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Guidry 1 Camille Guidry Professor Smith ENC1101 April 13, 2014

Down To Earth

Driving on the highway, the billboards say it all. Every few miles there is a sign for a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, or maybe a Burger King. This obsession with food, fast food for instance, is so prevalent in the United States, it literally just becomes part of the scenery. Underneath the satisfaction from those salty and crispy fries, it is hard to see what is really going on here. This is mass production of an unhealthy and environmentally unstable food has taken America by storm. And it is not just fast food, the grocery store is packed with processed foods filled with ingredients never occurring naturally in nature making it high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt. A personal anecdote to this occurrence is when I came across the book Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and it opened my eyes to an industry hidden behind colorful ads and addictive flavors. I convinced my whole family to buy and eat organic, all natural, and to avoid fast food restaurants. Localizing, buying organic, and therefore cutting out highly processed foods will reshape our nation’s food industry, while creating individually healthier lives simultaneously. Organic farming minimizes massive food corporations by promoting localized food networks, supports personal health, and creates a sustainable and responsible way of living. It is only logical that maintenance of a healthy physic seems almost impossible in these surroundings Americans find themselves in. Obesity, heart problems, and diabetes are only a few

Guidry 2 of the health related issues that arise from an unhealthy diet. There is a beginning step to this lifestyle, and it starts from an early age, compliments of companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Nabisco. “Food advertising is believed to influence unhealthy food choices among children, contributing to the rising childhood obesity rates (Halford, Gillespie, Brown, Pontin, & Dovey, 2004; O’Dougherty, Story, & Stang, 2006) (Fosu ,Wicks , Warren & Wicks). Advertising uses powerful and proven techniques that easily grab the attention of children, subconsciously training them to crave these unhealthy foods. (Palmer & Carpenter). Access to the “24-Hour” type restaurants serving unhealthy food around the clock and the minimal pricing is another lure to give in to the products. It is as though everything is rooting for this type food and any other choice for eating is weeded out, simply because it is not convenient enough. It is not only the food, but the culture that has formed around it. The effects of this cultural lifestyle make up the factors that cumulate to the unhealthy individual. “Although our physiology has stayed pretty much the same for the past 50,000 years or so, we humans have utterly transformed our environment. Over the past century especially, technology has almost completely removed physical exercise from the day-to-day lives of most Americans. At the same time, it has filled supermarket shelves with cheap, mass-produced, good-tasting food that is packed with calories. And finally, technology has allowed advertisers to deliver constant, virtually irresistible messages that say "Eat this now" to everyone old enough to watch TV (Lemonick & Bjerklie)”. This leaves a nation that is fat and sick, with not enough options. It also leaves a nation that is controlled by technology rather than people. It is an unfortunate fact that the way daily schedules run at their busy pace, only fast, frozen, or processed food has the time to fit in. This and the reality that food of a certain quality is generally more expensive. The abnormally high obesity

Guidry 3 rates show that Americans may not always want to pay the price difference for this quality because the money they believe to be saving, consequently will be owed eventually in the form of $117 billion annual spending on obesity- linked illnesses (Lemonick & Bjerklie). The environment will also pay the price for conventional methods of food production. There should not be any misconception that the pesticides used are completely safe. Pesticides are chemicals, that were never previously used until major contemporary developments in agriculture. Assembled in factories that pour out smoke or toxic waste, “up to 70% of processed foods in the U.S. contain a GM (genetically modified) ingredient (Bellows, Alcaraz & Hallman)”. These are the foods ending up on a dinner table to provide for a family. The importance of organic style farming finally comes to light. The realization that food is not about money shifts the focus back down to earth, literally. “Contemporary organic agriculture as defined by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects” (Polacek & Diekmann) Organic farming ensures a sustainable lifestyle. Depleting the soil of its natural abilities from conventional farming only further hurts the land we have. Organic vs. conventional farming studies unfortunately find that even in some technically certified organic farms, traces of chemicals used in conventional farming can be found from previous uses of the same land. These studies will also argue that organic farming therefore does not prove much of a difference, when in actuality, if these conventional pesticide were not used in the first place, the chemical residue would not be a problem. With the aftermath of multiple and repeated “food scares” or mass food contamination, people have started to take notice. Organic eating is one way to ensure health and safety because it calls for a cleaner

Guidry 4 process. It is a comforting concept that their food will actually not be layered in chemicals. It is really a supportive or destructive way of thinking. The destructive path chooses to further harm the land and resources necessary for survival, infect organisms with harsh chemicals, and create pollution. While the sustainable way takes out or reduces all three of these issues. Organic is a conscious choice. It is a choice that says the environment is important, health is important, and the future is important. Lumping food and money into the same category only gets the two things more confused. “Advertising expenditures on carbonated beverages alone, targeting adolescents in the United States, amounted to $474 million in 2006 (FTC, 2008) (Fosu ,Wicks , Warren & Wicks)”. With numbers like these, it is obvious that the big companies have the power to take control of the market and get the exact results desired. Food is not about the profit made at the end of the day, but rather the nourishment that it provides. The modernized opinion of food is a drastic change from the humble beginnings of agriculture. One simple word can be used to describe the American food industry: big. Bigger portions, bigger companies, and bigger people. In the eyes of any major food corporation, bigger is always better. In all of these numbers, any genuine personal relation to people gets lost and those people become part of a business plan and a way to make money. Organic farming methods promotes “connections between consumers and growers, boosting ethical capital and social capital around food supply chains, educating consumers about the source of their food and the impacts of different production methods, creating feedback mechanisms which are absent when food comes from distant origins, and strengthening local economies and markets against disruptive external forces of globalization (Norberg-Hodge et al., 2000) (Seyfang)”. Creating local food markets endorses a community and puts power back where the people can see it. An unavoidable reality is the size of not only the

Guidry 5 United States’ population but the entire world as well, right now forces the use of mass production and transportation. This is the current system, but there is still an opportunity for change. Small steps to network and build a local economy would only be beneficial to the people in the community. It is encouraging ideals of a responsible citizen, while reshaping an industry and how these citizens buy and think about their food. The key fundamental in a lifestyle transformation that moves organic and localized food up the priority list is change. Because this is different, does not completely rule it out as an impossibility. It is time to reshape and change positions of power and put it back where it belongs - the people consuming the food. Once it has been transformed into means of making money, all hope for decency can be thrown out the window. These are not short term affects for short term gain. These are lasting damages that can leave scars on a whole population. Dorothy Day understood that “Food for the body is not enough, there must be food for the soul� and organic products embody the important truth that lies behind those words.

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Works Cited

Bellows, Anne C., Gabriela V. Alcaraz, and William K. Hallman. "Gender and food, a study of attitudes in the USA towards organic, local, U.S. grown, and GM-free foods." Elsevier: Appetite. 55.3 (2010): 540-550. Print. Edward L. Palmer & Courtney F. Carpenter (2006) Food and Beverage Marketing to Children and Youth: Trends and Issues, Media Psychology, 8:2, 165-190 Ignatius Fosu , Jan LeBlanc Wicks , Ron Warren & Robert H. Wicks (2013) What's on the menu? Disclaimers, emotional appeals and production techniques in food advertising on childrated programs in the united states, Journal of Children and Media, 7:3, 334-348, DOI: 10.1080/17482798.2012.717512 Lemonick, Michael D., and David Bjerklie. "How We Grew So BIG. (Cover Story)." Time 163.23 (2004): 58-69. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Apr. 2014. Polacek, Kelly Myer, and Florian Diekmann. "Organic Farming." Reference & User Services Quarterly 52.3 (2013): 197-204. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Seyfang, Gill. "Ecological citizenship and sustainable consumption: Examining local organic food networks." Elsevier: Journal of Rural Studies. 22.4 (2006): 383-395. Print.

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