Food panelists, from left, are Edouard E. Sooh, food supplement representative; James Bourne, organic farmer; Christopher Johnson, naturopathic doctor, and Hope Warshaw, dietician and diabetes consultant.
Mount Vernon The principal presentation of the program was to show an award-winning film “Food, Inc.” that highlights unsanitary slaughter of cows, chickens, and pigs, and the over-reliance on toxic pesticides and fertilizers as part of what the film contends is corporate argri-business strategies to produce large quantities of cheap food of poor nutritional quality at the expense of the consumer.
The film and the discussion by panelists that followed was a reminder of the need to be vigilant regarding federal and state public policies affecting food quality, or the lack thereof. The film makes the case that science and technology has not been the friend of quality nutritional food; but, according to the film, its enemy, as mass produced and heavily applied pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides cause toxicity in animals and the feedstock on which cows, chickens, and pigs rely on for their food. The extent of damage to the livestock and ultimately the consumer is a hotly debated subject that continues today.
De Juana Jones, hostess of the AAUW November Public Forum on Food, began her welcome remarks by saying that she comes by this nutrition program honestly. She has had a lifetime interest in policies and practices which ensure food production which is safe, doesn’t harm the environment, and is of high nutritional value.
Food and nutrition information on the web or available in books:
“Food Politics,” by Marion Nestle, Berkley California UC Press
“Chew on This,” by Charles Wilson. Houghton Mifflin, NY
“The purpose of our AAUW food program is to create an awareness of the dangers that lurk in harmful foods and illustrate how healthy nutrition can save lives,” Jones said. “Our goal is to make pure food a national priority.”
Other attendees’ comments included Joanne Clark’s: “Between the film and the panel discussion people learned a lot about the importance and availability of food.”
Saundra Prince said, “The movie was shocking; I am sure anyone who sees it will rethink the purchase of some food products they usually buy.”
The movie is an attempt to take on a $23 billion food conglomerate. As the movie and at least one panelist described it, some small victories are being made to promote the purchase of organic food products. Walmart was cited in the movie as one example that their analysts, seeing a trend toward organic food, has begun to stock their shelves with organic food products. Walmart sees the economics of the organic food trend and have joined others in the commercial food industry who see organic food as one of the fastest growing food niches in the U. S.
Still, according to the film, U.S. government is willing to subsidize agriculture while at the same time tolerating anti-competitive and anti-consumer production and labeling practices.
The panelists each described their background and experience based on their specialty, and made some general comments in reference to the film. Calvert County organic farmer Jim Bourne and the dietician Hope Warshaw said that organically grown fresh fruit, vegetables, and livestock was the safest and nutritionally most beneficial way to buy and consume food. Warshaw recommended following five basic principles of good eating habits:
- Eat a plant-based diet rich in fresh fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
- Purchase the least amount of processed foods that you can.
- Pre plan your food purchases and meals.
- Prepare food at home; eat as a family.
She cited statistics about the current American trend regarding the lack of healthy eating: “Today there are 80 million Americans who are pre-diabetic (type 2 diabetes). Eighty percent of those over 65 are pre-diabetic. Among minority children 1 in 2 have type 2 diabetes.” She went on to discuss the poor eating habits of many who consume an excess of calories, sugar and sodium in our daily diet.
The food supplement employee, Edouard Ekemba Sooh, extolled the virtues of food supplements to enhance one’s health. On questioning from the audience, he conceded that some supplements such as fish oil have come under criticism for not containing the supplement advertised on the label. The fourth panelist to speak, Christopher Johnson, is a trained naturopathic doctor located in Alexandria. He discussed his formal training and the type of patients he counsels, and supported the practice of using food supplements and purchasing organically grown food products.