I have long felt that the organic/conventional food “debate” among moms is nothing but a smokescreen of corporate power to divide and conquer us–all at our children’s expense.
Last night, for our (sixth!) anniversary date, my partner and I went to see Food Inc. and it gave me that much more evidence for my theory. It also gave my partner a more concrete sense of why I will argue to cut the cable television, cut the dining out, cut the new clothes purchases, cut the parking space rental…you getting the idea?…cut anything in our budget before we cut into my grocery allotment.
Mind you, I don’t think it’s impossible to eat well on a tight budget, a belief recently bolstered by this article in Salon about a couple who ate sustainable, organic, local and ethical (SOLE) for a month on a food stamp budget, in greater New York City.
But even if eating well costs more, it’s the kind of thing I consider non-negotiable, the way I consider regular well-child doctor visits non-negotiable. And if our family budget is tighter these days, we do have health insurance, and we aren’t reduced to food stamps, so it’s not something we have to negotiate anyway.
And yet, I am well aware that for some people, good food does have to take a backseat to things like rent or medicine. So the children of the poor are the ones at highest risk for health complications that result from a bad diet–things like Type 2 Diabetes, food-born pathogens, and the increased cancer rates that are documented in children who rarely eat produce that has not been treated with pesticides.
This is not a matter of morals. The poor have been accused of moral inferiority from time immemorial, but again, this is a smoke screen. If someone can’t afford to eat safe, nutritious food free of poison, that person is basically starving. Just because the United States has plentiful calories at low, low prices, doesn’t mean it has plentiful FOOD at same. And the children eating empty–or even dangerous–calories are not doing so because they have “Bad Mommies” (that distinct middle-class invention where we confess our love of Twinkies), they are doing so because our society doesn’t value the health and well being of children.
Because when you take the government grocery budget to that big kitchen table on Capitol Hill, you find loads of money being poured into subsidizing farmers who grow the corn and soybeans that are the basis of the “food” engineered in labs for huge corporations that sell cheap, empty calories to the world. A fraction of that money used to subsidize small, organic family farms could A) increase the number of those farms and thus the availability of better food and B) decrease the price of that food the way current subsidies make fast-food “dollar menus” possible today.
I’m not a better mother because I feed my kids as SOLE a diet as possible. I’m a wealthier one. But that doesn’t mean the health of children like my daughter’s biological siblings being raised in the direst of poverty by her birth mother across town, is not my problem. Quite to the contrary, I think good, safe, healthy food (that–bonus!–happens to be better for the environment too) is very much my business and when children can’t get it, it is my responsibility to change that.
I am weary of the “Whole Foods Mom” versus “Walmart Mom” false debates. It is time the Whole Foods shoppers and Walmart shoppers linked arms to demand the best possible food for the most possible children. Stop letting them divide us. It’s our kids who are the big losers in that war.
See Also: The Floundering Promise of Organic Milk