Quality food is not a luxury,
It is a right of Citizenship.

Why is it that the poor population in the US is one of few in the world that eats a poor diet?
Why is this? Is it because of the corporate vampires that have our country brainwashed into thinking that crappy food is cheaper than healthy food? Am I the only one that has big enough bullocks to actually say something? Sure, it's great that Mayor Bloomberg is crusading a mission to prevent recipients of food stamps from buying pop and other junk, but how is our from the freezer to the microwave society supposed to make changes when they don't know any better?

Give me a break people. I’m really annoyed by the excuses I hear when they tell me the reasons why they have such poor diets. Does it really take too much effort to put rice and water into rice cooker?... it takes less than a minute! Does it really take too much effort to stir fry some veggies in a wok? It takes less than 10! Does it really take too much time and energy to walk around a farmers’ market to buy some freshly harvested produce?

There are currently 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world, and it is no secret the US is tipping the charts. Within the next 10 years, the WHO projects that number will grow by 40%, as people around the globe in developing countries become more and more detached from their food sources and more dependent on fatty-starchy-preservative ridden processed foods obesity, type 2 diabetes and other health problems will likely increase.



 

SOLUTION TO FOODSTAMPS?

As a country (US), we could start saving billions a year by implementing excellent strategies used in one of Brazil's cities.  

They have a system in place that actually insures the health of it's citizens. And boosts their local economy. 

The price tag?  Only 1 penny a day per person.  



By Gabrielle Sunheart

Dr. Frank Hu, Associate Professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, agrees, "The problems of obesity rates dramatically increase in countries that are undergoing economical development," he says. "Rural workers moving to urban areas perform less physical labor and supplant traditional low-fat diets that include local goods with processed diets that are high in fat and sugar."

Brazil, the Philippines, and Costa Rica, are amongst the poorest countries in the world, yet they fall under the healthiest; and unlike many Americans, they know exactly where their food comes from! What if there was a way that we could cut food stamps, boost economic stimulus for small farmers, reduce health care costs, and have a healthier population all at one time! Let's take a look at how a couple of countries have created successful solutions even though they have a lot less money to go around than the US does. After all, during these times of widespread economic hardship shouldn't we take the opportunity to be as creative as possible with what little resources we do have?

Throughout Costa Rica poor people don't consider themselves poor because they always have something to eat. They are truly connected to their food sources. They eat a diet composed largely of plantains, corn, rice and beans. They fish and hunt for fowl. And they grow their own produce that they commonly use in delicious soups. Because Costa Ricans have such stellar diets and active lifestyles, they even enjoy the benefits of universal health care.

In San Joaquín, The Coopera, a small organic co-op is proving that growing and consuming healthy fresh foods without the use of chemical pesticides can be less expensive than conventional farming.  The Coopera was founded in January 2004 by eight members who contributed six dollars each and just seven years later, it now has over 60,000 members and 28 million dollars in assets and growing. The Coopera produces organic fruits, vegetables and meats.

It was decided that they would grow organically because they were tired of paying the high prices of chemicals. They work diligently and creatively using innovative cutting edge, practical ideas:  for instance they grow and dry organic chili peppers to use as pesticides! They even implement honey and tree sap to trap insect pests. Coopera members insist that they are spending less and earning more.

Since the Coopera has been so successful and the demand for organic farmed produce keeps rising, they are inundated with farmers eager to learn how to implement their tricks of the trade. They were even given land to use free of charge by the prestigious University of Azuay. Because of the Coopera, Costa Rica is leading the world in organic innovation.

Universities across the US should follow suit. Where there is unused land, open it up and allow for growing organic produce, innovation and cultivation.  If there is an empty city lot fill it with farm stands, or fill it with a victory garden made up of community plots!

The Philippines is a country made up of Islands so everyone has access to seafood. The Philippines poor population eats primarily local fish, rice and locally grown vegetables.  Since poor families in the Philippines don’t own refrigerators everything they eat is fresh, no preservatives and nothing frozen! Some of the best cooks in the world can be found in poor households throughout the Philippines. They make do with what they have and they honor their ingredients. Nothing goes to waste.

A normal meal in a poor family consists of rice with a piece of salt fish or rice cooked with shrimp paste which is utterly delicious. They use delicious combinations of spices, ginger, fish pastes and coconut milk. They commonly use readily available jackfruit and won-bok in their cuisine. Poor households cook up large pots of different kinds of soups such as lsinigang and tinola which are full of flavor and comfort. No matter how little they have they will always open their homes and feed their guests.

Filipinos enjoy simple fare along with properly cooked rice. Leftover rice never goes to waste, it just becomes the next mornings breakfast when fried and served with a slice of tomato. Glutinous rice is the main ingredient of dessert foods; cakes, puddings, and one of my favorites is a treat called good bood, prepared by mixing rice with coconut milk, and sugar, which is then wrapped in banana leaves and steam cooked like a tamale.

Since 1993 the 4th largest Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte home to over 2.5 million people, food has been considered a right of citizenship. Over 10 years ago, city leaders saw a need and acted with compassion. Instead of doing nothing or fearing financial disaster the city has seen economic improvements as well as improvements in the health of its people, young and old.

In the past, 11 percent of its population lived in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children were going hungry. Instead of just endlessly and aimlessly spending government funds, government officials decided to cohesively blend together the interests of farmers and consumers. Local small family farmers were given the ideal public space necessary to competitively sell produce to urban consumers at below market prices.

Belo’s has created food security initiatives that include extensive community and school gardens along with nutrition classes. Plus, their federal government contributes money toward school lunches, formerly buying processed food from big corporations now strictly buying whole foods from local growers. Fresh fruit juices and well-rounded salads make up a typical school lunch.

A former manager within this city agency, Adriana Aranha has gone on record to say "We now have a new social mentality, everyone in our city benefits if all of us have access to good food, our health care and education—quality food for all is a public good. We’re showing that the state doesn’t have to provide everything, it can facilitate. It can create channels for people to find solutions themselves."

This along with other humanitarian projects costs the city less than 2 percent of its annual budget, which ends up costing each Belo resident about a penny a day and should be considered to be a tremendous victory. This is a successful project model that should be instated all over the world, and the US should certainly follow suit...

I urge decision makers, mayors and senators to go beyond criticizing what food stamp recipients spend their allotted money on and start making sure that healthy food goes to those who need it. It's not good enough to ridicule people with limited means when our government gives tax breaks and grant money to conventional farms and allows up to 40% of good food to end up in our landfills. Obviously soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and food banks should be the recipients of this food.

Pass the laws and tax breaks necessary to encourage both organic farming and grocery chains to give food instead of tossing it just so they can collect tax breaks for their "commodity loss". Why should grocery chains continue to have the right to refer to food as a commodity? Especially when in the US mothers are starving themselves so they can feed their children.

Food is not a privilege...it is a right...and as soon as we realize that there are alternative ways to get it other than a drive-through, or from a colorful shinny package from the freezer section of the grocery store the sooner we will all have fresh organic produce readily available to us, no matter what our economic standing is.