Strawberry Flavored Revolution

Happy New Year, everyone! 

I am drawing to the end of my time in Salt Lake City, and I am getting into a full research and writing mode. This is a depressing way to ring in the New Year. I’ve had to take several breaks to walk in a circle around the KOA. (Which in its own way is also depressing as the weather inversion that keeps particulate pollution hovering over the city is particularly bad today. So bad in fact, I cannot see the mountains over the haze.)

The advice that is handed down again and again by health experts, environmentalists, and food scientists is “less meat, more plants”. It’s good advice, and is seemingly simple to follow. So why do people have such a hard time with it? 

There is of course the danger in turning into a godless sissy if you eat less than 2 pounds of meat a week. If you’re going to eat that way you might as well just move to France, and become a communist. But there are other, more legitimate reasons why the “more plants” portion of advice can be such a tricky needle to thread. 

One problem is that where can you go to find fruits and veggies, let alone those that are not coated in pesticides? The USDA estimates that roughly 23.5 million people live in areas that have no groceries stores with fresh produce, and are instead only serviced by fast food or convenience stores. As you can imagine this problem disproportionately affects low income areas, including the inner cities, and believe it or not, rural areas. 

It was at this point I had to walk around for a minute. Our food system has gotten so bad that even people who live on farmland can’t get access to good food. Massive farm subsidies that favor large companies that grow corn, soy and wheat mean that small farmers are financially obligated to grow these plants the way Cargill or Monsanto or Purdue demand. 

Between reading about the food deserts, animal welfare violations, environmental impacts, and international food aid policies that cripple local economic development, I am ready to start the god damn revolution. Let the streets run green with the fruits of our labor! 

But then of course, I continue reading about farm subsidies, corporate marketing, the USDA, and of course, the politicians and lobbyists, and my rebellious spirit gets a little dejected. I start to wonder if my internet connection is good enough to visit an unnamed video streaming service for the next 1,000 years. {C’mon Netflix or Hulu, I know one of you wants this sponsorship}

 I am all for revolution guys, truly, I am. It’s great to be passionate enough to want to do something to thwart a rigged system, but revolting without accomplishing anything is really just yelling at a system that already ignores you. And I really am only into wasting time with video streaming. How do you damn the man when the man is such a behemoth? 

My solution was to eat some organic spinach and wonder if a coffee based diet counts as plant based. But thankfully there are people who are better at achieving things than me. People like Ron Finley of the L.A. Green Grounds. Through his community gardening, Finley has found a solution to the food problem that is devastating his community, helping people gain affordable access to healthy foods. He’s even better at motivating both the revolutionaries and the pragmatiststhan me. In his own words, “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.” Sign me up. 

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