food advocacy goals : decentralizing our food-system

Food Advocacy Goal #3 : Decentralizing our food-system

If you study ecology, you’ll quickly learn that nature loves redundancy. (Corporate culture, not so much.)

Redundancy in ecosystems breeds resilience and forgiveness. If one system fails, there are endless others to fill the gaps. A failure or breakdown in one element of the system is a lot less likely to bring the entire thing down on your head.

Our food system is the opposite, as is pretty obvious by the lovely little info graphic below:

inforgraphic which major food companies own which food brands

Centralization of our food system leaves us vulnerable as consumers.

Small mistakes have big implications:

Contamination at a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods meat plant ended in 22 people in 7 provinces dying from listeria-related causes.

When salmonella was found in eggs on one of the farms involved in the recent outbreak in the US, 170 million eggs were recalled from that one farm alone. The eggs from that farm were sold under five different brand names in 14 different states. And that was JUST ONE FARM.

You can see how it can get tricky, and scary, in a hurry.

Gobs of Money = Gobs of Power & Influence

Then there is the issue of lobbying. Companies and industry councils have lots of money and lots of motivation to keep it by making sure government legislation works for, rather than against, them.

All that money and power also gives them the opportunity to go after private citizens if they talk out of turn. I mean, they had the cahoonas to go after Oprah. Seriously. Any industry that has the prairie oysters  to go after Oprah on the matter of free speech is an industry I’m afraid of. (Oprah – and free speech – prevailed, by the way.)

A false sense of choice

When one beverage company has multiple flavours of pop, it gives the consumer a perception of choice. We think we’re making a choice, but really, the choice is the same insofar as where our money ends up.

When it comes to the food industry, its Same sh*t, different (WAY BIGGER) pile.

Its often impossible to know who or what you’re supporting when you purchase everyday products. Even when you think you’re making a good choice, your money can be going where you least expect it.

For example, my hubby isn’t a fan of Nestle because of the controversy surrounding their promotion of baby formula in developing countries.

And yet   . . .  he supports me using Body Shop products because of their company values . . . A little digging and I find that some of those profits end up in Nestle’s pockets by way of L’Oreal, which they own part of. How can consumers truly make informed decisions when this is the corporate reality?

How do we as individuals decentralize our food system?

Easy. Stop shopping.

The more we source our food from small, local and independent suppliers, or better yet – grow and make it ourselves, the more we will weaken this broken system to we can begin to dismantle it and rebuild it anew.

Simple. Powerful. Effective

More and more as I educate myself about both the industrial food system and alternative systems, I am increasingly convinced that the best option is to opt out.

I don’t mean stop eating.

I mean, whenever you can, wherever you can, choose a different way.

You don’t have to have a cow and pig in your backyard to opt out, either. Something as simple as cooking your own meals or growing herbs on your windowsill can add one more layer of resiliency to our food systems.

Critics will say, a pot of basil on the windowsill isn’t going to make our system any more secure.

To that I say –

Of course not, silly.

We have to see that pot of basil as what it is – a symbol of awareness. Of wanting to do better. Mindfulness. A first step.

One thing I know from experience: Choices like the windowsill basil grow exponentially. They are also contagious.

One little pot of basil can become an urban farm, a scratch-cooking queen, a community veggie plot, a neighbourhood grocery cooperative, a whole food advocate, a stronger community, a more resilient food system . . .

a revolution.

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