Evan Kleiman elegantly interviewed Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser at the Vision and Voices presentation at USC last week. The conversation was mostly a celebration of the current food movements that emphasize eating “close to the earth.” Mr. Pollan’s mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” prevailed throughout the evening.
I celebrate so much of this message. The Omnivore’s Dilemma was a seminal read for me. I went on to read a half dozen related books and continue to step up my game. As a dietitian it was confronting to realize how little attention I paid to how food is raised.
Today I am mostly horrified at the deterioration of our food supply. Only the staunchest of USDA conformists clamor that we have the safest food supply in the world. The word safe in used in the narrowest of contexts, and we fall down even in the realm of minimizing food contamination and food born illness. Big agriculture and corporate food interests have created an abundant and adulterated food supply that no longer keeps us healthy, but is easily over consumed and contributes to poor health.
The quality and sheer quantity of highly processed foods that are subsidized by USDA Farm policy is a big part of the problem. This is the arena that Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser effectively argue for change.
CONSUMERS CAN FOCUS ON THREE IMPORTANT FACTORS TO DRIVE CHANGE IN OUR FOOD SUPPLY
1. Avoid human antibiotics in animals. Purchase meats that state no hormones or antibiotics used as growth enhancers. Let your dollars make a statement.
2. Press for better access for everyone. I am privileged to access farmer’s markets 4 days a week. Other regions have nothing close by. I visited a new farmer’s market in South Culver City last Saturday. It is a fabulous press into an under served neighborhood. I hope the community supports this effort.
3. Pay attention to next year’s farm bill. It will be time for all of us to speak up. It is not OK that a few farm states drive this bill. These states depend on federal subsidies to overproduce crops that contribute to our abundant and adulterated food supply.
Lastly, as we work to improve our food supply, it is important to not let proponents of the status quo distort the conversation. Pollan and Schlosser make some key points.
KEEP THE CONVERSATION FOCUSED
1. American farmers grow about 4000 calories per capita annually–twice as much as is needed
2. Hunger is about food access, not yield
3. Our current food supply does not prevent hunger. There are about 1 billion people hungry, and about 1 billion people obese.
4. We consume about 12.5% of what is grown. 12.5% is wasted. The rest feeds livestock. For many reasons it is time to let the animals eat their natural diet.
Each of us needs to ask ourselves, “What can I do to promote a more sustainable and nutrient dense food supply?” Please share what is your next step in Eating Close to the Earth?