Food, Inc: Hungry for Change?

Friday, September 25, 2009

I am. Are you? Is your wallet?

A common immediate response to how to solve issues of environmental damages, poor animal treatment, and unhealthy food in the food industry is to focus on concerted individual (often read: consumer) efforts to make change. The idea that (and this is a direct paraphrase from the movie) your vote is your dollar. You tell the food industry that you want organic, good for you food, it will happen.

I saw the documentary Food, Inc at the Bytowne Cinema. I quite enjoyed it. I found it to have a lot of useful information and even be relatively accessible to folks who may not know much about the food industry. It was pretty graphic at times, which is effective and necessary however it obviously turns some stomachs.

Let’s think about this. There is something wrong with the food industry. Most can agree with this, no matter which side you are coming from. It is efficient in ways, but very inefficient in others. There is overproduction, increased risk of contamination, use of antibiotics and chemicals. This is true of meat, dairy and plant industries.

If there is a problem with the industry, something needs to change. Individuals who are able (financially and through feasible access) to purchase organic, ethical, less-processed foods should be encouraged to do so. However, many people are not able to purchase these foods, indicating the need for a different sort of action.

While movements towards labelling of GMOs, pesticide use, and the like are useful and certainly good policy changes, there are many problems associated with food distribution, access to affordable healthy food, and the food production system which is meant to overproduce, subsidize heavily, and create huge inefficiencies with impacts on humans and the environment (directly and by extension)

Food, Inc. does encourage healthier food options in primary schools. I think this is as essential form of food activism, and in fact constitutes a large scale and institutional change as opposed to an issue of individual choice. Perhaps high schools and universities will catch on to this as well, and find reasonably priced healthy food options instead of corporatizing their lunch room with fast food chains.

Our campus, for example, is well connected with agribusiness, purchasing from large suppliers and providing food highly dependent on animal products and highly processed foods like pop, chips, etc that are essentially derived from corn. We can continue to push for healthier food options that are accessible to those with allergies, intolerances, or choices, and in fact many people are doing exactly that. Check out Café Alternatif in the basement of Simard for some alternatives. Or, I hear the new café in Lamoureux will be pretty awesome. Still can’t find what you want? Talk to the People’s Republic of Delicious!

I’ll finish this post with some interesting links. I’ll also be writing more on food issues in the future…

- sarah jayne

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