image description October 24, 2012

Save America, One Plate at a Time

Save America, One Plate at a Time

Happy Food Day

Today is National Food Day, check out foodday.org presented by Center for Science in the Public Interest. The short, simple essay below was written to give folks who know the least about the issues a solid place to begin their personal revolution. Food security, food production, food consumption, cooking and eating in America is a social justice issue and requires a social movement, the type of effort that made every kid in America tell their dad as they backed out of the driveway, “do you have your seatbelt on?”

Save America, One Plate at a Time

Here is a very simple action step we can take starting today to help solve our national and global food crisis.  I’m a chef, an author, a television show host, but I’m also a dad, and it’s the dad in me that says, “Have a seat. We need to have a serious conversation.”

Over the past year-and-a-half or so I’ve been traveling all over the United States filming Bizarre Foods America. I’ve met amazing people with fantastic stories, and it’s only solidified my belief that we live in the single greatest country in the history of all civilization. And I’ve also seen things happening in our country that just aren’t right. We are heading down a dangerous path. 30 percent of our kids are obese. One in every six people in our country is food insecure. Our food system in America has never been so good for so few, and so bad for so many.

Eating well in America has sadly become a class issue. There are people in our country who don’t have access to high quality, fresh, healthy food. In many cases Americans are too time-poor to prepare food when they do access whole ingredients and the cost of the modern American food lifestyle that you read about in magazines is beyond them. We’ve also badly damaged our food system. It’s been commoditized, grown unsustainably large and mechanized, sped up so much that we’ve entered a danger zone…a toxic level of over production that is untenable environmentally and unsafe from a health/wellness perspective.

If we continue on the path we are on, we are quickly going to find ourselves in bigger trouble. The American diet currently consists mainly of commodity chicken, feedlot beef, factory-raised hogs, and imported or farmed seafood like shrimp, tuna, and salmon. If we continue down this path, producers won’t be able to keep up with the demand, and the system will break beyond repair. Luckily, we haven’t fallen over the precipice yet. We have the power to reverse the trend.

Through my travels, I’ve seen the answer to our problems first hand. Bizarre Foods is an entertainment program, but in every episode and every story we try to convey a serious message:  let’s look at how the rest of the world eats, and let’s see what we can learn from other people to change our food lives for the better.

Rather than argue about right or wrong, or engage in awkward political dialogue that goes nowhere, it just gets louder, how about we all take some responsibility and act as individuals as part of a national social justice movement! We can change our diets so our system automatically self corrects. We can incorporate vegetarian meals in our diets once a week. We can eat alternative proteins like goat and wild game. Instead of farmed imported salmon, try eating small fish, whole, with the heads, and do so seasonally. From mackerel to trout to sardines, weaning ourselves off of the luxury fish makes sense environmentally, ecologically, economically and culturally. By making just these small changes, we will ease the pressure off of those commodity farms, and by voting with our wallets and our mouths we send a large message to all of Big Ag and Big Food. These are small steps we can take to make a big difference. We have the power to change the way we eat in America, one plate at a time.

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