So the U.S. government started subsidizing corn and soy farmers—not fruit and vegetable growers, just the people who produced corn and soy. So if you’re a farmer, and you get paid to grow corn instead of broccoli, what would you do? The results of that little shenanigan are that fewer than 3% of American crops grown today are fruits and veggies, but over 50% of all farms in the United States pump out corn and soy.
I tuned in to the documentary Weight of the Nation on HBO because I needed something to kickstart my quest to lose weight. I figured some scary facts and figures about heart disease and diabetes might overcome my weak will power. And there were plenty of doctors who made those points.
But what it mostly did was expose to me the conspiratorial inner workings of U.S. agriculture. My idyllic (if tragic) idea of the American family farmer working against all odds to harvest crops in time to save the ranch from being repossessed by some villainous, mustachioed banker? I now know that’s just fodder for movies celebrating some American ideal that no longer exists.
The information from this program combined with everything I culled from “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” (a lecture I watched and commented on in an earlier post) made me realize how political the food industry is. We’ve become so dependent on our processed, pre-packaged meals that we don’t fully comprehend how far we’ve strayed from the naturally nutritional food our grandparents ate. (Okay, Grandma’s gravy swimming in bacon grease might not officially be considered healthy, but there was nothing in the list of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce, making me wonder about its origins.)
I’m not by nature one of those sprout-eating granola-crunching types. I grew up on Wonder bread, Coca-cola, and Pop Tarts. So when I started buying whole wheat bread and limiting myself to one soda per week, I figured I was doing great.
But I’ve started reading labels more carefully, and it’s illuminating. Even whole wheat bread that one finds on the shelves in the grocery store has either sugar or corn syrup in it. And I dare you to find a salad dressing that doesn’t have either.
Okay, so I buy my bread from our local bakery and make my own salad dressing. Am I safe now? Apparently not. Once you get in the habit of reading labels, you begin to question everything. Which is good, of course, but quite inconvenient. I don’t have either the time or inclination to make everything from scratch.
I have started buying some organic produce and I found a schedule of the farmers’ markets in my area, so that’s a start.
But I still walk by Pop Tarts with a certain amount of yearning.