Author Archives: TheRealFoodReporter

Power of The Pocketbook

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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.

Sincerely,
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.