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Why Judging People for Buying Unhealthy Food Is Classist

By Wiley Reading - Everyday Feminism, September 30, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

As a nation, we’re slowly realizing that whole, fresh foods are good for you and that cooking at home can save you money and provide you with better nutrition.

Overall, this is a great trend. It’s becoming easier and more common to get fresh food, whole foods, local foods, and organic foods.

Unfortunately, though, this shift in culture has also begun to produce a toxic byproduct: better-than-thou attitudes and judgments about low-income people’s decisions about food.

“Why do they waste their money on junk food?” “Why doesn’t she cook for her children?” “Ugh, look, he’s buying his toddler a Happy Meal.”

Many of us have thought things like this or heard other people say things like this. We are very concerned with how poor people (or people we assume are poor) spend money on food.

The truth is, though, we rarely have all the facts when we judge these people. Let’s change that.

Reinventing the Wheel - The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

By x356039 - August 12, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the discussions of climate change one item often overlooked is one of the most surprisingly obvious: food. Without any doubt the modern industrial food system is incredibly destructive to the environment. The carbon emissions, runoff from feedlots, use of pesticides and other toxins, and the impact of genetically manipulated frankenfood on ecosystems are all proven environmental consequences of factory farming. In spite of these factors industrialized food is often very far down on the list of mainstream environmental activists' priorities.

The relative lack of emphasis is not surprising. When it comes to climate change the first targets of efforts are usually the fossil fuel industry and rightfully so. It is thanks to their activities we are facing a climate crisis in the first place. On top of that agribusiness and their supporters have for decades made the case their methods are what the world needs to keep everyone fed. These claims often go unchallenged with food activists focusing more on the health consequences and nutritional benefits of natural, organic food over factory food. Thanks to these factors the mainstream discourse is not whether or not we should ditch fake food but seeking the best balance between factory food & real food.

This status quo suit agribusiness just fine for a very simple reason. Contrary to their most strident claims organic farming can not only feed the entire world, In some cases it can do it better. According to a report released by the United Nations FAO in 2007 organic farming techniques, when implemented in a comprehensive fashion, are capable of yielding as much in terms of crops as “traditional” factory farming. Quite contrary to the claims by more moderate voices it is very possible to do this without the use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically mutilated crops, or any of the other dubious hallmarks of fossil fuel farming. Even more impressively organic farming performs up to 60% better in drought-prone areas like Ethiopia than high cost, high maintenance, highly destructive factory farming.

What is a Just Agriculture System and Why Does it matter?

By Elizabeth Henderson - The Prying Mantis, November 13, 2012

Panel discussion at the Annual Meeting of the Domestic Fair Trade Association with Nelson Carrasquillo, Michael Sligh, and Elizabeth Henderson, November 13, 2012

My presentation:The current cheap food system coupled with Free Trade makes it difficult to keep family-scale farms afloat. Over the years since WWII, family scale farms have been going out of business at a steady and alarming pace until very recently. In 1943, the year I was born, there were over 6 million farms. There are only 2.2 million today. The local foods movement has reversed the trend and the number of small farms is actually growing. Nevertheless, something like 84% of the existing farms are in debt. Prices do not cover farmers’ costs of production. Many of the farms that do not have labor do have a family member who works off the farm so that the farmer can have health insurance or the farmer works a regular job and spends evenings and weekends doing farm work. While there are some outstanding examples of farms that do not have labor and are doing well financially, most of the family scale farms I know about are struggling to make ends meet, or are run by people who have chosen to live “simply.” Often, farmers are so discouraged about the money aspects of their farms that they do not even try to calculate costs accurately. They farm for the love of it, and either eek out a living that would qualify as below the poverty line or make money doing something else to support their farming habit. Family-scale farmers are a marginal population in the US and all of North America. These are fragile small businesses.

Taking a market-based approach, domestic fair trade seeks to pay farmers enough to allow them to use sustainable farming practices, to earn a living wage for themselves and their families and to pay living wages for the people who work on their farms. The Agricultural Justice Project hasassembled farmers, farm workers and other stakeholders to compose high bar standards for fair pricing, and decent working conditions for people who work throughout the food system. The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. The reality is that family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty. Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired helpers minimum wage, soon to rise to $7.65 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours aweek year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize. The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor RelationsAct, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too.

Since 911, the Department of Homeland Security has increased its operatives along the NY northern border from 341 to 2000, and farms complain bitterly about raids and arrests. There is a critical need for immigration reform and passage of the AgJobs bill.

A major squeeze or speed up has been underway that has been especially hard on dairy farms and farms that produce commodity crops. Rising costs, global warming (droughts, floods) and low prices due to concentration in markets that reduces the number of possible buyers. Contracts, including those given by organic processors, are poor. Most farms are not profitable, and many are in debt.

A fair food system would pay high enough prices for farm products that farmers could pay themselves and everyone working on the farm true living wages – that cover shelter, high quality, culturally appropriate food, health care, education, transportation, savings, retirement,self-improvement and recreation.

The Mutants are Coming

By Steve Hastings - June 29, 1999

The development of the technology of Genetic Modification (G.M.) stretches back decades but most people have started to become aware of its implications during the 90’s.First in the mid 90’s Monsanto introduced rB.S.T. a G.M. growth hormone designed to increase milk yields in the U.S. After some controversy the E.U. decided to ban its import into Europe, a decision which is likely to be overturned by the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) soon. Then in 1996 shipments of soyabeans genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup started to arrive in this country prompting the first major signs of public disquiet. More recently the sacking of Dr Puzstai from the Rowett Institute for claiming that consuming G.M. potatoes harmed rats provoked quite a food scare frenzy in the capitalist media. Pictures of a green faced Tony Blair with bolts through his neck under the headline "The Prime Monster" probably made all but the hardest of us chuckle but the whole "Frankenstein Foods" paranoia tended to obscure the environmental and social disasters which will follow if the corporations carry out their plans to introduce G.M. on a large scale.

"LET THEM EAT OIL".

G.M. is only the latest stage in the the industrialisation of food production which has been going on throughout the whole post war period under the control of the petro-chemical-pharmaceutical multinationals that have come to dominate the global economy. More powerful than many nation states (in 1995 of the 100 most powerful ‘economies’ in the world 48 were multinational corporations) they, along with the international financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, W.T.O. etc) constitute the economic side of the New World Order with N.A.T.O. taking on the role of political centralisation.

The process of industrialising food production which they have been imposing on us over the last few decades consists of destroying subsistence and organic farming and replacing it with a system based on:

  • Massive inputs of petro-chemicals in the form of fuel for machinery, artificial fertilisers and biocides (herbicides and pesticides).
  • Production for a global market rather than for direct consumption (subsistence) or local markets.
  • More dependence on animal products and the intensification of animal exploitation (factory farming).
  • The concentration of land ownership into fewer hands.
  • Dependence on multinational corporations for seed. Major chemical, pharmaceutical and oil multinationals have taken over more than 120 seed companies since the 60,s. The top 5 seed producers now control 75% of the world market. Hybrid, so-called ‘High Yielding Varieties’, have yields 20-40% lower in the second generation if replanted and are hence economically sterile’.
  • The replacement of mixed cropping systems suitable to local conditions with monocultures.

The results of this process (sometimes known as the ‘Green Revolution’) have been landlessness, poverty & starvation for many in the so-called ‘Third World’ as well as massive degradation of the natural world through chemical pollution and loss of biodiversity.

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