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Food for Change

Hey Darlings – it’s Carissa. I’ve been looking a lot at the system of it all – businesses and business practices in America, economic standings and inequalities of neighborhoods and so forth. I wouldn’t say I completely understand it but I get the basic ideas. I have been noticing that a lot of change and issues are rooted in FOOD and FOOD SYSTEMS.

 America has this thing called capitalism; technically the definition is: “An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.” Capitalism is what sets America apart from many other countries, the idea that one can pull oneself up by their bootstraps and that anyone can excel from any economic class or background. Now, you may be wondering about the relationship between food and capitalism. Well, they’re very connected.

Capitalism has its pros and cons.  For example, capitalism causes competition amongst companies and the marketplace.  The most important things for these companies are a high profit as well as mass production. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a good thing for neighborhoods or consumers. Small business owners are constantly stepped on by these huge companies and –at times- barely stand a chance of succeeding in their own neighborhoods. Consumers looking to save some money, purchase goods that – if eaten frequently – will lead to drastically negative effects on their bodies and all around health.

Let’s take fast food companies for example; they sell more and more burgers and fries to increase their profits. We see ads and marketing for what’s nowhere near good for us, but we buy it because it’s widely advertised to be “cheaper” and more widely available than competitor’s products. Let’s face it - yes, they have some “healthier” options – although a salad with dressing and cheese has more calories than a burger- but their money makers are still the most unhealthy things on the menu. All this occurs while the little lady from across the street tries to open a soul food restaurant that is made with love and quality healthy ingredients in mind. But she doesn’t have a Dollar Menu, so guess where the consumers go?

America is all about the economics of things. It seems like now the American Dream is simply a desire to make more money and step on whoever it takes to get to the top- regardless of moral correctness. America has become a place where corporations use the bottom line as a means of selling unhealthy merchandise to consumers at the expense of dynamic vibrant neighborhoods and the consumer’s health.

I am frustrated that the little old lady hardly stands a chance at economic success. The “little guy” buys cheaper food thinking that he’s going to eat something that is somewhat healthy for him at a more affordable price. He goes to the fast food stores because it is repeatedly marketed to him as being convenient and “cool”. Yet, what he is eventually left with is a constantly growing waistline with a side of  diabetes and heart disease! The neighborhood is left with a little old lady down the street who is wondering how she’s going to compete with a fast food company that spent $768.6 million in advertising in 2011 alone?  

But you see, that’s where we “little people”, working as a group, come in. A small way to make a difference is to buy local whenever possible, (eg. Farmers’ Markets, Mom and Pop shops, smaller restaurants, etc.). Consumers can choose which companies to patronize and which ones to ignore. We can make a difference in our own health and the overall way our cities look. Food can act as a change agent in reforming our communities for the better! Politics and Food has had an ongoing connection, from the Black Panthers first free breakfast program to The Greensboro sit-ins; from the Gandhi Salt march to the Food Not Bombs movement. These are only a few examples that show food as a change agent, it can be done.

Spread the word and SHIFTDemand!

Carissa McCann, SHIFT Crew Leader

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