With the large amounts of snow that has blanketed the south (myself included) I marveled at how people flocked to the grocery stores and gas stations. This was of course expected by the retailers and they jacked their prices up to accommodate the hoarding masses. It got me to thinking about how we, as a society, are not prepared for any interruption to our daily life. I have to say, somewhat embarrassingly, I found myself in that boat this time as well (I couldn’t believe the beach could get 10″of snow). I won’t let that happen again that is for sure. I had to brave the snow covered roads (my city of 180,000+ people only has 4 plows) to make it to the only open store around…Wal-Mart. I found isles and isles of empty shelves. if it related to heat or food/drink it was mostly gone. I was able to get what we needed but only barely and by paying almost double what it would have cost me only 2 days prior.
As I walked down these isles the one thing that did stand out to me was what was mostly left was the non-convenience foods. If you wanted Hamburger Helper or Mac-N-Cheeze you were out of luck. However if you wanted something like say spaghetti that takes some prep (all be it not much) there was plenty of that. Bread, Lunch-meat, frozen foods, etc all gone. As a nation processed foods make up 70% +/- of our diets.* Most of the ‘food’ in the stores is so heavily added to with chemicals and other additives that it is more man made than natural. Our drive towards instant gratification and constant experience has driven this. We want to drink our orange juice year round even though the growing season for oranges is small. As a society we eat what we want when we want…the result of this is our food is mass produced and shipped from all over the world.
This mass production and worldwide shipping has allowed us more ‘variety’ in our stores but what has it done to our health. Phosphates are one major ingredient in these foods; from good ole’ Mac-N-Cheeze to frozen dinners and soda’s have phosphate laden ingredients. These ingredients have been shown to affect the kidneys and lead to deterioration as well as weakened bones.** High fructose corn syrup (a leading sweetener) blocks the hormone receptors that tell you that you are getting full.*** This leads to overeating and obesity; Splenda and Sweet-N-Low aren’t any better.****
So what to do? I am a realist when it comes to this. I don’t think that most people can cut the artificial and processed out of their lives completely. Unless we all went back to a slower and more planned lifestyle there is no way. We can however limit our exposure. Eat out less and home more. Stay away from the middle of the grocery store; most processed foods are in the isles in the middle of the grocery stores. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables or better yet grow your own garden.
What it really comes down to is knowing what is in your food and how it was grown/produced. Most processed foods are not made in a sustainable way. The animals are packed side by side in inhumane conditions and given antibiotics so they don’t get sick from the feces they are standing in and are pumped with growth hormones to make then mature quicker and be ready for slaughter sooner. This is not sustainable and it is not respecting the life of the animal. It is not being a good steward.
A good steward would respect the animal and that it is giving its life for our subsistence. A good steward would respect the farmer and their way of life and financial situation. A good steward would respect the consumer and their health and quality of product. This does not happen. Industrial food is driven solely by profit and efficiency. It has driven the charge to genetically modify foods to grow faster or be resistant to pesticides so they field can be dusted. It has driven the mass slaughter of animals who have been drugged to increase their meat quantities.
Do you know what is in your food? Do you know how that Chicken or Beef was raised? The best thing anyone could do is buy local. If you buy local from farmers you can talk to you will know these things and so much more. You will know what you are eating and have a better connection to the food you eat. It may not mean you can have your favorite vegetable year round but it will me you are eating quality food.