After reading an older post about the food that comes out of our kitchen, CF asked me a very insightful question: “Why do you think that a vegan diet is so unusual in a trailer park?”
I took what CF said to mean why was I assuming that people who live in trailer parks don’t eat vegan diets? To answer that I had to look at why I became a vegan and what factors allow me to do so in a healthy way. I became a vegan for health reasons, but the factors that allow me to eat the way I do have a lot to do with social class, income, and education. And so, here we are, about to dive into another reflection!
It is my belief that in this country a healthy diet is a privilege. I don’t like it, and I think it’s ridiculous that healthy food isn’t more abundant, but that’s the way things appear to work around here. If you have enough money, or the right kind of job, you get: health care, proper housing and education, and healthy food.
We’ve all seen the Dollar Menu commercials for McDonald’s, and we’ve all been tempted by the over-sized “snack” packages of chips in the checkout aisle for a mere $0.99!! So it’s evident that bad food is cheap. Really cheap. So if you’re down and out, and it’s time to buy some food, are you going to spend the money to buy some nice organic greens and veggies, grains, and some tempeh? Or are you going to buy the $1 burger that will fill you up ’till the next meal? When money’s tight, the decision seems already made.
So the first reason I feel safe in assuming that most people in my neighborhood aren’t vegans is money. (And I’m not exactly making it hand over fist myself, but I also don’t have kids…and many of my neighbors do.) If you search for it, there are lots of articles and reports (I’ve even heard some recently on NPR) about low-income neighborhoods only having convenience stores nearby, and not grocery stores where residents could buy fresh, healthy food. So it’s not just affordability; it’s also access. But that comes back to money again, because 1) people living in low-income neighborhoods can’t afford to travel to the grocery stores and 2) the grocery stores won’t come to those neighborhoods because they won’t make money. Case in point: the grocery store right behind my very own trailer court recently closed. They weren’t making enough money. I didn’t shop there because the prices were too high…but then, I can afford to drive into town for the big grocery stores.
The second reason I feel safe in assuming that most people around here aren’t vegans is education. And I don’t necessarily mean that the people around here don’t have educations. (And I certainly don’t mean that they are dumb.) Some may very well have been good students in school and may have gotten a high school diploma. Some might even have college degrees; I don’t want to make assumptions. BUT I’m guessing that many of them don’t have the luxury to spend time reading about nutrition, mulling over what they’ve read and how to apply it to their own diets, and then relearn how to think about their food and how to cook in order to accommodate this new way of thinking. I’m guessing that most of my neighbors are not educated in nutrition in the way that I have tried to educate myself. And perhaps some of them lack the critical thinking skills honed later in one’s education to begin to question what our nation has often been told about food and what’s “healthy.”
This sort of brings me to my other reason for thinking that many of my neighbors are not vegans: time. It takes time to learn about, adjust to, and apply all this new information about health and food. It takes time even to just decide if it’s right for one’s own lifestyle, body, and diet.
I’ve often said that I came to be a vegan because I currently have the luxury of a steady (and disposable) income, higher education, and time. In other words, I’m privileged. And even if I hadn’t decided being vegan was best for me and just decided to eat a really healthy (fresh, whole foods) diet that included animal products, those decisions, that access to food, and the food itself would still come from privilege. And that’s just sad. It makes me so sad that health comes from privilege. Shouldn’t we all be able to be healthy?