Filed under: J500 Week 11, Society + Media | Tags: access to healthy foods, diet, eating choices reflect who we are, eating healthy, education, Food inequality, food prices, food systems, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, junk food, personal, school lunches, vegetarian
One of the favorite pastimes of my father, an avid hunter and meat enthusiast, is making fun of my veggie burgers and tofu dogs. It’s actually kind of funny as he announces to his friends while tending the grill that, “now, it’s time to put on Kayla’s VEGGIE dog. More like CARDBOARD dog!” and the laughs ensue.
For a time, I took the joking pretty personally and it really bothered me. Then I realized how he must have felt when I quit the whole “meat” thing. Whether he’d like to admit it or not, a small part of him must have taken it personally, as food, for anyone, is incredibly personal.
Like it or not, our diets reflect who we are and where we come from. When I studied abroad in Ireland, one of my coworkers believed everyone in America ate Twinkies and fried Snickers. I assured her time and time again that nobody really ate those, but is what we really eat as a culture much better? According to what I could find, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, French fries and fried chicken are the foods defining the American diet.
I’m all for comfort food, but as more and more evidence surfaces over the risks of our junk food diet, it seems all the more reason to question what we’re eating. Of course, such evidence could cause us to do exactly the opposite.
According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, when presented with information that threatens my self-esteem, like the foods I’ve been eating are unhealthy, I’ll take one of three actions. I’ll either change my diet to be consistent with the new information, reject the information and maintain my current diet, or I can justify my diet by believing something that reconciles the conflict like “I can’t change my diet because I don’t have the money.”
With food being so personal to us, it’s understandable why many vehemently, and sometimes irrationally defend their eating habits. It’s why organic food is seen as elitist, even dangerous to some. It’s why a middle school English teacher was ordered to cease and desist teaching nutrition and selling fresh fruits and healthy snacks to students. It’s why even under the scrutiny of the camera, the school Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution focused on met the celebrity chef with scrutiny and even hostility.
Perhaps the resistance to healthy food is a question of rearranging priorities, but it’s also just as much one of accessibility. If we don’t have the same access to healthy foods, how can anyone really challenge the quality of another person’s diet? Until healthy food is made equally accessible, I don’t think we can.
What we can do though, is get educated and in turn, educate each other. That can mean everything from having friends over to make fruit pizzas, to grilling hamburgers with family, to even searching for recipes to use up that left over red pepper in the fridge.
Without my father’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to make the food decisions I wanted and more importantly, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the same family meals or backyard barbeques as I always had. Food is both a powerful personal and social experience. When we have a good one, especially one we’re proud of, we’ll be sure to go back to it again.