by Pam Denholm
I love articles about the food system and how it works or is consumed, the mechanics fascinate me. Do you ever go down the TED Talks rabbit hole? One of my FAVORITE talks is by a woman named Carolyn Steel, and the title of her talk is ‘How Food Shapes our Cities’ . She talks about how cities were built around food access until the invention of the railway car, and then subsequently, the private motor vehicle – at which point our access to food improved, cities grew exponentially bigger, and our relationship with food and the natural world changed. Food became less about farmers, and more about corporations. We no longer smelled things to see if they were fresh, we flipped it over and read the label and to eat something we ‘just added water’. As a result, we no longer value or trust food, so we don’t make it a priority, and we discard and waste it, and where food was once a social action – buying, preparing, and eating, more and more it is becoming insular, anonymous, and something ‘we have to do’. She frames it in a very interesting presentation.
Carolyn also discusses how our meat consumption has increased since we are no longer limited by geography, nor how many animals we can raise on the peripheral of our city and walk in to the slaughter house in the center of the city to ensure access to fresh meat. Now the logistics are not limited by geography at all. So with this in mind, I was very interested to read an article by the Sea to Table crew on fish consumption. Did you know, Americans eat less than 16 pounds of seafood per person each year? That compares to more than 108 pounds of red meat, and nearly 73 pounds of poultry. America’s seafood favorites have remained largely the same: farmed shrimp, canned tuna, farmed salmon, and farmed tilapia, and our seafood appetite is being fed mostly by foreign imports – more than 90 percent of all seafood eaten in the U.S. comes from outside the United States.
Speaking of other countries, our 16lbs per person annually pales in comparison to other parts of the world. Japanese, for example, eat 146lbs of seafood per person each year. The U.N. figures show that it is 186lbs in Greenland, and more than 200lbs per person in Iceland. The country with the lowest seafood consumption is Afghanistan. And most seafood is eaten in the South Pacific islands of Tokelau, where each person eats more than 440lbs of seafood every year. For our own health, and for the health of our traditional fisheries, like those in our own back yard here in Scituate and New Bedford, we need to eat more wild domestic seafood.
The truth is, many or most of our environmental issues can be related back to our food and the systems we have created. We need to nurture our relationship with nature, and start smelling our food again, buy food without labels, and cook from scratch instead of just adding water. There has never been a more important grass roots movement.