Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

I have often been conflicted about my feelings about affordable food in this country and my belief that we should all be eating organic, locally grown food. It's hard for me to make a case for "everyone" buying organic and local food when I know all too well that it's almost impossible for 35 million Americans to get enough food AT ALL. On the other hand...not only is cheap, processed food from industrial farms often harmful to the body and causing poor Americans to suffer health disasters like Type II Diabetes and obesity (particularly awful considering how many of those people are uninsured), but the use of pesticides is harmful to the health of farmers and everyone affected by the waste of these industrial farms. *sigh* How to sum up the feelings of an anti-poverty activist who also wishes to simultaneously be an environmental activist?

Finally, I found a paragraph that perfectly encapsulates my feelings. It was written by the ever eloquent and concise Michael Pollan in his book, "In Defense of Food" on page 184.

"Not everyone can afford to eat high-quality food in America, and that is shameful; however, those of us who can, should. Doing so benefits not only your health (by, among other things, reducing your exposure to pesticides and pharmaceuticals), but also the health of the people who grow the food as well as the people who live downstream and downwind of the farms where it is grown."

That's the part. Those of us who can should. We can protect ourselves, our land, our food producers and... if we buy our vegetables from farmers markets and CSA's (community supported agriculture orgs)... we can also help out the small family farmers who end up on food stamps because our messed up Farm Bill is not very helpful to the growers of healthy, delicious crops! But if you can't, then you should do simply do the best you can be as healthy as you can.


iguana said...

I know you mean well, but encouraging people to do the best they can makes you seem quite satisfied with the status quo. I just listened to this same book and it made me feel strongly that it is everybody's responsibility to gain a full understanding of what we are eating and what choices we have so we can take steps towards living a more informed, healthy lifestyle. You do not need to be able to afford local or organic to do this. Anybody can gradually cut out products based on white flour and sugar and replace them with fruits, nuts and vegetables, for example. Anybody, except of course those who struggle on the verge of utter destitution, can help their children create healthy dietary habits by enjoying simple food and becoming aware of where the food comes from.

CCYL said...

I'm very glad you wrote in. I think ( and you can correct me) that we actually agree with one another. It sounds like my wording may not have suited you. Cutting out the bad stuff as you suggest is the best of what most people are able to do who are unable to go the whole local/organic route. Most of the people I'm was thinking about are the people I see coming into my local food pantry that have very little choice about the food they are given. Sadly, many times these days, our food pantry shelves and refrigerators are literally bare (pls see the earlier post about the CBS2 coverage and you can see the actual empty fridges). People are truly taking what they can get.

Almost 686,000 people in IL live in "extreme poverty" (below 50% of the federal poverty line). It is especially those people I was referring to.

Thank you again for your well-worded comment!

iguana said...

Yes, we essentially agree. I have seen many people and organizations write off the capacity of the poor, even the destitute, to make informed decisions, to make positive changes in their lives and to impede oppressive forces from continuing to act upon them. This is dispelled by seeing how even destitute women with overwhelming responsibilities take leadership roles in their families and communities once they have access to quality support (credit, friendship, land, seeds) and information.