cross-posted at annoyedomnivore.wordpress.com
I call it corporate food, but it is more accurately U.S. government/corporate food, as the two entities work hand in hand to inflate the price of nutritious, whole foods. Government subsidies, established in the 20′s and 30′s, when 25% of the population lived on family farms, have shifted to industrial farms. The bulk of current subsidies goes to the production of corn, much of which is devoted to ethanol. A great deal of the corn, however, is used towards the production of processed foods, thereby deflating their cost. A result of this practice in the last three decades is that farmers have lost the incentive to grow fruits and vegetables, which then drives prices even higher. Inflated prices of whole foods is the main culprit, worldwide, of food insecurity and obesity.
Big Ag focuses exclusively on the production of food, which overlooks the main cause of food insecurity, which is the over-commodization of our food supply. By treating food as a commodity that can be speculated on for pure profit, the U.S. has effectively put an adequate diet out of the reach of one in six people. An extension of this focus is that, as Charles Z. Levkoe, Administrator at Canadian Association for Food Studies, says, our food system now is “increasing focus on people, not as citizens, but as consumers.”
Previous to the 1980′s, a futures market for agricultural commodities was tightly regulated and served as a stabilizing tool. Farmers and wholesalers were allowed to sell their future output at a locked-in price which protected agriculture from pricing shifts caused by extreme weather or the cost of fuel. Starting in the 80′s, however, government and industry colluded to de-regulate the food market. This policy shift allowed for increased speculation on agricultural futures by such entities as banks, hedge funds, pension managers and university endowments. And then, famously, in 2007, when the housing bubble burst, Wall Street began to focus almost exclusively on food futures, which caused prices to triple from those in 2005.
As food prices increase and wages stagnate, the obvious result is that people must decide whether to pay an exorbitant amount of their monthly income on food or eat fewer nutritionally balanced items. If money is scare, it’s sometimes ones only option to try to fill our needs with cheap processed foods. High calorie, low nutrition foods are the only options for many people, hence the relationship between hunger and obesity.
While obesity rates span all populations, Blacks and Hispanics suffer more from this condition than do Whites. Not only is there a large disparity in income between races, the relocation of supermarkets from the inner city to suburban areas limits, too, the availability of healthier food choices. Food Deserts have become a growing part of our national conversation, but very little is being done to address the problem.
I’m increasingly concerned about the availability of nutritious, affordable food. Food banks, while serving populations that should instead be served by their governments, only contribute to the problem of obesity as they must distribute what they are given and the majority of this is in the form of processed food. The U.S. government, too, needs to muster enough political will to heavily regulate Wall Street’s involvement in our supply. Rather than promote fast food, our government should take an active role in reducing food as a commodity. Michael Masters, a hedge fund manager who gave testimony on speculation and food prices in 2008, said “Financial speculation now accounts for more than two-thirds of the market…When billions of dollars of capital is being put to work in small markets like this, it amplifies price rises and if financial flows amplify prices of food stuffs and energy, it’s not like real estate and stocks – when food prices double, people starve.”
Recipe of the Week
I like to purchase fresh salmon from the Indians, especially as it is at least half the cost of what I can get in the stores. Having a good, cheap source of protein is a good thing, but it’s hard to vary how it’s served and cooked. This last time I decided to simply coat it in barbecue sauce and grill, and the outcome was just fine. Served over lightly dressed greens and with corn on the cob, it’s a perfect summer meal.
I am a scattered person, and completely forgot to pick up the items I wanted from the store to make the sauce. I then experimented with what I had on hand, and came up with a perfectly good barbecue sauce. I tried to make just enough to cover the roughly 1.5 lb piece of salmon, but made enough for double that.
1/2 cup organic ketchup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbls. dijon mustard
a few grindings of black pepper
2 tbls butter
1/2 cup water
2 tbls. brown sugar
Combine all ingredients but the butter in a small pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring now and again. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter. Cool. Just before grilling, coat the salmon heavily with the sauce and grill, skin side down until the meat is opaque.