Monday, March 25, 2013

New Music Mondays: Challenging the Junk Food Industrial Complex

Michelle Obama has spent a lot of her time in office supporting a healthy living program through her Let's Move campaign. She has been traveling the nation encouraging kids and adults to spend less time on the couch and more time being active. Healthy diets play a major roll in her campaign as well. She even published a recipe book inspired by her work in the White House garden and gardening traditions across America to highlight the need for healthy eating habits. All these efforts in hopes to lower the abysmal obesity rate in America.

Earth Amplified ft. Stic.Man-"Food Fight"

Courtesy of Okayplayer

Hip Hop has also jumped on the healthy food bandwagon. Dead Prez's Stic.Man partnered with Earth Amplified to create the above visuals for the burgeoning war against processed foods. "Food Fight" features Stic on popular Dead Prez themes: eating healthy, staying active, and fighting the power of The Man. In this case, in the form of genetically altered seed producer Monsanto and the guys that put all that high fructose corn syrup in everything. The music video particularly highlights the lack of access to healthy foods that influences poor eating habits in African American and poverty stricken communities. The song is most effective in the chilling way it connects the cold-blooded tactics of the American drug trade to the ruthlessness and coerciveness of the junk food industrial complex.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's recently stalled soda restrictions have also brought to the national stage issues regarding the availability of high sugar, low quality calorie diets among Americans. Bloomberg's measure has faced opposition from NAACP and local Latino/a organizations who call the restrictions arbitrary. They claim the law would hurt small-scale minority-owned corner businesses while leaving untouched larger conglomerates like 7-Eleven's and their infamously gargantuan Big Gulp. 16-ounces aren't enough for you? Just skip the bodega and walk across the street to the 7-Eleven! Bloomberg responded with some outraged of his own, perplexed why, black and latino community organizations, whose constituencies face terribly high obesity rates, could ever be against such restrictions. He suggested that this new opposition was really a reflection of pressure from the junk food industrial complex including Coca-Cola and other large beverage sellers. NAACP's Ben Jealous and others joined Chris Hayes on his show last week to discuss the benefits and challenges to Bloomberg's proposal.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes talks to proponents and opponents of Bloomberg's soda restrictions

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Sometime Alaskan governor Sarah Palin has long voiced her opposition to what she perceives as government-in-your-kitchen policies. However, corporations and food lobbies have for decades had substantial influence on the guidelines the USDA and other governmental bodies create on national nutritional recommendations.  The free-market has been hard at work making sure you eat things that assure a profit as opposed to making you healthier.

Palin, and likely many others, make the false assumption that people actually have real choice when it comes to what they feed their families. In reality, with the growing rate of food deserts and declining incomes families are less equipped than ever to provide a variety of healthy options at the dinner table. One of the hallmarks of a free-market system is that it provides choice for consumers and rewards their purchasing power; however, when it comes to food some of the most vulnerable American's have fewer and fewer options.
All that said, you don't have to look far to see the rise of the healthy food conscious culture in America as evidenced by farm-to-table programs, farmer's markets, food co-ops, and buy fresh/buy local campaigns across America. These efforts are commendable, but still price out many consumer and at times perpetuate the fetishization of food by making particular eating habits another commodity to check-off in the middle class behavior box (right next to yoga and brunch). The junk food industrial complex might very well be replaced one day by the health-food industrial complex.

Trading one sort of master for another is not what Stic.Man is about. That's why Earth Amplified's campaign is being fueled by SOS Juice, a nonprofit/for profit partnership that uses proceeds from juice smoothie products and composting to promote healthy and sustainable living while also providing employment for low-income and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Learn more about SOS Juice

You can learn more about what ends up on your kitchen table, how it got there, what's in it, where its from, and the global implications of how humans eat from the below documentaries (some summaries were adapted from the film's website).

King Corn
This feature documentary is about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In the film, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.

Life and Debt
This documentary compellingly connects the neocolonial policies of the IMF and World Bank that restricted and wreaked havoc on local Jamaican farmers in the guise of creating a modern free-market economy. The result was more profits for imported US dairy product producers and a decimated local farming community. Why let a man fish when you can make him buy the same fish from you for an inflated price?
Food, Inc
Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.

Forks Over Knives
This feature-length documentary examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.