The root of our consumption of processed foods leads us back to our historic drive to consume sugar, salt, and fats, in order to sustain ourselves in an environment that was characterized by scarcity. Although globally we still have a staggering problem with hunger and malnutrition, in developed and food stable developing nations we no longer have the same scarcity our ancestors may have experienced.
As Michael Pollan emphasizes, our western diet is centered around one form of sugar or another, from the carbohydrates which we consume in bread, to the high fructose corn syrup that food processing companies have added to everything. What strikes me is how it is so easy to say “food processing” and not cringe, because in my own kitchen I cook food, I don’t process it. Our consumption of mass produced agricultural products has many complex interrelationships that lead back to our western economic drivers for profit. Socioeconomic inequality and targeted marketing has created a system where the people in our communities that are the most vulnerable, are the ones suffering the most from our industrial food complex.
Growing your own food, baking your own bread, and eating organic, may be a choice for some, it may be accessible to those with economic means, and those with adequate free time, but the vast majority of people can not make this shift easily, if at all. Is it in this case the responsibility of society to look out for the individual, or the responsibility of the individual to function within the current parameters of our society? Maybe it is time that neoliberalism take a back seat and allow our communities to recover from this diet of salt, sugar and fat.
Ballard Farmers Market, http://www.sfmamarkets.com/visit-ballard-farmers-market
Kensinger, nathan. Curbed, “Artist Kara walker Says Farewell to the Domino Sugar Refinery” https://ny.curbed.com/2014/5/23/10096010/artist-kara-walker-says-farewell-to-the-domino-sugar-refinery
Manning, Richard. “The Oil We Eat: Following the Food Chain Back to Iraq.” Harper’s Magazine, vol. 308, no. 1845, 2004, p. 37.
Pollan, Michael. (2008). In defense of food: an eater’s manifesto. New York: Penguin Press.