Monday, November 17, 2014

Changing the Food Movement Means More Than Just Changing Food.

     I just finished reading a review of the foodie vs. farmers war meeting organized by the NY times. Some want to call it elitist, ($1400 to attend) and focused on organic foods and sustainability.
The restarant on the grounds has a tasting menu priced at $198. They are concerned that junk food is being targeted at children, setting up a pattern of food intake that wrecks our health forever.
The current state of farming was the target of much discussion and derision.
    I recently have been getting schooled on poverty and food insecurity. A recent seminar on poverty was eye opening. Some elementary schools in my area provide free or reduced meals for up to 90% of their students. The school district I live in provides free/reduced cost meals to nearly 10,000 students, almost 40% of the total enrollment. My church provides Thanksgiving meals the families from one area elementary school. Not a huge school, but we will sent 275 family sized meals home with the kids from this school. One comment last year received last year was," thank you, but you don't understand, we can eat for almost a week on what you brought us today."
Last January my wife and I took in some kids through a program called Safe Families. First we hosted a couple of toddlers, children of a single mom, secondly we hosted a brother and sister while mom does some couch hopping, trying to figure out housing.
These kids look at food way different than we do. For the first two months with our toddlers, they devoured quantities that amazed me. I didn't quite know what to make of that. It took almost three months before they started to turn up their nose at any thing. Our most recent hosting the kids ate like food might not be there again. But then would waste food like it had no value. Junk food was the norm. But it's starting to make some sense. When you are homeless or broke, a pantry is a luxury. They showed up with a grocery bag that held all of their groceries. Meal planning is hard if you don't have a kitchen. Or a pan big enough to cook a meal in if you do have a kitchen. You might have a microwave, but no table and chairs. If I'm hungry today, I'm eating today.
I know that some of these problems are driven by poor decisions. I get that. I really do. But we are making decisions for children who had no hand in causing their problem.
    So how are we supposed to tell them how the "system of food" is supposed to work when we don't understand why they make the choices they make? Let me further jump into the politics fray, but saying now we are going to even more limit calories for school kids because "we" know what's making them fat?
Michael Pollan made his mark on the world by saying the food system is broken. Maybe he should try to understand why people, especially the poor the rest of the world, eat differently than he does.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Competition and One-Upsmanship

I came across an interesting article today thanks to my friend Dairy Carrie.
John Lancaster wrote a piece for the New Yorker called," A Foodie Repents."
This is the link.
In the article John talks about how much of the food movement is based on insecurity of who we are, and the thought of being able to reinvent ourselves through food.
He makes a lot of good points, but a think he missed the biggest one.
For some reason we as humans need to outdo the next guy. Bigger, better, faster, stronger.
Tractor pulls came to the public in the 70's. Today pulling tractors can have jet engines.
Someone invents a pogo stick and someone tries to cross the country on it.
Every wedding proposal is better than the last. If you love you, the proposal needs to be an event.
A bride wants her wedding to be the event everyone is talking about. Quote,"I'm going to have penquins at my wedding. And I need more bling on my dress." (A real quote, and $10,000 more bling)
There's even a thing called mommy shaming. "I'm a better mom than you are because I only use an all-organic diaper service to wash my organic cotton reusable diapers."
As disposable incomes have gone up, more money has gone into the eating experience. 
It used to be supper, today it's an eating experience.
Don't get me wrong, I love people that are passionate about their craft, and that includes chefs, but sometimes the passion can become a win at all costs passion.
"I care more than you do, more than you possibly could."
I don't know what the answer is, but I know we in animal ag need to respond.
One concrete thing we can do is to let people know who we are. We can no longer be a faceless crowd that is easy to attack whenever someone has an axe to grind.
That means putting ourselves out there. Letting folks see us, and in today's world, good or bad, that means social media.