Monday, May 22, 2006

You Are What You Eat

I have this dilemma whenever I'm about to go grocery shopping: I have too many choices of where to shop. There is a more than one giant Shaws near me (standard fare, takes coupons), several sizes of Whole Foods (seems healthy, great looking produce and fish), a Trader Joe's (good prices, not too many additives in prepared foods), a food coop (good organic foods and nice meat), Market Basket (very affordable, not necessarily as healthy and a combat shopping experience) and Johnny's FoodMaster (depressing molding carpets and horrible produce). With a wee bit more driving I have other giant chains, as well as Asian and Russian markets.

But anytime I actually really think about it, I go to the food coop.

There is so much to be careful of when shopping for food. What the animals were fed or treated with, what pesticides could be contaminating so much of what I consume, and then there is whom I feel like giving my money to. I mean I could go to the health food section of any of these stores and buy Hains or Poland Springs or Kashi or Boca Burgers or Cascadian Farms products. Sounds like organic foods and spring water. But these are giant corporations owned by much larger corporations and I'm actually buying products from the same giants like Heinz and Nestle and Kellogg and others and giving my money up the chain to places I just don't want to, like Phillip Morris.

The pesticide thing frightens me a lot. It's in our food, our food's food, the run off that other food lives in, and more. Some pesticide technology stems from Nazi inventions. Roundup, one of the most common pesticides, is known to cause cancer. And that's kind of a mellow one compared to others it seems.

And then there is the problem that after at least a decade-long struggle to make the term "organic" mean something, a bunch of Republican leaders in Congress wrecked it again last fall with a bit tacked on to the end of this year's Agricultural Appropriations Bill. This is all about big business again and has become meaningless for people actually trying to eat well. Big business supports big business. Just under half of all organic food is sold in regular big supermarkets, so all the giants sell organic food now and all the giant supermarkets support the giant brands, Even Whole Foods supported this bill.

What I eat, where/what house I choose to live in, and the car I drive are much huger considerations for the planet than whether I remember to recycle the magazine I just read.
And it's so hard to change culture. On top of people's general lack of education on why what they are doing to the environment affects everyone, themselves, and the lifespan of our species, everyone is so overwhelmed by information. It's easy to market things to you that you'll buy. It's easier for you to relate to the spin put on the product than to spend time thinking and doing research. And the overwhelmed population tries very hard to think about just today and just this moment in order to cope, when we actually have to have a little foresight so as not to trash the place in our self-absorption.

So glenn and I decided last year to try a little harder with our food consumption. So we try to shop at the food coop, which is a local place with high standards about what it carries. And we joined a CSA. That's community-supported agriculture. It means for 20 weeks of the year (the harvesting season here) we pick up a share of produce once a week. Because while I have a lot to learn about Everything still, it seems clear to me that buying locally grown food is probably better already than buying organic food that was shipped here from 3,000 miles away or more. And we found a Massachusetts farm that grows organic food and distributes it from the parking lot of our food coop. (And they donate their leftover food!)

While it's a lot of work, managing all the washing and preparing of 7-10 pounds of vegetables a week, we don't have to think about what or where to buy it, and we ended up eating far more healthily. We end up eating the right amount of vegetables and we have so much food in the house that we do less of our other bad habit (for food/money/health), which is eating out too often. It also inspires us to have people over to eat more often, since we have so much food around! What we need to do a better job of this year is preserving and canning and freezing food for the off-season. We're in New England, and not much grows in the cold months besides some parsnips I think. We're also growing a little food, testing out our garden-maintenance ability and using raised beds as a little research has shown our back yard was once an auto repair garage.

You can find out how to buy fresh, healthy, local food from a store, farmer's market or CSA near you here: Or wait a few weeks until I'm knee deep in locally grown greens and come over for some salad!



At 12:27 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

In a New Yorker article on Big Organic from 2 weeks ago, they call Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck." The company digested small chains like Bread & Circus & Fresh Fields and is now chewing on organic stores in England. Its total revenue last year was 5 billion —1.6 billion profit.

The stuff is technically organic but it comes from Earthbound Farm, giant agribiz plantations in Cali, Az, Co & Mex. They supply 70% of all organic produce. Not exactly "sustainable." Shipping a head of organic lettuce east costs the same in fossil fuel as a head of chemtox ice berg. So you're right to buy local. —SR

At 9:24 PM, Blogger bethany said...

I think Wild Oats is in the same category now too.

Oh, and my food coop newsletter reports that the people who own Brita, the place that makes filters you use to clean your water of stuff like say, chlorine. . . It's owned by Clorox.


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