I got up early this morning and went to No Frills.
Now, I have a little confession here: I live a 3-block walk from this giant store, which dons the slogan “lower food prices”, but this is the first time I’ve ever shopped there. My weekly food routine usually involves bulk food stores, farmers markets, food co-ops, collective dinners, butchers, bakeries, health food stores… the list goes on. Very rarely do I step into a one-stop-shopping grocery store. This is but one of many realizations that I’ve had in the last 24 hours about the extent of my privilege around food.
I should also confess that grocery shopping is one of my all-time favourite activities. I love meandering through produce aisles seeing what’s ripe; I love chatting to food experts about how to best use these ingredients to create tasty dinners; I love picking up things I’ve never cooked with and experimenting…
Today, though, I hated it.
As I walked through the long, neon-lit aisles of “food”, I felt awful. My usual choices of whether to buy local or organic were replaced by questions of what cost the least. Every decision — from buying a dozen non-free-range eggs to a package of instant, non-fair-trade coffee — challenged my personal food philosophies. Soon I found my cart weighed down with pounds of packaging and preservatives instead of nutrients and vitamins.
I felt ashamed when I got to the cash, my inner voice wanting to explain to the cashier why I was buying tinned vegetables instead of fresh ones. And then I felt ashamed for feeling ashamed. As a food activist, I advocate for healthy food for all, but today I realized just how far there is to go to achieve this lofty ideal.
I felt small. I felt overwhelmed. I felt like crap.
And the week hasn’t even started.