After the Great Depression in the 1920s and '30s, President Herbert Hoover promised Americans would never go hungry again. That sentiment has never been more obvious than today, with an abundance of food retailers.

However, I often wonder if America’s food surplus correlates to consumers having access to healthy food choices for an affordable price. I interviewed students on the Claflin University campus to gather student opinions on the topic.

Michael Kendrick is a senior business major from Chicago who plays baseball for Claflin. Being a college student athlete, he has knowledge regarding the food market. But knowledge is only half the battle as his budget puts stipulations on what he can and cannot purchase while shopping for food.

“When I’m shopping for food, the first thing that attracts me to a product is the price,” Kendrick said. “But I also try to be conscious of the manufacturer and check labels.”

Another issue is consumer knowledge of the ingredients used in a product.

“Most of the time when I do a label check, I get confused because the ingredients are like these big chemistry words,” Kendrick said. “It is like companies prefer that the average person not have a clear understanding.”

When asked if he trusts that the majority of food in circulation today is free of pesticides and mold and is overall wholesome, Kendrick said, “No, I do not trust that the FDA is completely thorough. That’s why I try to do my research and be observant.”

Daily as consumers, we make decisions that will affect our long-term health, therefore our knowledge of the products we consume should be up to par.

It can be hard for individuals to look past the short term, but in reality, the food choice you make today will either benefit you in the end or pose a problem.

The price on basic ingredients such as cheese, bread and milk pose another significant barrier to many consumers when trying to make healthy choices. The public must come to the realization there are some fundamental issues concerning our food system and how industrialized it has become over the last 20 years.

Food safety is a well-funded government branch, right? Wrong, the government simply gives companies the leverage to police themselves and we have seen that big business can be negligent. That is evidenced by our history with nationwide outbreaks of E.coli and salmonella.

How we produce and market our food has significant room for improvement.

Darren Johnson is a Claflin sophomore business major from Atlanta.

“Food is essential every day and honestly I try to put my best foot forward when making food-related decisions," he said.

But that can be costly. “My sister eats organic and I know for a fact when I was living with her in the summer that every time she went to the grocery store, she spent over $80 because she buys organic.

“As a college student trying to preserve as much money as possible, yes I look for cheaper alternatives as compared to pricey ones,” Johnson said. “But honestly, sometimes I find it hard to fight my cravings and eat healthy.”

“Eating heathy is expensive. A big bag of chips is cheaper than a bag of lettuce. At Wendy’s the four-for-four meal is cheaper than buying grilled vegetables or salmon and that’s just the facts,” Johnson said. “Our market pushes shoppers toward unhealthy choices firstly because that’s what’s affordable.”

The FDA and big companies want Americans to believe the way food is produced on a mass scale has not changed, when in fact it has. That is indicated by the increase in obesity, as well as a host of other diet-related dieses including diabetes, hypertension and cancers.

The wholesomeness of our food needs to be improved, including the treatment and care for the animals we consume, how farmers sustain their food production and overall public knowledge and education on nutrient facts .

Elijah Mckinnis is a student in the Mass Communications Department at Claflin University.

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