(Yes, two Rants this week. There is a lot peeving me this week.)
"As more of us indulge our passion for local, organic delicacies, a growing number of Americans don’t have enough nutritious food to eat. How we can bridge the gap."
Many of us celebrated Thanksgiving recently, probably enjoying a bounty of food, possibly including some local and/or organic foods. Some of us might have turned up our nose at boxed stuffing, boxed potatoes, canned vegetables or similar such items. For others though, such foods played a central place in their dinners, if they could even afford that much. It is very disturbing that in our plentiful country, there are still so many people who cannot afford adequate food.
You should read a new article in Newsweek magazine, "Divided We Eat," by Lisa Miller. It is a disturbing look at how: "Food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say--social class." It also offers some suggestions for changing this situation.
About 17% of Americans are "food insecure," meaning that they sometimes run out of money to purchase food or they run out of food before they can obtain more money. That is almost 1 out of 5 people, a significant problem. Food insecurity is higher in the South, in big cities, and families headed by a single mother. This has led to a 58.5% increase in food stamp use over the last three years. But that also seems to go with increased obesity, and a recent study has shown that women and children on food stamps are more likely to be overweight.
It is not a matter of nutritional education. "Lower-income families choose sugary, fat, and processed foods because they're cheaper--and because they taste good." Even though some low-income neighborhoods are "food deserts," lacking a significant supermarket for fresh produce and such, others are not, and there is little difference in the buying patterns of these low-income people. Michael Pollan stated: "Essentially we have a system where wealthy farmers feed the poor crap and poor farmers feed the wealthy high-quality food."
I have mentioned it a number of times before, that local, sustainable, organic products need to be much less expensive before they can spread to the wider community, before they stop being elitist. That is not easy to accomplish and will require a united effort on many fronts. Some efforts are being taken on the local level, such as efforts to allow food stamps to gain extra credit at farmers' markets. But much more needs to be done, starting with a greater awareness of the issue. If local is so important to us, then helping local people who are food insecure should be important as well.
If you are working on this issue, please add a comment and tell us what you are doing. Let us know about some of the local efforts to help in this regard.