Our Sociology 151 class focuses on the topic of food, specifically how the food industry both is affected by and affects society. What we choose to eat everyday affects much more of our world than I would have expected; people’s livelihoods, global economies, industrial powers, and the environment are all elements that are influenced by what we put into our grocery baskets and heap onto our plates at the Deece. One of the first facts Professor Batur sprung on us was that out of the 7 billion people (and growing) on this planet, 960 million are starving. Rounding that up, roughly every 1 out of 7 people are hungry.
With that cheerful thought, Professor Batur issued to us two challenges, from which we could choose one to complete for next class. One was to not eat any corn products, the other to collect and carry around all the food waste you accumulated. The first task may seem like an easy one, but remember that all of the animals slaughtered for meat are fed corn. Therefore, corn products don’t just include literal corn, but all the animal products that eat corn, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Basically, we would have to go vegan for a few days, which could be challenging for those who enjoys their burgers and yogurt.
I decided to do the second challenge, which was to carry around all of my wasted food. For three days, I oriented all of my attention around my food consumption. At the Deece, I took only what I knew I would eat, and tried only small samples of the sometimes questionable-looking food. By the end of three days, the only wasted food in my bag was half a cookie and bit of rotten banana.
Sine then, I’ve tried my best to not waste food in general. This challenge made me realize how much food we waste at Vassar. I took this picture at the Deece:
I became even more aware of the food that was slowly going to its doom on the moving dish racks located near the exits of the Deece.
Most of us don’t realize how lucky we are to have this bounty of food ready for our consumption. In the United States alone there are 45-50 million people on food stamps, which is equivalent to one-tenth of the population! 20% of those people live below the poverty line. Plus, a family is only eligible for food stamps for 36 months; after that, they’re on their own. What struck me most was that the U.S. is also facing an obesity epidemic. How is it possible that while some people are starving, others are able to gorge themselves to a state of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure? This issue of inequality is something that needs to be dealt with and requires not only the reform of the food industry, but also that of global economy and politics.
With these issues in mind, I’d encourage you to take some time in deciding what to eat at the Deece; don’t take more than you need, and maybe try out Meatless Mondays. (Less meat = less corn = less pollution and farming inequalities.)
If you’re interested in these issues, definitely consider taking Professor Batur’s class next semester; it has definitely opened my eyes to the food we eat and all of the issues within the industry. (Plus, Professor Batur is amazinggggg!) If not, then take some time to flip through The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It’s a really interesting and enlightening read!
Until next time, stay full! (But not too full…)