Accessibility, Functionality, and Food When You Have RA

There's been a lot of talk lately about pre-sliced produce — both vegetables and fruit - in terms of accessibility, functionality, and, overall convenience.

It's not really exclusive to just fruits and vegetables; it can extend to a lot of other foods too, including meats, snacks, and more.

The debate around pre-packaged foods

There's a lot of debate about the purpose of these pre-packaged foods: the high cost, the environmental impact, and more.

I'm a fan of these pre-packaged, pre-chopped produce boxes. For me, I'm thinking more about the convenience and the time-saving component.

Are pre-chopped foods wasteful?

Yet, this is a decision that hasn't been received very well. Weirdly, I've had lots of friends tell me, "Why don't you just cut it up yourself? That's so much better for the environment."

There are two ways to analyze to look at this from my perspective: one relates to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and one relates to the environment.

Benefits of pre-chopped produce

First, RA makes holding a knife and, therefore, chopping so difficult at times. This really applies to any kitchen utensil.

The ability to eat nutritious foods

When I was first getting diagnosed with RA, even just thinking about chopping an onion was enough pain to cause me to recoil.

So having the option to go to Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or Publix and just pick up a pre-packaged box of onions, celery, carrots, or more is such a convenience/luxury.

Less pain and cuts down on time

It's more accessible, and it affords me the opportunity to eat nutritious food, all the while cutting down on cooking time - time that can be spent on other projects.

This is kind of related to the spoons theory that has been popularized in chronic illness circles and it is something I firmly believe in. It's basically saying that there's only a certain amount of spoons (time and energy) to devote to daily activities.

When you have a chronic illness (or 2 or 3), you get fewer and fewer spoons than a "normal" person. So, you end up having to supplement/make up for fewer spoons with convenience or other ways to make do with fewer spoons. One of those ways for me is the pre-packaged produce.

The need for eco-friendly packaging

The problem is that some people claim that these pre-packaged products are not environmentally friendly.

Usually, more plastic is involved (in the containers) and that can contribute to more waste. These concerns are valid, but I also firmly believe that these types of environmental concerns don't hit at the real problems that are destroying our planet: corporate greed, decadent capitalism, fast fashion, and more.

An accessible package does generally have more waste, but it's not the point that's ultimately detrimental. I think a compromise that could be struck between these 2 sets of problems is an eco-friendly packaging design for already cut-up produce.

There are already some on the market, including reusable wraps - they just need to get more mainstream.

Trouble with everyday task others take for granted

The reason for my diatribe about this is that there's an intersection between accessibility, functionality, the troubles of having chronic illnesses, and everyday things that most people take for granted.

For those of us with chronic illnesses like RA, sometimes choosing pre-chopped produce can save us time and energy that can be diverted to finishing up work or getting to bed earlier.

And I, for one, want to work toward making the world a more equitable, accessible, and, at the same time, an eco-conscious place to live. Maybe we can start with the building blocks of life itself.

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