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Despite my earlier protestations, and with much appreciated assistance, I not only planted what turned out to be an overfilled garden, I har...

November 20, 2012

A Fall for Food Justice

I can't believe I haven't posted in over a month now.... OY!!! I truly apologize but my schedule this fall has been crazy. Now the holiday season is upon us all and the weather has made it too easy to slack off, away from the computer and technology all together. Comfort wise I have no complaints about the weather. Besides updating my blog I have been ever lackadaisical about finishing my garden clean up (there are still trellises, stakes, and hoses to put away). I haven't even harvested all my cruciferous vegetables. So far the Dino kale is still the star of my garden and an easy go-to for a smoothie or for a free snack for our guinea pig.

To be totally honest I haven't been just lazing about like I'm alluding too. I have been actively participating in the Transition Movement in my area as well as participating with Gardening Matters. Last night I accepted an invitation to participate in a discussion on Global Food Security with Dr. Esther Brimmer the Assistant Secretary of State. She was introduced and welcomed by Congressman Kieth Ellison, who hisself was introduced by Ladonna Redmond Senior Food Justice Program Associate from IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy).

For some time now I have been an advocate of full disclosure when it comes to potentially harmful additives and genetically modified foods within our food system. As I've discussed before I have a son with severe food allergies including those additives that seem harmless. People don't realize that what was real food in the beginning is being manipulated and turned into a grotesque food-like object for their consumption. Unless you're a die-hard fan of reading labels like I've become you would not believe how with additives there are in food that make people sick like Aspartame (an ulcer drug now sold as a sweetener) and Red Food Dye #40.

Every parent has some amount of fear involved in bringing a new child into the world. Most of us think about the potential dangers of pot handles sticking out over the stove, electric sockets, small toys that could be swallowed, and later on in their lives bully's. Imagine trying to soothe your infant, then toddler when they are breaking out in hives and suffering from coughs that culminate into heart wrenching gasps for breathe. Imagine doctors not knowing the difference between scabies and an allergic reaction.

For the first three years of our sons life we didn't know the cause of these "break-outs" and subsequent hospitalizations. I would breast feed and then a few minutes later have a child who'd be rashy and hard to comfort. I kept wondering if it could be something in the home that he was consuming through me, or coming into contact with. Our pediatrician in the south said it couldn't  be anything passing through my breast milk since I'm not a smoker or drinker; but after 9 months I decided that I couldn't take a chance of continuing to breastfeed when my child was so miserable.

By his 3rd year my husband and I started to notice a trend.... Every time this child had popsicles he would break out. Then holiday time rolled around and I noticed that at Halloween there would be break out as soon as he had skittles.... Thanks be to God that we had a pediatrician with whom I felt comfortable sharing my observations. He didn't think I was a loon and asked if my husband or I knew which popsicles broke him out. He then asked if either of us had ever heard of allergies to food dyes. Our answer, "of course not, is that a real thing?". Well after months of grueling allergy testing we found out that not only did our son have allergies to dyes he had severe asthma that could be induced by the food he consumed and other allergens in our home environment.

Just because I didn't smoke that didn't mean others in our household did not. Even if they smoked outside of the home their clothes would still contain harmful allergens as well as dust, pollen, and God knows what else. After being educated on Allergies both food and environmental we moved forward with a plan for our own household that included my other half getting off of the cigs. The hub has been cigarette free for 3 years now which I am ecstatic about. However, even without his smokes we had a new dilemma because there were artificial dyes in EVERYTHING. For the last seven years our household has had to make sure our child doesn't get exposed to allergens in the following which is not a complete list: hand soap, toothpaste, bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, face paints, temporary tattoos, new unwashed clothing, school lunch, yogurt, cheese, milk, chewing gum, markers, and a host of other potential food and non-food items.

After reading this some would say my life may not be "ideal" because who wants to have to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for their child every day without the convenience of a microwave? That's like "what they did in the olden days" lol

I say WWGD.... What Would Grandma Do? We've gotten so far removed from our past thrusting aside common sense for expediency and a quick fix. I've found that the quick fix is the one that leads you to the closest hospital.... Literally!! I look for no pity, I just share all of this to let you know why food justice is important to me. It's just something for you to think on and use good judgement in your own situation  As a nation we've gotten away from justice for all when we let corporate entities hijack our health and our children's health on their mission for another buck. The research is there if you look for it but a lot of us won't take the time because we've got more important things to do.... NOT!!! There have been several news stories of late on artificial dyes in food and one of the more disturbing facts is that the Environmental Agencies in the European Union and even Britain's Food Standards Agency have required the removal of these chemical from children's food. Yet, our own companies will remove it from products sold in Europe for this reason but not in our American versions of the same product. (ie.. Starbust and Kraft Mac-N-Cheese.

Last Wednesday on the Today show they ran a story regarding whether or not products we bought like cereals, yogurts, and sports drinks like Vitamin Water, etc contained "real" fruit. The findings were that we were of course being duped and that a U.S. product could be sold alluding to there being actual real fruit in the product as long as it contained somewhere on the front of the box the word "flavored".  There turned out to be no fruit in any of the items shown which is just a travesty and speaks to the integrity of U.S. corporations.... Digressing back to last nights meeting; access to real and nutritious food is a right; as is access to water. I agree with any local, national, or international movement to secure these rights for all earths citizens. Besides access issues, GMO's, Franken foods, and artificial additives; there are also issues with land and food sovereignty that I was made aware of.

In the coming months I look forward to delving into the quagmire that is global food security by doing all I can locally first. My mother-in-law always says, "charity starts at home and spreads abroad". I will continue to grow healthy foods and awareness with and for my family. Also, I am hoping that any contribution that I can make with the fore-mentioned organizations takes root and spreads not only knowledge but actual works within my community.

Happy Harvesting if you still have goodies like we do in  your garden; and enjoy your holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!