Overall, this course hasn’t changed my outlook on food the way I thought it would. I guess the main reason for this is because I don’t care that much about the system behind how my food is processed and shipped. As long as it tastes good and doesn’t make me sick, I don’t really care. The only true eye opening experience I had so far was last week’s theme of food safety and how easily food born bacteria can infect my food, which legitimately scared me. But I won’t get into this in great detail- that’s what my last blog entry was for. I did find it interesting to find out that some of the “organic” foods in the supermarket isn’t actually all that organic. Now that I think about it, this shouldn’t really surprise me at all, especially considering my topic of my research paper I did last semester (green-washing in environmental advertising).
I found an article online about a program that has been set up in the Leigh Valley area that teaches about sustainable growing techniques and puts a spin on community supported agriculture. Anyone can apply to participate in this program and they encourage its participants to spread the knowledge they learned there, to other people. One example of sustainable growing they teach, and which I thought was really cool, is called straw bale gardening and it is one of the main components of the program. You can place straw bales on concrete, toss in a tiny bit of compost and plant into them. Even places with low-quality or no soil at all can start a productive garden. The reason this program is different from the others is because not only do they teach you growing techniques, but also how to set up an ASC business of your own. They teach you about writing business plans, marketing the program, establishing community relationships, providing nutrition education, and solidifying partnerships. I think that is the coolest part of this program, how they are encouraging future generations of people to expand this idea of sustainable, community oriented farming, which I also think will become a lot more important in the future.
Honestly, this week’s classes have scared me into becoming a vegetarian for a while. I haven’t eaten a single piece of meat since reading the Food Safety article Sunday night. Learning about the conditions of slaughterhouses and actually seeing what goes on behind their doors didn’t bother me, it’s the thought of how my previously conceived notions of a clean food processing system that did. I have always believed that the meat was free of bacteria and that every part of the process was completely sterile. Seeing how these pathogens can be transferred during the shipping or processing part bothers me. The part that scared me the most was when that article mentioned multiple examples of how people are getting sick, even after cooking the meat or treating their food. I immediately though about our cafeteria and how they never thoroughly cook our food when reading that part of the article. From this point on, I will always be second guessing if my hamburger or steak was, not only cooked properly, but if there are bacteria inside the thing.
I read an article on http://grist.org/food/sugar-low-do-sweeteners-need-to-be-regulated/ about how scientists have come to think that the sugar we eat should be regulated. They went as far as saying sugar is as dangerous as alcohol. The article mentions how our biggest health problem isn’t obesity but the metabolic disorders like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease caused by sugar, which are. I agree and disagree with these scientists. Our society has become obsessed with sugar and it is almost impossible to avoid it in the food we eat today. The companies who make the food should definitely tone down on the amount of sugar they put in just because it is really unhealthy. Also, companies with the sugariest (I don’t even know if that’s a word) products target kids in their advertising. Kids are the last ones who need to be eating large amounts of sugar every day, but I know that is very hard to avoid today. Schools have been cutting back on the amounts of junk food they are serving/selling, which is a good start, but the real effort has to come from the manufacturers. On the other hand, I disagree with these scientists because this issue is on a more familial or personal level. Kids are taught that too much sugar is bad for you in school and parents already know this. If parents don’t want their children eating a lot of sugar, then they could stop buying soda and junk food for home. People who care about their health will try to stop eating so much sugary foods and eat healthier.
So far, this class has definitely made me start thinking about the food I eat. It hasn’t turned me off from any kind of particular food type, but it has certainly increased my awareness of where my food comes from and how it is processed. Reading about the tomato farmers down in Florida has gotten me thinking about the people who are out in the fields actually picking my fruits and vegetables. I began wondering about how bad their working conditions are and how they are treated by their bosses. I was surprised to find out that in our modern era, farmers are still facing problems the conventional workforce dealt with almost a century ago. I believe that Obama’s immigration plan will eventually fix this because these farmers are mostly illegal immigrants. Since his plan will offer citizenship to some illegal immigrants that will change the interactions between the farmers and their bosses. Going off track a bit, when I go down the shore in the summer, there are more locally grown vegetables for sale down there. The farms where these vegetables are grown are only a couple miles away from our place and you can see the men working in the fields, which to me is important. Knowing exactly where they come from and being able to see the work put into harvesting them, I guess puts me at ease almost.
When I was looking around various food blogs this week, I noticed a lot of articles were discussing outbreaks of disease among food products and/or recall notices due to these diseases. One of the more surprising articles I read was one about a recent outbreak of salmonella in Taco Bells across the country. What surprised me is that this is the third health related problem Taco Bell has had in the past 10 years. About 5 or 6 years back, there was a problem with the Taco Bells in my area where they were finding fecal matter from rodents in their kitchens. That resulted in a number of stores closing down and adding in these salmonella outbreaks, it doesn’t look good. I am always hearing about different food products being recalled on the news. I just read an article on a recall of hard-cooked eggs from Wegmans Food Markets, Greencore USA, and Allison’s Gourmet Kitchens due to a Listeria outbreak. It makes me wonder about how “sterile” our current food processing/transportation system. Maybe I am only noticing an increase in these problems because of the increased use of media coverage, or if this has always been a problem and I just haven’t noticed it before, but it is really starting to concern me.