Why do people choose to eat bad food on purpose? It certainly isn’t income. Statisticts show that the more disposable your income the poorer your food choices become. Middle income families have the better diet because they can’t afford to eat out and, in actuality, it is much cheaper to buy whole, raw foods and cook at home. Lower income households and people living in food deserts have it the worst. In such neighborhoods there is no such thing as a grocery store, only gas station mini marts. Most people, however, have access to fresh, locally grown food from small farms. The problem is they choose not to support a small local business. They choose not to support the community. Buying from a local business generates three times as much money for your local ecomomy.
It’s this crippling apathy we seem to have, a laziness of consious thinking. We all mean to support local, sounds good, but we never do it. Why? Is it the brainwashing that fresh, local food is only for elitest snobs, too expensive for us working joes ? I don’t really think so. People have no problem spending big bucks on phones, pets, games and electronics. Imagine going into a store and saying ” I want the cheapest, crappiest phone you have.” You wouldn’t. But we do it everyday with the food we put in our bodies. US citzens spend, on average, a lower portion of their income on food than any other industrialized country. This need for all things cheap puts considerable pressure on farmers to grow more faster, bigger. It presses the need for GMO’s and the heavy use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics and hormones. The push from large box stores for food at the lowest advertised price means less dollar for the farmer and, in turn, less dollar for the employees. Faster means less time to address issues of safety and proper management. Cheaper means no money for health care or veterinary care. Cage it, crate it, pen it, do whatever it takes to get that product out now! The brutality of dairy farms, slaughterhouses, battery houses, pork operations is all in response to the need for cheap food. Beleive me, it is hard to care when you don’t make a living wage. We are indignent if we do not have every conceivable fruit, vegetable, land animal, sea animal and their by-products avaliable for us to consume as cheaply as possible 24/7/365. The average American eats 4,000 calories a day. Higher than any other country. This is what has pushed our food system to dangerously unsustainable levels.
So what have we gained in our supersized, superfast, supercheap nation ? Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, exploding rates of cancer, autism and alzheimers. We can truely pat ourselves on the back for handing our children a shorter life expectancy than their parents. In fact, the US has an infant mortality rate of 12%. That puts us on par with Africa. We bemoan the empty storefronts, high unemployment and the development of open farmland, yet we spend our money at Walmart. We are very complaisant with the fact that corporations and chemical companies, whose only goal are profits, run our food system. Happily we pay out subsidies for agricultural fuel, corn, wheat, soy, treatment of food borne illness, agricultural chemical clean up, pesticide use, pollution of rivers and streams and the loss of nutrients in the soil from erosion. That’s a national expense of roughly $ 80 billion dollars a year. Top that off with $264 billon a year spent on cancer treatment, $175 a year on diabetes and $450 billion a year on heartdisease. Cheap food isn’t so cheap, is it ?
Do you need anymore reasons to divest yourself from the industrialized food system? Do you need anymore reasons to invest in small, local, seasonal, ethical? We need to make a commitment to start building our bodies, our communities, our soil and our oceans. We need to make a commitment to our children, that they will live longer than us and have a sustainable future. Living needs to get back to being a circle, not an unending straight line of mass consumption.