When was the last time you were hungry? I mean really hungry, as in starving?
I don’t know anyone who’s ever experienced starvation. Most of the people I know, myself included, tend to take many things for granted, chief among them our food. Although I have experienced a time or two when money was tight and the food budget called for things like “Lima Bean & Franks Casserole”, I have never been worried about not having enough food. Chances are, neither have you.
We live in a country and a time when food is ubiquitous – it’s abundant in many forms (some clearly not good for us) and we don’t think about it much. That situation may be about to change.
You have probably followed the news this past week so you know what’s happened in Egypt. What you may not know is that some of the unrest in Egypt and other poor countries is caused by rising food prices.
But the rising price of food is not exclusively a problem in poor countries. It is happening all over the world and it is coming to the United States.
Why is this trend important? Because rising food prices can cause civil unrest – even revolution (think France – “let them eat cake”. I believe Marie Antoinette lost her head over that line.) It’s not hard to understand why if you know some basic psychology.
Are you familiar with “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”? If not, you should be (yet another thing they don’t teach in high school and should). A picture is worth a thousand words.
Pyramids are best understood from the bottom up. The base is important. In fact, it’s foundational – literally. When you look at the base of the pyramid, you see things that are the foundation of life – breathing (doesn’t get more basic than that – no oxygen, no life), food, water, sleep, excretion, sex, homeostasis.
If you haven’t taken care of these things, you can’t move up the pyramid. Consider that statement in light of what is directly above the base layer – safety in all its forms.
What that means is that you will risk the safety of your body, family, job, health, property, your very life in order to satisfy your basic needs. From another angle, you can say that you can’t really feel safe until you satisfy the basic needs.
When you threaten a people’s food supply (or any of their basic needs), you create civil unrest. This has contributed to the situations in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan, etc. While we can expect higher food prices in the United States, we need not yet worry about shortages.
But there is something else about our food that I believe bears consideration.
What if the food supply, while abundant, is creating disease – diseases like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart-disease, cancer?
We are the lifestyle-disease capital of the world – and we are exporting these diseases because the corporations that create the “food” that causes these conditions are selling them to other “markets”.
I am upset about that, and I think everyone should be. The fact is our government – the one to whom we pay our hard-earned tax dollars – contributes to the quality of our food supply, or the lack of quality.
For those of you about to raise the argument “But the government doesn’t force you to eat food that’s not good for you” – you are right. However, government, by its policies, can make it easier for people to have good, wholesome, healthy food available. In this, our government has failed its citizens.
Last week, the USDA unveiled its new Dietary Guidelines. While it is a great improvement over what came before, it revealed, yet again, that the government has a conflict – to promote the health of its citizens or support the profit motives of big business.
Big business has been winning for more than half a century.
Does anyone else see the irony here?
Our government has provided us with Dietary Guidelines every year since 1980. Every year since 1980, we have gotten more and more unhealthy, with the trends for obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and many forms of cancer rising each year.
Last year, this same government passed a law called the “Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act”.
Now they want to protect us? Where were they when the trends were evident? It’s not like this information was hidden. Some of it actually comes from…Government Agencies (the NIH and CDC)!!!
The government has a long history of creating regulations that benefit “Big Agra” and “Big Pharma” more than they benefit us.
And it continues. Just a few weeks ago, the USDA capitulated to Monsanto on the issue of GMOs – that is, genetically modified organisms, specifically alfalfa. (Yes, that is Monsanto, the chemical company.)
GMOs are also known as “frankenfood”. Most other countries will not buy this food from us! But it’s in our grocery stores.
Are you angry yet? I hope so. You should be.
The single biggest thing you can do to improve your health, or maintain it if your health is good, is to eat good food. Care about the quality of food you put in your body – it fuels whatever you do.
I am not saying that you must never buy anything processed again, or that you should eat only organic (although you should check the sites/blogs listed below for that information on Monsanto and GMOs). Just move in the direction of quality, whole food, prepared by you!
Don’t let “I don’t have time to cook” stand in your way. Mark Bittman says if you can cook rice and beans, salads, and stir-fry, then you can eat well forever. He is right.
So, how do you know what quality food is and where to get it?
Forget what the government tells you. The government has been talking out of both sides of its mouth for years.
Don’t trust what you see on TV either. Chances are it’s a commercial created by the public relations department of a “Big Food” company, or a front-group backed by special interests (just about every food you can think of has a “Council” that publicizes its many benefits – both real and imagined!)
Don’t even trust what you read on a product’s nutrition label at the grocery store. Don’t believe me? Check it out! http://fooducate.com/blog/?s=food+labels
Trust the people listed below. I’ve provided links to their web sites/blogs. You can trust them to tell the truth, backed by education, experience and science, NOT politics, corporations and money.
Mark Bittman: http://markbittman.com/
Marion Nestle: http://www.foodpolitics.com/
Michael Pollan: http://michaelpollan.com/
Michele Simon: http://www.appetiteforprofit.com/
Paula Crossfield: http://civileats.com/
Andy Bellati: http://www.andybellatti.com/
Fooducate: http://www.fooducate.com/blog/ This is also a terrific iPhone app!
Most of the individuals listed above have written books (in fact, the most well-known books on the subject of food are on Andy Bellatti’s site, as are some terrific movies you should watch!)
There are many other wonderful sites and blogs out there that provide trust-worthy information on food and nutrition. You can find most of them by reading the information on the sites/blogs listed above. Birds of a feather…
I know this is a lot of information. But this is important. Food is basic. You owe it to yourself, and the people you care about, to educate yourself and make good food choices. If enough of us do that, together we can change the direction of food policy, and the types of food available in all areas of this country, and beyond.
And that is well worth doing.