Who's growing your food?
I was thinking the other day about how our food systems have evolved. In the book "Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children" by Ann Cooper, Cooper wrote: "In less than 200 years we have gone from being a nation of farmers (more than 98 percent) to a nation in which less than 2 percent of the population grows our food."
According to Cooper:
• Monsanto and DuPont control 80 percent of the commercially produced seeds in our country — they also brought us Agent Orange and stain-resistant carpet.
• Food companies in America are spending more per child on advertising than any other nation in the world: $15 billion per year marketing food to kids, which is more that what it would cost to provide health insurance for all uninsured children.
• 1 out of every 4 meals in our country is eaten in a fast-food outlet.
• A recent study showed that teenagers served a fast-food lunch ate an average of 1,652 calories during a single meal — more than 60 percent of their estimated daily energy requirement.
• Our children watch more than 10,000 food-related commercials every year — most for high-sugar and high-fat foods.
We have allowed large conglomerate food companies to control the flow of food to our tables. We have put our most vital resources into the hands of just a few companies that seem to care more about short-term profits over long-term health.
How many times have we heard of a massive food recall after bacteria has made its way through a processing plant creating a food-borne illness? By limiting the food supply chain to just a few companies, we have put our nation at risk by putting too many eggs in one basket.
I fear that most people think that food is manufactured and comes from a box or is passed through a drive-thru window. Besides air and water, food is arguably the most important part of our lives. Yet how connected are we to the people who grow our food? Most of us have a doctor and a dentist, but how many of us have local farmers we can connect with to see how animals are fed and crops are grown?
We are blessed to live in a fertile area with such a wonderful growing climate. Why not plant a garden this summer? Teach our next generation where food should come from: the family garden and the family farm, not from a corporate processing facility 2,000 miles away.
Share food with your neighbors. Can the excess food for the winter months. Teach kids how to cook the food they raised or grew. If we do not teach our children how to eat well and farm, who will feed our nation in the future?
Kevin Cotter is managing general partner at New Earth Market in Yuba City.