The Price is Not Always Right/ Matthew Helfond

I am a freshman at Santa Clara University and have taken two contiguous critical thinking and writing classes during my fall and winter quarters here.  The class subtopics focus on food, self, and culture, where I have learned extensively about the food industry.  While adding my life experiences and personal interpretations to the food topics that the class has developed and extrapolated on, I have been introduced to many different mediums of communication.  From interviewing people to the varietal modes of research, I have developed a more rounded awareness.

The awareness I have obtained from the class has opened my eyes to an integral part of the food industry: price.  The prices we pay in taxes for government subsidies placed on our agricultural food production are what dictate our food consumption.  Since prices play such a vital and effective role in our lives, we must pay close attention to what we buy.  A food price and a price for time spent on an essay are two varying aspects of price that are mainly quantitative.  We often see that the price or value we set on something we want defines us, rather than the good or item’s intrinsic value.  For example, wanting to spend time on homework defines our work and study habits and our willingness to work, rather than focusing on the actual critical thinking and problem solving aspect that can help us with real life situations.

Especially knowing the price we pay for food we eat everyday demonstrates a sense of awareness, discipline, critical thinking, and analysis.  At Santa Clara University, freshmen are required to have a meal plan, either basic or preferred.  We, as students, must ration out our meal points for each quarter to have enough to spend.  At the end of the fall and winter quarters, we are able to have a maximum of sixty-five points carry over to the next quarter, except during the spring quarter (at the end of the year) where no points will carry over.  What happens towards the end of the quarters, is that people with plenty of meal points share with their friends to be friendly or often because they have too many points to spend.  The money management of our meal points is a side note to the critical thinking and writing we learn and develop in classes, but we subconsciously pay attention and plan out our food expenditures.  This gives us a well-rounded understanding for future use when we are out of college and need to manage our money to buy what we need and save as much as we can.

What occurs inside Benson (our school cafeteria) that provides an outlet for students to spend extra meal points is what is called the “sidewalk sale.”  At the end of each quarter, the sidewalk sale sells packs of food and drinks that students buy in bulk.  The prices for these packs are much higher than normal if you were to buy a pack at a local grocery store, like Safeway or Costco.  For example, it costs about $71 for a twenty-four pack of Monster energy drinks and about $33 for a twelve pack of Starbucks Frappuccinos.  The high prices show that the school doesn’t want us to feel bad by not spending points we already paid for and might not be able to spend.  The sidewalk sale, in effect, helps us spend the rest of our points, but does not allow us to do so efficiently because the packs are very expensive.  Relating to life after college, I, just like any other student, would want to get the most bang for my buck, and so it would not be worth it to buy the high priced goods at the sidewalk sale.  If the prices were within reason, students, like myself, would buy a lot at the sale.  However, I have realized that buying one good at a time, rather than in bulk, would allow us to spend our money efficiently to receive the most benefits.  The prices are what dictate what we are willing to buy and spend on goods and help us define whether or not we want them versus need them.

(PH Scale)

We spend money on food by knowing what food is healthy and how much to have of it. Both of these are important to consider, especially in terms of prices.  Whether we consider paying more for healthy food or not is determined by price.  Organic food is priced higher than nonorganic food, but is better for you.  In a recent study, University of Washington researchers calculated that “nutritious food costs 10 times as much as junk food” (20 Scariest Food Facts).  Even though it tastes good, most savory food is unhealthy and contains high amounts of sugar.  Junk food mainly refers to “processed foods” such as cheeseburgers, fried chicken, and candy, which are very acidic.  It is much better to eat alkaline food rather than acidic food; just look at the pH chart (pictured right).  Raw vegetables are one of the best food groups to eat based on their high alkaline content.  These bitter vegetables may not taste good, but they are very healthy.  According to the pH chart, “it takes 20 parts of alkalinity to neutralize 1 part acidity in the body.”  That means that you must have a lot of healthy vegetables and fruit in your diet to stabilize your body’s health if you consume one acidic food or drink, such as Coca Cola.  So the price we pay for healthy food is worth it (even though it costs more than unhealthy food), especially for some students here at Santa Clara University who have plenty of points to spend.

Prices also relate to how much we pay to go to Santa Clara University, which can have a big impact on choosing which college to attend.  Many people spend a lot of money to attend such a prestigious college, so it rationally makes sense that we should go to every class and not pass the opportunity to learn.  The price of missing one class may not seem that high, but with the roughly $40,000 we spend each year, it would be best to put our money to good use by doing what we signed up for (College Search).  I feel as if I am supporting learning and going to school, but to me, it doesn’t make sense to skip class unless you have a legitimate reason or a sudden turn of events occur that would cause you to miss the class.  This view of prices is very much connected to the prices we pay for healthy food versus unhealthy, cheap food.  If we see that it is worth it to go to class and spend a lot of money to attend college, then we would not pass the privilege and opportunity to do so.  This is the same for food; if we think we should buy one food over the other and it will benefit us, then we will buy it.

(Food Science)

While the price we pay for an education and food are very important to recognize, food prices have changed the way the agricultural industry functions.  The mass-production of food has led to the world population today of over seven billion (World Population).  “The Evolution of Food Science” chart (pictured left) illustrates the exponential growth of technological advances in the food industry that indicates the success of our food industry.  The revolutionary technology to mass-produce food has allowed us to reduce the price of production and increase overall efficiency.  Since the early 1900s, we have provided ourselves with a sustainable economic system where we have money from the government to pay for our food (which we sometimes pay in taxes).  While taking into consideration prices, the efficient use of resources to produce and distribute food are leading indicators of the United States’ agricultural success.  The success to produce so much food at a low cost has led to the problem of overpopulation.  Therefore, we must not overlook the value of prices, since prices dictate our lives and force us to consider what we value the most: (in this case) our food supply.

The price we exhibit on food and time are vital to distinguish, and ultimately, our evaluation of prices defines who we are.  Since we have control over what we want to do with our time and resources, it seems necessary to factor price into the equation.  It is up to us to make the most of the money we have and not be conned of our money to have to pay excessively high prices, like at the sidewalk sale.  So if we need something, we will buy it, and if it is something we want and not necessarily need, we will consider if the price is worth it.

From this class, I have developed a rational way to apply critical thinking and writing skills to the real world.  I now have a broader perspective to take more things into consideration at multiple viewpoints when I am writing an essay.  Learning to synthesize research and explain it in a clear and direct way is a key skill to have in writing and in communication.  While never forgetting  my professor, classmates, and the shared learning environment, I will take what I have learned about the food industry (in terms of prices) and apply it to my life.  At Santa Clara University, I have developed a better awareness of the food industry in terms of food production, price, and scarcity.  With the fact that we have a limited amount of resources in the world, it makes the price of goods more important to consider.  We cannot and must not forget prices and how they play such a vital role in our food consumption.  I, along with my fellow students, will soon go out into the real world and have a more informed perspective of the food industry and will be able to identify whether or not the price of food is right.

-Matthew Helfond

Works Cited

  1. “World Population Clock: 7 Billion People (2014).” World Population Clock: 7 Billion People (2014) – Worldometers. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.
  2. “20 Scariest Food Facts.” 20 Scariest Food Facts. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <;.
  3. “Food Science and Nutrition: A Journey toward Health and Wellness.” Food Science and Nutrition: A Journey toward Health and Wellness. International Food Information Council Foundation, Feb. 2011. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <;.
  4. “College Search – Santa Clara University – SCU.” College Search – Santa Clara University – SCU. CollegeBoard, Web. 16 Mar. 2014. <;.
  5. “PH Scale.” Hubwellness. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.
  6. “Dining Meal Plans.” Housing -FAQ. Santa Clara University, Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

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