A 4th of July Food Manifesto

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With Fourth of July coming, many Americans have picnicking on the mind. And picnics mean picnic food – barbecued burgers on fluffy white buns with summer tomatoes, ketchup, potato chips, corn on the cob, and all of it washed down with a Coke (hopefully not Pepsi).

If that sounds like your July 4 plan, better first pick up a copy of Ellen Gustafson’s We the Eaters. Gustafson, a co-founder of the Food Tank takes readers through the unhealthy and environmentally destructive industrial processes behind these and many other of our favorite food choices. Helpfully, she also points to alternative ways you can continue to enjoy these food favorites without supporting the worst food industry corporations.

As she outlined in her widely viewed 2010 TED Talk, Gustafson describes how the issues of global hunger and the obesity epidemic as two sides of the same food industry coin. For both the overweight and undernourished, finding healthy food choices is increasingly difficult, in a global food system dominated by agribusiness interests linked with transnational food goliaths. Gustafson shows how genetic engineering, shrinking crop diversity, industrial livestock production, and other forces have reshaped the food landscape, to the point today where processed foods made up from just a few major commodity crops (primarily corn, soy, wheat, rice, and sugar) are easy to buy in even a poor Ugandan village (or major US airport), while fresh fruits and vegetables are nowhere to be found.

We the Eaters suggests a different path is possible for our food system. Changing the food system can start on our dinner plates – and July 4 picnics – and by changing how we eat we can improve our health, our communities, and the planet.

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