The irony was overwhelming. I walked into a popular fast food restaurant to use the facilities while traveling. It was a small town in Kansas surrounded by lush, fertile farmland. I immediately noticed that almost every person in the place was overweight.
The crowd was not dining on fresh fruits and vegetables full of rich nutrients, fiber and life. Instead, people were munching on highly processed chicken nuggets, deep friend potatoes, soda, and Big Macs made with standardized ingredients shipped from thousands of miles away.
The contrast between the surrounding land and the sight in the restaurant was jolting.
I can imagine the diet-related diseases many in the place struggle with: heart disease, diabetes, diverticulitis, gout and who knows what?
We have bought the lie. We have traded the goodness and power of a juicy strawberry and lush, alive salad for fast, cheap comfort food with a long shelf life.
The conventional American diet consists primarily of corn, white flower, sugar and mass-produced meat.
I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about our food. I’ve found it shocking to realize most of it is controlled by a handful of multi-national agro-conglomerates.
As I drove further, I landed in the city of my birth in the heart of the American Midwest: Iowa. I passed miles and miles of growing fields.
Instead of crop diversity that encourages a balanced ecosystem, the fields have two crops that are rotated endlessly: corn and soybeans. Farmers are forced to buy hybrid and GMO seed from big corporations and get sued if they try to save any seed for replanting. They grow “Roundup-ready” seeds that won’t die when the weeds are sprayed with chemicals. That’s a scary thought.
It’s hardly the scene that greeted my great-grandfather who landed here a hundred years ago.
Today, chickens are stuffed by the thousands into metal buildings where farmers carry all the expense (and risk) and other companies own the birds (and most of the profits). They go from egg to market with genetically modified oversized breasts in 6 weeks. It’s because we want cheap chicken nuggets.
I like affordable food as much as the next person. But my ethics are causing me to rethink the dollar menu.
Adam and Eve chose the one tree (over likely thousands or millions of others) in the Garden of Eden that appealed to their pleasures. Faust sold his soul to the devil to satisfy his indulgences. We sold our bodies to an industry looking for maximum profits.
Many people are questioning the current system.
The local food movement is gaining ground. people are planning urban gardens and choosing to buy from farmer’s markets and natural grocers.
I’m grateful to live in a prosperous country with an abundance of food. However, it seems like we’ve gone too far.
If we fail to question the status quo, we become a victim of it. How about we educate ourselves and rethink the system?
Here are some documentaries that I highly recommend. I found most of them on Netflix. It’s worth educating ourselves on the stuff that fuels our bodies. It is not only a matter of life and death, but of the ability to live a long and healthy life.
- Food Inc.
- Farmegeddon: The unseen warm on American family farms
- Forks Over Knives
- Hungry For Change
- Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
- Super Size Me: A film of epic proportions
- King Corn: You are what you eat
- Killer At Large: Why obesity is America’s greatest threat
Original image by 11-year-old Sophie Vaughan (created on her iPad)