Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Food, Inc.(redible)

Ax and I watched the documentary Food, inc. on PBS last week.  Heather's post reminded me that I've been wanting to blog about it. And she reminded me that the film is still available for online viewing until midnight tonight.  I'm sort of out of the loop when it comes to media and movies and academy award nominations, etc.  So I didn't really know much of anything about the film until another friend posted about PBS showing it on facebook last week. 

After watching the film, I posted my reaction on facebook:  "Wow. Wow. Wow. Scary indeed. It has prompted us to take our health-consciousness to a whole new level. Wow."  And a little while later, I elaborated more on my feelings, "Let's just say there are certain things I will NEVER purchase ever again, if I can help it. The film made me want to vomit, scream, cry (from sadness AND joy), and cheer. So many emotions packed into one 120 minute stretch."

So, while I can say without hesitation that I believe Food, Inc. is a film everyone should watch, I can also say without hesitation that it's not a fun or easy film to watch.  It's painful to watch, for many reasons,  and incredible in every aspect of the word...  astonishing, unbelievable, disgusting, and heart-warming too.  As we watched, I felt, with deep intensity, both the spirit of evil prompting much of what happens to bring food to our supermarkets and the beautiful, inspiring, wonderful spirit of love that motivates farmers like Joel Huesby.  I strongly believe that God aches to see how modern industrialized agriculture is depleting the earth, disrespecting His creations, and making all of us weaker and weaker over time.  And I strongly believe that God is eager to help us repent and choose a better way for ourselves, our children, and the rest of our posterity.  The film motivated Ax and me to make some major changes that will improve our lives, and we feel confident that God is pleased with those changes and will help us find the best, most affordable ways to move forward with those plans.

Which brings me to something I wanted to address from the film.  I was frustrated with the way the film represented the financial costs of healthy eating.  There is a portion of the film where they follow around a low-income family of four as they order their dinner from a fast food chain dollar menu ($11.48 for five hamburgers, two chicken sandwiches, and three soft drinks to feed a family of four), and then they go to a grocery store and lament how expensive the pears and broccoli are.  The sentiment is... if fruits and vegetables weren't so expensive, we'd eat healthier... what a shame that we can only afford fast food!  Then it finishes with the family discussing the outrageously expensive prescription medications the father has to take for his health problems... diabetes, etc.  And the mother sort of laughs and says something like, "I guess you either pay on the front end for healthy food, or you pay on the back end for medical bills."

I've thought a lot about this part of the film since last week.  I'm so frustrated by it.  I think the filmmakers wanted us to see the way low-income families struggle to make healthy food choices, but I think they also misrepresent some things.  It's so sad that there is such a disconnect when it comes to food prices... People grow up buying food like this family does and never learn that there is a much easier, cheaper, better way to feed themselves.  Healthy isn't more expensive!  It's usually cheaper!  Personally, I can't afford junk food!  (Though we do eat it on occasion.)

Thoughts rolling around my head in reaction to this part of the film:
  • $11.48 is NOT a cheap dinner for a family of four.  Even if you just brought your own reusable water bottles instead of ordering sodas, you'd save yourself enough money to go buy some of those "expensive" pears or broccoli to eat with your dollar menu burgers.  They could EACH have an entire 16 oz package of strawberries this time of year (88 cents last week at Fry's) for less than what they spent on their sodas! 
  • The way to buy groceries is NOT to buy the broccoli (or anything else) when it's "expensive."  When you're struggling to make ends meet, you have to buy things when they're on sale.  Only buy produce in season when it's cheapest (or join a co-op like Bountiful Baskets where you can get enough produce to feed your family for two weeks for just over $1 a day).  And stock up on staple items when they're on sale.  Don't pay regular price for anything (unless you have to).
  • The mother in the film says, "We don't have time to cook."  I understand that people are busy, especially hard-working families like theirs.  But I think people also over-estimate the amount of time (and money) it takes to make an inexpensive, fairly healthy meal.  For example... taco salad is a piece of cake.  You could even cook a bunch of taco meat on the weekend and freeze it to use a bit at a time during the week.  All you'd have to do on the weeknight is warm up the meat in the microwave, tear up some lettuce, cut up whatever veggies you want on top, and throw some pre-grated cheese on there.  Really fast and easy and probably a fraction of the cost of their fast food dollar menu meal if the meat and veggies were purchased on sale.  I'd say a little effort is beyond worth it to cut costs and improve health.  
  • Sometimes even the organic stuff is a better deal.  If you watch carefully, you can eat organic for less than what you'd spend to eat non-organic.  Watch for sales and specials.  And even if you have to pay a bit more for the organic grass-fed beef, it's worth every extra penny... which really isn't "more" than what you'd spend eating fast food hamburgers anyway if you look at how many people can be fed with just one pound of $4.99/lb grass-fed beef.  When we use one pound of beef to make a meal, it usually translates into dinner (more than one helping each) for two adults and two small children and lunch for two adults the next day.  That's more than six servings.  That $4.99 went a long way.  And the more we "eat meat sparingly," the less we'll have to spend. Why is grass-fed beef worth the price tag?  Watch the film. :-) But, in short... it's safer for human consumption, better for the cows' stomachs, better for the land, and nutritionally superior in so many ways
Alright... enough rambling.  Here's a trailer for the film:


Jen said...

Oh. Oh. Oh.

I'm SO with you on the cost of food.

One thing I've always appreciated about the organic v. non-organic debate is that you don't have to jump in all at once. If you have to pick and choose which food will be organic and which won't, you can prioritize. For instance, I'd put organic meat at the top of the priority list, followed by the produce that is consumed that doesn't have a peel removed. The produce that DOES, however (bananas, oranges, melons, etc), is more toward the bottom of my list.

Side note: pound-for-pound, produce is cheaper than junk food. Have you ever looked at the per-pound price of a bag of doritos?

Bridget said...

I am so glad more people are watching this movie. I switched to local organic grass-fed beef after watching it and I am never going back. I think we'll gradually work up to organic chicken even though it is dang expensive. We'll just eat less of it, I guess.

The fast food family bothered me, too, for the same reasons. I felt bad for them, but not really, you know?

Hilary said...

Greg and I DVRed this when it was on -- we've watched half of it. Over the last year or so, we've made it a point to use more organic, local foods, but haven't made the switch on meat yet (although, we eat very little red meat, and only slightly more chicken), but I think it's one of those things I just need to 'bite the bullet' on and just do it.
I am happy that a lot of what we eat as a family is made from whole, natural ingredients (very little 'boxed' foods), with way more whole grains and produce than we ate in the past (before kids). I feel like I only have this one shot to start them off right! (I wish I could get to sink in on pregnancy though -- I keep eating M&Ms, when I know broccoli would be healthier for the baby!) :-)

kamille said...

i agree with what you said. i was definitely eating more whole foods but was undereducated on the importance of organic meat. that is now a top priority for me, as well as what jen said about organic fruits and veggies that are on the "dirty" list.

it may seem more expensive because people are so programmed for "cheap" food, but the filmmakers were right when they said that the "cheap" food is actually very very expensive. we have to reprogram our thinking to remember that while food may be more pricey (organic free-range chicken vs. conventional chicken) it is so worth it in so many ways.

i came across a quote by julie b. beck that said that a righteous woman will stretch every reserve to meet the needs of her family. i think that definitely applies in the food category. we must do all we can because it is so, so important and i know God approves of our choices to change too.

courtney said...

I just stumbled across your blog yesterday so first I'd like to say HI!! and also LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. I'm currently working towards doula certification.

Anyway, on to the topic at hand. I read Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" and it absolutely changed my life in regards to how and what I eat. I buy almost everything i eat (everything from meats [chicken, beef, goat and lamb, all grass fed grazing animals not treated with hormones or antibiotics] to eggs to veggies/fruits and milk) from the local farmer's market. It gives me comfort and piece of mind being able to speak to the individuals who grow my food, and know how they run their farms and treat their animals. It is a little more expensive, but I feel that in the long run I am saving money by being healthy, and hopefully avoiding future heath problems by maintaing a good, fresh, balanced diet. At the same time I am supporting my local economy and getting fresher food. I recognize that I am extremely fortunate to have such a robust farmer's market where I live. I don't know what I would do without it. Hopefully I will get the chance to watch Food, Inc before midnight tonight. Along with childbirth, I am very passionate about eating whole foods, cutting out as much of the processed stuff as possible, and knowing where my food comes from. I truly believe many of the health epidemics we are experiencing in this country can be traced back to poor diet and food choices. Unfortunately it seems even if you're trying to do everything right by eating fresh fruits/veggies you still may not get the full benefit due to the drain on land from commercial farms. It's so important to not only know what you are eating, but where it comes from.

Diana J. said...

We recorded this movie last week, and I haven't had the guts to watch it yet! But I know we need to, and I'm also hoping that watching this film with DH will do more good for his eating habits than my nagging. :)

Missy said...

I'm really glad I got to watch this documentary! I had no idea everything that was going on behind the scenes.
That family eating fast food for every meal made me feel sick. They did portray it as if there were no other options which isn't true. They could have put that $12 towards bountiful baskets and had a whole lot more to eat then burgers and sodas, and for more then one day too.
When they talked to that group of kids where everyone had atleast two people in their family with diabetes, I was shocked. Diabetes seems to be an epidemic that's spreading.

Azúcar said...

Loved the movie.

I can't wait to read your reaction to The Cove.

Robyn said...

I watched this film as soon as it came out for rental. I'm glad it is getting more attention now. I tell everyone I know to watch it. Our family was affected by food safety in a very personal way, like the family of Kevin highlighted in the movie, our son died from e-coli 0157:H7contamination in spinach. We ate healthy (most of the time) before we watched the film but now I have a heightened awareness of our responsibility to buy responsibly supporting local growers and farmers. I really enjoy having my own garden too.

I wish more people realized how much cheaper and healther it is to make a batch of homemade breadsticks from the food storage than running to Little Ceasars (and they taste so much better homemade too).

We recently had a RS meeting about couponing and saving money at the cash register and while I feel that has value, most of the products that have these great coupon deals are pre-packaged and full of preservatives and artificial flavors. I wanted to jump up and say, forget Bisquick and go for the blender wheat pancakes! Even if you can get that box of Bisquick for less than a dollar it won't give you the nutrition that whole grains will.

In reflection on the film, I also thought of the Word of Wisdom and how we are to eat meat scarcely. If more people really did this our food system would improve and our health.

One article really caught my eye in the Ensign: "Cancer, Nutrition and the Word of Wisdom: One Doctor's Observations" by William T. Stephenson, Ensign, July 2008. We eat less meat now as a result.

I have been involved in food safety reform for over a year now. For more information on how you can personally make a difference visit or Congress is in the process of considering legislation that will put more responsibility on large processors to make their food safe. From time to time I do post about food safety on my blog.

Thanks for this post!

Buscando la Luz said...

Wow, Robyn. Thanks so much for sharing your story and all those resources and insights. You are doing a great work! Hopefully more and more people will wake up and join you!