Just last week, I received an email from a gentleman in Saudi Arabia inquiring about opening a Real Food Daily in his country. People in Saudi Arabia want foods that support their health he said. They want organic and vegetarian cuisine. People all over the world understand the effect food choices have on their personal health, the environment and the economy. The revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere in the middle east are in part related to food supply, or lack there of. Economics, quality of life, lack of jobs and a big jump in food costs contributed to the unrest and revolution. Egyptians spend 40% of their income on food, compared to just 12% here in the USA.
Sound familiar? Maybe not the revolution part, at least in your neighborhood, but rising food prices might bring this home for you. Writers like Barry Estabrook, are often writing about how much food costs to get to your plate. Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown is also worried about the global food system and the rising cost of food. Some experts say the jump in food prices is driven by the world’s growing appetite for meat. Raising animals to eat requires lots of cheap grain to feed them. 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger, “but most of the corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens,” as Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times.
Let’s remember that as we cruise the aisles of Whole Foods or the local food co-op, we have so many food choices here. In Southern California, for instance, you can go block by block and find farmer’s market after farmer’s market. Organic is pretty easy to locate around here. Elsewhere, urban farms are springing up, and they sometimes become the cornerstone to rebuilding a community like the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. This means “hope” to me – local efforts by committed people.
But go into the heartland, and organic becomes exotic. Everything is fried. Meat is the “real food” and Vegan is a word that is hard to pronounce. It’s really about education. If people were aware of all the choice they really have, and were aware that the food they choose affects how food is produced for everyone we’d have real change. Food is everything! The economics of food can drive revolutions, and whether our food choices are sustainable or not determine the health of the planet. The choices you make about what you eat can really change things.
I just attended the annual luncheon for the Organic Farming Research Foundation where Philippe Cousteau of Earth Eco International was the keynote speaker. His primary message: As his grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, often reminded the world, we are all connected. He said, “the challenge for all of us is to get society to see the world in a brand new way, everyday.” He spoke directly to the food revolution we are all a part of. His message to the organic community, whom he was addressing, was we must embrace “seeing is believing” and continue to broaden the vision of what’s possible with organic agriculture, even in the face of daunting challenges. “The stresses on natural resources are becoming more and more serious, he said. We’ll have to increase food production by 70 percent or three billion people will go hungry by 2050.”
Numbers like this are pretty staggering. All the better reason to take a look at what you are eating and know that your choices do make a difference. Bumper stickers like ‘vote with your forks’ make good sense. In the photo: Ann Gentry with Philippe Cousteau.