As I mentioned in my Blog Post #12 Barbara Kingsolver's book,
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" is one of my favorites. She
talks about the ethics of food and how we can change our relationship to it.
She along with others like Peter Singer, Michael Pollan and the environmental
feminist, Vandana Shiva are calling for a food revolution of sorts to save not
only the planet but also us along with it. Food directly correlates to how race, class and gender intersect
with the food industry, production and land use. I believe that the economics
of food is very political, especially in this country. The food industry is less about
nutrition, farming or sustainable agriculture. It favors the wealthy, white (statistically), land owning
male run corporations who dominate and profit through exploitation of labor and
the land. Those that "have" buy
land to use for the production of food, which is not typically in the countries
where they reside, in order to export food from third world countries (in some
cases) that ironically can't afford to buy the food that they are
producing. The foodstuffs are then
sold to wealthier nations at a profit.
For example The United Fruit Company has a long history of exploiting
the land and the people who live and work for this North American Company. This
is an excerpt of what has been going on most recently (2005) as more and more
attention is given to the unethical business practices of the UFC.
Chiquita agrees to acquire Performance Food Group's Fresh Express division for
$855 million and completed the deal in June 2005. Fresh Express controls 40% of
the American packaged salads market. This operation increases the company's
North American revenue base from 26% to 44%.
Jan: Chiquita announces that 100%
of its Latin American plantations had been certified by independent auditors to
International Labor Standards and the environmental standards of Rainforest
June: Chiquita accuses itself of violations of the European quota
regime. The company starts and investigation on the employees involved in the
case, avoiding a sue from the Europeans due to its voluntary acknowledgement of
the problem. Other companies involved included Del Monte and Dole.
Wal-Mart, Chiquita's biggest customer in the United States, announces a
decrease in its banana purchases. This means a decrease of 33% of Chiquita banana
sales in the U.S. Chiquita blames cheaper bananas from other competitors. June
16: Chiquita says that the problems with Wal-Mart were a result of the
extremely low price demands from the retailer.
July: The presidents of the
main Latin American banana producing countries meet in a summit in San Jose
(Costa Rica) to condemn the existing European quota system as discriminatory
and plea for a WTO intervention."
Our food production practices are forcing the poor and
marginalized into starvation. This
I would argue affects mostly poor women, children and people of color. It has been said that there is plenty
of food to go around. That we
could alleviate starvation in the world if we would change how we use, grow, and
distribute food. This effort
should start at home.
Mark Winne admits that his experience establishing a co-op with
others in a low income community through their hard work, blood, sweat and equity
was problematic for various reasons not the least had to do with the belief
that all people should have access to good, nutritious and inexpensive food in
their own neighborhoods -- no matter where they live.
Instead, as both the Fitchen and Winne articles point out,
people in poor communities spend more on food then do more affluent
neighborhoods because of the lack of transportation and that stores simply will
not invest in certain areas.
Without options what are disproportionately women and children to do?
According to the web site 85% of people that use food shelves
fall below the federal guidelines for poverty.
This web site from the Federal Health and Human Services give
statistics and guidelines for what qualifies as "living in poverty". A lot of
the information comes from the US Census Bureau.
And one more thing on growing your own fruits and veggies. It
would be presumptuous of me to assume that every one has access to a small plot
of dirt to grow even a few tomatoes plants on. Or that community gardening, which is making a come back, is
an option or an interest for people.
However there are ways in which people can benefit from locally grown
food through Community Supported Agriculture projects.
In many cases when you become a member the food is distributed
to a local neighborhood school, church or even the Y for pick up.