164873002I read a Slate article today that started a conversation about our kids and organic food, Organic Shmorganic. The author, Melinda Wenner Moyer, did a fair amount of research to assess whether feeding our kids fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic is really as unhealthy as we think it is – which I was thrilled to read. The fact that I have to choose whether to buy something that is riddled with pesticides or not really pisses me off, since I generally cannot afford the latter.

She makes some interesting points; that organic doesn’t necessarily mean pesticide free, that it’s impossible to know whether natural pesticides are “safer” because of the cumulative effects of other pesticides, and that fruits and vegetables are chock-full of naturally occurring toxic compounds anyway:

We have a tremendous amount of data showing that what we’re exposed to in the diet for pesticides is very, very low, and certainly much lower than what would be required to have any even minimal health concern… And by the way, in none of these studies were the fruits and vegetables rinsed with tap water before they were tested, yet researchsuggests that doing so can reduce pesticide exposures significantly. Rubbing the food during rinsing helps, too.

These are just some of the interesting points the article illuminates – but it’s full of others and should be read. My problem with organic food is – it’s incredibly expensive and it’s very existence makes me feel like a shitty mom.

I can’t afford to buy a seven dollar box of strawberries or a five dollar tiny box of blueberries. That is the low end of what they cost – and that’s in Florida. In New York, I paid nine dollars a box on occasion for organic strawberries – because my child loves them, and they are on all the lists of foods that you should definitely buy organic. Right now, I purchase Earth’s Best Organic baby food jars, because unlike with my first child, I haven’t even attempted to make food from scratch. The “organic” just makes me feel better.  This is kind of a joke, isn’t it? Especially since it’s twice as much as the regular old Gerber variety.

I bought chicken nuggets for my three-year-old the other day and paid twice as much because the word “natural” was on the bag. It’s true that the natural variety was actually better – much lower in sodium and fat. But my problem is – why am I being made to feel like a crap mom (by myself, obviously) because I can’t afford the foods that actually aren’t horrifically bad for you? If there is a better, healthier way of doing things – why can’t industry be required to catch up and do it?

I’m sure if you ask any parent this question,

Do you want to purchase food for your child that is:

a) industrially farmed and riddled with pesticides.

b) naturally farmed with the least pesticides possible.

their answers would probably be the same. Now shift the answers to

a) industrially farmed and riddled with pesticides – but affordable.

b) naturally farmed with the least pesticides as possible – but so ridiculously expensive that you could never afford it.

I’m pretty sure the answers would shift. And that sucks. I understand giving up luxuries when you don’t have a lot of money – but healthy food shouldn’t have to be one of them. The system is flawed – and it’s making us all feel like crap. So thanks Melinda, for writing an article that makes me feel better about the crap vegetables I have no choice but to feed my family.

(photo: Getty Images)