Exploring Nutritional Health
The College Student (Part 2)
I explored six different stores offering fresh vegetables within a three mile radius from my campus. These stores include Grocery Outlet, The Co-op, Famer’s Market, Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer, and Haggen. Here are my observations from each store:
Grocery Outlet Contains less than one isle of fresh vegetables that are very reasonably priced. Most of the store consists of canned, boxed, and frozen processed foods. Most of the items expire within two to three months. Dairy free milk is only available with added sugar flavoring such as vanilla and chocolate. They offer good quality butter and coconut oil, but only poor quality olive oil. Outside has a bike rack that is almost always full.
The Co-op has a large area for fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. The meat section is also reasonably priced especially for grass-fed/free range meats. The dairy section is expensive, especially the variety of cheeses. The canned, boxed, and frozen section offers the most variety on healthy options, but most of those same products are also more expensive than Fred Meyer or Trader Joe’s. The frozen dinners are more nutritious and less processed than the Grocery Outlet, but are more expensive. Most of the store consists of basic foods for home cooking.
The Farmer’s Market is a collaboration of different farmers who come together to sell their fresh foods or other homemade goodies. Most of the Market sells seasonal organic fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. However, when I say reasonable, I am comparing organic food prices only. There are two meat stands, one for organic chicken and the other for grass-fed beef. The meat is more expensive than any other store I have explored, but is also the best quality. One must have basic cooking knowledge or access to cooking information to shop here.
Trader Joe’s has the most expensive, but large produce department. They offer some of the cheapest vegan-friendly products such as tofu and rice milk. They have the largest healthy selection of frozen vegetables (meaning no additives or extra processing). There are more options for home-cooked meals.
Fred Meyer is by far the largest grocery store, thereby offering the largest selections of both fresh foods, health foods, junk foods, and everything in between. The produce section is also reasonably priced. They offer the cheapest salads. The health food section is not as extensive as Trader Joe’s or The Co-op, but they prices are better. The cheeses are the cheapest. The meat section is poor quality but cheap. There are lots of canned, boxed, and frozen meals available. Some healthier than others.
Haggen has a large produce section as well, however, most of the organic produce is the most expensive out of all of these markets. The non-organic produce is also over priced. Haggen’s does offer the best selection on eggs that come from pasture-raised hens. These eggs and regular eggs are most reasonably priced. Aside from Grocery Outlet, Haggen’s offers the smallest vegetarian and vegan section. The meat is decently priced. About one half of the store is dedicated for those who do not know how to cook. The frozen, canned, and boxed foods are still some of the most expensive compared to the other stores.
There are ways to incorporate nutritious foods in low-budget diets. There are many resources in my area to gain access to nutritious foods. These different resources are all accessible by bus, bike, or on foot from the campus area. However, from my observations, I found that the healthy affordable foods require basic cooking skills, and frequent shopping trips to at least two different grocery stores because fresh foods spoil and prices vary on different items in different stores. Not one of these stores offered free cooking or nutritional advice. In other words, gaining access to healthy foods is easy in my neighborhood; gaining access to nutritional knowledge, both for cooking and understanding, is the real challenge.