Tuesday, September 15, 2009

you are what you eat

Last night I went to the Manchester to see Food Inc. (which was wonderful) and engage in a group discussion about food economies. Now, I knew I was going to the movies, but I had no idea when the film was over there would be a stay-in-you-seats discussion over community action. There was. I love this state.

A local group called Manchester Transition (a local environmental issues group) hosted a post-film talk. The MC walked with a mic down the rows, asking about changes that could happen in our area to help solve the problem. I was with my friends Phil, Sharon, and Jessie as an audience member. (I am certain no one knew I was involved in this life in anyway.) And I listened to the local organic and small farmers take turns talking about their issues. Horror stories about trying to sell to grocery store chains, the struggle to get apathetic people involves. We passed around the mic and when it got to me I had one question. "How many people in the audience have a garden?"

Everyone shot up their hands. We were preaching to the choir. We needed to get someone to see this movie who never would unless someone asked them too. That's where you come in. Go see this movie and take someone who doesn't give a damn.

The problem is that Americans have convinced themselves that cheap food, a seasonless selection, and endless variety are their rights—not healthy food, in-season crops, and correct variety. Some folks say a local organic diet is an elitist goal. That regular folks can't afford it. (Then you learn that only counts for prepared meals. We'd rather watch TV than cook a meal together). We've bought the lie that eating whatever we want of lesser quality is a good thing. Because it's easier. Because we don't have to connect the cow with the burger.

This is scary to me. Really scary.

Ask the average American if they'd rather buy feeding lot chicken that comes with a death warning then drive to a farmer's market down tha block and pay a dollar more a pound for a free-range disease-free bird. Most will prefer the healthier option, but few choose it. One hilarious section of the movie interviewed a well known organic farmer who was almost shut down for processing his poultry outdoors near the fields they free ranged on. So he sent a large sampling of his stock and sampling of the same sized animals from the grocery store shelves to be tested for bacteria. His came back ridiculously healthier and his animals never went through chlorine baths and a packaging plant. It's how the animal is raised, son.

I understand that we have a world to feed. The movie wasn't so much against industrial food as it was against the lack of regulation, safety standards, and lack policy. Food Inc. didn't want everyone to boycott the grocery store, they wanted you to change what's inside. Buy voting with every purchase for healthier food. Buy local, organic, and do your best. Not everyone can afford this, but most of us can afford one local meal a day. Experts say if every American ate one meal within 100 miles of their home a week the food industry would be forced to change dramatically. The organic wouldn't be expensive, it would be normal. Get some oats at the farmers' market and you've just eaten a breakfast that can change the world.

The base problem is most people don't want to think about where they're food comes from. They don't want to buy healthier meat for more money and eat it less. They don't care about local farmers, poisoned peanut butter, and salmonella outbreaks have become nothing more than background noise on the evening news. They have jobs, lives, and families to take care of. I get it. I have a job too. But I'll be damned if I'll sit back and watch the food my family eats hurt them. We may have our disagreements, even about blog posts like this, but they can count on me to produce meat, eggs, vegetables and energy that won't put them in the hospital.

You are what you eat. Be something better.


Blogger Tara said...

This is precisely the issue that started me down the homesteading path. I've spoken to a lot of people, and I've learned that there are a lot of different things at play. Everyone's challenges will vary according to their locality. Here where I live, it's still quite difficult (and usually very expensive) to buy organic, and local? Forget it. We have "farmers markets" here, but mostly it just means people selling vegetables outside off a table. Most of them didn't come from anywhere around here, and even fewer are grown naturally. Lots of folks here lack the resources to pay for organic produce or milk or meat, AND lack the resources just to get to a place that sells those things. In fact, the closest showing of this movie to where I live (central Texas) is in WICHITA KANSAS. This is largely why I try to produce as much as I can for myself. I can't get it anywhere else.

All that being said, there is quite a lot of apathy here, too, even among more educated people. I have friends that overall have very sustainable values, but who won't buy clean food because it costs more and it's more work. It's very frustrating. And don't even get me started on gardening. How do you convince people they have time to garden when they don't even think that they have time to cook???

Sorry to rant. This issue frustrates me to no end, because I have yet to figure out how to reach people in any kind of lasting way.

September 15, 2009 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger hippychick said...

I took my boyfriend to see this. We don't have a lot of money and I already grow what I can, buy the rest at a farmer's market, and splurge on grass-fed beef and other local meat and poultry, and just found a dairy that has antibiotic-free milk and dairy products. He goes along with it all mainly just to support me, and went to the movie for the same reason. He walked away really shocked and fully on board, and now talks to other people about it. The movie was great and hopefully those who care can get a few who don't to go, like you suggested. Thanks for this post!

September 15, 2009 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

Amen, sister, amen!
After watching the trailer last night, on youtube, on the side bar there was a video about a four year old cheese burger from McDonalds. It's still looks like a hamburger. The fries are even perfectly preserved. Now, would you want to put that in your body?
As for local food, I prefer it over commercially raised it's just getting my mom to buy at least a little of it. I grew a garden this year because I wanted to eat local. There's no reason why someone that lives in a farm rich county can't eat local at least 50% of the time.
But something great is happening around here, there's a lot more farmer's markets then there use to be. I'm lucky enough to have one 5 minutes from me.

September 15, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Kathy P. said...

I'd love to see a Transition meeting here in my area but so far, nothing. I don't want to start one myself, because if you start something, you end up in charge, you know? I'd rather be a participant.

My area isn't on the cutting edge of anything 'green' or environmental, but we do have a pretty good selection of farmers' markets in the area - one about 5 minutes from my house. That's a good sign. And I jumped back into gardening in a big way this summer, plus I live on a fairly heavily trafficked road so I'm hoping the garden was an inspiration to others. As Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

I'm in the process of building a large (4'x12') cold frame that I hope to grow winter greens in, as in 'The Four Season Harvest'. Five years ago, I didn't have a clue about any of this stuff, now I know about peak oil, permaculture, etc. Somehow it came to my attention, hopefully others will slowly get on board as well. I think we're in a new, permanent economy (this is the new normal) and as people slowly come to the realization that things aren't going back to what they were, they will make changes in their lives.

One can only hope.

September 15, 2009 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Kathy P. said...

Oh, and you mentioned "semolina outbreaks". Did you mean salmonella (aka Sam n' Ella)? Although I'm a bit of a carb addict, I think a semolina outbreak would be far tastier! Yum!

September 15, 2009 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

back spell checker

September 15, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

we need to get off the idea that food is supposed to be easy. it's not. It's supposed to be healthy. We're a step away from getting so easy we'll start pouring kibble into bowls and calling it a meal. I have a friend who said, after seeing the movie, "When do I have time to go out of my way for healthy meat?!" and this was the same guy who drove 45-minutes north for a badmitton raquet.

And I think it's time people who feel they'd rather participate start leading. You can do this. You don't have to march into washington, just get some local lectures started or a book club in your bookstore.

September 15, 2009 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I live in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY and a woman I work with and her husband raise pature fed, free range Angus mix cattle. I was able to purchase 1/8 of Chelsea, cut into steaks, packaged into 90 percent lean ground beef, assorted roasts, short ribs, etc... for $2.20#. It was a bit of an investment at the time, but it is clean and outstanding meat. Additionally, I did not have to purchase a freezer for the quantity I purchased. Next summer, if my organic garden produces heavily, I may purchase one. I have to research the option of energy used to can my produce vs. the energy used to run a freezer full of produce. Basically, what I think it comes down to is peoples priorities. Lets face it, not every girl wants dirt under her finger nails or toenails, some want to emulate starlets and wear the latest fashions. While I am not put off by horse shit under my sandals to build up my garden soil, most of city and suburbia folks won't have any of it. It's all about lifestyles and choices. As long as the woman with the fake tan and plastic fingernails doesn't look down on me, she can party on.

September 15, 2009 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger TheRaspberryChicken said...

Those who have seen this. Is it an okay movie for kids... (12 and 9) Will they be completely bored? Is it going to have killing animals or stuff like that??? Just wondering. I never get to the movies these days without kids.


September 15, 2009 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger RayMan said...

I tried to start a version of s CSA here in this tiny burgh for 3 years without success (before finally giving up) for all of the reasons you stated. Eventually, you have to stop spitting-into-the-wind because the only thing that happens is that you get wet.
Grow as much of what you need as you can and try to do without for all of the rest. In truth, we can all live with less than what we have become accustomed to - and reqlize that we are just as happy as we ever were.


September 15, 2009 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

I've been preaching this gospel for awhile now, and am slowly getting through to those around me. My question to my co-workers who say "I can't pay that kinda money for food" is--"would you rather pay the food bill or the doctor bill?" They have watched me garden organically, eat a 70% organic diet & not end up at the doctor's office while they still make regular visits to Wal Mart for food---and then to the doctor for flu, colds, insomnia, exhaustion & general malaise.

September 15, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Jody M said...

I made a vow this summer to never buy grocery store meat again. I've heard too many horror stories, so I decided that that's it, no more....

...then I was at the grocery store and forgot and got some steaks on sale. Dammit. I felt like an idiot when I realized.

But, it is a process. I have researched local pastured beef and such. I'm willing to pay the extra and travel to get it. I want a healthier option.

September 15, 2009 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Rois said...

Wow as a family that lives on $50 to much to qualify for food stamps,a family who would love to buy organics more often and are urban homesteaders,this is my least favorite rant out there on the web.Why? because it is passing judgment on others.None of you walk in my shoes,I don't always get to buy organic or even local there are times when truly price wins out.I have 2 teen aged boys try telling any kid out there I am so sorry honey I chose to buy the $6 a gallon organic milk and it used up the money for cereal so there's only a glass of milk for breakfast.
We homestead to help ourselves eat a better diet.It dose help us save money but I still can't afford to buy grass fed meat.
It's ok to have your opinions but please remember there are families like mine who are homesteaders who would love to buy all local/organic but sometimes it's a matter of having enough vs quality and ethical food.
The Dahms Clan

September 15, 2009 at 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We started a journey of local, traditional foods nine months ago, which I chronicle on my blog. My first thoughts were, "Wait, I'm going to spend more money, more time and more effort in hopes that maybe, someday we won't have a medical bill?" It seemed so distant and random compared to the real prices I was paying for food weekly to feed my large family on one small income.

But my husband came off his blood pressure and cholesterol meds, my daughter's allergic eczema has stopped and my arthritis has abated to the point I can walk upright and without a cane once again, something I haven't done for almost 30 years.

Bottom line? We are saving almost exactly in medical costs what it costs for better food. I don't spend any more time in the kitchen than before, but I spend it doing different things.

I "shake the hand that feeds me" (a Pollan reference) and it has made my life better. My food dollar goes to the farmer who milks my cow, not to Kroger. The seasons determine what's on my table, not Kraft and Tyson.

There are big changes to be made, and preaching to the unconverted is one of them. There's scuttlebutt that Food, Inc. could be Oscar nominated, which would add some loud voices to the mix. Government subsidies, genetic modifications and the insistence that organic "can't" feed the nation must stop. Stupid programs like "Healthy Choices" (do a Google search for Healthy Choices and Froot Loops) need to stop.

But change needs to start in our kitchens.

September 15, 2009 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Cre8tive Cowgirl said...

These are such interesting views. It feels to me that eating and food choices ultimately has to start with the individual and her/his personal views, background and lifestyle. Guilt and judgment will do little to help solve the problem. We have a crises but I feel it has more to do with getting away from our roots. Many are open to and wholeheartedly embrace a simply, organic lifestyle. What we are talking about here is changing the collective consciousness~an action that will start within, by choice and by connecting to one's truth, without trying to "convert" or change anyone. Lead by example, by heart and do what you love to do. Letting food choices come naturally by living in your truth. When enough of us in body are doing this, I suspect that it will be something like the 100th monkey and more will catch on. Force and demands do little. That is the old way and that consciousness is what is now on its way out. There is great hope for the future, Jenna's blog is living proof of someone following her truth and leading by example.

September 15, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger E said...

You are so right about cheap. Cheap is killing us in food and everything else we consume. I read that for farmers to get a fair price for their goods and to be able to farm sustainably the average person would have to put 30% of their income towards food. Are we prepared/able to do this?

Don't forget that gardens are only part of the solution. Meat, dairy and grains are a big part of both our diets and the problem.

September 15, 2009 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Yup. I am.

But if everyone had to pay 30% of their income for food (like most of the world has up untill the last 50 years) i suspect there would be a lot more gardens and chickens. And better systems for city folks as well.

September 15, 2009 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Sophomore Mom said...

I gotta tell you, I love the idea of eating local, but our farmer's markets here in my area have no farmers. Produce is purchased from the same companies that the grocers purchase from, and then sold at a much higher price. Prove it you say? Ok, garlic, which grows prolifically here is from China. I even asked the person selling it if he was Chinese and he stated that of course he wasn't, and I asked if he knew the farmer in China who packaged it, and he stated of course not. When asked why he was selling Chinese garlic at a local farmers, he got indignant and said nothing was local and that he purchased everything from a supplier.
I'm not going to give my money to those people, because the true farmer gets none of it.

And for Rois, I understand wholeheartedly what you are saying, because I've been a single Mom with 3 daughters. But you do what you can do, and that is all that you can do. Please try to be tolerant of those of us who are maybe a little over enthusiastic regarding this issue.

September 15, 2009 at 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Jenna! I certainly didn't think it was a rant, btw, as suggested by a previous comment, rather another example of how you're living your life - for others to follow, adapt, or ignore as they wish.

I agree that many people are unwilling to give up certain creature comforts for the sake of convenience, when it's that convenience that may likely send them to an earlier grave. What's the statistic? That the current generation will be the first to *not* surpass the life expectancy of their parents? Scary stuff, considering it's all preventable!! The whole life expectancy thing is directly related to the foods kids eat (here's one recent article: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1976173).

While I'm one of those who does have a full-time career, we manage to try and grow a few veggies in pots, and are sure to shop *every week* at our local farmers' market (May-November), belong to a CSA, purchase a variety package of grass-fed, local beef each fall, and buy organic when we do have to buy produce at the grocery store (Dec-April). Part of our motivation, beyond the fact that this food all tastes *way* better, is that we want to support our local farmers and businesses.

My one friend has a dairy farm and they are losing hundreds if not 1,000 dollars A DAY due to the ridiculously low rates they're being paid for what they produce. And the CSA we belong to has just turned a profit this year for the VERY FIRST TIME since beginning their endeavor over 8 years ago. It's about priorities...I'll take my health and the health of those small businesses over "stuff" any day.

For all that we have to take advantage of in my area of the state, I'm going to have to grumble that Food, Inc. isn't even playing anywhere nearby!

September 15, 2009 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

"We're a step away from getting so easy we'll start pouring kibble into bowls and calling it a meal."

Actually, we already do this. It's called cereal. :) I refer to it as "human kibble" all the time.

September 15, 2009 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

John and I are fortunate to live in a city that has a Film center that caters to indie films and controversial films that the major chains mostly don't touch. There was a discussion period after one of the showings but unfortunately we weren't able to attend that particular one.

My day job is working in the food stamp office so I really do feel Rois' pain. In fact one of the portions of the film that made me maddest was the family who couldn't afford vegetables on their income but could afford the government subsidized corn product filled junk, and so were doomed to obesity, diabetes and more lifestyle diseases.

I am not a very outspoken person normally but I find that this issue has caused me to break out of my comfort zone. I have actually spoken to restaurant managers, grocery store managers and our farmer's market manager about the issue. I found, like Tara, that our large farmer's market consisted mostly of people selling things that they had shipped in. I asked everyone if the vegetables were heirloom or non GMO and to a person, no one knew what I was talking about.

I am not being judgemental about people who only buy "cheap" from a store Rios, especially those on fixed incomes. I do believe that if everyone voiced, actually spoke to those in authority, their wishes and voted with their dollars, that things could change.
In fact many stores in Europe did get that message about GMO foods and do not carry imports from many USA companies because of the public outcry.

I have not only stopped buying those products I know are GMO or produced by Monsanto, I have notified the stores I do business with that I have stopped and why. My one voice may not carry far, but if each of us cried out in unison, the sound would echo throughout the country.

September 15, 2009 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Sophomore Mom - we have the same thing here. Most "farmers market" produce was purchased from Ben E. Keith or some such and unwrapped prior to setting out on the tables.

Rois - that's sort of what I was trying to say. I'm not in the situation you're in - I CAN afford it, and so can most of my friends. But I know there are far more people in my are who can't. I feel like when affluent people are too cheap or lazy to eat well, they cut off the options for the less fortunate to eat well (in that they limit demand for better food). And there's just not much availability here, even if you could afford it. My local grocer barely sells produce at all, much less organic. If Whole Foods Market is prohibitively far for me to *drive to*, how on earth could someone without transport shop there? (And our public transportation, where it exists, is sorely lacking.)

So what I'm saying is, I sort of feel both sides of this. I strongly believe that we should all be eating much better, and I also believe that a whole lot of people simply need to rethink their buying habits, but I also know that's not the answer for everyone. Enough people need to want it for it to become widespread enough to help everyone.

September 15, 2009 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger smilingcat said...

Sounds like Mr. Joel Salatin.

The other way to get people who are not all that interested is to give some of your excesses. I'm doing more of an urbanhomestead. Haven't had to buy much of any groceries with exception of avocados and stone fruit. We use meat to flavor our food and IS not our main course. In a week, we are lucky to eat one whole chicken.

Anyway, our front yard is void of lawn. We grow our veggies, herbs, lettuce and flowers, rose bush...

Neighbors weren't too keen on it till we started to give away our excess heirloom tomatoes. Neighbors are okay with our garden now. How can you complain when you can get something much better tasting than the store bought "re-pkg'ed" food. agri-bus food to me is re-pkg'ed chemical. instead of pelletized fertilizer, it comes r-pkg'ed in beautiful red globe aka tomato.

Anyway, you can win them over by giving them some really good organic, LOCALLY GROWN food.

September 15, 2009 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Great post, Jenna.

Like everybody else -- and it's harder for some people than it is for others -- I am trying to find my way through this.

I don't buy organic milk, but I do buy hormone free milk. I grow all the produce I eat from June to November. I eat meat, but I have not yet committed to buying "organic" meat. When I do, I usually buy it from a clearance freezer at the farmer's market, when it's marked down. I buy eggs from a local chain store that is well known for its excellent suppliers.

I don't know what I'll do in the winter, without any canned tomatoes this year, but I'll find out! As someone else mentioned, I am thinking about using a cold frame for winter greens (in upstate NY).

I realize it's a luxury to be able to look at food this way, when so many people in our world do not have enough to eat.

September 15, 2009 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger cshell said...


September 15, 2009 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF? I just had to jump back in and express my shock at the number of people whose farmers' markets don't actually sell locally-farmed food! Our market has specific requirements in order for farms/vendors to even be allowed to set up a stall, the first of which is that "all our products are produced grown by the vendor." Isn't there a way that consumers can demand as much from their local market organizations?

September 15, 2009 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

er, typo...it should read "all our products are grown by the vendor."

September 15, 2009 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I don't think it's a luxury at all, it's a paragdim shift. I am not suggesting low-income or struggling people shop at whole foods. I am talking about the people who can afford it, and refuse too.

Just get one local meal in a week. None of us can drop 600 bucks to change our cubboards over entirely, but we can all do baby steps. All.

September 15, 2009 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Shannan said...

This is the very subject that my family is dealing with right now. Our state farmers market is a joke like others have said it is full of repackaged produce that is the same as you get at the grocery store. We do have a couple of All Local farmers markets but they are up to a 45 minute drive away for me. Not good when you have a bad transmision on your van. I am lucky enough to a some decent organic grocers near me Earth Fare and The Fresh Market. I will admit though that with one small income for a family of five organic meat is not something that I have been able to change over to yet. I have reduced the amount of meat that we eat though.

Rois, I understand where you are comming from we also make just a little to much for food stamps. I have found though that little changes can go a long way. I have started making all of my own bread, just an example. I think just the fact that you are aware of the problems we have with the food we eat is a big step in the right direction. Unfortunatly there are no theaters near me showing this movie, not suprising.

I belive that this country is so far from being what it should be, and that makes me sad. From the health care we are offered when we do get sick to the foods that we are supposed to eat no questions asked. I am so glad that I finaly woke up and realized that if I wan't a better life for my family that I have have to take responsibility for that life. I am just glad to know that I am not alone on this journey, all of you give me so much inspiration.

September 15, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger K. Shea said...

Reminds me of an NYT op-ed about health insurance and the American diet--there's hope for us yet!


September 15, 2009 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

I’m not sure if this is the tip of the iceberg or one of the multiple heads of a monster called consumption. Maybe as a society we’ve figured out a way to move past capitalism and focus every aspect of how to generate the biggest money trail for corporations, business, local, state and the federal government all on the backs of the people. A couple of years ago I watched, “Who Killed The Electric Car,” http://www.whokilledtheelectriccar.com/ and sat their in disbelief that big oil, the auto makers and the government at all levels would work together in concert to screw us being the consumers. In a nut shell, GM created a nightmare for a consuming business model. They built a car that did not use gas, did not break down and go through all sorts of parts and labor, no oil changes, and the government could not collect taxes on fuel for road funds. GM recalled all the cars and had them destroyed. It’s a pretty simple model; corporations market us and sell us cheap stuff that won’t last and they make their quarterly budgets and they are happy. Local, state and federal governments collect their fees and taxes and they are happy. The uneducated and unwilling to change their behavior consumer buys shit that the corporations know will cause disease and make them sick while the government sits back and does nothing, because we can not upset in income stream now can we?

What can we the consumer do? What CAF’s core values suggest: Grow your own food. If you need something try to find it used. Shop locally and support your local framers markets. Spend your time on things of real value like campfires with stringed instruments, family and friends, home made beverages and fresh baked bread. Oh, and in doing all those things we break in consumption income stream too. You can really screw with it if you barter, but that’s another story about what our grandparents and great grandparents did the last time the economy went into the crapper big time.

September 15, 2009 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

This was an ey opener i=from MEN

Everything He Wants to Do is Illegal
What should you know about food, farming and the meat you eat? Farmer and writer Joel Salatin sounds off on government regulations, pasture-based farming and more


More and more people are aware of the compromise and adulteration within the government-sanctioned organic certified community. Weary of 6,000-hen confinement laying houses with 3 feet dirt strip being labeled “certified organic,” patrons latch onto the “beyond organic” idea. It resonates with their disappointment over the government program. When Horizon battles Cornucopia, for instance, to keep its organic-certified industrial-scale dairies, consumer confidence falls.

Intuitively, people understand that the historical use of the word “organic” identified an idea and a paradigm rather than a visceral list of dos and don’ts. And now that the high prices have attracted unscrupulous growers who enter the movement for the money, people realize that no system can regulate integrity. That is why we have a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 day a year open-door policy. Anyone is welcome to visit at anytime to see anything, anywhere. Integrity can only be assured with this level of transparency.

September 15, 2009 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

@ Smilingcat.

You know what made me madder'n hell? My boss is the sole bread-winner in his home. Thru some bad decision-making, he's now upside down on his beautiful house in the upscale neighborhood. He's sweating buying groceries to feed his family but can't grow a food garden because of Homeowners Assn rules that prohibit same---because such a garden might not be aesthetically pleasing to the others around him. Can you believe such absolute....madness?!?!

September 15, 2009 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger Sparkless said...

Part of this whole attitude towards food came when what was traditionally women's work was devalued. Cleaning and cooking was thought of as mindless chores beneath most people. Women started to go to work at paid jobs and fast foods became a huge market. Who wants to spend an hour cooking a meal after a very long day at work and commuting, we were told.

Overworked and overtired women now doing two jobs bought into the crap and fed it to their families. We have to change this. We have to make cooking, food and our good health important and the people who supply those things important and worthy of our respect.

September 15, 2009 at 2:46 PM  
Blogger Conny said...

Hot, hot topic. Wow, there are a lot of great comments here. I just wanted to "raise my hand" and say that at my local (SF Bay Area) farmers' market food stamps are accepted, and I wonder if FS recipients know that or not. I've often wondered what kind of diet food stamps would get you, and have even considered researching it further. (I might just do that.)

Food, Inc. showed for only 1 day and I didn't get to see it.

September 15, 2009 at 3:00 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I did not mean to offend anyone with this, at all.

September 15, 2009 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger kate said...


In my upstate NY city, the dozen or so farmer's markets (in different neighborhoods) all take food stamps, and so does the farmer's market in Rutland, Vermont. I haven't seen any indication of that at the small VT town farmer's market where I have a cabin.

Even in upstate NY (nothing like NYC), there is an international flair. I have met many immigrants and refugees who were re-settled here when we were standing in line to buy fruits and vegetables. There's a long line at the fruit and veggies, not much at the jams and pies. There's also no upscale vibe. And the veggies cost less than at the grocery store.

I really enjoy the long line, for some reason. Priorities seem right, I guess.

I have friends who work in Haiti who talk about the mud cookies that people make, and bake in the sun. It's nearly all dirt, with another ingredient I forgot. Nutritionists say it's actually smart, with all the nutrients in dirt. But wow, what a perspective it gives.

Food is interesting, in such a variety of ways.

I don't want to detract on the main point of this post, which is the commercialization of food in our culture, and the distance we have from the origins of what we eat.

Great topic, Jenna.

September 15, 2009 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Hey Jenna,
Great post...great movie. It was shown here in NH in Concord and the after movie talk was given by Gary Hirschberg (you know...Stonyfield Yogurt...). I unfortunately wasn't able to attend it, but I understand it was great. And you're right, preaching to the choir because so many people don't care and won't see it...or perhaps don't care isn't really right...perhaps it's don't even think about it.

Knowledge is power, so your recommendation to take someone who doesn't routinely consider this stuff is right on. About 5 years ago, I started to really think about my food and the food that went into my then in utero son's body and changed...once I started to learn and explore there was not looking back. Now, I have a CSA for milk, eggs, chicken, pork, in season fresh fruits and veggies. Yes, it costs more. So, we give up other things that don't matter as much so we can have the stuff that does, like nutritious, soul satisfying food. I like driving by the farm and seeing the really in truly free range everything I consume and knowing that my dollar is ending up in not only my neighbor's pocket, but also supporting a family that knows that reverence for one's food is KEY to it all. Just my little two cents...thanks for bringing this up, I'm very passionate about this subject.

September 15, 2009 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...


I don't think you did. It is just a topic that many people get excited (uptight?) about. It is definitely something that NEEDS to be discussed and open discussion like this is good. As long as everyone realizes that there are complex issues related to the main one, and keeps the discussion civil (something that seems to be lacking publicly lately), this should be a healthy thing for all.

We can't become scared of hashing out solutions to problems in order to keep from possibly hurting someone's feelings. If we do, nothing will ever get done. Allow everyone their viewpoint, keep it civil and let's all learn.

I am glad you made this post. I have gained a lot by reading everyone's comments. Thank you all for taking part.

September 15, 2009 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger Kathy P. said...

For those of you who live in areas where the Farmers' Markets just sell grocery store produce, you might look into purchasing a CSA share from a farmer in your area. You can search for them at www.localharvest.org

Here in central NY, we have a number of good Farmers Markets with lots of locally produced stuff - but then NYS has a pretty good marketing program ("Pride of New York") for NY grown farm products. Folks from elsewhere in the country are often surprised to find out that NY's largest "industry" is agriculture. (They think the whole state is paved like NYC. LOL!)

September 15, 2009 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

BJG - I second that!

September 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I am shocked reading these posts, to say the least. Our farmers market (we're in CA) is staffed by the farmers themselves (hubby is a farmer and knows them all so I know it's true!) and nothing comes from further than 100 miles away ... and that's only one guy who sells strawberries, most stuff is grown within 25 miles of where its sold.

And food stamps are accepted by 90 percent of the stands there. I took a neighbor with me last weekend -- a senior lady -- and she bought so much good food with her food stamps! She was so excited.

It might be a big boulder to push up a hill, but I think getting vendors to accept food stamps and putting a limit on how far away produce can come to be sold would be two steps in the right direction for folks in those states where these things are not happening.

You can't change the world, but if you can change one corner of it, you're doing the right thing.

September 15, 2009 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

But cereal, next to fresh fruits and vegetables if someone else fixes them, is my very favorite food on earth. Does it count that I at least buy Kashi and eat it with Soy Milk and blueberries? (Probably not - the blueberries are always from New Jersey...)


September 15, 2009 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Check it out! This is a photo from one of the closest farmers markets to me. http://www.burlesonstar.net/Index.asp?Story=1459

In the photo, you'll see boxes containing lemons, limes and avocados, NONE of which are grown in this region. There are also what appear to be plums to the far right, which MIGHT have been grown here, but probably not. You may also notice that the lemons and plums have visible produce code stickers on them. The only thing in that shot that could have reasonably been grown in this area are the jalapenos, although in this case, I'd say that's doubtful.

September 15, 2009 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...


I could write a long-winded rant about this, but I'd rather do it on my blog. :)

September 15, 2009 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger K. said...

One of the really ridiculous things is that those folks I know who choose a healthy eating path rarely step into a supermarket. I buy my veggies and grains through a CSA, and my dairy and meat directly from the farm. There are only a few staples we ever go to the store fore, and then we srutinize labels like the obsessed.

When my oldest daughter had just turned 8 we were on vacation and had to go to a regular supermarket. She walked the aisles for 10 minutes, read lables, then turned to me and said "Mom, there is all this food in here, but nothing to eat!" Since then we joke that we buy our food on the black market.

September 15, 2009 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger djp said...

The problem with cheap food is that it actually isn't all that cheap: when you factor in all the subsequent health and environmental problems that ensue, cheap food becomes even more expensive than locally produced, organic foods. Poor people with no health care coverage are doubly sanctioned when they spend their hard earned cash on ready-made junk foods.
You're absolutely right Jenna, people have forgotten that real food isn't "easy", at least not "take it out of the freezer and pop it in the microwave" easy, but it needn't be difficult either. We forgotten how to eat, and that is the real shame.
Breaking an egg over sizzling pan, some warm slices of real bread, and a bit of cheese, isn't all that hard, and it makes a fine dinner.
If you have to stretch your dollar, cutting back on meat makes a huge difference: bulking out ground meat with grain to make burgers; slicing up a steak to feed 8(I've done it, and no one missed the beef there were so many veg to fill in the gap).
But more importantly, if you can only afford to make one change buy organic milk, or at the very least make sure the milk you buy does not contain BGH. Most of the milk drunk in the US is consummed by children, and you should not be feeding growth hormones to your kids.

September 15, 2009 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger karental said...

Great post. We do what we can - grow a garden, eat eggs from the next-door-neighbors' chickens.But we aren't *there* yet. Little steps...
About locally grown food: We love lamb. The lamb in our area (Florida) comes from New Zealand! We have found no growers in the whole state and when we asked about "U.S. grown lamb" we were told it was too expensive. Ohhhhkayyy... Suffice it to say we haven't had lamb for awhile.

September 15, 2009 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Great post, Jenna. And thought provoking comments from everyone.

The products at our farmers markets must be grown/produced in our state - fruit, veggies, eggs, honey, syrup, jams, cheeses, and even clams. I also deal with a homeowners' association, so I just keep a few veggies in pots on the deck and support the farmers at the market.

I second your statement "Small steps." We can cut back on our electric and heat use, cut back on mindless spending, water usage, and all the other little tricks to have a few dollars for the organic/local foods. You don't have to do ALL your shopping at a natural foods store, but any little bit you can helps your body, when all is said and done.

Continue to vote with your dollars, folks. Gov't and big business is listening.

September 15, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Fallen Oak said...

Let me say something. Who do you go after when you catch a small time drug dealer? Why is so much responsibility being put on the consumer? Don't get me wrong people should be aware. But when you grow up with paper plates, paper napkins, McDonalds, strofaom everythings, how is it that the dealers of these things are not being treated like drug dealers? Where is the responsibility? It is an unsettling truth that it has gone this far. Greed. I know this is an underground and it is comforting to see and learn and hear all these opinions but it makes me sad to see how the people today have been left to fight like dogs in the street while laws and slow change makes them feel it is there responsibility while a few sit pretty downpressing. I have been so frustrated by local recyling operations and apathetic consumers . . . in this ramble who is to blame? Slap the drug from the childs hand go after the dealers. But they are so powerful the powerful said. So keep your conscience for good reasons don't be overwhelmed by guilt change what you can and forgive. These are the compliments to the sustainability message- we are in a wild universe and in its comlpex simplicity there is one thing you can always count on - balance. It's gonna be OK.

September 15, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Helenistic said...

Jenna, thanks very much for this post. This is an important topic. Your book, blog, and other readings have inspired me to repurpose items, buy old stuff and grow my own food (well, as much as I can in my 9x12 concrete yard...thank goodness for containers).

I write this post because, as far as buying local, I can vouch for those having difficulties with their local farmers markets. I live in Philadelphia and, like other posts here, we have "farmers" markets but many are little more than retailers jumping on the farm movement bandwagon and merely reselling products (not always local and sometimes even junk).

A prime example happened early in my market adventures when I bought goat fudge from one such "farmer"-when I got home, I found that it had HYDROGENATED OIL and ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (my fault for not reading the label but even so...who would have thought it?). I still try to buy local when I can but have learned to investigate and ask questions before buying. Fortunately, I found a NJ farmers market with REAL farmers that's only 15 minutes away but not everyone is that lucky.

My novice homestead philosophy is to do what I can now while striving to learn new skills and continuously increase my efforts. Thanks to you and all the folks here, I think I'll be able to do that. Thanks again everyone for the discussions and the ideas.

September 15, 2009 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Sophomore Mom said...

Hi Diane,
Believe me, I go to www.localharvest.org at least 1 time a month to see if there have been any changes in CSA listings. This is what I get when I search

No listings matched your search.
Please try again!

So when I say the farmers markets in my area are selling repackaged produce, and there are no farmers around the area, I speak the truth.

Jenna, you did not offend.
It is a subject that we all have to face. You have to know what is in your food, and where it comes from. It's just some areas don't have the ability to get items. I drive 60+ miles 1 way to a Whole Foods once a month or so, and get items I don't feel that my family should be without.

September 16, 2009 at 7:47 AM  
Blogger Sophomore Mom said...

Hi Diane,
Believe me, I go to www.localharvest.org at least 1 time a month to see if there have been any changes in CSA listings. This is what I get when I search

No listings matched your search.
Please try again!

In contrast, in Vermont, in the area where I am from, there are 13 CSA's in that area.
The east coast of Florida where I live now, sucks.
I can grow pineapple, but I can't grow traditional vegetables. The town in which I live, you can not have any kind of livestock, heck you are even limited to having no more than 2 pets. God forbid if you were to have a chicken to lay an egg for you every day, you could be arrested because you are in violation of the no livestock law. SIGH
So when I say the farmers markets in my area are selling repackaged produce, and there are no farmers around the area, I speak the truth.

Jenna, you did not offend.
It is a subject that we all have to face. You have to know what is in your food, and where it comes from. It's just some areas don't have the ability to get items. I drive 60+ miles 1 way to a Whole Foods once a month or so, and get items I don't feel that my family should be without.

September 16, 2009 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Sophomore Mom, I don't doubt what you say at all ... it just makes me so ANGRY to think that some food sellers are dressing up like wolves in sheep's clothing and trying to make their produce look local by selling it at farmers markets and pricing it higher than it should be if it were sold elsewhere.

So many others have chimed in indicating the same thing that it sounds like a growing problem all over. Its very disheartening.

September 16, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Naomi said...

I'm eagerly waiting for this to come out in Australia - I've seen the trailer several times lol.

We are making the change to local/organic/homegrown produce too, and are lucky enough to live in an area where there are lots of local farms with good (but not usually organic) produce. My kids are learning that food, GOOD food, matters.

We are on a low income (no food stamps over here), so we do what we can. But every step forward is another step closer to where we want to be.

September 16, 2009 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Rhonda Jean said...

Great post, Jenna. I've linked to it today.

September 17, 2009 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger L.A. said...

I think this is such a hot topic to people because it is so frustrating knowing that there are people out there creating food and products that are killing us and they don't even have any remorse. They are just racking in the dough off of the lives of those who don't know or can't make certain changes. And I know money is not the only thing that holds some back. It is very hard to find good food here in a large portion of the U.S. You can not buy any fish or seafood in the town that I live in that did not come from China or Indonesia...that is ridiculus. I live in the U.S. but can't go to the store and buy any fish from here??? So we have to do without. Between the chemicals, the pesticides, the food the animals ate or the soil the produce was grown in...it is just overwhelming to think about.
We eat at home 99% of the time but sometimes it is a challenge to find 'good' food to fix.

September 17, 2009 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Gail said...

So frustrating that no theatre in this city will show the film. There are some good books on this topic. In particular The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food.

September 18, 2009 at 2:01 PM  

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