October 22, 2015

GUEST ROOM | Don’t Read This Unless You Eat Food

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You are what you eat. You’ve heard it before, but you might not realize how literally we mean it. The cells and substances in your body are genuinely reconstituted from the carbohydrates, amino acids, lipids, vitamins and minerals that you absorb from the food you consume. So if you think you don’t have a stake in how food is produced, you’re simply wrong. None of us can avoid participating in the food system; therefore, if we have a food system that conflicts directly with our values, we have a responsibility as consumers and citizens to seek reform. And whether you realize it or not, our world food system in its current form is undeniably exploitative and unsustainable. Don’t believe us? Keep reading.

Did you know that the amount of water it takes to produce one hamburger is equivalent to two months of showers? While the drought rages on in California, the government encourages its citizens to take shorter showers, but never to eat fewer hamburgers.

Did you know that pregnant farmworkers picking your fruits and vegetables are often exposed to poisonous pesticides that cause horrendous birth defects? Even worse, these farmworkers are often undocumented migrants with little legal recourse.

Did you know that 40 percent of the world’s grain is fed to livestock that feeds the relatively wealthy, while 795 million people in the world do not have access to enough food to live a healthy active life? Did you know that if all the grain fed to livestock in just the U.S. were diverted to human consumption, we could feed 800 million people?

Did you know that Hispanic children see 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks than their white counterparts, and that Black children see 80 to 90 percent more of such ads than white children? Not surprisingly, obesity and nutrition-related chronic diseases are substantially more prevalent among these minority groups than their white counterparts.

Did you know that most of the chicken that ends up on your plate came from a farm where the birds spend their miserable days indoors, so crowded that they can’t turn around, standing in their own excrement, often pecking each other half to death?

We could go on and on, but we hope you would agree that any single one of those injustices would be reason enough to demand reform. While we as U.S. citizens spend the lowest percentage of our income on food of any country in the world, we are paying for our cheap food in lives, natural resources and viable years left on this planet for the human race.

Even if you are in denial or selfish enough not to care about how any of your food choices affect other people, animals or the environment, you as an individual cannot avoid the consequences of a food system only concerned with corporate profit. You pay with your tax dollars to treat the preventable cases of heart disease and diabetes that result from the default diet with which America has presented us. You pay when you contract a foodborne illness after consuming contaminated ground beef as a result of industry neglect. You pay a few decades down the road when you can no longer buy that beef to which you feel so attached because we simply do not have the resources on earth to sustain the growing rate of meat consumption.

Real Food Cornell is a new student group that has formed to combat these intersectional issues of food affecting us all. We exist in part to demonstrate to you that food choices are inherently and inescapably politicized; we cannot make decisions regarding food without broader consequence. Thus, we support a food system that is truly fair and sustainable, here on campus and beyond.

To that end, our first official project has been to bring you Food Day 2015, which is a celebration of and an opportunity to advocate for better food policies within and beyond Cornell. If this message has affected you, we urge you to reach out to various student groups across campus that are working towards a more sustainable food system. In the meantime you can start by attending the Food Day festivities on campus. Grab a bite at Okenshields this coming Tuesday and learn about the best diet for your health and for the planet. Get your hands dirty at Dilmun Hill Student Farm on Wednesday while learning how to waste less in the kitchen. Learn how to eat better on a budget with Anabel’s Grocery on Thursday. Just by showing up, you can affirm the identity of our generation as one that cares where our food comes from. We are calling on you to start the dialogue and start turning the tide towards a healthy, affordable, sustainable and just food system.

  • Anon

    Ingredients should be manufactured in bioreactors, not grown on farms. Food-bearing plants and algae should be genetically modified to maximize their nutrition and minimize their environmental impact. Heavy pollutants like animals should be entirely uninvolved in the food process.

    Furthermore, obesity and all other forms of unhealthy or unsustainable eating must not be subsidized by the state. Food stamps should only be exchangeable for minimal nutritionally-complete meal replacements. Obese people should pay higher premiums for health insurance and suffer tax penalties and welfare restrictions.

    Things like Soylent are steps in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go.

  • Anon

    Anon above has the right idea, you’re out of this world Jessi and Sarah.

    This summer I met two farmers with Masters degrees from MIT, 14 from Cornell, and the rest all had at least a four year college degree. When I read articles like this, I see someone convinced that they know more about farming that farmers. That is painful ignorance to see from students at one of the top agricultural schools in the country. There are literally hundreds of professors here that would be more than willing to talk with you about the food system in the United States. I’m sure you trust the professors in your own major and talk with them all the time. But have you ever reached out to any of the professors in the Ag science department? Nope, too busy living in my own confirmation bias. Or what about the fact that advertisers of the whole “organic, small farm, one with the earth” are targeting middle and upper class neighborhoods (similar to the one you came from!). Nope, your argument is based on such sound logic and reasoning (backed by stuff you read on a blog by other people just like you, diversity of ideas!) that only those uneducated migrant workers would fall for targeted advertising, I have a college degree! It doesn’t take a college degree to farm, true, but just because you have one doesn’t mean you’re better than those farmers I mentioned above that have Masters degrees from MIT. And yes, they do think about animal welfare, because happier animals are more productive, get sick less, and save money. They think about sustainability too because without sustainable practices they wouldn’t have land worth owning (and lands expensive as hell, so you take care of it). It makes economic sense for farmers to pay attention to these issues. Farmers were the original shepherds of the environment before you came along, because the environment, sustainability, is their LIFE. Imagine that! Your so removed from the actual food system you can’t even comprehend what its actually doing. You’re so lost from your roots that you can’t even be bothered to ask where you came from. You’re not smarter than everyone, you just don’t know what you’re even talking about.

    Referring to(meat chickens – “often pecking each other half to death” – no proof of this, basically yellow journalism, I’m surprised the daily sun would publish something so obviously sensationalized. “A food system only concerned with corporate profit” – no evidence of this either. Have you actually met some of the people that do the work that you are so quick to criticize with no real knowledge? Have you ever been to the Cornell dairy farm and bothered to ask the farmers there “why would you ever do something so unsustainable?!” I bet most of them spend more time enjoying the great outdoors than you do. Maybe they’ll have the answers to question you should be asking but clearly have too much need for confirmation bias to ask. Because if there is one thing that’s true, it’s that farmers care a hell of a lot more about these issues than you do, and they actually have the means to do something about it. Try reaching out instead of spreading lies at the top Ag school in the northeast… you’ll find better success that way.

  • Anon

    Honestly the whole paragraph stating that gross animal mistreatment represents “most of the chicken that ends up on your plate” is so blatantly biased and incorrect that this entire article should be pulled from the Daily Sun. The practices described by the authors as common are in fact highly illegal, unethical, and a gross misrepresentation of an entire business sector. Anything even close to what is described would be quickly caught and immediately stopped by the USDA, EPA, or regulators within the industry. The statement published above is on par with me calling out all news publications around the country for having poor journalism practices because the Sun published this single article.

  • Ana a. mouse

    I’m so excited for you two to take your first college class! You guys remind me of a YouTube video, it’s called Doctor of Philosophy by SMBC theater.

  • Anon

    Would love to see some citations for the “bold” (read: demonstrably false) claims made in this article. Is regurgitating shock sound bites really what passes for journalism at this school?