Lately I have found myself in the middle of several conversations about the American family being able to afford to eat healthy. I think it is important to mention that I am not talking about ready-made, heavily refined foods. I’m talking about natural goodness, of the earth, whole form foods.

Last week during a trip to the local book store a simple request of a book sparked a debate between myself, the store clerk and a . The patron asked me what the book I was inquiring on (Joel Salatin’s Every Thing I Want to do is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front) was about. I started to explain that the author was a revolutionary pioneer in the ways of symbiotic farming. She then inquired what the heck I was talking about and thus ensued a lengthy conversation about how ‘we have to mass produce food in order to feed the world.” I politely disagreed and sited several reasons for my opinions. I encouraged her to read a few books and she thanked me for the suggestion.

Ever since the conversation took place I have been stewing over something the book store patron said to me, something I’ve heard over and over, something I first questioned myself. She asked me how a single mother of four was expected to provide nourishing nutrition dense unadultered food on a single-parent household in this economy. The question is not without warrant but I fear the basis of comparison is severely lacking.

Lets take one aspect of the America diet, soda pop. I find myself hard pressed to list a hand full of families who do not purchase these drinks, my family included. So I started to do a little research. According to recent polls the average American consumes 57 gallons of soda pop per year. Personally, I find this number to be grossly underestimated. Our family is in the process of weaning ourselves off pop. Pop has been a vice to my husband and I and we do occasionally allow our children to have pop as well. After asking a few other families to share their average consumption rate I was able to produce another statistic, one that is slightly higher than the suggested data. Remember that according to the documents I read the average consumtion was 57 gallons per person per year. That amounts to 608 cans of soda per person per year. The average I was able to develop from personally polling familes was a staggering 1,825 cans of soda per person per year. Thats an average of 5 cans a day!

Now the woman in the book store doesn’t stand alone in her views. There were several instances sited in the documents I found that quoted people stating similar concerns. This was amplified when the subject of adding a tax to soda pop, a mere five cents per 2-liter bottle. A unidentified woman was quoted, “Washington is talking about a new tax on juice drinks and soda. They say it’s only pennies. Well, those pennies add up when you’re trying to feed a family.” They do indeed add up, to the tone of $219.00 for the purchase of 152 12pks per year. With the average 12pk cost ranging from $3-$8 dependant upon geographical location the current price tag for this consumption averages $608.00 per year.

The state of Colorado recently joined a list of more than 30 states that have begun taxing soda pop. Before adding this tax, soda pop was exempt like most groceries, subject only to the can redemption tax of $0.40 per 12pk in most states. The extra revenue will add up to a $1.5 billion dollars for the state of Colorado. Director of the Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, Professor Kelly Brownell stated that their institute estimates that an added tax of a penny an ounce would reduce the number of consumption (remember they are quoting 57 gallons) to 38.5 gallons per year. In addition, it has been estimated that tax on sugary soft drinks could not only reduce overall consumption by more than 10 percent but would also generate an extra $1.2 billion in the state of New York alone.

If Americans were to reduce the consumption of soda pop it would have a chain reaction. The number of Americans subject to health issues such a type 2 diabetes (diabetes among minorities in America is 1:2), metobolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease and the most commonly linked health issue obesity, would all be subject to drop substantionally. Therefore, Americans would not only be saving money on unneccessary ‘food’ purchases, but would also be saving potentially millions of dollars in health care expenses.

Now that we have formed a basis of comparision, lets go back and do some math. If a family purchases 152 12pks per person per year and the average American household is that of four, that means that they are spending an average of $2,675.20 PER YEAR on soda pop alone! If you factor in the one cent per ounce tax that occurs in most states the price jumps to $3,551.20 per year. Now, I cannot speak for anyone else, but that seems to be 3,551 reasons to stop purchasing pop. That is a whole lot of fruits and vegetables. Even if you disagree with my numbers and relate to the 57 gallons per person quota, the money spent looks like this:

  • 57 gallons x 128 (ounces per gallon) = 7,296 ounces per person per year
  • 7,296 ounces/12 ounces per can = 608 cans per person per year
  • 608 cans/12 per pack = 50.66666, lets call it 51 12pks per person per year
  • 51 12pks x 4 people = 204 12pks per average American family per year
  • 204 12pks x $4 average price per 12pk = $816.00 per family per year
  • 204 12pks x $0.40 redemtion tax = $81.60 redemtion tax per family per year
  • 7,296 ounces x $0.01 cent per ounce tax = $72.96 soda pop tax per family per year
  • $816.00 + $81.60 + $72.96 = a GRAND TOTAL of  $970.56 unneccessary ‘food’ purchases per family per year

Anyway you break it down, Americans are throwing away hundreds of dollars per year on an unneccessary and potentially lethal purchases. Come the first of the year, as the matriarch of our households grocery purchases, I will be forbidding it from our house. I’m looking forward to having thousands of dollars to spend other places, like pastured beef and organic milk. Instead of handing my husband a cold Coke, I’ll be handing him a glass of reverse osmosis water and feel better knowing that I’m doing everything in my power to help ensure I’ll have him around for decades to come. Yep, I love him that much.



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