#5: Ignorance Is, Actual, Bliss

I’ve come to the conclusion that most people are alive, but they’re really not living.

It’s morbid, pessimistic, and not the right mind set for someone who wants to be positive as much as possible. After researching and reading only four resources though about my topic it’s the unshakable feeling I have unfortunately.

To start off with: there’s so much that’s going wrong with steps taken towards “better nutrition”! For example, there was a conference for the nutrition in Vermont schools in 2014 that made my mouth drop. Well, that’s a bit dramatic but my brows furrowed and I whispered shocked by what I’d read “Oh, they didn’t!” Because they so did. This was two years ago but in the article it basically stated quite commonly that ‘whole foods and locally grown foods make students excited to eat’. Yeah, I know. Then in the second to last paragraph it says, “The changes require daily servings of fruits and vegetables, low fat or fat free milk, whole grains and, for the first time age-appropriate caloric limits on meals.”(Vermont School Nutrition Association Conference Highlights New Opportunities, VTDigger.org)

Okay, yes, fruits and vegetables are healthy for you and so are whole grains compared to enriched carbohydrates. Here’s where I disagree strongly with though. They want to put in low fat or even fat free MILK. Like, what? No, first of all, milk has lots of vitamin A in it. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin which means it should be consumed with fat so the body can absorb it and use it. Eliminating the fat in milk which is usually fortified with Vitamin A means that most of that Vitamin A probably won’t be absorbed, but the fat without being used for Vitamin A absorption will still be consumed and stored. Then there’s the age-appropriate caloric limits. Everyone is different and need different things so standardizing the calorie intake in meals for a whole age group of students can’t cater to their bio-individuality. I know I’m totally raging out on this article but I do appreciate that in 2014 Vermont School Nutrition Association looked deeper or maybe raised some kind of awareness towards school lunches and made acts to regulate at least something. This proves that people do (or did?) want something, anything, to be done even though it wasn’t exactly the perfect solution.

On VPR there was an interview about how food companies are almost indirectly bribing nutrition educators with their food which was most likely unhealthy food. There were so many good quotes describing this conference! I’ll list them and then talk about them:

  • “…the attendees were offered free samples of fake butter crystals, and cartons of strawberry milk.”
  • “…the gold sponsor of their conference is, in fact, McDonald’s.”
  • “The California Beef Council guy handed me this pamphlet on how I could lose weight by eating steak.”
  • “…going to this conference and attending these sessions is something that they [nutrition educators] need to do to keep up their accreditation. These people [nutrition educators!] work in all kinds of places. They work in our school cafeterias. They work in hospital cafeterias. They work in, you know, corporate settings. And these [people] are really the gatekeepers of our nutritional information. And if they are getting their information from a very one-sided panel that is sponsored by the manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup which we know contributes to the obesity epidemic, that in my mind is a problem.”
  • “…one person who – she was kind of a veteran nutritionist and she said to me – I can’t believe we’re sleeping with the enemy…”
  • “…these sponsorships are still going strong. Michele Simon who is a public interest lawyer and she blogs about food politics…she found that in 2001 the academy had listed about 10 sponsors and by 2011, there were 38. And those sponsors included Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Mars, and a bunch of others.”

(Quotes from podcast How Food Companies Court Nutrition Educators With Junk Food on VPR.)

This was the second source I read and ended up re-reading. Speechless. I mean, stunned. I knew that high profile food companies like McDonalds had many hands inside the food network but to think that the actual nutrition educator’s conference was sponsored majorly by them?? Counterproductive doesn’t begin to describe that amount of contradictory. The interviewee, Kiera Butler, attended this odd paired conference and was bombarded with sales schemes that had food companies shoving their products and endorsements down the nutrition educators throats. This was a gathering of nutrition educators who are the people we rely on in public settings such as schools and hospitals to give us the information we need to live healthy and nutritiously. Yet, all around them these companies fed them what we generally know to be bad for your body and the golden sponsor of the whole thing was McDonald’s!!!?

Who do we trust now with our well being??

Which brings me to the last source. This source addressed ethical eating. I find this subject to be… hard to argue with. “Ethical” is a iffy word and goes hand in hand with “moral” or “morality” which humans struggle with to define and follow. I guess this can be mainly blamed on everyone’s different views on right and wrong. None of them are right or wrong as a result either. Ethics concerning the things we eat is just as difficult to get into, but in this article I was so happy! Not only did it talk about mainly philosophical views on eating but also the person wasn’t VEGAN. That was a huge relief. Usually when I searched for things talking about how awful and pot holey the food system is it was from someone who was vegan. Being vegan is not bad, and neither is not being vegan, but it seemed like the only demographic that cared about where our food came from or what it does to our bodies were vegans/vegetarians. When she ended with her going home and eating a whole salami I was probably the only joyous vegan about someone scarfing down processed meat.

Anyways anyone reading this post should click on the link and definitely read the whole article! It’s the third link at the bottom. A little disclaimer though: It could be uncomfortable but if you’re truly interested in questioning your own point of view on what you eat then it’s something I wouldn’t pass up reading!


Cited Sources With Links:

Butler, Kiera. “How Food Companies Court Nutrition Educators With Junk Food.” Interview by Melissa Block and Audie Cornish. Audio blog post. VPR. NPR Staff, 16 May 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

N.p. “Vermont School Nutrition Association Conference Highlights New Opportunities.” (n.d.): n. pag. VTDigger. 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2016. 

Podhaizer, Suzanne, and Hannah Palmer Egan. “Ethicists Consider the Rights and Wrongs of Food Systems.” Seven Days. Da Capo Publishing, 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.

Keira Thorpe

2 Responses to “#5: Ignorance Is, Actual, Bliss

  • Colleen Kiley
    8 years ago

    Dear Keira,

    I’m so excited about your research. You’ve really seemed to find your niche from your original big wide topic of “food love.” I started reading Podhaizer’s article, and will have to finish it later (after some shuteye!). I wonder if Podhaizer would be a good person to connect with about your project? She could be a great local resource.
    Anyways, this issue of food ethics really interests me; especially the idea of local food. One of my favorite books of all time (it’s non-fiction and I’m including this as a favorite for non-fiction and fiction combined, so this is a BIG statement for me as an English teacher) is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. It recounts the year her family spent eating only food they could grow, raise, make, or buy locally within 100 miles of their home. From there I’ve read a variety of other “100 mile diet” books, sustainable living memoirs, etc. A few that even take a place in Vermont. There’s so much info out there, as I’m sure you know, but let me know if you’re looking for any additional resources.

    I’m excited for you and the path you’re on. Good luck!

    • :O Additional resources would be amazing! I’d love it if you could send me some links, Colleen. It’d really help. The resources I found were interesting and I find it cool that they were Vermont-based.

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