Eating and Unemployment in America

By chef Marcus Samuelsson








Eating and Unemployment in America


Poverty in America looks very different from poverty in other parts of the world. Being poor in my home nation of Ethiopia means not having access to water, but eating incredibly delicious and healthy foods everyday. Being poor in the United States means cable TV, a house, a car, but not necessarily nutritous things to eat. Being unemployed only makes this problem worse. As of August, the national unemployment rate was 8.1%; in Harlem, where I live and operate my restaurant Red Rooster, the number is twice that. This financial insecurity means every dollar a family spends must go further than before; too often this leads to a sacrifice of many healthy, nutritious foods in their diets.

After the 2008 financial crisis, American families in general began spending less of their incomes on food. The category that took the biggest hit: fresh produce. People instead began turning more and more to quick and cheap calories at fast food places, where less than five dollars can buy you french fries, a burger, and a soda.

While shopping and cooking does take more time than going up to the drive-thru, a commitment to healthy eating can be both delicious and cost-effective. If you infuse rich flavors into your foods, I believe you can eat wonderfully and feel incredibly satisfied after eating less. And nourishing foods can also be budget friendly; here you can find my list of the best items that will protect both your wallet and your health when budgets are getting tight.



It's finally 2012, and many of us have set resolutions to eat healthier. But often times with the high costs of organic and natural foods, we get discouraged to stick to our healthy food regimen. Staying on top of seasonal fruits and vegetables is one way to keep money in your pockets, but there are also some foods that are both healthy and affordable for the everyday diet. Here's a short list of the best picks of healthy foods for the best prices that won't burn a hole in your pocket.

Best Breakfast Food: Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a cheap and healthy breakfast. Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. This fiber-rich super-food can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear.

Best Grain: Dried Lentils

Dried lentils retail for about the same price of a bottle of water. For very little money, you can boil up a massive pot of soup- and salad-ready lentils. A pound-size bag has 11 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein in each of its 13 servings. You'll save an average of 41 cents per pound if you choose lentils over brown rice.

Best Fresh Fruit: Banana

If you get hungry mid-day, a banana is the best snack at your desk, after a workout, or in between classes. Fruit is a very good snack in general. An apple will give you 14 percent of your day's Vitamin C and 4 grams of fiber, but a banana, at half the price per pound, offers more Vitamin C and just 1 less gram of fiber.

Best Frozen Fruit: Frozen Blueberries

The price of fresh fruits out of season is significantly higher than when they're in season, due to transportation costs. And if you want to get your money's worth, you'll need to eat them within three days of buying, so they don't spoil. One cup of frozen blueberries gives you just as much fiber as the raw variety, and a handful fewer calories. While fresh blueberries offer 18 percent more Vitamin C, that difference isn't worth the extra cost.

Best Vegetable: Broccoli

Nutritionally, a half-cup of cooked broccoli delivers 24 percent of your Vitamin A, 84% of your Vitamin C, and 3 grams of fiber. This versatile vegetable is a great bang for the buck and packs a great nutritional punch.

Best Vegetable Snack: Carrots

If you're looking for a low-calorie snack, you'll get more of a nutritional boost from carrots than celery, at practically the same cost per pound. One serving of carrots has two times as much fiber as celery and 43 times more Vitamin A.

Best Salad Base: Napa Cabbage

The leafy greens in your salad can really vary in their nutritional content. Iceberg lettuce, for example, is significantly less nutritious than romaine, which is less nutritious than cabbage. In fact, 1 cup of cabbage gives you more than half of your daily vitamin K requirement--and it's $1.29 less per pound than Romaine.

All of these are essential healthy foods that you can afford on most budgets. Check out how you can use some of these foods in more intricate recipes in our Food Republic gallery .