You are what you eat. It’s an idiom kids in the 70s grew up with that made us think about the kinds of food we put into our bodies. But something has happened since then that is negatively affecting all of us and causing us to turn away from our core instinct to survive. We’re eating more processed food than ever. And why not? It’s cheap. It’s convenient. And it’s absolutely pervasive in America. It’s also is filled with toxins and poisons and if you consume enough of it, it can cause a range of diseases in humans. But, because this is America, the FDA favors efficiency and profit and doesn’t have the same harsh rules and regulations that are in place in other parts of the world to keep their citizens safe. Besides, this is the land of the free – it’s not like we *have* to eat this crap. We have the *choice* to consume other things. Except, unless you live on a farm or near the ocean, non-processed foods are expensive and harder to find. Just to be clear – any food that comes packaged ready-to-eat in any form (which isn’t a fruit or vegetable) is processed in some capacity. Processed foods are almost impossible to avoid. Especially for people who lack the means to hunt and procure an alternative. These people are stuck eating at McDonalds or Hardees to feed their families a couple of times a week and when they’re not eating fast food, they’re eating microwavable mac-and-cheese (extra cheese sauce please!) and Oreos. And we accept this as perfectly normal in America as our hospitals fill up with people who have preventable conditions. So what is the solution?


1) Community gardens on every block tended to and worked by its citizens (not the government.) This does two things besides putting good food into our bodies. First, it helps create civic pride. Second it helps people get to know and depend on each other – like a village. The way it used to be, right? If government has a role here, it’s helping procure the land necessary to build these local gardens. And yes, I’m aware that 50% of the population will scream about how valuable a parking lot is and how the landowners need to be compensated fairly and how it’s no business of the government to get in the lives of its citizens to help make life better. I get it. Oh well. Get over it. We are a species before we are capitalists.

2) More farmer’s markets. Maybe they’re pop-up farmer’s markets that migrate around urban areas, I don’t know. But I do know that there are enough farms in America to feed all of us with healthy food. Only, the capitalist says it’s more profitable to ship our food overseas and import cheaper food. Yeah, that’s no good. Instead, let’s start feeding ourselves. The ‘for profit’ part will be tough to overcome, though (and I certainly don’t believe that the litigious Monsanto model is the way to go.) Maybe it will take a shift in our cultural paradigm about what is important in life – and that maybe taking care of each other is more important than profit? Like I said, in a country where money is God and God is on our money, this is a tough one. But it is doable if we want to take care of each other. At one point in American history, ‘taking care of each other’ was essential to our fabric. I think it can be again. If the government has a role here, it’s probably to help set up lines of logistics in order to get the food from farms to markets. Oh, and subsidizing farmers who might lose critical profit feeding our own instead of rich foreigners.

3) Education. Let’s teach everyone about the benefits of consuming fresh food and the dangers of processed food. Let’s drive the poison distributors with their expensive, focus-group derived, eye-catching packaging out of business (or force them to distribute healthy food.) Yes, it’s probably too late to help turn around the lives of people 25-and-older with this new way of thinking, but we can certainly plant healthy seeds in the minds of children. I know, I know, we ‘all care about the future’ right? Wrong. Total bullshit (sorry Witney Houston.) We have always talked about ‘caring about the future’ but the truth is most people don’t care any farther than how the future profits them in this life. Most people just aren’t capable of seeing beyond their own lives. Still, if we don’t try – our species is doomed. Our current path is unsustainable. As far as the government’s role in helping educate a new generation of Americans, I think it’s via subsidizing educational materials and programs designed to arm young people with the truth in a world where they’re inundated with advertising from companies that push poison. When I was a child we had a pollution problem in America. A big pollution problem. People were completely ignorant to the effects of pollution on the environment, and, of course, their own lives. But then Iron Eyes Cody came around and decades later, we have a much smaller pollution problem. Education works. But in order to balance the barrage of evil advertising out there – the messages need to be powerful. Like the Iron Eyes Cody spots.

The truth is, simplicity is difficult to achieve (unless it’s forced upon you.) I don’t know, maybe our country is just destined to burn. Maybe our citizens really are just cogs in a wheel that drives profit for the super rich. Maybe all of this is just folly.

Or, maybe not. But we have to start somewhere.


Jim Mitchem

Father's Day
An American Dream

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.