Written by CORO Fellow Mykia Long on January 31, 2010.
As Franktuary works towards its mission “redeeming fast food one frankfurter at a time”, I’m on my own journey of discovering the importance of healthy eating and living. But I must say, I feel entitled to some overwhelming responsibilities since I’m learning so much about the manufacturing of foods consumed by so many Americans. Should I?
Let’s face it. Americans eat more than many other nationalities and much of our processed food is unhealthy; this contributes to the current obesity epidemic. Recent statistics show that up to 66% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese. These weight trends are even more pronounced among African Americans with 60% of African American men and 78% of African American women identified as overweight. (SOURCE: Netwellness.org)
As a Black woman from a lower class family, I can certainly understand the challenges of cultural and environmental influences on an individual’s diet. The availability, convenience, and cost of food plays a crucial role in a person’s health, as well as the eating habits we’re taught as children. The struggle continues on how to make nutrition a top priority, culturally and personally. Where do you start?
Through a light cloud of skepticism, I’m reading Michael Pollan’s #1 New York Times Bestseller The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I don’t doubt the fact that America is suffering from a national eating disorder, nor the despicable conspiracies between modern warfare and industrial agriculture. But the conflicts between the economical and biological logic of the production of such harmful products leave me with an overwhelming angst. Are these commercial food vendors really that greedy? How am I supposed to avoid all that Pollan claims is bad?? What do I do with all this knowledge now???
A trip to Garfield Community Farm provided some clarity on how I can serve as a valuable resource on my new-found journey. The neighborhood of Garfield in east Pittsburgh is over 80% Black and even with the emergence of residential developments and art initiatives, the low-income neighborhood still suffers from drugs, crime, and students falling behind on national tests. John Creasy and Kelly Dee lead the Garfield Community Farm and its mission is “to learn, teach and practice organic gardening and farming in the places that have been neglected and abandoned in and with the neighborhood of Garfield”.
This organization provides organic foods for the Garfield community at prices much cheaper than the closest grocers; but local families aren’t flocking to this accessible and affordable alternative. I plan to work with this organization with community education and see how I can use this knowledge and fulfill my moral responsibilities. However, I do understand that the logic behind this outcome goes far beyond the scope of eating healthy and supporting sustainable food practices, trust me. And it isn’t just Garfield; families across the nation are contributing to the unhealthy side of the food industry.
This example is a microcosm of a larger issue: our nation’s values don’t support healthy eating or a healthy planet. Efficiency, convenience, and a low price all trump biological wellness, from the industrial farmers with corn-fed cattle to the 13-year old boy in Garfield having Cheetos and pop for lunch. It has to stop somewhere…
We need an intervention.