California — As the cost of living increases, a lot of my friends have been resorting to struggle meals — cheap and affordable foods that are often packed with preservatives and artificial flavor. Though it’s easy to default to these delicious meals, in the long term, they can take a toll on people’s health.
Instant ramen, chips, microwaveable dinners — these are some of my friends’ go-to struggle meals. In excess, these types of foods can be harmful. But they’re cheap and quick, which is perfect for families with busy working parents.
Many people I know spent their childhoods living off of these delicious, yet highly addictive snacks. On top of that though, some of my friends also live in food deserts — meaning there aren’t places with healthy food options nearby.
The majority of affordable food available in the U.S. consists of fast food and highly processed foods, which are infamously known for being linked to health conditions like diabetes. According to Yale News, more than 30 million Americans have this chronic illness, and more than 7 million of them need daily insulin. Despite the fact that insulin is necessary for many people living with diabetes, the high cost makes it difficult to access.
As someone who wants to work in health care, I’ve been thinking a lot about deep-rooted issues in the field. The food choices offered in low income neighborhoods generates a domino effect — creating health problems in those who consume it consistently. Consequently, this allows institutions, like Big Pharma, to profit off of these communities.
An argument I hear often is that places like corner stores should sell more produce to alleviate these problems. But I don’t think that really solves the larger issue at hand. Because when I think of affordable food, my first thought isn’t a nutritious salad — it’s a struggle meal.
Kami Bataclan, (she/her) is a high school student from the Bay Area.
Edited by Amber Ly