Yesterday while stopped at a traffic light I saw to my left a younger man with a backpack holding a sign that read, "I'm hungry and tired." I got sad immediately. I have never tolerated my own hunger very well, I am one of those people that when I am hungry I get quiet, withdrawn and less smart; sometimes I even get irritable. I have interpreted this historically in a somewhat favorable light, but I am sure there are those that would like to differ in terms of the reasons for this. I decided that because of my insatiable hunger for education, stimulation, knowledge, experiences and action I can only tolerate so much physiological hunger. Although after writing that right now, that seems pretty far fetched. I think at this point, I just don't like to be hungry. So I was sad for him. I don't like to see anyone hungry and I really wish as a society we could figure out a way to ensure that no one is hungry.
But as I was sitting, waiting impatiently for a green light so I could stop thinking about his hunger and my sadness, I saw someone in my rear view mirror put something out their window and hold it there. I recognized the container well. It was coconut water, a big blue cardboard container, one I had bought many times before. Automatically, I thought how strange it was that the person was giving a homeless and hungry person coconut water. Coconut water is both relatively expensive and healthy, not what we as a society usually feed our hungry citizens. Usually at a mission or a soup kitchen or in prison, we feed our hungry citizens pasta or potatoes or bread, something inexpensive, something bulky, something completely controlled by our governments mission to support the corn, soy and wheat farmers. We feed our hungry citizens the least likely foods to improve their cognitive, emotional and physiological functioning.
He went to the car and thanked the person and proceeded to read the labels. He turned the container over and over again reading all the information. In scrutiny and examination like an archaeologist or anthropologist with a foreign object, it was clear he had never experience coconut milk before. The light turned green and my mind went in three different directions, I fleetingly fantasized of a world where we sit our hungry down and we feed them quinoa, seaweed, wild salmon, acai berries and almonds. That fantasy left my mind within nanoseconds, I moved on to something more tangible. I thought about the recent research that has been done investigating the relationship between processed/refined sugars intake and drug/alcohol consumption, increased aggressiveness, mood fluctuations, increased sugar cravings, insulin resistance, cancer, dementia.
Then I started to think about the privilege of choice. I started to think about the imperative need for us to really screen the information coming at us from all directions regarding health. Clearly the people in charge of the health of our society's most in need have an agenda, which is definitely not the improved health of those in need. So why wouldn't we think they also have an agenda with the information they provide to us? So why do we trust the information that our government puts towards us regarding health and food? Why do we buy what the fitness/nutrition/food industry says hook line and sinkers?
The pasta people say Eggs have to much cholesterol. The egg people say pasta has too much starch. The coffee people say we need the antioxidants. The tea people say that we must be careful of coffee's caffeine. We must think about each nugget of information that is given to us regarding health and who it is coming from and their own personal or organizational agenda. As people with choice, that is both our privilege and our responsibility. As people with money, that is our expression of opinion. Which products to we buy? Which gyms to we use? Which health information do we talk about and share with others? The privilege of choice is really actually mostly a responsibility. It is a responsibility that we cannot take lightly as it trickles down to our children and our people in need. The companies that we support are the ones that will thrive. The companies that we require to give back are the companies that will give back in order to survive. Why don't we require the coconut water manufacturers to donate to those in need? Why don't re request that the soup kitchens investigate quinoa as a staple food for our hungry people?
We must not only exercise our privilege of choice but we must also address the responsibility attached to that choice. Whoever you are in that car that gave up your coconut water, thank you, I am fairly certain you replenished your supply and in that way you fed someone in need something good and you supported a healthy food company X 2!!
Can we force companies to do the right thing? Only with our purchasing power and only with our word of mouth sharing of information. Share healthy information! Purchase healthy products! People that are around me often know that when I drive by a McDonald's, I am well known for saying, "I am mad at McDonald's". I say that every time I pass a McDonald's or other fast food chain. I always grumble at the long long long line of cars in the drive through at all hours of the day. I don't fault the drivers, I fault the availability. I am mad at McDonald's for changing our food landscape by increasing the availability of cheap and fake food. I will never purchase a product from McDonald's because I will not support them growing. I encourage you to think about where you are putting your money and how you can leverage companies to put healthy options in convenient and reachable places for our citizens.