Is Sustainable Food Affordable?

Reader Contribution by Deanna Duke
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One thing that I’ve been reading a lot about lately is how trying to eat sustainably is just not affordable for most people and it’s only the rich that can afford to shop at the high-end organic supermarkets like Whole Foods. The classic stereotype is the yuppie green-wannabe spending hundreds of dollars a week buying imported organic produce or trendy specialty natural products. On the opposite end of the stereotype are the organic beans and rice, bulk food buying hippies.

But is there something in between? Can a sustainable lifestyle, preferably chock-full of locally and sustainably grown produce, meats, dairy and other products that are affordable, be achieved by the average American? I am convinced that it can be.

How does one define affordability? Well, one way of going about it is to use the federal government’s food assistance program’s guidelines. For example, they assume that a family of four should be able to eat reasonably well on a food budget of $588 a month. This also assumes that, most likely, conventionally grown foods are being purchased and not “expensive” locally or sustainably grown food.

I’ve challenged the readers of my blog, for the month of April, to see if it’s possible. Can they find sustainably grown food (organic, local or both) in their area and keep it at or under the federal guidelines? If you are interested in joining us, the full guidelines are available on the post for the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge. I’d like to show that it can be done without breaking the bank.