Saturday, January 3, 2009

Changing the Way We Think About Food

Once again, and as always, Sharon is way ahead of me. This may be because I am not yet out on my own and don't have to deal with many practical issues that confront "real" adults. I am still on my parents' insurance, I do not yet pay for my car insurance, and I have been living, rent-free, either at home or in a dorm room since I was born. My parents are really lovely people, sheltering me from all the unpleasantness, but sometimes I wish (and this wish will very shortly come true so I should probably just shut up and be thankful while I can) I were completely on my own so I could learn the art of being money-savvy. Lately, I've been paying for more and more of my own necessities. This past summer I did in fact buy my own groceries and such and got a taste of working full-time and even overtime. BUT...

The day will soon come when I will be technically included in America's "poor." I am not afraid of this transition. I see it as a very interesting challenge that I'm sure I will survive mostly unscathed. In fact, I see absolutely nothing wrong with being part of the poor demographic so long as you aren't hungry and have a good roof over your head and a decent quality of life. But then, do I really mean that? Well, I suppose my thinking is a little more socialistic, a little more utopic. I believe that the government should include in its responsibilities the task of feeding the poor, those who cannot reasonably afford to feed themselves or those who can barely keep their heads above the flood of monthly bills.

Appparently, this has been taken into consideration in Vermont, where food stamps will be available to a larger number of people, thereby extending the "poor" label to include a broader swath of individuals. I will agree with Sharon that this is ultimately a good thing if it means people not being hungry. But these food stamps will be used at grocery stores on cheap, mass-produced foods that are not healthy physically or for the local economy, small farmers, and the environment. Kudos to the government for getting something done. Shame on them for being so small-minded.

What we feed our poor in this country is essentially all the GMO, processed, dessicated, individually-wrapped, sodium-injected crap that the wealthy are fortunate enough to be able to avoid. You can't grow children on this sort of food. You can't heal the sick on it. In my very biased opinion, you can't do much with it except prop a door open and maybe give yourself some energy to do tasks. Processed food is not good food, and by good I do not have some foodie definition of that in mind. I mean good, wholesome, sustaining food that doesn't make you sick.

Food is a way of looking at everything. You are what you eat is not just a cheesy quote. It's fact. When we feed our poor processed crap, we are sending them a signal that we don't expect great things of them or even much thought at all. We are assigning to them a life of fatigue, poor health, and denial of a wonderful aesthetic experience. Have you ever been thrilled by the beautiful colors of swiss chard in the winter? Ever tasted a blueberry so incredible that all future blueberries will be judged by that one? Ever had bread so incredible and hearty that it's all you want to eat? Don'e tell me those experiences aren't important. That's bullshit.

In addition, what message is the government sending to its small farmers, the people who work so hard to feed other people? Processed food is the best we can do? Come on.

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