July 02, 2009

Food Inc.

The following is an open letter to Robert Kenner, director & producer of Food Inc.

Dear Mr. Kenner,
Thank You for your new film: Food Inc. It is a masterpiece of reporting and exposure of some of the darkest secrets in our nation. (As Jon Stewart said in his interview of you: It's the Abu Ghraib of our food industry.) We have an industrialized food network superstructure (farming, cattle, hogs, chickens, food production, packaging, distribution, sales, marketing, end user consumption) which has become "too big to fail."

This interwoven food system mimics the inter-dependent, global network of financial institutions which were "too big to fail", but they did. The failure of our bankers, rating agencies, government regulators, etc. etc. created havoc, pain, misery, major disruption in people's lives. This disruption was no worse than what some "terrorist" organization could have done to the core of American lives. Obama's administration has set about to alter the playing field of the financial game so that it never again allows AIG monsters which are "too big to fail."

But, apparently no one is stopping the insanity of an industrialized food system which is "too big to fail." And when THIS system fails, it will leave not "just" havoc, homelessness and major life disruption, it will leave the DEATH of thousands of Americans. What's to stop another e. coli outbreak from killing "only" dozens of infants, children and the immune suppressed, not thousands?

Actually, our industrialized food system has ALREADY failed, as evidenced by the epidemics of
obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gastro-intestinal disorders, and arthritis left in its
wake. With David Kessler's recent book: The End of Overeating, there is no longer doubt about the food industry's manipulation which creates overconsumption. Kessler joins a long list of writers (Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollen, Marion Nestle, Jane Brody, Frances Moore Lappe, Hank Cardello, Doug Garr, Alice Waters, etc.) who have attempted to address the dangers of our current "to big to fail" system. Additionally, there are hundreds, if not thousands of research articles pointing to the disease causing footprint of our food.

Conveniently, after we've become sick from eating our overly refined, processed "food", the boys at Big Pharma step in to sell us, with ever increasing TV and all media advertising, their nostrums, which don't actually cure, but just decrease the pain and suffering caused by industrialized food.

Eating poorly is interwoven into the very fabric and core of current mainstream media, and life. From commercials for food which creates disease, aimed at every age group, to the food provided in our schools, and the lack of time to actually eat this food (ha! no time to eat even highly processed food), which serve as powerful models of eating which creates disease. And
there's the Burger King Don't Bother Me, I'm Eating Man (or sexy woman). Hell, didn't we learn from the Marlborough Man???? Even "left wing" on-line media, such as Huffington Post has ads from McDonalds and Pizza Hut. Duh. Get on it folks, this is TRULY THE STORY about health care reform. Robert Kenner connected the dots for everyone to see.

The constant refrain repeated by each and every one of the food producers interviewed in Food Inc. was: "We are so very good at using/combining science, technology, and engineering [one even processor wistfully said he was truly an engineer] to create profits."

I spent 25 years of my life working as a registered dietitian attempting to un-do the pain and trauma of over consumption of industrialized food. There was no support for my work from the health insurance industry which doesn't honor (reimburse) the need for nutrition counseling (not even for diseases which can ONLY be resolved with such counseling, e.g. Celiac Sprue), nor from the government's MediCare or MediCaid systems. I was not only providing PREVENTION of disease, my work was part and parcel of the TREATMENT of the disease. Physicians too are not supported to provide nutrition guidance; the reimbursement process doesn't recognize "advice" (again this advice is treatment, not just prevention) as worthy of reimbursement.
In fact there is no societal/structural support for truly changing what people eat. Despite all of the calls to "eat more fruit and vegetables," "eat less red meat and saturated fats," "eat less trans fats," "eat less sugar and salt," "eat whole grains"; the individuals with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, gastro-intestinal suffering, etc. are left to fend for themselves. As are the pre-morbid, pre-disease overweight/obese Americans who are walking timebombs. Presently the food which creates health is costly, less convenient, and difficult to find. (Try eating well when traveling!)

Until we give more than superficial lip service to change of diet, our food borne disease outbreaks and epidemics will only get worse. Food Inc. ended with a call to "buy organic, shop local produce, cook more," as SOME solutions to this crisis of health. I say this will NOT solve the problem and does not go far enough. The poor, the most vulnerable CANNOT afford organic, local produce at present prices. Unless their needs are part and parcel of the solution, then "eating well" will continue to be the privilege of the wealthy.

I call for: Subsidies for ALL PRODUCE (fruit, vegetables) so that a mother doesn't have to pay $2.50 for a pound of apples, and $2.00 for a bunch of broccoli. For years, my motto has been: "All produce, 50 cents a pound!" Take the present subsidies for corn and soy, and give them to the fruit and vegetable growers in the land. In addition to these fruit, vegetable subsidies, call for the restaurant/fast food industry to price their fruit and vegetable offerings BELOW the cost of their cheapest itemw.

I call for: An FDA mandate to all commercial bakeries and fast food restaurant bakery producers to substitute at least 40% whole wheat flour for refined, enriched white flour. In 1998 the FDA mandated that all refined, enriched white flour be fortifies with folic acid. This was to decrease the incidence of Spina Bifida (a neural tube defect), which in fact has decreased. The FDA is empowered to act for the benefit of the greatest number Americans. The addition of whole grain wheat to our present refined flours will help ameliorate heart disease and gastro-intestinal suffering.

I call for: Taxation of food which clearly promotes disease: trans fats, saturated fats, products which derive >50% of their calories from added sugars, and products made from 100% refined, enriched white flour.

I call for: Taxation of food producers and farming methods which contribute to water, soil and air pollution. Methane, the gas produced by our cows and cattle, contributes a full 18% to greenhouse gases. Stonyfield Farms in Vermont is showing the world how to decrease cow methane production, by (duh!) feeding cows what they were meant to eat: grass and clovers, NOT soy, corn, and animal by-products. The water pollution from chicken and hog factories is costing us our very lives, and there is not accountability by Tyson, Purdue, or Smithfield.

I call for: Health insurance (from private for-profit insurers, as well as government) reimbursement of Medical Nutrition Therapy (nutrition counseling as part and parcel of disease treatment and prevention).

Lastly, I call for a RE-STRUCTURING OF PROFIT. It is unconscionable that food industry corporations are allowed to continued to profit from feeding Americans disease causing food. Restructure the profit base to REWARD Health Production and Environmental Protection. The LESS obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gastro-intestinal ills Americans have; and the LESS water, soil, air pollution we have, the more the corporations can make.
If the scientists and engineers can design DISEASE etiological food, they can begin to un-do this process by designing HEALTH etiological food.

When health promoting food is as ubiquitious, cheap, and convenient as the disease promoting food presently is, then we'll begin to have real change. We need recognition that
Public Health, which can only be achieved by consumption of wholesome food, is part and parcel of Public Safety.

July 01, 2009

To My Anorexic Client About to Enter University

As you contemplate the world...
Remember to remember the pain.
The pain that came through your soul into you,
your new soul embodiment.
This body which you have yet to love.
The pain was so deep that you even risked
the death of this life.

Despite the risking, and hating, and pain --
you did not succumb to your torture.
You lived.
And in living, you now make a pact with the universe....

That you will not/never forget your years of self hate.
You will put them in their proper perspective:

Your pain has allowed you to enter the realm of wisdom.
Has allowed you to feel your soul;
as well as the world's collective soul.
Has allowed you to feel the cumulative pain of eons.
Has allowed you to open to the Mystery of Life.

You must now learn the yin of the yang.
Learn the opposite of the pain.
Feel the JOY which can only come after great sorrow;
feel the joy of the world, of your life, of your body.
Your charge, your duty is to discover BOTH SIDES.
Allow yourself to enter into the Joy of the Total Creation.

June 15, 2002