years ago, most food was grown nearby on family farms, processed by region
with little chemical or genetic adulteration, and prepared and eaten
in the home. Today, it has become relatively difficult to obtain non-industrialized
food. This makes it challenging to create and sustain a diet that supports
a healthy lifestyle. But not impossible. There are many people working
to create healthy clean food, and supporting their efforts is a worthy
cause, not to mention a way to enhance our own health and the health
of the planet.
Bad (Corporate) Behavior
James Joyce famously remarked about one of his
novels’ characters: “Mr.
Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”
We’ve become alienated
and distanced from the producers and growers of what we put into our bodies.
It’s easy to be unaware of just how contaminated and corrupted our food
supply has become. The applications of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones--
and the introduction of genetic modifications-- all take place out of our
view. This is relevant health information which is deliberately withheld
from us by corporations, with the cooperation of this government (which has
allowed industry lobbyists to write the laws).
The whole supermarket distribution
chain is organized around principles that are antithetical to health. Really
fresh, health-filled food is almost always impossible to store for any
length of time, and thus is diametrically opposed to the needs of the corporation,
which needs durability and consistency to keep its profits intact.
expect that corporate America will suddenly become trustworthy stewards
of our food supply, so we have to vote elsewhere with our dollars. When we
take the time and spend the money to support local farmers with our patronage,
and devote our attention and energy to preparing our own food, we are accomplishing
a great deal.
Obesity, Food Safety, and Health Implications
The U.S. is struggling with widespread
obesity, which is leading to a diabetes epidemic that might well devastate the
health care system. The “solution” seems to be a constant barrage
of fad diets, which never seem to work over the long run, and can damage health
in the short run.
The connection between the corruption of the food supply and
the declining health of the public (as measured in the increases of cancers and
other diseases traceable to toxins in the environment) seems to be irrefutable.
And the way our food supply is organized has grave safety implications. Erich
Schlosser points out that “according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized,
and 5,000 die each year because of something they ate.”
(This is in some
ways as much a problem of scale as of just one more governmental policy failure.
The recent scares about poisoned spinach came about because the large supermarket
chains require an unnatural uniformity of product. The quantities involved are
far beyond what single growers can supply, which means that the packagers are
combining the crops of in some cases dozens of growers. Federal investigators
were simply unable to discover the origin of the contamination.)
to us to take control. Good food must be sought—in farmers markets, in
specialty stores, and grown in our own gardens.
The Good News
Food alone, even if it’s good food, cannot heal us by itself.
A fascinating Swedish study showed that food that was enjoyed was more nutritious
than food that isn’t. The enjoyment of eating is one of the great pleasures
of living, and enjoying eating makes us healthier.
In my view, it's the table
that is the key to making ourselves well, and making meaningful connections to
each. Sitting down, eating together, and really enjoying each other and what
we eat are among the most important steps we can take to improve the quality
of our lives—and our health.
The most healing behavior we can take is to be active participants
in our fight for survival and good health. There is a widespread ethos which
allows people to passively wait for things to happen to them. Good health almost
always requires effort—to exercise and to take control of our own diet.
These are excellent ways to be healthily assertive and attentive to our own needs.
There are many reasons for optimism these days. Arguments for a clean, healthy,
local, and sustainable food supply are no longer seen as the ravings of counterculture
We have the capacity to literally step away from the terrible things
being done by the industrialized food producers. If enough of us vote for a clean,
healthy and ethically-produced food supply, we send a clear message to those
in power: that change must happen.