I was thinking about Buckminster Fuller, dedicating his life to help humanity. I was really seriously thinking about this. I wanted to do it. I wanted to seriously consider it and then do it and not take it back. Then soon after this, I went to my friend’s (liberal not Fundy) Presbyterian church and the message was about feeding the hungry. After church we had a luncheon and watched a DVD about how to end Childhood hunger in America. It was called A Place at the Table, and it explained how hunger and obesity are related. Because of the US system of Farm subsidies, corn, wheat and soy are really cheap and so food companies use these commodities to make lots of junk food. The subsidies were created for family farmers recovering from the depression, but now huge agribusinesses get 70% of it. Vegetables and fruit are smaller operations and don’t get many subsidies and so fruits and vegetables have gone way up and commodities have gone way down. Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics, is quoted in the Movie:
The Department of Commerce reports that the indexed price of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased by 40% since 1980, whereas the indexed price of sodas has declined by about 30%. Fast food, snacks, and sodas are cheap. Fruits and vegetables are not.
I learned that because of this, obesity and hunger are not always at opposite ends of the spectrum but are actually intimately connected.
Basically poor people can only afford junk food. foodstamp benefits only provide about $3.00 a day. Everyone needs at least 2,000 calories a day. A few dollars can buy plenty of soda pop and processed foods but very few fruits and vegetables. So even though America’s poor(including the working poor) are often hungry they also suffer from obesity and complications associated with that such as diabetes. A kid eating a poor diet my be normal height and overweight but his brain development may suffer. So kids are developing more and more learning disabilities and developmental delays. The movie didn’t even go into GMO’s. But I am sure poor people are eating more than there share of GMO’s.
A staggering 50% of American children at some point in their lives rely on federal food assistance programs such as school lunch. Funding allocated to the school lunch program has not increased since the seventies. After overhead and administration costs are removed most public schools report they have a budget of about $.90 to $1.00 per meal. The movie portrayed the passing of a Bill in congress to improve the nutritional content of the School lunch program. The Bill was called The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act
President Obama supported the bill and wanted to take the money out of Farm subsidies to the largest fat cat land holders. The agribusiness lobby’s fought this and so half the money to increase funding school lunches came out of de-funding the Food Stamp Program.
So really this current system of Agricultural policy is at odds with children in America getting adequate nutrition. Its really ridiculous that these huge Agri-businesses need these subsidies, this welfare. They aren’t struggling. These aren’t poor farmers. These are huge corporations run by corporate executives. I did some research of my own to ascertain just who is it that gets the Lion’s share of these Farm subsidies. From this database I learned that the largest recipients of Farm subsidies are two private corporations, both Based in Stutgart, Arkansas called Riceland Foods and Producers Rice Mill. Between 1995 and 2012 Riceland Foods recieved $554,343,039 in subsidies. Producer’s Rice Mill received $314,028,012. I would be curious to learn if these two private companies had interlocking directorates. The CEO of Riceland Foods is Karl Daniel Kennedy a 16 year veteran of Monsanto corporation.
I was able to find a couple interesting charts. Here are the contributions to Political Candidates by Riceland Foods and the amount of money they received. I was able to briefly cross reference some of these names with a Page on the Maplight Website “revealing money’s influence on politics” that covered the vote and how each member of congress voted and how much PAC money they have received by lobbying groups opposed to the bill. Many members of congress, such as Michelle Bachmann, who received half a million dollars, appear to be paid NOT to vote.
Big Ag spends more many on Lobbying that any other interest Group besides Oil and Gas. These people are basically liars literally taking food out of the mouths of hungry children.
I see two different approaches to this problem:
1. The libertarian approach: Cut this corporate welfare and let the Market decide the price of food. This should result in making poisonous junk food far less profitable. It should eventually disappear. I am unsure if this approach would make healthy food cheaper however.
2. The socialist/liberal democrat approach: De-fund farm subsidies to Big Ag growing ceral grains and give it to organic farmers growing fruits and vegetables, and also school lunch programs and the food stamp programs.
I have to say number 2. bothers me, as a permanent solution for the fact that Food stamps and school lunch are band aid solutions. Hand outs don’t give people a sense of personal autonomy. I would like to see more communities providing food for themselves through CSA’s and community gardens and family farms selling fresh produce in Farmer’s markets. I would like to see more farms in community centers in urban areas. Food stamp benefits in food deserts isn’t going to improve nutrition. It will go to canned foods and processed foods because fresh produce is not available.
I think there should be targeted spending of tax money for these things to be developed. Grants to purchase vacant lots for CSA’s and community Gardens. I think non-profit organizations can help in this way also. I don’t have a lot of faith in government but maybe that is why the fat cats have taken over and are pigging out on the trough while everyone is asleep at the wheel. People are paying taxes and most of it is going to the rich. I can argue about getting rid of the IRS all day, but while it exists tax money is being shunted to Monsanto while children starve and develop brain damage.
There is a stigma against welfare to the poor but for some reason no stigma for the welfare to the rich. I can only conclude that people are simply not educated about this. Would the average taxpayer have their tax money go to a rich corporation rather than a hungry child? I tend to think not.
Other related issues are that wages are too low, and medical and housing costs are too high. Parents are often working three jobs and still relying on food banks to feed their children. There is something wrong with this system.
I have faith that the average person has enough goodness in them that if they were simply educated on the facts that they would make the right choice. These Big Agribusiness lobbies rely on obfuscation of the facts. The fact is huge banks and huge corporations don’t need welfare. Normal people (temporarily) do, especially children.
I would like to see our culture change. I would like to see more ordinary people involved in small scale food production. I think that would give them food security. This gives people in other countries food security. Its a cultural thing, that it our culture has been lost. Years ago for example, when I was a small child, living in Rhode Island I noticed many Portuguese and Italian immigrants had amazing back yard gardens. They grew delicious, nutritious food. As generations passed, it became less convenient for their kids and grandkids to continue these practices. These gardening skills were lost.
The US has the worst food insecurity problem of any advanced nation. The culture of small scale food production has not been lost in Europe. In European towns there are lots of gardens and rooftop chicken coops. Russians survived the fall of the Soviet Union partly due to their little family garden plots.
Lost cultural knowledge in America needs to be regained. People need to be re-acquainted with food production. We cannot rely on huge Agribusinesss and Factory Farms to produce our food, they had their chance and they screwed it up royally. They are only interested in accumulating massive wealth and producing toxic waste and poison. As a culture we gave our power away to these monsters. We need to take it back!
After watching this video, I realized that I was uniquely poised to make a difference. I am working this summer as a WWOOFer, working 20 hours a week on a small organic homestead, growing vegetables and raising chickens, in exchange for room and board. My boss Star Livingstone and her husband are building a classroom to offer classes to people in the local community to raise their own food. The area of Upstate NY, in which we live is actually a food desert, where many people have to travel an hour away to buy food, or otherwise content themselves with mini mart fare. More and more people in the community are growing and raising food in backyard gardens, but they need help. This is a challenging area in which to grow food, with often less than 90 days of warm sunny weather a year. Star has a wealth of knowledge and over 20 years experience as an organic Gardener in this region.
If you’d like to become more informed about the issues I’ve discussed then “A Place at the Table” is a good place to start. Here’s the trailer: