discourses have helped form new cultural directives of what a proper diet entails. This amplified openness to new food has made the consumption of ethnic foods such as hummus, falafels, and quinoa the new norm (Mintz 2002:28). Often such items are labeled as “super foods,” reiterating their health benefits.
28Following an on-going “proper” diet consisting predominantly of “super foods” can become a costly endeavor. There are economic discrepancies as to who can afford to delve into new realms of proper diets; as mentioned, individuals of the upper class can more easily afford to seek alternative foods labeled as healthier than their working class counterparts. Some of my informants have remarked on the price difference between organic and non-organic. Even with the financially constraining monopoly of “healthier” foods, many middle-class Americans make attempts to seek better food choices when feasible. Being a middle-class American can be perceived as more of a social status than an economic definition. Due to unforeseen economic stressors, such as inflation in prices or depreciated value of the dollar, many social scientists have noted that monetary signifiers are not stable indicators of whether a person belongs to the middle-class. Many who self-identify as middle-class citizens are those striving for economic stability, a home, and a secure retirement. They have access to resources to help them achieve a lifestyle of comfort; a prominent component of this lifestyle is healthier eating (U.S. Department of Commerce 2010). Living in urbanized communities, stores carrying a wide variety of fresh produce are prominent. The growing prevalence of farmers’ markets attests to this accessibility to healthier foods (Tangires 2003). Many middle-class Americans have added visiting farmers’ markets to their food ventures, a continuously growing trend from 1,755 farmers’ markets operating in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009 (Francis and Griffith 2011:262). This demonstrates the directives of seeking out healthier sources of sustenance, taking more agency in being aware of what is eaten and how it is produced. Farmers’ and green markets have become a great vehicle carrying both consumers and producers toward the realms of organic food
29consumption/production, a growing entity under the discourse of proper dieting. In seeking to become nutritionally conscious, middle-class Americans have the opportunity to interact with those who produce their food — building a trusting bond with a worker cultivating food, as opposed to the social distance of a scientist producing edibles in a laboratory or factory. The original intent behind these public markets was to help citizens purchase consumables at a lower cost by enabling local food producers to sell their goods directly to the consumer. This is an alternative to food enterprises with the capital to invest in strategic advertisements and the mass production of food products (Tangires 2003:606).