I am not the only one to notice the symbiotic and highly profitable relationship between Big Food & Big Pharma, nor am I alone in diagnosing the tight grip they hold on chronic disease. I am a student of a small but growing few who have made it their lives’ work to advocate on behalf of real food. Al Gore pioneered the popular cry for diagnosing planetary disease, but it’s Michael Pollan, Nina Planck, Mark Bittman, Alice Waters , and a host of other outraged and out-financed foodies and chefs who are leading the charge toward addressing the diseased diets so many of us mistake for nutrition. Pollan is unapologetic when he writes in his Eater’s Manifesto, In Defense of Food: “All of our uncertainties about nutrition should not obscure the plain fact that the chronic diseases that now kill most of us can be traced directly to the industrialization of our food.”
So what’s a food maven to do? And why isn’t the US government on the list of culinary crusaders? Should the FDA be renamed the “Food Dopes of America?” The food faux pas of our most recent presidents tell our nation’s sorry story in an imitation nutshell. In my own lifetime, I’ve watched Bill Clinton frequent Mickey D’s, George H. W. Bush get down on some serious pork rinds, and though it pains me to admit, I’ve seen images, in Saveur of all places, of Barack Obama rewarding his campaign team with Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Let’s face facts: fast food is political gold. It’s an “everyman” diploma that wins the votes of its own victims. Voters identify with leaders who live, feel and even eat like they do. But shouldn’t we expect more from our country’s top dog?
President Obama certainly has a lot on his plate, so to speak, but our nation’s nutrition is no small potatoes . This is especially true for the strained middle class and impoverished populations who don’t have the money or lifestyles to support inconvenient, expensive diets, even if they have the markets in their neighborhoods carrying whole foods, which of course, they all too often do not. The inequity in nutrition in this country is shameful and only threatens to deepen as recession woes cut into family budgets and kitchen cabinets. My biggest fear is that tough economic times will give way to a backlash toward the green movement and force an even greater dependence on fast food.