I went to the grocery store at midnight the other night.
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Is it just me or are the lights at the grocery story brighter at midnight?
With no one else around, the shelves looked so straight, so clean, so perfect.
I found myself in one long, wide, empty aisle staring at all the various meals I could make out of a box. I wonder, what do you see when you go to the grocery store? Behind all those boxes, what is really there?
Behind those boxes is no longer the quaint family farm our nostalgic tendencies would have us believe. Instead, what is behind those boxes, and the meat wrapped in plastic, is a big ugly factory.
Behind all those boxes ...
... is steel and assembly lines.
... is chemicals and genetically modified ingredients.
... is unfair wages, long hours, and no health care.
... is power, greed, and corruption.
... is a handful of multinational corporations.
... is corn (in some form or fashion).
... is hidden costs.
... is injustice.
"Please, Neeraj," you might be saying. "Don't be so dramatic."
The truth is that in our country we have been fed lies.
That fast, cheap, and highly processed food is good for us.
That the way we produce food is eternally sustainable.
That it's okay for us to treat our animals poorly and treat our workers like animals.
That our unhealthy lifestyles are simply a product of our individual choices, and not somehow driven by an unhealthy, dysfunctional system.
That it is okay for a chip to be cheaper than a carrot.
That somehow if you are poor you deserve less affordable, less healthy, and just plain fewer food choices.
So I would respond to you, "No, I am not being dramatic." I am being honest. Honest with the fact that this food system of ours is out of control, killing our environment, and making us sicker, fatter, and poorer.
An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
A Good Food Manifesto for America, by Will Allen
Money has power. If you can afford it, buy organic or sustainable food with little or no pesticides. And tell your local grocery store what types of food are important to you and your community.
Advocate. Lots of urban, low-income communities have significantly less access to affordable, healthy food choices. There are lots of food movements throughout the country working to bring equity in this area. Join them.
Slow Down. Eat more meals at home instead of eating out.
Neeraj Mehta has been working with others to uncover beauty and strength in north Minneapolis for the past 10 years. Previously he worked for Project for Pride in Living and most recently as program and strategic development director for the Sanctuary Community Development Corporation. Currently, he is working with the community-building intermediary Payne-Lake Community Partners, partnering with others to create more engaged and powerful communities in the Twin Cities.