Take Action to Support Healthy Foods
Although we’ve written briefly about the movie Food, Inc., the following letter, written to friends in Iowa by Lynn Fallon, is well worth adding to the conversation. At the end, Lynn urges us to write to our elected officials to help support sustainable agriculture. She lists those who serve Iowa, but the issues involved touch all of us. If you live in the U.S., you can find the contact information for your governor and state legislators, US Senator and Representative, and the president and vice president here. We appreciate Lynn’s willingness to allow us to publish this excerpt from her letter. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
Over the weekend we saw the movie, Food, Inc. with friends. We were told to have dinner first because the movie would take away our appetite. We didn’t doubt that possibility. But, for one very simple reason, we don’t have the same kind, or the same level, of concern: We know where nearly all our food comes from, and we know the producers and growers who provide it.
Still, the movie is unsettling. None of us were vegetarians before seeing the movie, nor did we leave ready to become vegetarians. But the level of cruel and inhumane treatment of animals in the film was difficult to watch. And, witnessing the levels of bacteria, chemicals, and waste products involved in America’s industrialized food system was very disconcerting, to say the least.
Even more startling and heart-wrenching was the segment of the film that featured the death of a toddler. In 2005, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo brought H.R. 3160, the Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction and Enforcement Act (“Kevin’s Law”) to the floor of the House with this introduction: “Kevin’s Law is named in memory of 2 1/2-year-old Kevin Kowalcyk, who died so tragically in 2001 after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Kevin’s untimely death was agonizing and brutal. No person should experience the pain that Kevin did, and no family should have to bear witness to a loved one suffering in the way he did…. Passage of Kevin’s Law would put into place major recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods, both of which have consistently supported greater federal enforcement of food-safety standards.”
At the other end of the spectrum was Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms in Virginia. His animals are raised humanely and processed on site with exponentially lower bacteria counts than the nearby industrial meat-packing plant. Animals live outside and have adequate space, clean water, shelter from the elements when necessary and exposure to sunshine. Many customers drive several hundred miles to buy their meat from Salatin, because they have a relationship with him and know how his animals are raised and processed.
In Iowa, there are more and more farmers like Salatin — and it’s important for us to support them, for their sake and for ours.
Did you know that if Iowans ate five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and Iowa farmers supplied that produce for just three months of the year, production and marketing for these additional crops would add $302.4 million and 4,094 jobs to the Iowa economy (Swenson, D. The Economic Impacts of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Production and Consumption in Iowa: Phase II. Ames, IA: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; May 2006.) And that’s just fruits and vegetables! Think of the possibilities for family-farm raised meat, dairy, cheese and a huge range of value-added products.
I recently attended a Communities of Practice conference put on by the Leopold Center. This conference brought together many types of people interested in local agriculture — farmers, nutritionists, educators, social service agency directors, economists, grassroots organizers, and food-industry business owners. They came together to share what they know, to learn from one another regarding different aspects of their work and to provide a social context for that work. These leaders are working to make it easier to connect producers with consumers/eaters.
But — there’s plenty you can do, too!
Actions You Can Take
Find a farmer or CSA (community supported agriculture) near you.
Here are several websites that will present you with an array of topics:
Support Nutritious School Lunches
The summer recess is coming up, and during their town hall meetings, we need to contact specific elected officials who serve on committees that deal with the Child Nutrition Act re-authorization. This is the legislation that contains funding for the Farm to School program. We need to let them know we want good food in our schools. Please email, call or write your Senator and Representative in support of the Farm to School program. And, if possible, attend a town hall meeting with your elected official. Their contact information is included here:
Senator Charles Grassley (information for phone, email, and office locations)
Congressman Tom Latham (information for phone, email, and office locations)
Thanks for reading!
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)