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.