Saturday, February 6, 2010

What are we feeding ourselves? -- Another little food rant...

Tomato plant from our garden.

I went to the grocery store earlier today--I have been doing really well to shop from the 'perimeter' of the store like the experts suggest for the healthiest food options, but even still I have to be careful because there are hidden additives and preservatives that I wish weren't there. Reading labels amazes me sometimes for instance:
  • Yogurt--had corn syrup, tons of sugar, artificial flavors, and various ingredients that I couldn't spell. Why can't they just have Plain Jane yogurt without all the extra that makes it less beneficial?

  • Lunch Meat--more preservatives than you'd think--I always figured it was a fairly healthy meal choice, but not anymore.

  • Fruit Juices--none of them are just juice--why do they have to have five or six extra ingredients?

  • Milk--lots of them have added nutrients. I'd rather them just be plain, you know?

  • Cereal--it's truly hard to find a simple grain only cereal. I don't want artificial colors and flavors.

That's not even mentioning all the convenience foods--talk about words you can't even pronounce. And yet, every day we as consumers purchase these items without a pause. We truly don't know what we are putting in our bodies and nobody seems to care. I do though--I've really started to buy just the basic ingredients and make all of our meals from scratch, but even many of the most basic ingredients are produced in mass, so they have preservatives and additives in them. It seems so foolish to me. Why do we as a population depend on 'quick foods' and 'junk foods' instead of buying quality foods (ie, vegetables, meats, fruits, and dairy products) for our meals? It's gotten to the point that there are less choices of these quality foods available in stores because more and more items are becoming pre-packaged, and supposedly simplified. But what could be more simple than a banana or a carrot for a snack? We wonder how as a nation we've become obese and overweight.

That's why I'm such a promoter of self-sufficiency, local food, and direct-to-consumer agriculture. Raise all the food you are capable of. If you are in an apartment with a balcony, then raise a few herbs or a tomato plant. If you have a yard, then plant a garden that you can eat off of all summer and even can some for winter. Even better raise a small batch of hens and always have fresh eggs. If you have some acreage, then plant some fruit trees, raise a couple calves or piglets for meat, plant a huge garden and give what you can't eat to neighbors or sell the excess at a Farmer's Market. Can you imagine how much better this world would be if everybody would raise as much of their food as possible? Kids would have healthy food choices growing in their backyard, and even more important they would understand where their food comes from. Many kids today don't realize that there is a farm behind their glass of milk. Instead they just think as long as their is grocery stores there will be food. Wouldn't it be great if instead of going to a supermarket for your weekly groceries you take your family to the local Farmer's Market and create relationships with the various farmers in your area. That sounds blissful to me. Then again, I'd love to see a comeback in home dairy delivery and huckster wagons and the quality that went along with them.

I guess the point to this rant is that I don't see how America has let itself get to this point. Our food system is all wrong. We should be pushing for less industrialization and more small-scale farming operations that allow for better quality and not necessarily as much product as possible. To me the ideal is for everybody to do their part in feeding the whole. Support your local food producers--whether it be your neighbor's garden or the dairy farm just outside the city limits. Food shouldn't come from a factory. It needs to go back to the farm.

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