Why World Food Day should matter
Today is World Food Day, so proclaimed in 1979 by the conference of the Federation of Agricultural Organizations.
The aim of World Food Day is to heighten public awareness of, and strengthen solidarity in, the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In 1980, the General Assembly endorsed observance of the day in consideration of the fact that “food is a requisite for human survival and well-being and a fundamental human necessity.” The theme for 2006 is “Investing in agriculture for food security.”
Investing in agriculture for food security is meant to address the current global shift from small farms toward agri-business. In hundreds of small towns that were once thriving agricultural communities, large corporations are taking over small farms. Their bottom line is the dollar. Some of these formerly thriving communities have become one- or two-family ghost towns.
The large corporation of the future is viewed by many as progress. Mass production of crops and livestock is less costly than small-farm operations. Corporations are taking their work beyond just growing food. More money can be made by processing crops and meats further into attractive packages of “ready-to-eat” salads or lunch-ables. Many times all we have to do is follow the instructions and put the product into the microwave. In five minutes or less, dinner is ready. Then we eat while watching the food channel where amazingly talented chefs prepare exotic food that the majority of families could never afford, let alone prepare.
The consequences of losing small farms are many. Mass production of crops poisons our environment with chemicals from pesticides to fertilizers. Livestock is raised in confined spaces and fed concentrated feed, loaded with hormones, to create maximum growth conditions that allow animals to be butchered in a matter of weeks and months. Mass food production means more people handling our food and more opportunity for food-borne illnesses.
We often complain about the amount of fat and sugar content in our food, turning our country into a nation of overweight slaves to our diet. The corporations respond with tricky marketing, changing the serving size to make it look like the fat and sugar content has been lowered. They go after our children with clever advertisements and marketing techniques for fast foods, convenience foods, and comfort foods (much like what the tobacco industry did when they targeted our kids). This generation is predicted to be the first generation that has a shorter lifespan than the previous. A large part of this is due to the health problems associated with the obesity epidemic.
There is an upside to all of this.
As a result of the obesity epidemic there has been an increasing interest in healthier and organic foods. Many corporations are seeing the advantages and money to be made in this area. You can now buy salads and veggie burgers at some of our fast food chains. Organic sections are appearing and expanding in many supermarkets. A small-store chain, known for it’s holistic consciousness and for buying quality products from sustainable sources, is becoming more and more popular as people intuitively seek balance with our environment and improvements in health.-
The downside is that you pay more for the privilege of eating organic food from sustainable sources. The extra cost of buying free-range lean meats, organic fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fine wines excludes a significant portion of our population.-
The real challenge here is not big corporations. The real challenge is for everyone to act and take charge of his or her health: emotionally, mentally, and physically. You can no longer assume that someone will do it for you. With a little self-education and a few dollars more, you can buy healthy food at the local supermarket. Cooking at home can give us control over the amount of sugar, fat, sodium content, and portion sizes we consume, and along with active lifestyles and exercise, are the best defense against obesity and excess weight. Take charge, invest in your health and the health of your children.