Lifting the food veil

Michelle Obama believes every family should have access to healthy and fresh food.  According to government estimates, 23.5 million Americans do not have access to fresh foods.

Interview with the First Lady on Everyday Health:

“I’ve seen this firsthand with my own girls and with local students who help us out in the White House Kitchen Garden. At first glance, they may not like spinach or broccoli, but if they plant it and watch it grow or prepare it and season it on their own, it can be a little more interesting. It becomes their discovery, their accomplishment. It’s something they made, not just something their parents told them to eat.”

I can say that this was the case for me.  Only this discovery was at 25 years old.   As a child I was a very picky eater, especially when it came to vegetables.  Using my clever 8 year old brain, I wore sweaters to dinner and stashed items like brussels sprout and asparagus in my sleeves.  I avoided healthy eating, I could care less.  I never once thought about growing my own food.  The closest grocery store was all knew.  I didn’t ponder where the meat came from.  How the butter was churned.  Even the concept of seasonal cooking was unfamiliar.   But is growing your own food really an American reality?  Or even a dream?  In this clip of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, basic foods are unrecognizable to children.

I would like to believe that I am just an exception.  That others have grown up in a world of farming, seeing basic plants like eggplant and garlic grow.  Picking strawberries and cherries in their back yard.  In my mid twenties, I couldn’t recognize a turnip, swiss chard, kale, parsnip etc etc- in fact, besides the typical blueberry farm- I had only seen conventional produce.   Whether you are a foodie or not- isn’t growing your own food a basic human function?  A history of generations doing this “green” thing before it even began. 

In this American culture, we are sadly disconnected from our basic surroundings.  Before you become offended, please understand that this comes from someone who is like you.  Someone who didn’t question food, because heck it is food.  Someone who is just too busy trying to raise a family to think about food, sometimes fast and cheap are the most appealing .  I was the girl who made fun of health nuts- developing assumptions on all the ridiculous reasons why someone would even care about food.

While reading about the White House Garden, I came across a few figures.

Area, in square feet, of the garden — or, about 1/30 of an acre — after a 400-square-foot expansion in the spring of 2010

Cost of the seeds, mulch, and other supplies needed to start the garden last year, according to the assistant White House chef who oversees it

Number of fifth graders who helped break ground for the garden

Number of different kinds of foods — mostly vegetables — grown in the first year

Synthetic fertilizers or pesticides used —which ticked off conventional farming lobbyists and synthetic pesticide manufacturers

330 and 170
Number of different types of vegetable and fruits, respectively, grown at Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello, which served as an inspiration for the First Lady’s project. The Marseille fig, French artichokes, and purple calabash tomatoes were some of Jefferson’s favorite picks

Weight, in pounds, of the food the garden produced last year

Weight, in pounds, of the food the garden has produced this year

Number of new vegetables — bok choy, cauliflower, artichokes, and mustard greens — added to the garden in 2010

Weight, in pounds, of a particularly large sweet potato from this season’s harvest  

Amount of honey, in pounds, the White House beehive had produced, as of April

I do not discredit anyone who is trying to raise awareness and spark change in this horrible fight with diet and diseases.  I know first hand the struggles of eating disorders and body image.  Being on diet after diet never changed me. It was never about that.  I don’t think just limiting processed fats, sugar, and salts will make this nation healthy.  We have to go deeper into the food problem.  It has been estimated that 80% of processed foods on grocery shelves–from pop to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.  Do we stop and think about the global consequences of pesticides, genetically altering and cloning food, harmful farm practices, processing and manufacturing of foods?  How are these practices going to influence the next generations to come?  I can not support the seemingly hypocritical stance taken for America’s food and health.

First Lady’s organic home garden initiated criticism from the conventional chemical industry.  Including a letter from Mid America CropLife Association, an agribusiness media group, urging First Lady to give conventional farming a chance.  After all, in their opinion these so called “crop protection products” (referring to chemicals) are not only necessary farming practices, but their  safety is also “supported by sound scientific research and innovation.” You won’t be surprised that the White House never responded.

What I am concerned with, is that for the First Lady’s garden pesticides, genetic engineering, cloning, herbicides, fertilizers were not acceptable.  But it is acceptable for the common public?  If I am wrong, excuse me, but I would say the Obama’s are aware of the dangers of pesticides, genetically modified foods, processed foods, pesticides, conventional farming practices….??

“A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer. As for environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture will lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.”

At The White House Garden, Michelle Obama  has a lovely gift that some others will never know.  That is the knowledge of what is harmful.  President Obama himself promised the American public that he would label GMO’s.

I do applaud this presidency because there is at least a passion for standing up for American’s health.  To alert the public, the school systems, the chefs, the restaurant owners that we must change our ways in the food system.  Not just for our children, but for our selves.  Mrs. Obama’s book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America is designed to inspire America to become a home grown country serious about fresh food.  However, I am wondering if this is really the path that America is taking?  Does America support a local food system?

S. Jay Olansky, Ph.D. stating, “The current generation of children is the first generation in modern American history projected to have shorter life span than their parents.”

I am grateful that Michelle Obama desires a healthy America, really I do.  Her common sense in realizing that we must change the way we view food. The future of our children’s health is at risk.  One out of three children are obese. We can aid in building a healthy foundation for our child’s future physical wellness. What can be done to create a healthy America?   Is it the government’s job to say what we can eat and what we can not?  This is highly debatable.  But the government is there to protect the people.

Maybe instead of waiting for the government, super markets,politicians, big companies to be the hero and save this country, and the sick and starving citizens – people can stand up and say “Let’s Move.”  What if organizations, farms, communities were to gather together in His name and heart for justice, and plant some vegetables and fruits for the community.  Churches could even calculate a home garden into their budget, taking the initiative to fulfill our calling. And maybe, just maybe, we can honor and cherish the gift that God has given us.  We were called to be garden tenders after all.  Lately I have been thinking, well Adrienne, you are just wasting your time caring about the well being of the planet, what you are eating and who is making it, and how my every day choices influence this world.  But then the realization hits me that is a part of the Father’s heart.  He wouldn’t give us a stone if we asked for bread.  God is not stingy, or cheap.  He only wants us to have the best, and what He made was good.  I would like to see a revival of where people stand up for others health, and the right to have access to foods without harmful chemicals.

“And our view is that if we teach young people early about how to eat, and we give them a connection to the food that they eat, that they’re more excited and interesting, and interested, in what’s going on, and that in turn opens up a broader conversation about nutrition and health and movement – but also deeper issues of access and affordability, which are some of the primary causes of obesity.” -Michelle Obama

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4 thoughts on “Lifting the food veil

  1. ” I wore sweaters to dinner and stashed items like brussels sprout and asparagus in my sleeves.” this is classic!

  2. Regarding Obama’s attempt to be busy with and concerned much about our global awareness and affairs (versus our own national sovereignty), your concern expressed above “Does America support a local food system?” is a reasonable question!

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