Food is essential for sustaining life on this planet. Most of us have a choice when it comes to what we eat. For reasons of income or accessibility, others may not. Education and regulations can help to make it so that everyone has access to affordable, safe and healthy sustenance.
In the documentary Food Inc., the veils are lifted on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer’s view with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Our nation’s food supply is controlled by a handful of corporations and they are putting profit before consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our environment.
We have monster chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds and tomatoes that won’t go bad. Even more, we have new strains of E. coli — the harmful bacteria that causes illness for about 73,000 Americans annually. The American population is riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults. This is all thanks to the food that should be helping us maintain healthy bodies and not hurting us.
So, what can we do about it? Each of us has to make a conscious effort to change our habits. This is achievable.
When you pick out what you’re going to eat at lunch or dinner in Daly’s or when you make your weekly run to the grocery store, ask yourself these simple questions to help make better food choices:
One, is this food organic? Certified organic products are produced without energy-intensive synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones and antibiotics, and they are not genetically modified or irradiated.
Two, is this product made from an animal? This doesn’t necessarily mean become a vegetarian or vegan, but it does mean be more conscious of the products you are buying. If you are buying meat, go for grass-fed beef and free-range chicken.
Three, has this food been processed? Compared to whole foods, fruits and vegetables, processed foods require the use of energy-intensive processes such as freezing, canning, drying and packaging.
Four, how far did this food travel to reach my plate? Transporting food throughout the world emits 30,800 tons of greenhouse gases annually. The average conventional food product travels about 1.5 miles to get to your grocery store.
Five, is this food excessively packaged? Packaging materials such as plastics are oil-based products that require energy to be created and are responsible for emitting 24,200 tons of greenhouse gases annually.
To make it easy, there are stores such as Whole Foods Market that sufficiently label every item they sell (local, organic, etc.) and refuse to sell products that contain ingredients they have deemed unacceptable (check out their list here). Also, when you buy directly from the producer you are able to ask questions about their products and how they are produced. You can do this by visiting local farms and farmers markets. New Jersey is the Garden State, after all. Terhune Orchards is just a short 10-minute drive from the Lawrenceville campus on Cold Soil Road and the farm store is open year-round. The Trenton Farmers Market is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (check it out here).
Food, Inc. was screened this past Tuesday as part of the Green Film Series, sponsored by the Energy and Sustainability Steering Committee and the Eco-Reps. If you missed it you can rent or buy the film on Amazon.com. For additional information, check out www.FoodIncMovie.com and www.TakePart.com.
– Lauren Clabaugh
Junior chemistry and dance major