The Personal Is Polictical: How to Beat “Big Food” in Your Own Kitchen

Today’s post on Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics got me a little riled up.  I felt a blog post of my own coming on and here it is.

Her post began with a question:

Q: I forced myself to watch all four hours of HBO’s “Weight of the Nation.” I get it that obesity is a scary problem and I’m supposed to be eating less. What I don’t get is how I’m supposed to do that when food companies can do what they want and the government lets them.

“Weight of the Nation” is HBO’s recent series taking on the gi-normous subject of the obesity epidemic in America.  Full disclosure: I have not seen it, though I am quite familiar with the subject.

Here is my answer to the question posed:

In a nutshell, you are supposed to do that [eat less fattening food] by thinking globally, but acting locally.  If you are waiting for Big Food to get a conscience and change the way it does business before you can get healthy and lose weight, I fear you will be waiting a very long time – possibly your entire life.  My question to you: Why wait?  Most of us have choices beyond Big Food.

Yes, we do need to change the way Big Food works.  To be clear, Big Food refers to mega corporations peddling products that are ostensibly edible but not usually nutritious.  Not only are they not often nutritious, they can be damaging to health and can claim a large portion of the responsibility for the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer in this country.  Examples of American Big Food companies are Kraft, Nestlé, General Mills, PepsiCo, Coca Cola.  Big Food is cozy with Big Ag companies like Archer Daniels Midland and Monsanto.  The common denominator for all of them is that they exist for the benefit of their bottom line, not the benefit of your bottom (or your heart, or your blood sugar or your mental health).

To change policy about what can be sold as food and how it is labeled, we can write our legislators and our President, circulate petitions, and protest the non-labeling of genetically modified foods.

But the most important thing we can do is not buy that cr*p!  We need to take care of ourselves and our families and we cannot individually afford to wait for the system to work itself out.  In fact, the more we make sound nutritional choices for ourselves, the more pressure is applied to that system to provide us with clean, wholesome food from local sources.  This is capitalism.  This is democracy.

I agree that the system is broken and it breaks my heart for the damage it is doing to this country and its people.  If we are not all able to be activists in the sense of letter writing, circulating petitions, and protest marches, we can be Personal Food Activists.

What is Personal Food Activism?

  • Personal Food Activism is shopping at a farmers market as often as possible, even if it is a bit off your path of most convenience.
  • Personal Food Activism is not only shopping at the farmers market, but chatting up the growers and producers you meet there, making a personal connection between you and the source of your food.
  • Personal Food Activism is planning a garden of your own, even if it is just a pot of herbs on your windowsill or growing cherry tomatoes in a 5-gallon bucket on your apartment balcony. (That’s several cartons that don’t have to be trucked from California or Mexico.)
  • Personal Food Activism is learning one or two new food preparation skills a year, like how to ferment vegetables or make bone broth (both way easier than pie) that help make you more nutritionally independent of Big Food AND Big Pharma.
  • Personal Food Activism is learning to cook real food.

And perhaps most of all:

  • Personal Food Activism is sharing what you’ve learned, grown or cooked with family, friends and neighbors, because food is not just nutrition for our cells, but nutrition for healthy communities.


This post is part of Fight Back Friday at

Photo credit: NatalieMaynor

2 responses to “The Personal Is Polictical: How to Beat “Big Food” in Your Own Kitchen

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