If you are reading this blog, you most likely have done some research into the issues that currently plague the American food system. A person who starts with a concern over the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that our foods are grown with, might then learn of the hormones and antibiotics given to the animals we breed, after which they hear word of the genetic modification of organisms (GMOs), and finally end up panic stricken by the understanding of the harmful chemicals in the packaging that seep into our food. With this knowledge, how can we eat anything at all? Starting this last January, I began my own quest to eat right, or what some food advocates describe as “real food”, and found that while it can be trying, it’s more about finding the good in our food system than simply making a complicated diet with a list of foods you can’t eat.
Education helped me think differently about food, and it naturally changed my unhealthy ways. Studying foreign cultures and languages brought me awareness about the importance and meaning of food. Meanwhile, my concern grew for the future of food throughout the world. My first couple of years at UT, I did not know I had this food focus in my studies. It wasn’t until I came upon Dr. Rebecca Torres’ course “Farming, Food, and Global Hunger” that I realized I had always had great interests and concerns with food in all of my classes. Continue reading
In a world where billions are dying of hunger it is sometimes difficult to have sympathy for people with eating disorders. But like Drew discovered in his post “Decisions. Decisions?” there is much more to this story than bad personal choices.
Our food system is disordered, and it is making us sick. There is an overabundance of cheap, processed, fattening food and a depreciation of fresh food prepared at home. Most of us are getting fatter, but our cultures worship of thinness continues to rise. I’d like you to think about all the advertisements you see in a day. How many are advertising food and how many are advertising beauty and/or weight loss products?
I’d also argue that our disordered agricultural practices are contributing to the problem because this is the source of our access to massive quantities of cheap “food like substances” (to quote my man Michael Pollan). In all of human history we have never been able to obtain so much food with so little exertion, and now we are dealing with consequences that we could not have anticipated.
What was going on with agriculture between the mid-19th century and now? Industrialization changed our world and our people in ways we could not have predicted. Suddenly we were out of the fields and working in factories and cities. Life expectancy increased and our access to food improved, but it seems we lost our connection to that food with each passing generation. Check out this information I found from the U.S. census: U.S. rural labor was 60% of the total workforce in 1850, reduced to less than 40% in 1900, 15% in 1950, and 2% since 1975. I learned in school that correlation is not necessarily causation, but I can’t help but think that this “disconnect” from our sources of food has played a bigger role in the eating disorder epidemic than it has been given credit for. Continue reading
I am not a nutrition major, but I am a foodist. A student studying the importance of food beyond our physical dependancy. In the last few years in college, I learned that food is the quintessential example of achieving a happier, healthier life.
In my host family’s home in Belo Horizonte, I noticed several foodways that I wanted to change, but I had to stop and think why do I wanted change these foodways. Demanding change without reason will prevent you from being able to educate and kill the motivation of others. I wanted to leave a picture with my host family that summarized some of the food rules that we tried to implement over my four months time living with them. I wanted to make something similar to the new MyPlate icon, but something more personalized just for them. So I thought, heck with the plate! I want a MESA, a Mesa de Bom Comer (a Table of Good Eats).
Basic Food Rules anyone can apply without studying nutritional sciences:
My Garden, Our Garden: my first vegetable garden with my host family in Brazil
I decided to try my hand at growing a vegetable garden. The project was initially for myself, to learn and connect more with my food studies. Yet, I quickly realized that there is a lot more to gardening than just biology and manual labor. Every time I stepped foot into my garden, tons of metaphors came to mind. The most important was learning that nature is life. We have to treat it like a relationship and not an obstacle. It needs to be loved, fed, and wanted or it will die. If it dies, we will die. Maybe not instantly but we will decay eventually from inside out.
In my food studies, I always hear this statistic that only 4% of the population of the United States grows all of the country’s food. I assume that there are not many Americans who want to do the physical labor or devote the time required to grow real food, nor understand the complexed science and biological relationships between nature and food. But, I feel that we have to challenge ourselves to learn about food. Just like any field of study that we might get into, we must learn the basics, the history, the traditional ways and thoughts to achieve something different, great, and truly innovative. I always remember the example that Rocket Scientist, Wernher von Braun; it is said that he didn’t like mathematics and physics but his fascinations with space travel inspired him to study the subjects he needed to achieve his dream. So I thought, if I want to bring food sovereignty to the world, then I need to understand what is food. Hence the garden. Continue reading
In Brazil, the government considers food a social right and requires as part of their minimum wage law. One attempt to combat hunger in the country is the Cesta Básica. It is a package of basic necessities, almost entirely food, to hopefully sustain a family of 4 for a month. This is just one of the country’s initiatives to feed the population.
What national food security programs are commonly known in the States: Food Stamps.. WIC?
My attraction to the Cesta Básica started while living the last few months with two Brazilian host families. One I will classify as poor and the other as rich. With my rich family, my 1st pai (father) would buy and give his house maid a Cesta Básica once a month to help support her. Now, living with my poor family, my 2nd pai receives a Cesta Básica monthly from his work to survive.
The other day my 2nd pai let me open up our Cestá to see what we got to eat this month.
Until recently, I have placed all of the blame on individuals for being overweight or obese. “Why don’t they just stop stuffing their faces with junk food!?” or, “Why don’t they just go for a run or something?” I have since come to realize that many of our decisions are not entirely our own, but are shaped by many different social, political and economic factors. Here is just one example:
Next time you’re in your local grocery store, try to count how many different areas of the store you have the opportunity to toss a Coke product into your basket. The soda isle is just the tip of the iceberg; there are also the mini-refrigerators at the end of every check-out line, the stands an the end of the isle, displays next to your favorite chips, vending machines at the entrance and there might even be a giant Coke pyramid offering a case of 20 cans at a price so low you’ll be worried that Coca-Cola might be going out of business! Now compare this to the number of places you can pick up some delicious carrots. Rice? Beans? Juice?
If this strikes you as odd, it shouldn’t. The grocery business is not a friendly one, especially of you’re competing with Wal-Mart. Shelf-space is a finite commodity and consumers are much more likely to purchase Coke than broccoli. Your grocer knows that having more Coke displays will ultimately increase his bottom line, but this is just the beginning of your ‘decision’ to go ahead and purchase that case of glorified sugar-wat…er… High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup-Water.
Seeing that familiar white, cursive writing against that deep-red background conjures up wonderful memories from your childhood. This is not an accident. The advertising industry calls this a ‘love-mark’ meaning that the vast majority of the public identifies with the image of Coca-Cola on a personal level. Advertising agencies spend millions upon millions of dollars to ensure their product’s symbol becomes a love-mark.
You’re also more likely to buy that box of ‘childhood memories’ because your taste buds have already been purchased and perverted by Coke. If you’re like me, you had your first taste of Coke shortly after you could walk. Being exposed to such an unnaturally sweet beverage at an early age increases your tolerance for such drinks and decreases your sensitivity to subtler, more natural flavors; when was the last time you thought of carrots as sweet? The caffeine content of soft drinks is also dangerously addictive for children. Soft drink giants have given millions of dollars to public schools for the right to place vending machines in hallways, ensuring that America’s youth will stay hooked.
As part of my new year’s resolution of reading a book a week in 2011, I read a little book recently called, “Eating Mindfully” by Susan Albers. I enjoy the idea of eating food consciously without focusing on nutrition. If you think about it, the field of study is called “nutritional sciences” for a reason, it is meant for scientists to comprehend. Susan breaks down eating food into 4 categories: Mind, Body, Thoughts, and Feelings. Categories which she says were pulled from Buddhist teachings. I tried to think how these four elements apply to my relationship with food nowadays in my senior year of college.
Whole Foods – I want foods closer to their natural state in the environment. This isn’t an ad for raw cuisine, but more of a push to understand where food comes from. For example, I drink whole milk, because in my mind whole milk is closer to raw milk than say fat-free. Another example would be my preference for foods that have not been “fortified” (adding vitamins, minerals, etc that were not in the original food). Not a big fan of supplements either… Continue reading