Thursday, August 27, 2015
What Are You Eating? Part Two
Continuing on with our food series, today I'm going to talk about some of the various food movements and alternatives that have arisen in recent years to combat the dangers and injustices of the industrial food system which I spoke about on Tuesday.
You may have heard a term like "localism" or "locavore" before. The local food movement has been emphasizing the importance of buying food locally from farmers who use safe, organic practices at least since 2000, when the movement gained serious traction. For good reason, too, because local, organic foods cut down on pesticide usage, water pollution, "food miles" (aka your food doesn't travel as far to get to you, making it less of a contributor to global warming), and many other evils of industrial agriculture. They also deliver more nutrients to your body than industrial produce and stimulate the local economy. Farmer's markets, an excellent source of local food, make shopping for food a social experience, socially stimulating the community.
In response to the local food movement, community gardens and restaurant gardens are popping up profusely in some parts of cities and suburbia, and 35% of American households are growing food at home or in a community garden. This figure increased by 17% in the past 5 years! Why the increase? Perhaps because growing your own is another great way to contribute to the local food initiative! Household and community gardens offer fresh, local, and safe produce as well as opportunities for exercise and social interaction. They are definitely a great solution to the harms industrial agriculture has wrought.
Some people also choose to raise animals in their home gardens, keeping chickens or goats or other animals for their animal product needs. While the sustainability of animal agriculture in any form is a hotly debated topic, those who do choose to consume animal products will find that raising animals and harvesting from them on their own is at least more sustainable - i.e. healthier, less harmful (emphasis on less - there seems to be no animal agriculture method that is completely harmless to the animal) for the animals, and less harmful to the environment than conventional agriculture methods.
Those who want to consume animal products but are unable to raise animals can look for local alternatives. At a farmer's market I recently attended, I saw several booths selling cheese and milk, as well as free-range grass-fed meats. My advice is to see if any of these exist at your local farmer's market, and investigate to make sure their practices are organic, safe, and as humane as possible!
Either way, these are two local sources for animal products, a great alternative to industrially produced animal products (for more on how bad those are, please read Part One). Another option you have is to go vegan! Though I am not an expert on the subject, I suggest reading up on the pros and cons (I find this article helpful), talking to vegans who've successfully and healthfully made the switch, and consider the sustainability aspects of veganism - how much waste, packaging, and oil is used to get your food to you? Where does it come from? If it's plant-based, are those plants grown sustainably? Do some research, weigh your options, and decide what's right for you - as long as you are making a conscious decision to somehow up the sustainability game of your food choices, I'm 100% behind you!
Just as veganism is a food movement, so too is vegetarianism. Like veganism, it requires research and ultimately your own decision to make the switch. Since vegetarianism offers an alternative to at least some industrially produced animal products, it is a more sustainable option.
In the next part of this series, I'll be discussing food justice as well as labor and environmental justice movements surrounding food. Isn't it fascinating how far-reaching food and its influence is? That's why so many movements have sprung up around it!
If all of these options and info is intimidating to you, please wait until the last part of the series, when I will outline in better detail what you as an individual can do to have an effect on our food systems. Also, just remember that the most important thing is to be aware and make conscious decisions about your food, where it comes from, who and what it affects, how it affects you, where it goes, and what you do to effect all of that. Make sure that your food choices align with your values, and you are well on your way to living a healthier, happier, more kick-ass life!
P.S. I highly encourage further research into any of these topics if they interest you! Click on the links provided and do your own searching too :)