Food Industry Impacts Personal & Planetary Health

I just watched again the powerful documentary “Food, Inc.”, which looks at the food industry’s detrimental effects on human health and the environment, as well as on worker safety, immigrant rights, and the livelihood of the American farmer. After viewing this film, I’m guessing that you will never think about meat, especially ground meat and fast food burgers, in the same way. Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto), along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, this is an important film, and one well worth viewing more than once.

Along with the very real concerns raised in the film about our own food choices and their effect on the food system, the film producers also offer a variety of resources for those of us who wish to learn more and/or take actions to promote a safer, healthier, and more ecologically balanced food system. Here are some suggestions from their film’s website

Find organic, local foods. Find locally grown produce, Community Supported Agriculture programs, and even great organic restaurants with the Eat Well Guide. Type in your zip code and find out what’s in season near you. Find out more at

Factory Farming. Nearly all of the approximately 10 billion animals raised and killed in the US annually suffer inhumane conditions at industrial farms. Not to mention the workers and surrounding communities that are affected by the unsafe conditions. Find out more at

Pesticides. Cancers, autism and neurological disorders have all been associated with the use of pesticides. Learn about what pesticides are in your food and their effects. Find out more at

Environmental Impact. Did you know that the average food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store? And that transporting food accounts for 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year? Find out more at

You can download a free community action guide titled “Ingredients for Change”. You can also host a screening of the film followed by a discussion HERE . The website provides discussion questions and additional information.

I especially appreciated organic farmer Joel Salatin’s comment in the film, “Everything we’ve done in modern industrial agriculture is to grow it faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper. … Imagine what it would be if as a national policy we said we would be only successful if we had fewer people going to the hospital next year than last year. How ’bout that for success? The idea then would be to have such nutritionally dense unadulterated food that people who ate it actually felt better, had more energy, and weren’t sick as much. You know, now see that’s a noble goal.”

And speaking of healthy food, purchasing locally, and enjoying good home-prepared recipes with friends and family, try Roasted Delicata Squash with Black Rice, Cherries, & Pistachios. This beautiful multi-colored dish is rich in plant protectors and fiber, and features seasonal Delicata squash, along with fresh onions, celery, and parsley available at your local farmers market. It’s a perfect dish to share with friends at a holiday potluck.

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