Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Food Industry and Health Care Reform

I won't presume to speak more eloquently on this topic than Michael Pollan has in his recent op ed piece in The New York Times about the relationship between Health Care Reform and the Food Industry, but I do want to comment on it from my Locavore perspective.

I continue to be excited about Pollan's work because he hits the same vein I have been tapping for years about the backward way we think about food and nutrition in this country. Most health care providers (including many in my field of dietetics) have been rehashing the same tired "low fat/low calorie" mantra for 30 plus years now as the definitive answer to good health, without regard as to where those calories come from. They are currently coming, in large part, from a slew of engineered, processed foods filled with artificial flavors, articial sweeteners, fat replacers, colored dyes, stabilizers, texturizers, fillers and enriched lost nutrients. To what end?

We still continue to get heavier and sicker. Isn't the lay definition of insanity expecting to get a different result even though we continue to behave in the same manner? It seems a little insane that we actually think that inexpensive, fake foods will actually lead to our better health.

But even as the health argument should be enough to get people to change their behaviors - it is not working. From my thinking, taste should be the driving force. Of course this argument backfires when our palate has been programmed to actually enjoy the fake foods we believe are our only options. But when did we lose our taste for real food? What happened to us that we turned our backs on quality, real food in favor of fake foods in massive quantities? And when will we finally pay more attention to the fact that the food industry's primary incentive isn't really our good health, but digging deeper into our wallets to line their shareholder's pockets?

Why is the pushing of great tasting, but slightly more expensive, food such a hard sell? When will we see that eating real food will translate into better health? When will we understand that saving a few dollars now with cheap food will truly mean higher health costs later?

The most common defensive question I get about not eating locally or organically is the high cost. While I agree that we have little to no good cost benefit analysis research on eating organically and the subsequent impact on our health, look at why. It is because these studies would be time consuming and expensive and who's going to fund them - not the food industry because that would be counter to producing cheap food at a profit and not the farmers because they can't afford to and not the USDA because it doesn't fit with the current subsidy system for crops and agribusiness.

And while I am not a conspiracy theorist, I do see, as Pollan points out in his op ed piece, that the food industry and the health care industry are mutually reinforcing the status quo. All while we stand by and continue to line up like sheep headed to slaughter, buying inexpensive food because we feel we have no other choices.

Vote with your dollars...

I am here to say we don't have to. I am here to show you that you can learn other strategies and implement them slowly, over time, and make real changes in your life and the lives of the ones you love. With every small change we make, we are in effect voting for change by the food industry and supporting local farmers at the same time, a double benefit.

Each day of our lives includes at least 2 - 6 opportunities to make choices about what you buy and eat - start making one small different choice a week, then one a day and then before you know it you will start an eating revolution that truly is revolutionary - you'll be living on real food in a fake food world! A rebellion in favor of real tastes and real pleasures!

When was the last pleasurable meal you had - I can almost assure you that it wasn't frozen or microwaveable (unless it wasn't the meal you enjoyed but the company!) Let's bring pleasure back to the dinner table, let's bring real food back into our lives.

Let's eat well and be well, America!

1 comment:

  1. It's very important for your health to eat organic food, and it tastes even better than the normal one sometimes.