Environmental justice – the inequitable environmental burdens borne by groups such as racial minorities, women, residents of economically disadvantagedareas, or residents of developing nations. (Reference – Wikipedia)
With our oldest, like most first time parents, we learned as we went along. We were young and inexperienced parents. We didn’t make a ton of money. We thought we were doing the best we could with our limited resources. I knew I could offer my son the very best when I decided to breastfeed him. I knew that when he was older that I could offer him the very best by making his own baby food from fresh veggies. BUT…I couldn’t offer him the best of everything.
I didn’t think we could afford organic foods. The organic market wasn’t nearly as evolved as it is today (6 yrs ago). While I knew that organic was better I couldn’t justify spending the extra money and at the same time I didn’t really think it was that much better. After all, both my husband and I turned out just fine without it.
Today when I picked up Lil’ B from her new caregiver one of the other parents was there at the same time. She came bearing gifts specifically for the caregiver but essentially it was for my baby and another baby she watches. She is apparently on the WIC program and had a ton of food that her baby didn’t eat. She had over 10 boxes of baby cereal and over 30 jars of baby food. As she explained, all of this was part of the WIC program so she took it from the store each week thinking that her baby would sometime need all of it. I’m sure she is a new mom and had no idea how long a box of baby cereal lasts. They both offered some of the food to me if I wanted it. I turned it down!
WTF? I turned down FREE food? Why would I do this? It wasn’t organic cereal or organic jar food. I politely told her that it’s not the kind of cereal that Lil’ B eats and thanked her for the offer. Looking back I feel bad. But not because I turned down the offer but because everyone in this country cannot offer their baby the very best. For some people they cannot afford to pay the extra money (we couldn’t afford it with our first child), for some people they just don’t know what the difference is. There are people in this world, in this very town that can’t even afford the cheap no-name baby cereal…and here I am turning it down because it’s not ‘good enough!’
Question? Why is the government giving parents cheap food? Why is the government offering formula free to parents? And why do these same parents end up with more food than they know what to do with? Is the government telling parents with lower incomes that their children aren’t ‘good enough’ for the very best for their babies? Why wouldn’t the government promote breastfeeding to low income families so that their babies could have the benefits of the perfect baby food? The same question could be asked in defense of cloth diapers. Wouldn’t low income families benefit from using cloth diapers because of the lifetime cost alone?
Now before you start defending yourself I should tell you that these are just thoughts that I had based off this one encounter. Our family does not qualify, nor have we ever qualified, for WIC or any other government program. Therefore I really don’t know what they offer to parents. I’m sure that the intentions of the program are to provide food to low income families so that they at least have the ability to eat healthy. I actually just looked up the WIC food program and what they offer. The first thing I noticed was the entire section on breastfeeding promotion!
So am I just speaking in circles? If WIC really is offering parents healthy options (breastfeeding, whole wheat bread, and vegetables are all on the WIC list) why aren’t all parents taking advantage of these programs to provide the very best for their babies? Is it lack of education about the other options? Do they just not realize that fresh vegetables are better than jarred baby food? Do they not realize that organic cereals are better for their babies? Is it lack of education on the government?
And what about BPA, lead, parabens, and other toxins that are found in baby bottles, bowls, forks, spoons, sippy cups, lotions, body washes, etc. The toxin loaded options are much cheaper therefore lower income families are the target customer.
Is this all a form of environmental justice? Is it ok for us to give an environmentally inferior product to a low income family? Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them…good, bad, or ugly!
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Good post. I am sure most of us have wondered the same thing. It reminds me of a time we were cleaning out the church nursery. Disposables are kept on hand for parents that forget them. The diapers we found were very old. When someone suggested that we donate the expired diapers to our food pantry, I said absolutely not! Would we donate expired food? Of course not! After a brief explanation of why we could not donate expired diapers, we thankfully threw them out.
Even if given the information and means to get it, would they? Many of my friends thought I had lost it when I decided to do cloth diapers. Why? Because they did not see them as convenient. Would somebody who has to do laundry at a laundromat or work six days a week be thrilled at the thought of doing diaper laundry every other day? Sometimes less expensive does not outweigh the cost of time. The same cost of time goes into breastfeeding. A newborn is feeding constantly. And even though my 6 month old only feeds four times a day now, each feeding takes 15 to 30 minutes. Some women may not feel they have that kind of time to give, even if it is what is best for their child. Why take the time to make your own food for your baby, if you can just buy it in a jar. What is best is not always what is easiest. And we are a people who like are creature comforts, want what we want right now, and like the path of least resistant. So even those who have the means often will choose the easier choice. There are some who probably would choose to get the environmentally superior product if they could afford it. But, I just have to wonder, would they choose it if it required more effort than a trip to their closest grocery store? Maybe, maybe not.
I understand that you didn’t want to feed your kid organic. Makes sense. Keep pesticides out of your kids body…But you could have taken it and donated them to the food bank. The food banks across North America are bare. It is better that a kid eats some food (non-organic) rather than starving.
I had a typo:
I understand that you didn’t want to feed your kid non-organic. Makes sense. Keep pesticides out of your kids body…But you could have taken it and donated the food to the food bank. The food banks across North America are bare. It is better that a kid eats some food (non-organic) rather than starving.
AJ…the other mom was leaving it with the child care provider for the kids she watched. I just happened to be there at the same time. And I think that brings me back to why I wrote the post to begin with…isn’t that (donating non-organic food) a form of environmental justice too? Why are those poor homeless babies any less deserving of pesticide free food? Yes, food is better than no food at all…I agree with you there…but why can’t they have the best available too!