Friday, January 21, 2011

Walmart / Healthy?

I watched the news last night (believe me, I'm not a fan of the news, so this isn't a regular occurrence), but there was a bit about Mrs. Obama supporting Walmart in their push to lower sodium, trans fats, and sugars in its house brand products. They said it would help lower childhood obesity. Are you kidding me? That's like saying changing the color in wine will cure alcoholism.

I'd much rather see them re-work the recipes in their products to quit adding so much corn and soybean substances that aren't necessary, as well as the chemicals, preservatives, and unnatural ingredients that fill the ingredient panel (as well as scare the crud out of me). I understand that things must have a shelf life, but it makes me a bit uneasy when I read the ingredients of bread and there are so many additives besides what should be there: flour, salt, water, and yeast. On a common brand of honey wheat bread this is the ingredient list: unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, malted barley, niacin, iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, whole wheat flour, honey, high fructose corn syrup, wheat gluten, wheat bran, soybean oil, salt, cultured wheat dough conditioners (ethoxylated mono-diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, distilled monoglyceride, calcium peroxide, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes), calcium carbonate, yeast nutrients (monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate), calcium sulfate, soy flour, vinegar, and soy lecithin. I don't know about you, but that really makes me feel sick. I don't know what half of those things are and yet it's just in plain old bread? I don't want to feed my daughter that. Not even if somebody told me that every one of those ingredients is safe in the amounts they are in, and you want to know why? Because the only things that really need to be in it are flour, water, yeast and honey. End of story.

No, the true obesity problem is that we are a nation obsessed with convenience. The faster, simpler, and easier we can get to exactly what we want we are hooked. Diet pill promising results with no exercise or dieting, sold. Supper in a matter of seconds in the microwave, why not? We don't care where the food comes from as long as it's cheap and can quickly get to the table.

Not me, I enjoy taking a meal from a batch of simple ingredients to a nice, healthy supper. It isn't nearly as time consuming as it is made out to be. Honestly when was the last time you cooked a meal from scratch? No boxes of Macaroni with the bright orange cheese, no packets of pre-mixed spices, no frozen pre-made entrees. Just a recipe card and fresh ingredients? That's what I think would help the obesity problem more than ever is teaching the population how to actually use all the beautiful produce and meats out there. If more people used them, then more farmers could grow them to meet the demand, and the prices would be more consumer friendly. I'm a big believer in the farmer's markets.

Here is an example of a farmer's market in Jackson, Mississippi via NatalieMaynor on Flickr.

I see this and I want to run to the computer and search for a yummy way to use all the pretty vegetables. It's not daunting, but exciting. I imagine it will take a major change in our behavior as a population for the food industry to try and bring the quality and nutrition that a farmer's market can offer, but at least farmer's markets are becoming more prevalent in our society. I just wish they were the norm instead of the exception. Maybe that will change in the next ten years.

This is an example of a farmer's market it Dallas, Texas via muddbutter on Flickr.

All I'm saying is that the thing we need to change is the fact that we can't raise enough healthy food (ie, produce, meat, and dairy) in a way that we can feed everybody without significant change on everybody's part. If you want to eat steak, why not contact a local beef producer and ask about purchasing some from him? If you want eggs, stop in at one of those signs along side of the road advertising for "Fresh Brown Eggs." If we take advantage of what's right next door, then we not only know who raised it, but also that it is fresh and healthy for us. I also wish we'd push legislation to bring direct-to-consumer agriculture into everyone's life. Smaller farms would have a better footing in the industry which would help local economies, build community (by getting people out and talking with their neighbors), and would (in my opinion) greatly reduce the food quality issues that we have now (smaller scale/diversified farms don't run into the myriad of problems that the larger scale 'factory farms' do.

I also would like to see cities allowing backyard and rooftop flocks of chickens, and lots of gardens in any available plots (rooftops included). I'd like to see dairies in all states find a way to be able to sell directly to consumers (even if it would require a signed paper indicating risks that the consumer acknowledges because as far as I can tell that's all that's holding it back is liability). All-in-all I'd like to see Americans be able to fend for themselves a bit, and be actively involved in where their food comes from instead of what is commonplace: opening a bag or box and placing it's unknown sourced contents into the microwave and not caring what you're putting into your body at every meal.

What do you think?

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