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Our Food and Health: At the Tipping Point

Wednesday Sep 02 2009

By Sharon Knoll | Bio


“I am not an optimist because I am
not sure everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist because I am not sure
everything ends badly. I carry hope in my heart.”—Václav Havel


I come from generations of food growers. And it is clear to
me that eating is one of the most intimate of actions. We take into ourselves the whole of the plant or animal, including the environment in which it was raised and killed. We take in the work and the well-being, or lack of well-being, of those who feed us. When my daughter was younger and went through a McDonald’s phase she wanted to know why the meat didn’t taste as good as the grass-fed beef raised by some friends of ours. Their beautiful cattle were allowed to roam and eat the grass, rather than be fed in filthy feedlots, standing in manure. She asked me, “Mom, do you think that Jim’s beef is happier, and that is why it tastes better?”

Right now in the United States we are confronting the fact
that food nurtures and food kills.

  • Obesity may soon surpass tobacco as the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • The real price of soda has fallen 33% over the last 30 years. The real price of fruit and vegetables has risen more than 40%.
  • One third of all American children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise.
  • Let’s not rush to analyze these numbers or to try and fix something. Or even worse, come up with short-term solutions. Let’s spend time looking at what we intend to leave behind as our legacy.

Is our intent to leave behind a world that celebrates life? One in which:

  • Every person has enough of the right food to be healthy and productive every day of their lives
  • People have control over their own lives and destinies, and all individuals have a chance to contribute, and
  • Our environment and world matters and in which we are in a profound relationship with both.

If so, then the numbers reveal that we have a breakdown—the facts are inconsistent with what we say we stand for. And rather than ask the question who or what is wrong, we now can ask the question, “What is missing that I can provide that can make a difference in assuring the legacy that celebrates life?”

When I asked the question “What is missing?”, I discovered we have a powerful social movement centered on food that is gathering momentum and that covers sustainable agriculture, animal welfare, food workers’ welfare, food safety and more. This social movement is calling out, to quote Eric Schlosser, “an agricultural system that feeds corporate greed rather than the citizens of this country.”

 David Leonhardt wrote an article with a provocative question on August 12, 2009 in the NY Times Magazine entitled Fat Tax. He left me with a powerful visual for where we are and the opportunities we have:

 “Anyone who smoked in an elementary-school hallway today would be thrown out of the building. But if you served an obesity-inducing, federally financed meal to kindergartners, you would fit right in.”

What do you see as missing that you can provide to have our food nurture us and support the planet?

That’s food for thought…until next week.

© 2009 Sharon Knoll. All rights reserved.

Written by eldering at Health

Tagged with: animal_welfare david_leonhardt food food_safety health sustainable_agriculture wellbeing

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