real food

The Real Food Question

I’ve publicly talked about food, and how we as a country have become so far removed from the sources of what we eat. I’ve advocated for GMO labeling, largely because I think it’s a basic human right to know exactly what’s been done to what you are putting into your body. It’s your BODY for Pete’s sake. Make choices based on what you know, and when you know better, choose better.

But I’m seeing a sad trend in relation to food choices: shaming. “Ew, how can you EAT that? It’s not ORGANIC.” Or, I don’t feed my kids McDonald’s, how could YOU?”

We, as a family, volunteer once a month at our church with an organization called Faith Cafe, where we prepare and serve a free lunch to people in the area. No preaching, no evangelizing, just food, conversation, and care for hungry people. Seconds and thirds are available if asked for.

In the almost year that we’ve been volunteering there, not one single patron has asked me if the food we serve was organic. Not one person has asked if the hamburger was pink slime hamburger or “real” hamburger. No one has questioned whether the hamburger bun had the yoga mat chemical in it. It’s been a humbling and eye-opening experience for me. I’ve woken up to my own food snobbery. Based on my experiences with volunteering in this capacity, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Food that fills their tummies and blesses them so that they carry on another day is real food.

As we go hurtling headlong into the big food fight coming, I’m really concerned that we are creating a two-tiered food system: those who CAN buy “real food” and those who can’t.

Food that fills a body and allows that person to continue on is real food.

Should we rely less on a box of processed “food-like substances?” Of course. We’ve been given a bounty all around us of things to eat that help us grow, maintain our health, and even heal us in some cases. It’s unfortunate that the politics and the money machines have taken hold and made the least nutritious food the most affordable. It’s also unfortunate that we have been programmed by this disease of abundance to seek out only the things that give us a sweet or salty or fatty fix.

The topic of food is so incredibly complicated that I can’t even begin to unravel what we have done to our food supply in the last sixty years. However, the fact remains that food, regardless of its source, fills the mouths and tummies of those who need to eat it. Let’s keep the fighting about what is “good” and “real food” out of the mouths of the children and their parents who can least afford a hat in this particular ring.

Feed people. Teach them how to feed themselves with gardens and co-ops and books like this. Teach people what foods truly nourish theirs and their children’s bodies. But please, don’t judge and shame someone who has to choose between vegetables or making their rent this month. Because for them? What they can feed themselves and their hungry children is real food. And then, put your money where your organic mouth is and teach, share, and help. Looking down your nose at a person either making a different choice than you, or is forced to make a different choice than you is shameful.  If your attitude makes a person feel embarrassed about their food choices, the problem is yours.

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