Ethically organic food strains student wallets

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Organic squash in Organic Acres Market, located on Main Street.
Organic squash in Organic Acres Market, located on Main and 20th Ave. Photo: Clare Hennig

Reported by Clare Hennig

In a city with sky-high housing prices and costs of living, spending the extra cash to buy organic or free trade groceries can be difficult to navigate on a student budget.

Navandeep Dhaliwal, a bioinformatics student at Langara, said that she doesn’t think buying organic food is always worth the high cost.

“At some point, we have to consider the ethics of the food,” Dhaliwal said. “But most things are out of reach because it’s too expensive.”

Organic market in Vancouver

Despite the high costs, there is a large market for organic and ethically sourced food in Vancouver.

Megan Brown, associate manager of Organic Acres Market, said she has seen the store’s customer-base grow exponentially in the three years she’s been working there.

“More and more people are trying to keep as many chemicals out of their bodies as they can,” Brown said. “People are interested in their health and eating properly.”

She recognized that the financial costs are a concern for many customers, though.

“I think it can definitely be difficult [on a student budget],” Brown said. “We do offer discounts on vegetables so you still get the good quality just a little bit cheaper.”

Organic food often goes on sale

Produce that is bruised or coming up to its sell-by-date often goes on sale, Brown said, and that attracts customers who otherwise would not buy organic.

“It’s not always possible to buy all organic,” said Brown. “But if I am I finding that [when] I couldn’t get everything organic, I would make these things my priority— dairy, cleaner meat that’s grass-fed and antibiotic-free, and certain produce.”

Front entrance of August Market, located on Main Street. Photo: Clare Hennig
Front entrance of August Market, located on Main Street. Photo: Clare Hennig

Organic food can cause a divide in society

Gogan Shottha, owner of the August Market, agreed that organic food is important but thinks that it can cause a divided society.

Gogan Shottha, August Market owner. Photo: Clare Hennig
Gogan Shottha, August Market owner. Photo: Clare Hennig

“It shows the disconnect in Vancouver between people who have a lot of discretionary spending money and people who don’t,” Shottha said. “I don’t like how it becomes something that divides people.”

Healthy doesn’t have to mean expensive or organic, Shottha said.

“If you’re making decisions to eat zucchini and broccoli and apples more often than processed foods, you’re already going in the right direction,” he said. “It’s fine if you’re not eating organic all the time or right away.”

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