Changing Our Eating Habits: A National Concern
San Francisco Chronicle reports that the food crusader, Alice Waters, is making waves on a national level. For over 40 years, she has championed organic living and in the past year, her consistent efforts have born fruits.
Bringing the issue of healthy eating and living to the attention of the First Lady, Michelle Obama has planted an edible garden on the South Lawn of the White House. Yet, Waters has also generated backlash in her uncompromising approach to promoting organic living. She sounds excessive and exclusive in her all-or-nothing declaration of: “I don’t want to live a half-good life.”
In her refusal to see how fast food chains like McDonald’s cater to those who don’t have the time and money to cook healthy meals, she ends up alienating people who have limited options.
If the health crisis of obesity and heart disease in this nation is linked to the all too readily available and cheap fast foods, then the long term solution cannot be to criticize fast food chains, to boycott them, or to insist that consumers make the switch to organic living, but rather, to create a system of production, processing, and marketing that gives the majority of sellers and buyers the ability to choose organic.
In order to sell organic stuff, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, branded corporations, all need a reliable source of raw material, be it organic broccoli from the agricultural industry or organic cotton from the fashion industry. At this moment in time, organic production falls short of being mainstream and so it cannot sufficiently supply the majority of the American population.
The problem of access looms large. According to a source, there are 12,804 McDonald's in America. Even if McDonald’s suddenly agrees to offer organic lettuce, from where will McDonald’s source it?
Alright, let’s not depend on fast food companies to organicize their menus, let’s buy our own organic produce. This isn’t the answer either because not everyone can buy groceries directly from California farmers like Alice Waters, since not everyone can get to farmers or to farmers’ markets.
Too many people still depend on grocery stores that carry a tiny section of organic goods, which discourages consumers to shop organic. Make organic choices as readily available and as cost-effective as highly-processed chemically laced food, and any rational buyer will more likely than not pick the healthier choice.
In any economic system, demand drives supply. In the case of switching to and maintaining an organic lifestyle, too much demand and not enough supply won’t get us to a higher standard of healthy and earth friendly living.
Alice Waters has done and continues to do great work in promoting the consumption of local and organic produce, advocating for good stewardship of the earth, funding nutritious meal programs in schools, but there’s really no significant progress to be had from criticizing bad manufacturing, marketing, and corporate practices or pressing consumers to make lifestyle changes when the supply of organic stuff is scant.Continued on the next page