I still enjoy a Whopper and fries, but when I eat one now I am more keenly aware of the path that the burger has taken to get to my table, the lives that it has impacted, the social footprint it has made, and the alternatives I have when choosing the foods I eat.
I have listened for years as the news has told about the health issues that surround the foods we eat. It seems like every week there is another new health scare that portrays the American diet as dangerous and unhealthy. Trans fat, bacon, mayonnaise, and cheese have all come under fire as health advocates have suggested the limiting or elimination of certain foods from our diet. At some point it becomes like the boy who cried wolf too often. I have to wonder what is the food of the week that has drawn the attention of dieticians and nutritionists. If I had taken it as serious as they portrayed it then my favorite double cheeseburger with a large fries would have been out and replaced by a bowl of greens and alfalfa sprouts. Still, I had only a few sources for my food and had no knowledge how different it all was. If I didn't get my food from Burger King, then what alternatives did I have I had never given much thought about how the food had arrived at my table, or how the process had taken its toll on the nutritional benefits of the food I was eating.
Being told my food was unhealthy didn't ...
I need facts and figures and they need to make a connection that I can understand. The learning that I have done in food systems has been instrumental in fundamentally changing the ways that I think about food, the decision I make regarding the foods I buy, and my future plans for creating an alternative means of acquiring it. Yet, this would not have been possible without being involved in this class, my exposure to the UCD student farm, and the education that I have gotten in regards to alternative means of food production. I am far more aware of the risks we take when deciding what foods to eat and the ways it impacts growers and farmers around the world.
It wasn't that I didn't care about the health of the food I ate; it was that I simply was not aware of the myriad issues that surrounded the topic. One of the issues that I became more aware of was the use of chemicals that are required to feed the population of the world. I never stopped long enough to think that there are other species on the planet that are competing for the same food that the human race is. I didn't know how the smallest of insects could damage and kill a field of vegetables before they are even given an opportunity to grow. They can feed off the roots or the vines and bring death to the plant long before there are any signs of fruit. Killing the pests can be accomplished through the use of chemical pesticides, but they leave a residue that works its way into the plant. We then ingest the food and in doing so we consume some trace of the original pesticide. Weeds can overtake a field or garden plot as they also compete for space. Many weeds have evolved for the millennia to endure the harsh outdoor conditions and are a