by JL Wall
One other aspect to the release of that British organic food nutrition study: one of the most maddening ways for conversations to descend to hell involves others accusing me of, essentially, wanting to bankrupt/lower the quality of life for everyone who makes less than $X thousand dollars a year. This doesn’t come about because I’m talking about organic food so much as it does when I make the argument that Americans simply need to eat healthier, organic or conventional. The assumption my interlocutors greet me with is that anyone making the case for eating healthier really just making a vaguely concealed case for buying organic and banning pesticides, if not outright Mad Farmer Revolution.
There are a list of reasons that I prefer buying organic to buying conventional (though I by no means only buy organic — especially if/when the conventional option is local and the organic option is imported from another country). But the choice of tossing pasta in olive oil rather than buying the bottle of heavy cream sauce every time, or a baked potato (with minimal butter) over fries, or fruit over Cheetos — those are the choices that have a greater effect on nutrition. And those are the choices that need to be presented when making the case for greater nutrition.
Making the case for organic food based on land and animal husbandry, pesticides, antibiotics, and so forth should certainly continue. I’ll certainly continue making it. But the case for simply eating healthier can’t afford to be presented in a way that gives the easy out of, “Well, I just can’t afford to buy that way!” It’s a cultural matter far more than a regulatory one. It starts with simple individual choices: fruit over junk food; making it oneself over buying it prepared. And it starts with matters of self-control: more reasonable portions, a little less sugar, a little more green. We can either lead ourselves and others by example (and the occasional schpiel), or we can shove the responsibility off on others — namely, government — to tell us what to do and how. The former’s preferable, for multiple reasons.
That said, I see no problem with schools and school districts (and maybe even state governments!) getting rid of vending machines in schools. I mean, they put them there in the first place; it ain’t tyranny to take them out after a change of heart.