The wonderful film “NOURISH” invites us to vote with our forks in regards to the food industrial complex which is designed to control every aspect of our food life. Several months ago, my church embarked upon a study of food insecurity and the ways in which all of us are impacted by the food industry. Along with the film “NOURISH” we viewed “A Place at the Table” which gave us a clear overview of the huge food insecurity problem faced by over 50 million of our sisters and brothers. Food insecurity means there is not enough food in the house to last from one pay period to the next. People do not know how they will feed their children and themselves during those periods of shortages.
Since we produce and waste enough food to feed everyone, it is very difficult to truly understand why this persistent problem continues. Of course with this issue, as with others, there is a very thick layer of politics surrounding much of the way in which the food industry conducts its business. Though we may have thought the onset of the grand supermarkets meant that everything would be better, time has proven that not to be true.
In her wonderful book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” Barbara Kingsolver talks about what it means to learn the truth about food production and distribution and to take a stand against the food industrial complex. She and her family made the commitment to spend a year eating only food that was locally grown or that they grew themselves. She reports in her book that their lives were changed.
While their efforts did not have an immediate impact upon the 50 million families facing food insecurity, this type of personal intentional behavior change is important.
It does not make sense that we waste close to 100 billion tons of food a year in America and that we have people struggling to put food on the table. There is a strong disconnection between us and the ways in which our food is produced and distributed that allows for this amazing situation to occur and continue to thrive.
Our congregation is working to learn more about the connections and disconnections that continue this pattern of poor stewardship. As a nation, there is not one good reason why we should be suffering from an epidemic of obesity and other related illnesses, wasting massive amounts of food and have people starved for good nutrition and suffering food insecurity.
We have an attitude and communication problem around the issue of food in addition to all of the other ones that come from having created a huge multinational agribusiness which controls most aspects of food production and distribution in our country. It is amazing to realize that most farmers receive so little from the products they produce compared to what they cost the consumer. While we think that buying in the multiplex grocery stores saves us money, we are actually paying more because we are getting a product that is inferior and cooperating with a system that is causing harm in numerous arenas.
The majority of the food that we get from the grocery store has been shipped from miles away, is tasteless and filled with the effects of fertilizers and pesticides. It may cost less than the products from a local farm, but will be more costly in the long run due to the use of large amounts of fossil fuel to get it to the consumer and its lack of nutritional value.
So the invitation to vote with our forks is an excellent one. When we vote enough with our forks we will see more changes that will help lead to a reduction of food insecurity, less waste, a higher quality of food for our consumption and more equitable distribution of the economic profits from food.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.