Do you wonder about where your food comes from? Are you frustrated by the current system managing our food supply? Do you find that obtaining food from a reputable, healthy source seems difficult and you desire to make a change? Do you believe everyone has a right to safe food from clean sources? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be a food activist.
Lately, food has become very political and having an opinion on food can actually lead to a great deal of dissension in relationships with other people, groups, and organizations. But through activism, persistence, and education, we really can make a difference and change the way our food is produced for the common good. Being a food activist is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Here’s why:
What is a food activist?
A food activist is someone who cares about where our food comes from and who makes a conscientious effort to support local and sustainable agriculture whether it be to become an actual sustainable farmer or food producer, or to be a consumer of sustainable products. A food activist also becomes involved in some way with education and dissemination of information about sustainable living and food to the public and wider communities.
Why should we care where our food comes from, and what difference does it make being a food activist?
The loss of local food production has been devastating. Diminished food production causes the necessity for our food to travel lengthy distances over many days or weeks to reach your dinner table. The result of this travel and toxin exposure is the loss of nutritional density and flavor. Distance traveled by our food also contributes to wastes of energy that can only be maintained by government subsidies and the acquisition of cheaper oil which is dictated by foreign policy. The Worldwatch Institute reports “in the United States, refrigerating, transporting, and storing food uses eight times as much energy as is provided by the food itself.”
Indeed, industrial farming has had widespread implications:
- The presence of this type of toxic farming has not only led to the destruction of our soil, but also our water, and air.
- Pesticides sprayed on commercial crops are then fed to animals. This causes health problems for the animals and you when you eat the meat and other products from these animals.
- The use of medications and antibiotics in animal production is heavy and has contributed to resistant-strain bacteria. We are also finding that increasing amounts of our foods contain chemicals, preservatives, stabilizers, and toxins which cause further damage to our health and the environment.
- Factory farms also contribute greatly to the overall human-caused component of climate change occurring.
- The economic impact of industrial farming is also substantial, and it should be noted that the far-reaching implications of all factors mentioned here only add to the weighty economic burden in which our nation now finds itself.
Who stands to gain from all of this?
None other than agribusiness giants, food manufacturers, processors, and related corporations, lobbyists, special interest groups, and the government. All are pushing and making legal unethical ideals, practices, regulations, and laws in exchange for power and profit.
Who loses in the conventional, industrial food system?
The environment due to the input of massive toxic chemicals, mismanagement of resources, and the accumulation of concentrated animal wastes. Since 1960, half of our topsoil has disappeared. We are currently experiencing the loss of topsoil 17 times faster than it can be replaced.
Farmers industrial farming only pays the farmer 7 cents per food dollar. The majority is paid to marketers, processors, and input suppliers. The result is a dramatic concentration of factory and industrial farmland as well as the loss of smaller, family farms. The region of western North Carolina alone has experienced a loss of 70% of farmland in the last 50 years.
The consumer because the food we consume is now developed and grown for transportation and shelf life rather than for nutrition or taste, we lose control of how food is produced because we no longer have a relationship with the farmers who produce our food. We have experienced a loss of countryside, forests, and of farms. Most significant of all, our health is profoundly impacted by the mechanism of factory, for-profit, and industrial farming. Our life spans are longer, but we are now experiencing degenerative and chronic diseases at a larger and more frequent rate than ever before in history. Our children are also now developing these disorders at younger ages than the previous generation.
The animals in industrial farming, animals are treated in the most inhumane manner and live in ghastly conditions. They are not allowed to behave normally, are exposed to filthy environments, are often subjected to gross abuse and neglect, and by these standards are unable to live happy lives (and sometimes they don’t even get exposed to sunlight). There’s only one question to ask here – Do you really want to support business that makes money in this manner and consume meat coming from animals in these conditions?
What can YOU do to help our food system?
Eat local food! The biggest criticism people have about sustainable and organic food is that there is no feasible way to feed organic, healthy food to everyone. But if each community started supporting their own local agriculture, food growers, and merchants, we’d find that assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. The whole point of supporting local efforts to grow and produce food is just that – when you support it, it thrives and feeds its community.
It’s really quite simple, but has become complicated by arcane laws and regulations that were originally put into place to feed massive amounts of people for the cheapest price – and allowing the almighty dollar to be the prevailing factor – which has now completely overtaken our health care and food systems like never before in history. When you place profit over health and well-being, there will always be consequences.
Do research online to locate local, sustainable farmers and food producers. EVERY community has them. Many communities now have weekly farmer’s markets where farmers and merchants come together in one convenient location to offer the best of your community.
Don’t be discouraged by the mantra you may hear from some people who say that eating healthier is more expensive. Eating healthy can cost more up front, but it doesn’t always have to be incredibly expensive. You can also find economical buys and deals within your local community because the food doesn’t have to travel (remember, food costs more if it has to travel from somewhere else).
Learn to do everything from scratch at home soak or sprout your own grains, sprout, ferment, make yogurt, make lacto-fermented vegetables with whey from your raw milk or home made yogurt, etc. If you don’t know how, do a search online – there is a wealth of information available at your fingertips for free.
Don’t forget the hidden costs of eating industrial food environment, economic impact, taxes, the health care system, your own health, etc. These are all costs that must be accounted for – and even if it’s not now, a day will come , whether it is in the near or distant future, when the cost must be paid by YOU.
Join organizations and spread the word! Learn about local and national that place an emphasis on fighting for safe, sustainable food:
- One of the largest organizations to join is the Weston A. Price Foundation. Check the web site for news updates on food and locate your local WAPF chapter in your area.
- Interested in school lunch initiatives? Check out Better School Food, managed by Dr. Susan Rubin or visit Chef Ann Cooper’s web site.
- The Center for Food Safety issues regular updates on important issues on the food front.
- Food Democracy Now hosts petitions, news, and important action item infromation on their site.
- The Organic Consumers Association is a research and action center for organic, local, fair trade, and sustainable food and related issues.
- Sustainable Table “celebrates the sustainable food movement, educates consumers on food-related issues, and works to build community through food”.
- Real Food Challenge – “uniting students for just and sustainable food”
- Wild Fermentation – altering the face of our food system through social activism
Start a garden or join a community garden group. Try the American Community Garden web site. Visit the Backyard Gardener site for a wealth of information about getting started and maintaining your own garden.
Start a blog, write articles, or write a book. There is always more room in the world for good writers who can convey their thoughts to others and motivate people through the written word.
Read books, watch films, and educate yourself on the issues. Some great places to start are The Ominvore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Also look for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Edible Action: Food Activism and Alternative Economics by Sally Miller and The End of Food by Paul Roberts. Great films include Food, Inc., King Corn, SuperSize Me, Fresh, Fast Food Nation, Fat Head, and The Oiling of America.
Learn about the laws and regulations governing our food, sign petitions (Just Food: Food & Farm Issues and Food Democracy Now ) and contact your congressmen, local legislature, and the President. Visit the USDA and FDA web sites and contact these agencies with questions and concerns.
This article is featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please go visit Kristen’s site and have a look at all the other great real food posts there.
Do you have experiences with food activism that you’d like to share? How have your efforts made a difference? We want to hear from you!