windsor, came up with a social experiment: With agflation shooting up like mortgage rates, the pair wanted to see if they could each eat for $80 a month. And eat healthy. Thus was born the Working Poor Diet, which raises funds for the Edmonton Food Bank.You can follow their hunger pains and mood swings online. There are rules, including no free food, including handouts from friends and family. The Canada Food Guide is gospel—though oatmeal, rice and tea from the Dollar Store have become staples and a bounty of bruised apples from Save on Foods were a bargain.
For comparison, here is the US Food Pyramid.