Every few years, the U.S. government comes out with a new and improved food pyramid. It’s supposed to offer guidelines about the best way to feed your family. Unfortunately, concern for your family’s health and well being was not at the forefront when the food pyramid was designed. The meat and dairy industries as well as the agriculture industrial conglomerates have more influence on the design of the food pyramid than independent doctors, dieticians and nutritionists.
The U.S. food system is very efficient in providing a wide variety of foods for a large population whenever they want it and wherever they want it. You want apples in the summer? You got them! You want lettuce in winter? You got it! The food choices that are available in most supermarkets are astounding but are we really doing ourselves a favor with all this abundance? The food system that we have in this country is not healthy, not environmentally sustainable, and not good for animals or any other creatures.
Several books have been published recently that reveal the truth about the American food system. Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” and Anna Lappe’s “Diet for a Hot Planet” are must reading for anyone interested in feeding their family healthy and wholesome food in a sustainable manner. These books and others reveal the facts about CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) where most animals raised for human consumption are raised in inhumane and unhealthy conditions. We are told that the meat and dairy industry is responsible for at least 18% of all global warming gasses worldwide. This is more than all forms of transportation combined!
We also learn about the industrial sized farms where most fruits, vegetables and grains are grown using excessive amounts of artificial pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides. This unhealthy but cheap food is shipped by truck and air thousands of miles across the country and the world while healthy food that is grown locally without pesticides is often not available or is too expensive for most Americans.
A vegetarian or vegan diet is the most environmentally responsible diet we can have in this time of global climate change but if everyone would simply reduce their meat consumption, it would make a big difference.
There are outdoor farmers markets throughout the five boroughs of New York City that offer high quality food produced locally using sustainable methods. Many of these markets are open year round. You may not be able to buy everything you need at a farmers market, but you can get a lot of the things you need and that are good for your family.
When you buy food at a farmers market, you are not only buying high quality food that is produced locally but you are helping to support sustainable farming in a very grassroots, face to face manner.
Furthermore, when you buy food at a farmers market, you can ask the farmer questions about his or her farming methods. Try doing that at the supermarket!