Our Food and Health: At the Tipping Point

By Sharon Knoll | Bio

“I am not an optimist because I am
not sure everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist because I am not sure
everything ends badly. I carry hope in my heart.”


I come from generations of food growers. And it is clear to
me that eating is one of the most intimate of actions. We take into ourselves
the whole of the plant or animal, including the environment in which it was
raised and killed. We take in the work and the well-being, or lack of well-being,
of those who feed us. When my daughter was younger and went through a
McDonald’s phase she wanted to know why the meat didn’t taste as good as the
grass-fed beef raised by some friends of ours. Their beautiful cattle were
allowed to roam and eat the grass, rather than be fed in filthy feedlots,
standing in manure.

She asked me, “Mom, do you think that Jim’s beef is happier,
and that is why it tastes better?”

Right now in the United States we are confronting the fact
that food nurtures and food kills.

  • Obesity
    may soon surpass tobacco as the number one cause of preventable death in
    the United States.
  • The
    real price of soda has fallen 33% over the last 30 years. The real price
    of fruit and vegetables has risen more than 40%.
  • One
    third of all American children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes
    as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise.
  • Let’s not rush to analyze these numbers or to try and fix
    something. Or even worse, come up with short-term solutions. Let’s spend time
    looking at what we intend to leave behind as our legacy.

Is our intent to leave behind a world that celebrates life? One
in which:

  • Every
    person has enough of the right food to be healthy and productive every day
    of their lives
  • People
    have control over their own lives and destinies, and all individuals have
    a chance to contribute, and
  • Our
    environment and world matters and in which we are in a profound
    relationship with both.

If so, then the numbers reveal that we have a breakdown—the facts
are inconsistent with what we say we stand for. And rather than ask the question
who or what is wrong, we now can ask the question, “What is missing that I can
provide that can make a difference in assuring the legacy that celebrates life?”

When I asked the question “What is missing?”, I discovered
we have a powerful social movement centered on food that is gathering momentum
and that covers sustainable agriculture, animal welfare, food workers’ welfare,
food safety and more. This social movement is calling out, to quote Eric
Schlosser, “an agricultural system that feeds corporate greed rather than the
citizens of this country.”

 David Leonhardt wrote an article with a provocative question
on August 12, 2009 in the NY Times
entitled Fat Tax. He
left me with a powerful visual for where we are and the opportunities we have:

 “Anyone who smoked in an
elementary-school hallway today would be thrown out of the building. But if you
served an obesity-inducing, federally financed meal to kindergartners, you
would fit right in.”

 What do you see as missing that you can provide to have our
food nurture us and support the planet?

 That’s food for thought…until next week.

© 2009 Sharon Knoll. All rights reserved.