Filed under: Food + Health, J500 Week 14, Local Events + Action, Society + Media | Tags: Food Inc., mass media, New york Times, NPR, The Pitch
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when beginning a class on Media and the Environment. Those are two very broad things that obviously have a relationship, but finding an interesting way to discuss that relationship in a semester-long college course could be difficult. In order to really understand the way that mass media and the environment are connected, the right way to do it in such a time frame is to focus on a specific area, and as I quickly discovered, that is what we were doing. Admittedly, it is not one which I considered myself well-versed in.
I always hear about the importance of buying local, for the economic reasons if nothing else. Buy local food, and you support people in your community, while reducing the power and influence of corporate giants like Wal-Mart. Having once won $50 for making a poster making fun of Wal-Mart (their smiley-face logo had dollar signs for eyes, and the slogan became “Everyday Low Morals”), I’m obviously quite enthusiastic about this. What I got a grasp on from reading about the various aspects of local foods was that there are many more affects to take pride in, beyond simply malicious joy at harming a chain store.
Local food systems provide the potential for work, community bonding, and healthy diets in places they otherwise would not be. Food producers with a smaller market to worry about do not need to take such a concern with mass-production, and thus have less problems with animal cruelty, overuse of pesticides and antibiotics, and disruption of nearby communities. I found it strangely appropriate that the Pitch, a Kansas City-based free magazine, published a story about a major pork-producer in Missouri losing a court case regarding how the smell from its plant disrupted the lives of the people living nearby right after we discussed major meat producers in class.
That brings us to the “Media” aspect of this class. While the focus of in-class discussions was often on local food itself, everything was prompted by an article either on a blog or a major media outlet. Having briefly flirted with becoming a Journalism major early in my college career (I happily went with Political Science instead), the role the media plays as a gatekeeper in any subject interests me. The semester previous to this one, I took a class on Media and Politics, and got to examine how media outlets, both big and small, portray people and issues. I started this class curious about the kinds of rhetoric I’d hear regarding the environment within mass media, though my attention sort of shifted to simply WHO was covering food systems. I mentioned the Pitch, a decidedly alternative publication before, and have noticed that most places which give food the time of day are also smaller, “alternative” sources. When a major outlet like NPR or the New York Times pays attention, it is in the form of a special interest story, or a response to something else (like a critical NPR review of “Food, Inc.”, from somebody who soon learned had yet to actually see that film).
As a small player in the news media myself, I’m going to be looking with more interest having taken this class at how food is portrayed from here on. And as a wannabe politician, maybe I’ll get to have a say in the things that make the news someday. Time will tell.
Filed under: Food + Health, J500 Week 3, Society + Media | Tags: Douglas County, eating, eating locally, eating out, education, Food Inc., Lawrence, local, localvore, Locavore, organic, trend
Trends are a funny concept to consider.
No one person makes any explicit rules or regulations, yet trends can occur locally, nationally, sometimes even internationally.
I know I jumped on the bandwagon when everyone started to claim to eat organically or eat organic food. To be honest, I don’t know if I could even give the correct definition of “organic.” I know some of the major points — no antibiotics, no herbicides — but I have never really taken the time to do my part when it comes to learning about organic foods. USDA organic label? I’ll take it.
It seems as though I’m currently succumbing to another food trend: eating local. After watching Food Inc. for the first time, I couldn’t stop telling my boyfriend things like, “We really should think about where we eat out more,” or “I’ve really got to start looking at what I buy at the grocery store and where that food’s coming from.”
The piece of this puzzle that remains to be solved is if I will really, truly learn about this trend and be able to define what “local” means.
Luckily, our focus in “Media and the Environment” is food, and I’ll have numerous opportunities to read material on local food systems and what being a locavore might really mean. But I’m still worried about how others might react to this food trend.
Of course, the public supporting a local food system would be fantastic. But if uneducated individuals account for the majority of this new trend, no local food system can be upheld in Lawrence.
The local economy-boosting aspect of local food systems excites me, but also concerns me. The obvious upside is that it would make convincing others to beginning a strong local food system easier. The downside: the economy won’t always be terrible, believe it or not, so will people continue to care about the economic benefits even years after a recession?
As a community, Lawrence needs a strong and easy-to-grasp definition of “local.” “Localvore” on the LJWorld.com can be a great beginning to tools that can educate people in Lawrence and in Douglas County. The blogs provide an easy way to get people talking about the possibilities of eating local in Lawrence, which I think is the best way to generate interest. The newly-formed Douglas County Food Policy Council provides helpful resources on a local food system as well.
I learned valuable information after reading the “Localvore” blogs and from the DCFPC, and I’m proud of myself for already being more informed on the next food trend. Now it’s just a matter of educating others.
— Lauren Cunningham