I received a comment on my last post asking what was my call to action for individuals in terms of what can they do to change the food system. This post is my reply.
If what I write about inspires you to take action to change our flawed and backwards food system, this is what I challenge you to do:
- Adopt Meatless Mondays, or any meatless day or days, really. Any systematic reduction in the amount of animal products that we consume will have a positive effect on human health (including cancer, antibiotic resistant infections, and other foodborne pathogens), animal welfare, natural resource use, greenhouse gas emissions, and worker justice.
- Only buy products that you can feel good about eating. This particular challenge is quite overwhelming, and I certainly don’t know that everything I eat was produced by an establishment whose practices I completely approve. But I gradually try more and more all the time. Websites like http://www.humaneitarian.org can help you find out where you can purchase meat you can feel good about and help you decipher label claims like “cage free” and “humanely raised”. As far as worker justice is concerned, you might have to do a little more research; one great organization that can point you toward socially just shopping is the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
- Buy locally, which will also mean seasonally. Don’t be fooled by some modern farmer’s markets where the produce actually comes from far away. Try to buy it directly from the farmer. A farm share (assuming its local) can be a great way to eat whole, seasonal produce and prepare it yourself. If you don’t know, a purchasing a farm share entitles you to a certain amount of produce, and sometimes dairy or meat, each week from a particular farm or farms. It’s a lot of food each week usually, but you don’t get to pick what they give you, which actually encourages you to cook new healthy foods!
- Vote with your fork. This means that you should encourage your lawmakers, locally and federally, to take a stance on important food issues, and vote for the politicians that will represent your food values. Many non-profit organizations that work on food issues, such as Center for Science in the Public Interest and Center for Food Safety send out “action alerts” to subscribers to let them know when there are petitions they can sign or critical moments to contact legislators, and they usually give you a template message to send.
- Most importantly, spread the word. The only way to get more people to care about these issues is to make sure they know about them. Start a dialogue with the people you care about, tell them why you choose to eat real. If you’re going to encourage them to make changes, start with small ones. Or, if you’re verbally inclined, you can write about food, like I do. It’s not very difficult to start a blog these days.
I acknowledge that in the grand scheme of things, any one individual adopting these practices won’t tip the scales of the food movement; however, if more and more people move in this direction it could really make a difference. As I always say, you have to start somewhere.