Monday, February 1, 2010

Watch Out I Am On My Soapbox

Here we go.  I warned you.

Over the years I have become more and more interested in the food I eat.  I believe the catalyst was living in Austin, Texas and being surrounded by great restaurants (too many to list here but my faves are Roy's, Jeffrey's, Truluck's) amazing grocery stores (Whole Foods and Central Market) and becoming friends with foodies.  The unfortunate part of this increased interest in my food is that now I know where it comes from.

My progression into this mystery continue with Jeff reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and getting interested, I was not.  I don't like to watch documentaries, let alone read them.  At least I didn't.  I was pretty much a hardline fiction nut until my dear husband convinced me to read a few.  I think after so many years of school and a couple of degrees I didn't want any more text books in my life and that was what I viewed nonfiction as.   Then he got me to watch Supersize Me, which gives much of the same message as Fast Food Nation.  Needless to say I have never, I repeat never, touched McDonald's again. 

Then a few forays into organic and free range, nice but expensive.  I liked farmer's markets, but everything was so..... in season.  What if I wanted an apple in the spring? 

Then, my friend Amy gave me a book, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  She had gotten me; hook, line, and sinker.  For those of you who don't want to read Omnivore's Dilemma, although I highly recommend it, watch Food, Inc.  You must watch this documentary.  I know, I know, you don't like the idea of someone shooting a deer frolicking in the wild, let alone hear about how your beef is raised and slaughtered.  Just think of it as a horror movie and bite the bullet.  You have eaten meat all your life and you owe it to those furry little animals that makes us all strong to see what their life is like.  It is not honorable, there is no frolicking, it is awful.  Just because you turn your head and don't look, doesn't mean it goes away.

Food, Inc. isn't just about the slaughter houses of America and how big business has turned our meat supply into a factory instead of a field.  It is also about the Monsanto's of the world who have turned our fields into petri dishes.  It is about obesity, politics, money, school lunches, genetically modified foods, superbugs, immigrants and cloning.  In a word it is about food.  If you are not informed about the food you eat you will enable this to continue.  Everytime you eat at a restaurant or shop in the grocery store, you vote with your dollar and it is up to you whether you vote for this to continue or for it to end. 

I could seriously go on and on about this.  But instead I am going to let you read a letter that will be dropped into the mail tomorrow which summarizes my feelings. 

January 29, 2010

Mrs. Michelle Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mrs. Obama,

As I watch your husband’s first State of the Union address I am filled with wonder about the type of person he must be to want to tackle all of the issues of our nation. I do believe that he has an enormous task ahead of him. America is an unwieldy ship that needs a strong person to Captain us and begin to move us ahead past the bickering, the terrorists, the unbelievable debt we have amassed and the unhealthy habits that we have aquired.

The most literal unhealthy habit is what I would like to ask you about; how and what we eat as American’s today. I so have admired your garden on the White House grounds as well as the way you went about implementing it and using the food from it. To show Washington DC school children that it is possible to grow your own food and to then harvest and use eat it, is a lesson that most children simply do not get today. I have been trying to give my own children this very same lesson on a smaller scale. We try to eat healthy and grow some of our own vegetables in the summer. I also want them to be aware of where their food comes from in very specific terms. Although they are young, Jefferson “Jac” is four and Mia is three, they understand that when I prepare a chicken for dinner that that chicken used to be alive. They also understand the effort involved in planting a tomato seed in the ground and waiting for three months to eat a fresh tomato. If only it were that simple.

I am appalled at the politics behind the food we eat. I am writing you a letter from a rather ignorant position. I admit that I have not researched my point of view thoroughly. I have read some books and watched some documentaries that strictly speaking share my point of view and I have not done any due diligence in asking the other side why they do what they do. However, I still want to pose a few questions to you even given my lack of knowledge.

1. Why are we subsidizing food that is completely unhealthy for Americans? Corn is highly subsidized and has taken over as the staple of America, how can this be a good thing?

o The USDA site also says that 4.1% of U.S. corn goes for high fructose corn syrup. That means that since 29.9% of all U.S. cropland harvested was planted in corn in 2007, 1.2% of all U.S. cropland harvested in 2007 went for high fructose corn syrup. That’s only slightly less than the 1.5% of U.S. cropland devoted to vegetables or the 1.6% of U.S. cropland devoted to [fruit] orchards. Jill Richardson, La Vida Locavore.

2. Why do school children receive processed food, prepackaged and simply warmed upon location? According to the Take Part website, 80% of schools serve lunches with more than the daily recommended amount of saturated fat and over 40% don’t serve fresh fruits or vegetables.

3. Why do lobbyists and VPs from Monsanto, seem to fill the ranks of the FDA, the USDA and the EPA? Is this not seen as a conflict of interest?

4. Why is Monsanto allowed to witch hunt farmers who refuse to use their genetically modified soybeans? In fact, why are Americans allowed to eat genetically modified food to begin with; the American Academy of Environmental Medicine concluded that animal studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between GM foods and infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and inflammation. And Americans can’t even get a label on which foods contain GMOs.

5. I am appalled at the ads by Monsanto claiming sustainable agriculture when they are the very definition of non-sustainable with seeds that only last one generation and also the new Sweet Surprise campaign from the Corn Refiners Association goes so far as to say that high fructose corn syrup has been demonized without cause. Where is the truth in advertising?

I completely understand that the wheels of justice turn slowly in order to be thorough and just. However, as Americans are bamboozled by big business we continue to become more and more unhealthy. It just shouldn’t be the case that unhealthy high-fat, high-sugar food is more affordable than a vegetable. And when all costs are taken into account this food truly is not more affordable as obesity and diabetes continually. It takes a lot of time to eat healthy, should it really be expensive on top of it? Should we have to worry if our food is causing diseases, cancer, allergies and other problems?

I watched a show that followed you and the President for a few days after he had been in office a few months, maybe it was a special on the 100 day mark. In the piece your assistant discussed how you follow up on letters that you receive from constituents. I do hope that is the case.

I am so excited that perhaps while your husband tackles the immediate dramatic issues in our country that you and his support team continue to remind him of a problem that is so basic; our food.

I would love to hear your opinion on these questions. Perhaps you even have some advice for me in this area.

Thank you so much for your efforts to date, I think you are doing a fabulous job.


Christi said...

I know that you know Greg's friend Ryan - the one he plays guitar with. This is his blog:

Dawn said...

I just checked out - very cool. I think I will follow.

Anonymous said...

In case you didn't know there is a staff of volunteers that work at the white house for the first lady and respond to the letters! Maybe michelle is doing something different since she rode in on the change campaign! I know this since my parents neighbors mom volunteered for barbara and Laura! I am guessing Michelle didn't keep her - plus she's like 80 now. Good luck- keep it natural America! Always perplexed by this topic too! Let me know if you have a good ketchup without hfcs!

Kerrie said...

That last one was me dawn- I am knew to posts!! Lol

Saint Louis Family Robinson said...

You go girl!!!!

The business of Fake & Processed Food being SOOOOO much cheaper than Real and Unaltered Food is what really gets me! It shouldn't be so expensive to eat health!!!!!

Dawn said...

Kerrie - I think the comments widget is confusing, so at least you figured it out!

I hope she responds to me, but I doubt it. It felt good anyway!