In Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s op-ed this week in the Des Moines Register, he recognized that hunger could not be solved by raising production, because production is in fact at record highs. Grappling with how these increases in productivity have not led to increases in profit, he explained that even though we’ve lost a million farmers in the last 40 years, “income from farming operations declined as a percentage of total farm family income by half.” He continued, “Today, only 11 percent of family farm income comes from farming, which may explain why fewer young people go into farming and why many families rely on off-farm income opportunities to keep their farms.” Vilsack gets the situation right, but his remedy is wrong. Instead of encouraging diversity and altering the pattern of overproduction which pits large farm owners against small by shrinking margins, the Obama administration’s way of dealing with the discrepancy in rural America is through increasing trade.
As President Obama ratchets up the pressure this week on Congress to vote on healthcare reform before the summer recess, it must be noted that the discussion does not connect the dots to our broken food system. And while I commend President Obama for taking on such a contentious subject with the aim of improving the lives of those suffering in our current economy, two thirds of the American people want a single-payer system and the option is not even on the table. Addressing these two issues will be critical for deep and lasting healthcare reform. Read more
It’s hard out there for the Corn Refiners Association; they just can’t seem to catch a break. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), their trademark product, has faced a relentless barrage of criticism, both fair and unfair. It has been tagged by clinicians, nutritionists and food bloggers as a primary culprit in America’s obesity epidemic and a contributor to Type II diabetes. And a growing number of consumers just plain don’t like it. Read more
Recently, the American public was issued a challenge by the folks at KFC (formerly “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” but “fried” just didn’t sound healthy). The fast-food joint argues in its latest commercial that you cannot “create a family meal for less than $10.” Their example is the “seven-piece meal deal,” which includes seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits, and a side dish — in this case, mashed potatoes with gravy. This is meant to serve a family of four. Read more
Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD., is an Arab-American writer, lecturer, food and farming advocate, rural lifeways folklorist, and conservationist whose work has long been rooted in the U.S./Mexico borderlands region he affectionately calls “the stinkin’ hot desert.” This poem was written for Slow Food Nation and will be read at Changemakers Day. Read more