Access to Healthy Food: A Civil Issue

There's a blog I've been wanting to mention for awhile: Civil Eats. It's a group of bloggers writing about food policy, food culture...they do an amazing job at bringing together the macro and the micro, which is so important when writing about food.

Something I especially appreciate about their efforts is that they include things like class or a spouse's diabetes in their search for a greener lifestyle. As a commenter wrote in to New Dream recently, it's difficult for someone (a senior citizen for example) with mobility issues, lack of transportation, or a limited budget, to follow all the enviro-savvy advice being circulated in the media.

One of the posts, by Andrea King Collier, really struck me:

By the look on her face, I could tell that I boggled her mind. As she asked me for my money, she said, “one day I’m going to be able to feed my kids like that.” She said it in the way that I say, “One day I am going to be an Oprah book club selection,” or “one day the kids are going to move into their own places.” It reminded me that I am one blessed cook.

Another post challenges Michelle Obama to use her status as "Mom-in-Chief" to make children's health, especially access to a nutritious lunch, a priority. As the author, Debra Eschmeyer, says, the healthy meals served to the First Kids at their private school are far more appealing than the ones shoveled onto the trays of public school kids for a government dollar. Of course, change happens slowly, and the fact that some kids are getting a good, hot, organic meal is a good thing. That the USDA pays such a small amount (about $2.50) for free school lunches does go to show, however, how far the tentacles of food policy reach into our daily lives, and thus, that change needs to come from both the top and the bottom at once.

As I wrote recently, greening one's own lifestyle is already hard. Add just one extra challenge--a special diet, limited transportation, being a primary caregiver--and it may end up being that resolution that is left for another day because you don't have any energy left to deal with it. Families that are stretched for time and money are understandably drawn to the fast food restaurant's dollar menu. Even if parents are able to consistently provide home-cooked meals, kids are conditioned to want fast food anyway. And while faulty food policy can be lobbied against, advertising does not have an appointed office.

Those that have the money to support the local, organic, and fair-trade food producers should urge the market in that direction. But environmentalism shouldn't forget the social justice issues that are interwoven with the earth's challenges. Like including local folks in the planning for sustainable farms in Africa. When faced with already complex ecological concerns, it is all too easy to forget about the extra factor that humans add to the equation. If changing human behavior is key to global survival, however, we need to do the complex math required to come up with those equations. Otherwise, any solution offered will falter when put into practice.

Tags: Civil, Class, Economy, Food policy, Social justice

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