By Sue Carr
A friend recently posted a link on Facebook to an article on activebeat.com titled “The 10 Worst Foods to Feed Your Children.” The list included things like “kids” breakfast cereals, juice boxes, soda, snack cakes, and lunch meats. After a quick scan of the list, I thankfully found my shopping and eating habits to be in pretty good shape—whew!
But it wasn’t so much the article itself that stuck with me as the comments people posted about it—comments that included such terminology as “food-shaming” and “elitist.”
These comments made me angry. Not at the people posting, but at our dysfunctional food production and distribution system that has fostered this argument in the first place.
It makes me angry that responsible, conscientious, well-meaning parents have to work so hard to make healthy food choices for their children. It makes me angry that food manufacturers with big dollars can afford to place their unhealthy, chemical-laden products front-and-center on store shelves and in child-directed advertising. It makes me angry that their advertising dollars are spent leading parents to believe that their products constitute healthy choices because they have “less sugar” or “whole grains” or are fortified with vitamins, ignoring the artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives that make their ingredient lists more cumbersome to read than the King James Bible. It makes me angry that these products tend to go on sale—and offer coupons—far more frequently than their healthier counterparts, making them an obvious choice for families on tight budgets.
I’ll say it again—it makes me angry that parents have to work so hard to make healthy food choices for their families.
Shouldn’t our store shelves be packed with nothing but safe, healthy foods? Shouldn’t it be the FDA’s job to ensure that American families have ready access to chemical-free, GMO-free, truly natural foods? Shouldn’t organic, natural foods be the norm rather than the “elitist” choice?
Instead, parents saddled with the pressures of time and money resort to convenience foods—quick snacks, frozen entrees, a colorful cereal the kids are sure to eat without a fight—because they’re the easy choices. They’re familiar. They’re quick to prepare. They’re cheap.
And they’re killing us. They’re killing us with sugar, salt, preservatives, GMOs, and an array of artificial colors, flavors, and chemicals that the FDA and food manufacturers pass off as food. These ingredients are making us heavier and sicker than ever, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, ADHD and an assortment of other ailments plaguing the American health system and providing a boon to drug companies. I’m not going so far as to say there’s a grand conspiracy between “big food,” “big pharmaceuticals” and the government, but it’s certainly food for thought.
So how do we fix this huge, pervasive problem? How can one person make a difference?
As Robert Kenner points out in his film, Food, Inc., we can each make a difference by educating ourselves and making healthy, informed choices for our own families. When enough people start consistently making those healthier choices, grocery stores and food manufacturers will respond by providing more of those choices (they go where the money is, after all). I see it happening already at my local grocery stores—even the discount chain, Aldi, has begun offering a growing line of organic products. It will be a slow revolution, but it will happen.
And then pay the revolution forward. If you have the means, donate healthier food options to food pantries, or support organizations that do so. And spread the word. Tune in regularly to Mrs. Green and join her food revolution. Share the information you learn with your family and friends through social media and take the revolution viral.
Hopefully, that viral revolution will make healthy eating an obvious no-brainer for everyone, which is exactly as it should be.
Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.