Occupy Your Kitchen

by Laura on October 23, 2011

in Food

Recently, food justice advocates brought the issue of a fair food system to Wall Street, as they set up a makeshift kitchen at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) gathering.

Rarely do I get political, but as Food Day arrives (October 24) the connection between food activism on Wall Street is worth a mention. So please bear with me, and take a moment to read on.

What is the connection between corporate control and the food we eat? The simple (or maybe not so simple) answer is: Corporate control over agriculture.

Does it still sound like too much to ingest- or digest? Do you find yourself saying, “Oh those foodie people are at it again, just let me eat what I want to eat and stop telling me what I have to do.”

First, we should thank ‘those foodie people’ who have taken their time to bring this part of the corporate greed message to the forefront. But if you value time with your family, if you value your health, if you value food on the table in the future (yes, in your lifetime), then this Occupy Wall Street movement definitely has something to do with you – and you can help make a difference even without heading over to Wall Street.

Let me share with you a few statistics that may start you thinking: Statistics gleaned from several sources including Civil Eats,Mother JonesThe New York Times

  • 46 million Americans are now living below the poverty line, struggling with basic expenses like food.
  • The top four companies control 85% of the nation’s beef, 70 percent of pork, and 60 percent of the nation’s poultry.
  • Ninety percent of the corn market is dominated by 3 companies. Monsanto holds patents on 80 percent of corn seed.
  • Walmart controls nearly 30 percent of the grocery market – and over 50 percent in many regional markets.
  • As of 2007, six companies owned 75 percent of the global pesticide market, and four companies sold half of the globe’s seeds. Here’s the kicker: Three of them—Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dupont—are on both lists. The agrichemical makers have transitioned into seed barons, genetically engineering their major seed lines to resist their own herbicides.
  • By 2002, the USDA reported four companies churned out 75 percent of breakfast cereal, 75 percent of snacks, 60 percent of cookies, and 50 percent of ice cream.
  • Small farmers are being forced out of business by the power of these large corporations.
  • Wages of food industry workers – from meat packers to fast food employees – continue to drop (when factoring in inflation).

Have your eyes glazed over yet? Yes, all these statistics sound alarming, but you wonder how you can make a change, simply because you don’t have the time, or desire to Occupy Wall Street.

But the power to help make a change is in your own hands. It truly is the power of the people. It’s called the power of the kitchen. It’s the power that each family has in helping change the food system . . . right from their own kitchens.

So, I say, “If you can’t Occupy Wall Street, then Occupy Your Kitchen.” Commit to making one change in your own life that will help make a difference on Wall Street. One change may lead to others, and one change in many households can send a message over to Wall Street.

Ways to Occupy Your Kitchen

It is time to accept higher food prices, so shop smarter, eat smarter and be creative when it comes to filling your belly.

  • Stop wasting food. stop throwing away leftovers, start planning and start eating everything you buy.
  • Start changing “where” you buy food. Shop at a farmers market once a month, or head to the locally owned food store instead of a major supermarket chain.
  • Eat less, but eat better. Choosing whole foods over processed and packaged foods will cause you to eat less. Bite for bite, nutrient-rich whole foods are more beneficial to your health than junk foods and processed foods.
  • Eat less meat. Studies show you’ll be healthier – and so will the environment.
  • Go organic.  Don’t go organic in one fell swoop. Make it a gradual change so your pocketbook can get used to it. And, maybe if you spend a bit more on food, you’ll be less likely to let it waste (refer back to the point “Stop wasting food.”)
  • Plan your meals. This starts with taking the time to plan your meals for the week. Buy only what you will need, and get creative at the end of the week, when that fridge isn’t as full of choices. Which leads me to my next point . .
  • Don’t buy food in bulk unless you’re planning a party!  Forget the financial lure of buying large loads of frozen vegetables, meats and the like. Not only have you decided to buy from one of those big corporations, but most likely much of that food will be covered in freezer burn by the time you get around to eating it.
  • Cut down on packaged foods and eat whole foods. And remember junk food isn’t cheaper than healthy food. Ounce per ounce, packaged foods and junk foods can be more expensive than whole foods. Writes Bittman, “The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.” Which leads me to my next point . .
  • Make meals at home – If you find yourself grabbing take-out food too many times during the week, then stop, slow down and decide to make at least one meal at home during the week. Then, when this becomes habit, try making two meals a week, then three . . .
  • Occupy the Table – with your family at least once a week. Only good things can happen when you slow down and take the time to Reconnect with the food you eat and the family you love.

This Food Day – and every day going forward, you can be part of the OWS movement by making the effort Occupy Your Kitchen.

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