Power of The Pocketbook


I don’t like to talk politics very often because my faith in our current system is waning by the day. Politics can seem depressing when thinking about the right to vote. The right to vote for political candidates I don’t even want seems to be almost antagonistic. There is this “carrot” of freedom related to our choice and power of the right to vote. Recently, I have realized that I possess more freedom and power in my pocket book than I do in my pen.

Does it really matter what box I check on election-day? Will a change in candidate or party really make that much of a difference in the issues that matter to me? I don’t think so.

I think the power comes in my role as a consumer. I vote every time I make a purchase. Every time I decide to buy a product that is American made, I vote for more jobs in my country. When I purchase an item using quality as my guide and not price, I vote for higher paying wages. I vote for an ecologically responsible and humane method of agriculture every time I purchase non-GMO, pesticide and herbicide free produce and grass-fed dairy or meat.  Every time I purchase directly from the local growers or ranchers at farmer’s markets I vote for to reduce society’s carbon footprint and support small business. I vote for a reduced dependence on fossil fuels every time I purchase a ticket for public transportation. I also vote for this oil independence whenever I purchase items packaged in paper, glass or recycled materials. Every time I purchase fair-trade chocolate or coffee I vote to end modern day slavery.

What and how much you buy can have a huge impact on the future of our world. Sometimes what you purchase is not just about the financial costs. In fact, I believe what I buy is less about the money and more about the impact I have on human rights, health, the environment, animal welfare, community involvement, and social justice.

If we as a nation want real food, then every ounce of money we spend on food should vote to support that cause. Many people know the power of the pocket book, and yet continue to “vote” for things they don’t support such as animal cruelty and genetically modified food. There are people in my own family who purchase conventionally raised feed lot beef and chicken because they “just can’t stomach paying $25 for a whole chicken”. My solution to such a predicament would be to reduce the amount of meat consumed and only eat it when I could afford to pay for pastured and grass-fed.

As Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

To quote the site www.betterworldshopper.com

“As these power centers shift, we must shift our own voices if we wish to be heard. As citizens, on average, we might vote once every 4 years, if at all. As consumers, we vote every single day with the purest form of power…money.

The average American family spends around $18,000 each year on goods and services. Think of it as casting 18,000 votes every year for the kind of world you want to live in.

Now, am I saying that we should become apathetic citizens not involved in our own political system? No, but much of our power exists in our pocketbook. As with every issue, there are “two sides to the coin”. As citizens the solution is not to buy more, but to make smarter purchases; in addition, we need to be involved in more than just our national elections. We need to write letters, and peacefully demonstrate against and for issues we believe in strongly. If you have time, please watch the video below that talks about how we might really make a change.

This video comes from storyofstuff.org

Got Cream? From Grocery Shopping to Petitioning the FDA

Last night, a shopping trip to the grocery chain called Sprouts Farmer’s Market, motivated me to write a few letters to the FDA. It all started when Brandon and I went there to gather the ingredients for our Valentine’s Day dinner. We don’t usually shop at Sprouts, and now I remember why. While there, I found the lack of organic and real foods to be quite frustrating.  When all the heavy cream options failed to pass my quality control examination, I couldn’t help but grumble.

None of the brands (not even the so called “organic” labels) were void of Carrageenan. Carrageenan is not milk, and therefore has no place in “organic” cream. This ubiquitous substance comes from seaweed and is often used as a thickening, emulsifying and stabilizing agent. It is commonly seen in dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, cream cheese, and cottage cheese. If you think you are lactose intolerant, you might just have an allergy to Carrageenan.  The debate over the harmfulness of Carrageenan is still out. Some claim, that if processed correctly, it is safe for the consumer. For a variety of reasons; however, I have made the decision to avoid the stuff whenever possible. I encourage you to do your own research in order to decide how you want to treat Carrageenan in your diet (friend or foe).

So, as I was saying, I failed to find cream that was up to snuff during my trip to Sprouts. I went there with high hopes, but as I approached the dairy case I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. “Look again”, I thought, so I scanned the shelves one more time, slowly. I was as expectant as a child on Christmas morning, eagerly searching under the tree for that one special present. Nope. It wasn’t there. There was no characteristic stubby glass bottle with green cap behind the cold glass doors. No Straus Family heavy cream for me. (Though not raw, this brand of cream is still very good.)

I had high hopes of finding something that would meet my expectations, but I knew there was no REAL cream at Sprouts. Regardless, I went through the motions anyway, reading the labels of both “organic” options. They both contained the rotten seaweed sludge. “Fine”, I groaned, “Fine, I will just use half and half instead.”  It was this scenario, which spurred a discussion in the car ride home about food quality.

Brandon told me a tale of a recent shopping trip he took with one of his roommates, Josh, to the “regular” grocery store. While roaming the aisles of microwavable pizzas, Josh asked Brandon if he had been snatching his precious TV dinners. Surprised, Brandon couldn’t help but scoff. ” Psssh. Yeah. Ha. Right. I wouldn’t eat that stuff, it’s got maltodextrin and xanthum gum in it!” His innocent roommate seemed oblivious to all of the “bad stuff”  he was consuming every day in his frozen prepared entrees. Which made me think, “How would he eat if the labels told him the truth about his food?”.

Upon arriving home, I was pretty fired up and so I went to work researching information on the “Truth in Labeling” campaign for the United States. I found out that China, South Korea, and Brazil have all adopted a policy for labeling GMOs before the United States. This simply would not do, so I started to fill out petitions and write letters to the FDA. The following is one of the letters I sent:

Dear Commissioner Hamburg,

I want you to know that I am choosing to vote for change in our food system with every product I purchase. I currently refuse to purchase any product that contains Canola, Corn (and its relatives), or Soy (and its relatives). My boyfriend has also has changed his buying and eating habits. My friends and family are changing their buying and eating habits. The 140 students that I teach science to every day already know the drawbacks and health impacts of GMOs. Everyone I talk to is changing. Maybe it is time for the FDA to make some changes, like labeling GMOs in food. Will it take a food revolution to wake up the food watch dogs of the FDA? Well no worries, it is coming.

Please consider more transparent food labeling for all ingredients, not just for GMOs.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Shannon Hyslop
High School Science Teacher
Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics

As you can see, I had a little bit of an attitude in this letter because I believe it is time to take back our food supply. We are not powerless. We are not weak. United we are strong, and we will get stronger with each new person that decides to take action. One person at a time, we will change the way this food system is working. You can vote for change by writing a letter.


NOTE: If you want to know where to find Straus cream go to any: AJ’s Fine Foods, Luci’s Healthy Market Place, or Whole Foods Market in the greater Phoenix area. You won’t be disappointed. If you are looking for raw milk in Phoenix there are a couple of places you can go to: Healthy Habit and Chubby Cheek Farms. Also, a great source for real food is the Saturday morning and Wednesday evening farmer’s market in downtown Phoenix. It is a place where I can go knowing I won’t have to read a lot of labels. It is place where I know I won’t have to pull out my food additives pocket guide.

A Real Cold and Flu Fix

It is cold and flu season and I am a high school science teacher, so it is almost inevitable that I get sick. The state of my health not only impacts me, but all of my students who depend on me to teach them Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science. Therefore, when I find something that keeps me well or makes me feel better, I like to brag about it.

This past Friday, when I started to feel the comings on of a cold, I was not surprised in the least. I had just come back from Winter Break and all of my kids were sick. However, I remained hopeful that my symptoms were due to something else. I tried to think positive, and I convinced myself that the sore throat I had was a result of dehydration. Still, when water didn’t help ease the sting in my throat, I blamed my lunch. The soy sauce that came with the sushi must have been filled with MSG. My little nagging sore throat and headache were just a reaction to the that; I was NOT sick. Nope. Not sick.

After work, I stopped by my parents house to say hello. While there, I started to feel worse and so I made myself a cup of Tazo Organic Chai tea. I felt a little better, but by 6 PM I was getting fever chills and had a horrible achiness overwhelming my head, neck and shoulders. Ugh. Sigh…yep, I was definitely sick! As I sat whimpering on my parent’s cold leather couch, trying to play with my little 3 year old nephew, my mom plopped down next to me. She handed me an over-the-counter pain pill and insisted that I take it.Too exhausted and hurting to put up a fight, I did as she said.

Sometime later I perked up a bit, maybe it was the pill, maybe it was the tea, maybe pure will power, but I found the motivation to say my farewells and drive home. I sent a text to Brandon before I left and let him know I would head his way after I stopped by my apartment to get cleaned up.

Once home, I dragged myself to the shower in hopes that the warm water would do something to relieve the throbbing I felt across my maxillary sinus. As I dried off, I thought, “Okay, alright…feeling better. Not good, but better. Maybe I just need a good night’s rest…” I packed a bag and was on my way to Mesa, for what I hoped would be a nice relaxing evening with my hon.

When I got to Brandon’s I was relieved to see his smiling face. He greeted me with a hug I just sighed and leaned into him, hugging back. When asked if I was feeling okay, I just shook my head no. “Awwww, baby, well, then let’s find something to fix you up”, he said smiling down at me. With that, we were off to Whole Foods Market to grab a bite, do some grocery shopping, and find me something to kick my cold.

We returned from our trip to Whole Foods with full tummies, ingredients to make the Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake from Jamie’s Food Revolution and Honey Gardens Apitherapy Honey Wild Cherry Bark Syrup. After putting our purchases away, I read the “Suggested Use” on the back of the bottle of syrup and whipped out a tablespoon to administer my first dose. I was surprised to see that the bottle said I could take one tablespoon every other hour. That seemed like a lot, but this stuff wasn’t like other cough syrups. It had no cough-supressing dextromethorphan. It was made of whole ingredients.

Warning I apologize if the following paragraph grosses you out.

Immediately, the pain in my throat subsided and within minutes my cough was calmed. Within two hours the phlegm in my throat was breaking up, and the sinus pressure I had was gone. By early morning, when I got up to go to the bathroom I was able to clear out all kinds of thickened green and yellow mucus. I have never seen any decongestant or cough syrup work as effectively as this stuff did for me. And to top it all off, I didn’t have any of the  weird side effects that accompany the conventional cough syrups containing dextromethorphan! No dizziness, no nausea, no weird lightheaded buzzing feelings, nothing! The only downside of this stuff is the sweet and sour taste it has due to the apple cider vinegar.

Today I woke up and decided I wanted to know more about the components that went into this amazing elixir. So I did some research. Listed below you will find a summary of what I found. But first, look here for the list of ingredients.

  • Raw Honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal due to the many plant nutrients and enzymes that are present. One major flavonoid (plant pigment that functions primarily as an antioxidant) in honey is pinocembrinGlucose oxidase, is an enzyme present in honey, that can act as a mild antiseptic when combined with water
  • Apple cider vinegar has been embraced as a health tonic since the late 1950′s when D.C. Jarvis publicized it in his best-selling book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health. ACV has many beneficial components including potassium and calcium, but it is the malic acid present in it which makes it anti-viral, anti-bacterial & anti-fungal in nature
  • Elecampane is an antiseptic expectorant that comes from the same plant family as sunflowers and ragweed. It has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat bronchitis and asthma.
  • Platycodon is listed with “phlegm-resolving” herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica guides and is purported to relieve sore throats because of this fact. In general, it is  useful in combating weak lungs and inflammatory conditions associated with the head and neck.
  • Propolis is the “glue” used by bees to build their hives. It has been described as having anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer properties.
  • Usnea is a type of lichen that grows on trees. It is commonly used as a fever reducer and expectorant.
  • Wild Cherry Bark has minute trace amounts of a vegetable compound called hydrocyanic acid, also known as cyanide. Cyanide in its isolated chemical form is highly toxic, but when incorporated into whole plant parts by nature it demonstrates antibiotic and astringent properties.
  • Ginger may help with detoxification by promoting healthy sweating and is commonly used to treat respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis.
  • Licorice is an herb that has a long history of use as a demulcent and expectorant though studies show mixed results for effectiveness.