Pollan Favors Upscale Food Retailer Over Universal Healthcare

Whole Foods BoycottIn spite of the national boycott against the high-priced chain of supermarkets, best-selling food author Michael Pollan insists he's going to keep on shopping at Whole Foods Market. The corporate "natural foods" retailer is currently being boycotted by consumers, healthcare advocates and labor because its co-founder and CEO John Mackey is lobbying against universal healthcare.

Pollan claims he's concerned about healthcare, but says the "hypothetical consequences" of a successful boycott against Whole Foods Market could mean "the cause of improving Americans' health by building an alternative food system, based on more fresh food, pastured and humanely raised meats and sustainable agriculture, would suffer." Oh, and why does Pollan say he's concerned about healthcare reform? It has nothing directly to do with creating equitable access to healthcare for the millions of uninsured and under-insured people in the U.S. Rather, as Pollan says, "Because if health insurers can no longer pick and choose their clients, and throw sick people out, they will develop a much stronger interest in prevention, which is to say, in changing the way America feeds itself."

So, apparently, Pollan more or less agrees with Mackey on the solution to healthcare in the United States being for individual consumers to do more of their shopping at Whole Foods Market. And you know what they say: "A pastured and humanely raised stake keeps the doctor away." Or maybe they don't say that, because that would be absurd.

Whole Paycheck MarketWhy am I not surprised by Pollan's narrow focus on ensuring affluent consumers like himself retain access to a niche market for high-priced foods? Where does he think this leaves those of us who are targeted by poverty and food insecurity and/or who currently lack access to healthcare? Expensive food retailers like Whole Foods Market, informally known as Whole Paycheck, are unaffordable and otherwise inaccessible to the large and growing segment of poor and hungry people. As I discuss in "'Pay More': The High Cost of Class Bias in Food Politics," the real, lived consequences of this class bias in the politics of food (and let's add healthcare) are unfortunately lost on John Mackey (an owning-class executive) and Michael Pollan (a professional upper-middle-class writer) whose class privilege allows them to remain oblivious to what life is actually like for those of us who lack access to healthy food and/or healthcare.