According to smartasset.com (2016), a Tucson resident requires a minimum of $68.28 to spend on food each week. On this budget, a person can afford two McDonald’s Big Macs per day with an occasional breakfast order consisting of a Sausage McMuffin or a couple of Hash Browns. To some, this option might appear to be the best bang for the buck. It is therefore no surprise that, in 2015, “39% of households with an annual income of less than $20k eat at least once per week at McDonald’s” (brandongaille.com). Those who frequent McDonald’s are probably aware of the company’s calorie abundant yet nutrient deficient offerings. Oftentimes, these patrons are simply in need of affordable and accessible meals and must compromise their health and the environment to obtain them.
It is high time that the vegan and slow food movements take low-income consumers into account in their outreach and campaigning. Spouting facts about the health-related benefits of organic eating or highlighting how many animal lives are saved by eliminating meat from one’s diet are woefully ineffective marketing tactics when the audience cannot afford to buy the alternative: organic and local produce. Food justice activists must discontinue preaching to the white, educated, $80k + salary choir and instead adopt the vernacular of the working-class McDonald’s loyalists.
With this in mind, I pose two questions: One, it is possible to eat 100% local and 100% vegan within the budget of $68.28 per person, per week? Two, if it is possible, what does such a meal plan look like?
I set out to answer these questions at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market in Tucson, Arizona. I spent just under $68 on everything from artisan bread made with local wheat, to native-grown nopales, to fresh heirloom cherry tomatoes. My reusable hemp grocery bags were filled with entirely local and vegan foods. It was invigorating! I produced a hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for seven days and enjoyed every bite of my learning experience.
Over the next 7 days, the Edible Baja Arizona blog will release the recipes I developed using nothing but my farmers’ market items and a couple dozen tablespoons of leftover condiments that had accumulated in my refrigerator over the past few months. These recipes are intended to provide guidelines only, and so needn’t be followed exactly. Every vegetable takes a different shape and size, every tongue has different taste buds, every stomach has different needs, and every fridge has different leftover condiments. The intention of this project is to show that, with the right motivation and know-how, it is possible to eat 100% locally, 100% vegan, and 100% affordably.
Ingrid Eck is a rising junior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she is majoring in Government, Environmental Studies, and French Studies. She is passionate about environmental justice, food sustainability, and animal welfare! She plans to pursue a career in the nonprofit world and later venture into politics. Ingrid loves spending her spare time watching PBS NewsHour, reading National Geographic, and cooking vegan dishes for herself and friends.