Forty Days of SNAP

Our family's Lenten food stamp challenge

I’m angry at foodies

I’ve been a foodie since the late 1990s when the film Big Night came out, and Alton Brown started his TV show Good Eats. Ivan and I love to host BBQs and theme parties, planning and prepping for days beforehand. Bring on the Inauguration Day clam chowder, the King Cake, the Robert Burns Supper! Most recently I enjoyed a blogger cookie exchange with other local foodies, and really enjoyed myself.

But since taking the SNAP challenge I’m surprised to feel anger welling up. Anger toward myself and toward my fellow foodies. Here’s why: we’re class biased. We aspire to eat the best food, but how many of us also truly aspire–and take action–for everyone to have access to the best food? Why do we allow such a gap to exist?

By “the best food” I’m not talking about lobster and caviar. I can’t afford and don’t really lust after those things…I’m talking mainly about fresh, local fruits and veggies, preferably those that are grown without chemicals. (Yes, there were a few fruits and vegetables featured in the theme parties I’ve listed above.)

And I’m talking about fish that are responsibly harvested, eggs from chickens that have room to roam (and chicken from chickens that have room to roam), beef and pork from cows and pigs that aren’t treated with hormones and producing swamps of toxic waste.

Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor for the Sacramento Bee, questioned in yesterday’s Forum section whether Sacramento is ready to face the challenges of the “Farm to Fork” movement. He contrasted mayor Kevin Johnson’s plans to brand the city as a food destination with the reality that “most consumers purchase the cheapest food available, regardless of season.” Being a food destination will mean that more restaurants are serving locally-sourced foods and that events such as the Foodie Film Fest draw healthy numbers. And this will be a good thing, a positive challenge for Sacramento. But how can we also ensure that low-income people, particularly in this rich agricultural region, can buy and cook that fresh from the farm good stuff?

I just waded through 330 typeset pages of unbridled wonkery–a book called All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? by Joel Berg (2008, Seven Stories Press), which was recommended to me by a social worker friend. A great read. Toward the end the author notes that some farm-to-fork advocates assert that “increasing food prices are a good thing because they deter people from buying junk food.”

How do you answer that, friends? Is that class bias? Is it helpful?

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8 thoughts on “I’m angry at foodies

  1. Kathy Norman on said:

    Loving these blog posts. Thanks for promoting awareness of hunger and poverty

  2. Maria on said:

    Have you read Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma? I also recommend the documentary film King Corn. Both good sources of information as to why junk food is so cheap and bad for our health.

    • I plan to read & view those. Does either one address hunger? I’m reacting in this post to all the finger-pointing at Big Food saying badbadbad, let’s make crappy food more expensive so people won’t choose it. But what about making good food more affordable/ accessible? I’d like to know more about movements like that afoot.

      • Maria on said:

        It’s been about 4 yrs since I read the book so I don’t remember if hunger is addressed, but what I found interesting about the book and film is the fact that our government subsidizes corn and soy crops which enables Big Food to produce cheap feed for cattle (not what they were designed by God to eat), and cheap high fructose corn syrup and junk food (not what we were designed by God to eat). The carrot and broccoli farmers don’t get subsidized! Food Inc. is also a great film which touches on this and follows a low income family through the market as they decide what they can afford to eat.

        I am a foodie too because I want to eat the food my great-grandparents ate and thrived on: livestock raised on pasture, non-GMO/pesticide laden produce, tiny amounts of real sugar, etc.

        Enjoying your blog!

  3. Maria on said:

    Just remembered reading awhile back about Will Allen, Milwaukee’s urban farmer. Check him out.

  4. Susan, I’ve had the same struggle toward “foodies” while we’ve done our own version of the SNAP Challenge. They tend to be food snobs without social conscience. I think foodies could use their power to advocate for making good food affordable. I was shocked to learn that less than 1% of government subsidies go to produce farmers. If we just shifted 5% of the subsidies from corn and soybeans to produce, we would see fruits and vegetables become more affordable. The US Farm Bill is still in committee–a great time to contact our representatives and senators.

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