Sunday, July 19, 2009

Food, Inc.

Last fall, I read a powerful and personally influential book on food called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. In this book, I learned about eating local food, the disturbing facts surrounding the food industry in our country, and how to get turkeys to mate.

As a result, I purchased a "happy" turkey (heirloom variety) from Whole Foods for Thanksgiving and on Jan 1, 2009 took the final step in my protest by giving up meat for a year. So far so good. However, I still have improvements to make. I occasionally purchase "regular" roast beef for Rebecka's lunches and we definitely don't discriminate when we go out to eat.

Last night, Todd and I went to see the much anticipated (at least in slow food circles) movie, Food, Inc. This excellent documentary takes the audience behind the covers of the machine that is the US food industry. As they say in the film, the creators "lift the veil" to uncover the dark and dirty secrets that allow us to buy "cheap" food. It is disturbing, moving, but also provides some hope that things can change for the better. One important take-away for me is that the basic economics 101 principle of supply and demand applies to organic and locally grown food as well. If consumers demand organic food, the mega-retailers will supply it.

Inspired by the film, I returned home and wrote an email to the White House encouraging President Obama to see Food Inc. As I was perusing the White House website, I stumbled across a month-old blog post about the White House garden harvest. I listened to the First Lady's speech and it was encouraging. She obviously gets it.

Here are some other things that you (and I) can do to "vote" with our grocery money and encourage sustainably grown/raised food:
  • Shop at the local Farmer's Market. Don't hesitate to ask the vendors if the food is organic.

  • Buy organic, when available. Unfortunately, this is generally more "expensive" than conventional food, but when you think about the gains (health, energy, sustainability), it pretty much makes it all worth it.

  • Buy local food whenever possible. This includes tuning in to what is currently in season. For example, tomatoes are in season July - early October and apples are in season August - October. If you're hardcore, dry/can/freeze produce to eat during the winter months.

  • Ask your grocery store to carry more organic/local food. I sent an email to my grocery store this morning letting them know that I appreciate the amount of organic food they already have and encouraging them to carry more local and organic produce.

  • When the cashier asks "Did you find everything you were looking for?" politely tell them you didn't find locally-grown organic produce (or whatever you are looking for) and that you will have to buy that elsewhere.

  • Find out where your restaurant food came from. Reward restaurants who use mostly organic/local/in-season food for their menu.

I encourage all of you to see Food, Inc. and tell your friends, family, and coworkers about it. This type of awareness is needed in order to affect change. As the Slow Food USA organization states in their vision: "Food is a common language and a universal right." All people have the right to healthy food which is raised humanely and with the planet's best interest in mind.

Imagine the possibilities!

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