Good Food Now: Join the Big Fight for Better Eats

BlogHer Original Post

The act of eating is an odd paradox. Eating can seem like such a banal, daily, almost meaningless event -- yet the food we eat relates to everything from global warming to pollution to world hunger to health care.

Of course, when you focus on tackling those bigger problems -- childhood obesity, say -- they can seem so vast that you get discouraged from ever getting involved in finding solutions. Still, changing what you eat in your own home is a relatively simple task that clearly has much bigger environmental and health consequences. If you've made personal changes -- whether it's to eat more fresh veggies, to seek out more local produce, or to opt for organic products whenever possible -- you're already part of the solution.

And women leaders are showing us how to join the big fight for better eats, one forkful at a time. Want to get involved? Here are three tasty ideas:

Have family dinner. Laurie David, the environmental activist, producer and author, has been touting the benefits of sharing a communal meal every day with her newish book, The Family Dinner. Why? "There is a connection between planetary warming and the cooling trend in family closeness," Laurie said in a talk at the recent TedX Manhattan: Changing the Way we Eat.

How can eating dinner together help solve big problems like global warming and obesity? By countering the "eat fast, eat processed, and eat alone" microwave culture, says Laurie. "If you don't cook, don't know what's in it," Laurie says, pointing out that family dinners can be a more affordable, healthier, and more emotionally fulfilling option that's available every day.

And family dinner works no matter what your family looks like, according to Laurie. "Divorce changed the shape of my family, but dinner got us through it," she says. I live by myself so daily family dinners aren't an option, but since hearing Laurie's talk (start watching at 7:26 on TedX Manhattan's Session 1 video), I've made a greater effort to break bread more often with my friends and family -- and I am happier for it.

Join a local food advocacy group. Food Politics author Marion Nestle must get a lot of questions from would-be food activists, because the third question on her website's FAQ is this: "I want to do something to improve the food system. How do I get started?"

Her advice? "The easiest way to get involved in food policy is to start doing it." This is Marion's recommendation for getting involved locally:

Find a group in your area that is working on the food policy issue that most interests you. There are groups working constantly on food assistance programs, farmers’ markets, food deserts, school food, community gardens, school gardens, urban agriculture, community food security, locally grown food, agricultural sustainability, organic production, the Farm Bill. You can usually identify such groups by an Internet search for “food advocacy” in your area. Or read the Edible magazine published closest to where you live.

If googling "food advocacy" for your area doesn't turn up anything particularly tasty, I suggest looking for your local chapter of Slow Food USA, which focuses on eating delicious, local, sustainable food as a gateway drug of sorts to a better food culture. Getting involved with a local chapter will hook you up with other local activists. Meeting up with them at a good food potluck will help feed and fuel your own activism too.

Fight for food safety funding. Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of environmental health nonprofit Food and Water Watch, has just kicked off a campaign. The goal? To stop the federal budget from threatening our health and safety.

Basically, the proposed federal budgets currently on the table seek to cut funding for the meat inspection program and to underfund the FDA's food safety program. NPR's Shots blog recently pointed out that although the FDA Food Safety Mobilization Act became law earlier this year, "there's something missing: enough money for more inspections of food processing plants and check-ups of food manufacturers' safety plans."

Wenonah wants you to send a letter to your congressmembers about this issue -- then to get involved with revamping the Farm Bill, a huge piece of federal legislation up for reauthorization next year which will basically decides whether we'll fund healthy, sustainable food or bad-for-you, factory farm-type food for the next five years.
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Of course, there are many other ways to fight for better eats too. Some ideas from the blogosphere:

Anna Brones at EcoSalon says embrace "Foodie Feminism": "For decades we’ve watched the professional culinary industry continue to be dominated by males, but we’re taking back the plate, at home, on the barbecue, with our friends and in foodie-inspired businesses."

Jessica Belsky at Chew-Gooder says always read the ingredient label: "You may be used to seeing random additives in your food, but are you used to now seeing them justified on the packaging? Behold: “Cultured dextrose (for added freshness).” I’m sorry, what? I need something to “add freshness” to my hummus? As far as I know, you can’t add freshness."

Bonnie Alter at Treehugger says make proper porridge. "Plain porridge oats and oatmeal are 100% natural with no added sugar, salt of additives."

How will you demand good food this spring?
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BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel had organic oatmeal -- the real kind, not the instant stuff -- for breakfast today. She blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

Photo by matt

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