Let Food be thy Medicine
(and fix a tonne of other things too)
The Food Connection
The production of food is a great past time, it allows us to connect to nature and become more aware of where our food comes from. Local food is a rising shift in food culture. Urban agriculture is on the rise in cities across the world. Growing food near to where we live is something that people have been doing since we started living in the same place. When we diversify the sources of our food consumption, have the opportunity to eat better. When we supplement what we normally buy with locally produced agriculture, we only need to import what doesn’t grow: in your backyard, your neighbourhood, or local farmers market.
The latter point is the linchpin for whole system change. Supporting local farmers, makes cost less of a barrier when we fully embrace it. Farmers, if connected enough with their local consumer base, can service their demands instead of bulk commodity crop trading. Farmers can and are more likely to experiment with more crops that cater to the community and fill the gap that imports make when they are supported enough by the local community. This ensures food security in a time when transportation networks and fuel costs are the more expensive part of our grocery bills. The cost of global food production can only lower to a fixed cost, as labour can only get so low (or corporate take, as I will mention slave farming). Fuel is the defining cost measure, and even with technological advantages that lower price, it will always be more expensive than local farmers with a large local customer base. Local farmers have access to the same tech and are selling directly to the local public. If farmers coordinate crops between farms to meet local needs, they can mitigate the costs of labour, which hampers their local market saturation. This makes the price of produce comparable if we re-shift our focus: to care about what we eat and where it comes from. Not caring only allows corporations to continue the trend of monocropping and exploitative labour practices. Corporations then seek to mitigate the real cost of food and manipulate our ideas of what food should cost through the use of human and natural exploitation, often financed on social credit and government incentives. Farming slavery affects countries far from our perspective (in the West) and only gets reported on when they are exposed. This happens so far from us because corporations can move to areas with far less government oversight then where they sell the harvest, only stopping the practice when they get “caught” not noticing, the flagrant cost, differential as anything more than a profit margin.
This, plus the environmentally terrible business practice of monocropping, is propped up by governments subsidizing the cost of food. They do this to ensure “food security” for their populations, but in reality only help the few large corporations that own all the smaller farming operations and buy the crops at wholesale, turning it almost into a trade commodity. (staple foods like rice, wheat, corn etc are considered commodities) The real issue is: why should our taxes lower our food cost, when local choices can do a better job of supporting our local economy and making living more affordable to a wider range of people? Its the multinational mentality of food policy, that doesn’t make food more secure; it makes it deadly, environmentally costly and a burden on our collective wallets in a twice hit cost scheme. (taxes and food cost) Choosing local agriculture means actual quality, accountablility and security.
This trend of connecting to farmers and urban agriculture in general; offers new business opportunities to produce what was formerly shipped in, making it easier for restaurants to produce local dishes and people to access it as an alternative when they don’t grow it themselves. ‘Closed loop’ farming systems can see even aquaculture incorporated into local production as well as heat conservation, which makes a wider range of indoor crop options available all year round. The healthy diets are most commonly associated to healthy choices for our meals. Connecting choice to options is the fundamental gap that needs to be addressed and urban agriculture makes the local leap to accessibility.
What you Eat, Reflects how you Feel
Studies have shown that unhealthy, high fat, high sugar foods are like a drug. We crave them because they are so different from what we find in nature. Sugar is a rare thing, and since we moved away from hunting and gathering, we’ve made it far easier to attain. Sure this is a great thing; I love jelly beans, and those don’t grow on trees. This abundance has also had a terrible effect on our health. Sugar abundance needs to be addressed if we are going to enjoy the 40+ years we added to our lives, from when we were collectively sharing the few sweet berries that we had gathered in a forest as our bodies evolved and settled. Another issue associated with our changing food habits is an increase in “excess” diseases. Before we introduced new processed foods into our systems, both our culture and our bodies, we just weren’t dying as numerously from these conditions: High blood pressure, heart disease, type two diabetes and hypertension have all increased with the ease of heavily processed food and cheap prepared meals coupled with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. This has, by consequence, lead us to an earlier decline in mobility and life quality.
In most cases, the reason that we feel bad after eating “bad” food is that when we routinely eat these types of food, it “maxes” out our storage capacity for fats and excess calories, so our bodies have to do more work to internally process it. With the high calories of unhealthy food, it can make our mobility and digestion even more strained. Our bodies are counting calories even if we aren’t. Regularly eating healthy foods makes it easier for us to feel good. Our systems are less taxed as healthy foods tend to have more enriching and useful calories. Fixing our diets and becoming healthier can lower the healthcare costs in social democracies with free healthcare, as the use of resources for easily avoidable “excess” conditions is eliminated from our plates, not our hospitals. In Canada, the cost of treating obesity and related conditions totalled 4.6 billion dollars in 2008 alone
Our food choices can be altered to fix this shift, when we reincorporate home cooked meals or just more nutritionally balanced food.
A large part of the shift is making eating healthy easier for people and local food production accessible means of employment. This rise in the industry allows for local job creation and more food choice options at hand. This shift in trend is more than an opportunity to create new jobs but to create new interconnected groups for more health conscience decision making, ethical farming practice and environmentally sustainable land use patterns.
Change isn’t always a huge deal.
The pivotal change that we need to embrace is in two areas: our backyards and our neighbourhoods. Community gardening offers us an opportunity to change the world by lowering the transportation of our food, increasing the freshness and, most importantly, reducing the cost. Many people say “eating healthy is expensive,” but when we grow our own food, the price is pennies in comparison. Organizing the labour and creating community-operated food co-ops lowers the cost while interconnecting various cultures and people: we gather our diverse communities with the common denominator of life, food. This becomes a new chance to try different vegetables and learn how others make them while sharing your favourite recipes.
In a world where we constantly segment ourselves to our “own”, sharing food with “others” helps us see the similarity of our common humanity.
It can be hard to garden on your own, gathering makes hard work light while connecting and creating community. The trend of urban agriculture makes it easier for the choice to be less of a hassle and more of a simple change in our day to day lives. We can see local recipe swapping influenced and enhanced by chefs and culinary trendsetters; They are and have been actively pushing better ingredients and farm to table practices. The potential to increase our connection to the food chain is a way we can better understand each other while eating better. This improves our physical health and our social health by becoming more commonly connected communities.
….Food fixes everything.
A real-world conversation that echoes the ideas about corporate agriculture, productivity and local-oriented markets are all covered in this article from The Guardian about African farming and production.