J500 Media and the Environment


High Price for Personal Choice by KaylaReg

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.

As you can probably guess, one of these healthy meals is more than twice as expensive as the other. All together, the salmon dish came in around $20 while the lettuce wrap cost under $8. Both provided tons of left overs for other healthy meals though, so what, I wonder, is the real price of healthy food?

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.

-Kayla R.



Children of the corn by rarab

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The evil spirit in the corn field has spoken…HE WANTS YOU, TOO, MALACHI. HE WANTS YOU, TOO!

Remember the corny (haha, get it?) 1980s Stephen King horror film, “Children of the Corn?” You know, that flick on TBS you sat through that one Sunday afternoon–when you ate an entire bag of Funyuns and stayed in your pajamas all day instead of writing the paper that was due on Monday…takes place in Nebraska…creepy Man-child preacher guided by the evil spirit in the corn fields; tells him to make the kids kill all of the adults…then, with the grown-ups out of the way, the cornfield spirit unleashes all hell on the little kids themselves.

You know, the one based on actual events.

See, what the Stephen King movie failed to tell viewers is that the Corn Monster survived that episode, relocated to Washington D.C., and took over a powerful lobbying firm that kept a tight grip on both the agricultural and energy industries. And now he wants you, too, MALACHI!

Because corn (in the form of ethanol) is being pushed on us as the answer to all of our oil woes, the demand for–and thus the price of–corn has more than doubled in the last two years, from roughly $2.28/bushel to $5.60/bushel.

Corn, of course, is the most popular feed delivered to cattle, so its price has a direct hand in dairy and meat prices; in the form of high fructose corn syrup, it’s also in practically every commercial food product on the market–from fruit punches to bread.

So, the meteoric rise in corn is great if you’re a corn farmer. Not so great if you’re a single mom with several mouths to feed.

In fact, just yesterday, the Boston Globe had a big story on the surging costs of groceries–fueled (literally) by rising corn and oil prices. Funny how corn, which was supposed to help reduce our dependence on oil, has shared such a similar trajectory with its supposed nemesis. In many ways, corn is the new oil. I guess that makes it “Yellow Gold”… but somehow that doesn’t sound very dramatic…

Those who argue that corn ethanol will reduce our dependence on oil are right to some extent, but they overlook the fact that it takes a great deal of energy and pollution to grow, harvest, refine, and distribute ethanol. So, while it might curb our dependence on foreign oil, it’s not the answer if we’re truly looking for eco-friendly energy sources. Moreover, current automobiles can only stomach blends of ethanol that contain no more than 20 percent corn, so it’s not going to replace oil-refined gasoline overnight–or anytime soon for that matter.

If there’s one good thing to come from all of this, it’s the hope that the super-inflated price of corn will make it less appealing for food manufacturers to pump high fructose corn syrup into practically every single product. Maybe it will mean that cheap junk food will soon become a luxury–a purchase that can’t be made on a daily basis without some pinch to the pocketbook.

Then again, a better solution might be that the strength of corn in the marketplace makes Congress realize that we no longer need to federally subsidize farmers who choose to grow corn for ethanol. It clearly isn’t an environmentally-friendly process, it’s only a supplemental energy source at best, and over-emphasis will only make food more expensive for all of us.

Oh, by the way, remember those Funyuns you were scarfing down? Mostly corn… He wants you, too, Malachi! bwahahahahaha……

–Ranjit




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