Friday, April 15, 2011

"King Corn" and food for thought

I'm most of the way through watching "King Corn", a documentary made by (among others) an Arbor grad named Curt Ellis (I taught his niece and nephew, by the way!). It's a pretty eye-opening look at how much corn dominates our daily lives. It also made me sad to see the way that cattle are raised for the slaughter nowadays on giant feed lots. All they do is eat. They don't really move much, just eat corn. Made me not really want to eat hamburgers and such. Most foods are processed with some kind of high fructose corn syrup. Almost everything, in fact.
So where does that leave me? I don't really want to be part of that, but the thing is that healthy food--food that is not very processed or is not GMO or pumped full of antibiotics, etc.--is really expensive. Whole Foods isn't nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" for nothing. New Seasons (a similar type of store around here) is just really expensive. Winco, on the other hand, is cheap...and the Winco cast-offs I get at the Gleaners store are even cheaper. The cheaper the food, the less healthy it is. I used to wonder why so many low-income people were overweight. I had grown up imagining that poor people couldn't pay for food and would thus starve. That's true in much of the world, but here, it seems that many of the poor are overweight, and dangerously so. When I asked my mom (I was probably 10 or so) she explained that a lot of the cheapest food is the least good for you. Back in the summer of 2008, the height of the recession, I was between jobs. I had no money coming in and had to find a way to eke it out until I got my first paycheck from Catlin. I shopped at the local Shop and Save. It had very cheap food, alright. I could get a box of macaroni and cheese for a quarter. Healthy? Definitely not. But it was cheap, and cheap was what I needed. The produce there was pitiful. It didn't even look appealing. It was mostly a food-in-a-box kind of place. They had a gimmick where they would buy those red plastic gasoline cans and cut them open and fill them with meal ingredients. "Feed your family for less than a gallon of gas!" they proclaimed. That was a good sales pitch! Gas prices were high and incomes were low, so why wouldn't you do that? It just makes economic sense.
Well, here we are now. It's 2011, the recession is (supposedly) starting to ease up, and my little family is comparatively in the money. Both Allen and I are working, so we're bringing in more. But are we making enough more that I could shop at New Seasons without making a serious dent? No way. Even if I just bought the organic foods from Fred Meyer, it would still be too spendy. Gleaners is the way to go for our budget, even on a double working income. I think of some of our church friends who have pretty high powered jobs. Those are the ones who can stock their pantries with New Seasons stuff. Of course, the other alternative is to eat a way more simple diet: vegetarian, mostly. For the past 5 weeks, we've been observing Lent. I have been abstaining from flour, Allen from meat. That cuts back a lot on the processed foods, but it's also been particularly hard for Allen. He's active and has a high metabolism. He craves protein, and beans just aren't satisfying to him. He likes lunch meat and chicken (we actually don't eat that much red meat). I have a feeling that after Easter he'll want to return to that. I don't eat that much meat, anyway. I could probably be vegetarian and be okay with it 90% of the time. But bread is definitely habit-forming. I've been eating rice cakes instead, which are okay but definitely not filling.
Ruby's getting to an age where she'll start eating more "table foods." We have to decide what those will be. Ideally, I'd only have really high quality stuff on the table. But until we start earning high quality money, I don't see that happening so much. An interesting conundrum...
I'll finish the movie later, but for now, it's time for bed. I'm sick and I need some rest to recuperate!

3 comments:

  1. I've found that fruit is a pretty good investment, as far as healthy eating for cheap goes. Per pound, bananas are insanely cheap year-round, and in season, you can get a pound of apples for like $1.19.

    Still, it takes more than fruit to make the world go round. I feel where you're coming from.

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  2. Forgot to mention - I saw my cousin Jon Nye over the weekend, and apparently the producer of that same documentary was on The Daily Show recently. Jon Nye was telling me about how he'd heard about the outrageous corn content of all of our food, and as he was reading the ingredients list on his cereal one day, he started singing this funk groove: "Gotta get that corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup. Gotta get that corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup."

    I guess it's less funny when it's just typed words on a webpage, but maybe you can imagine.

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  3. Fruit is good, but then you get into the whole "AHHHHH EAT LOCAL" thing. Bananas!? Not native to Portland! Apples, yes...we're close to Washington. And then, oh my groodness, they have to be ORGANIC!!!!
    I also wonder what the proper Christ-following thing to do about all of this is: money, justice, not buying cheap when cheap means you're profitting from the abuse of laborers elsewhere...and then realizing how much that rules out.

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