part 1 of a three part series
Walking into a grocery store has become like walking through a minefield. Does this item have GMO's? Is it organic? Gluten free? Dairy free? Does it need to be gluten or dairy free? Is it sugar free? But is sugar free even a good option? What about the additives and preservatives? Food coloring? The media inundates us with everything we could have and everything we should not (often contradicting itself in the process). Food companies carefully engineer their processed foods to be as tempting as possible to the point of skirting the edge of addictive. If you add a tight budget and the lure of “convenience” foods on top of that it is no wonder that America has a horrible relationship with food.
The media obsessed American culture cannot escape from advertisements and if you work with spells the power behind them is easy to see. They are everywhere from billboards to commercials to spam to in-feed ads. Advertising is designed to sell things. An intention is set and all energy is used to manifest that goal. The steps advertisers take make products look as appealing and necessary to the consumer's life as possible. If a company is going to sell a bag of chips it is not going to tell you that one serving contains an adult's full allowance of sodium and no healthy nutrients. What it is going to do it design flashy packaging, engineer the product to have the balance of fats and salts that makes it hard to stop eating them, and then bombard the market with eye catching advertisements for its XXXtreme NEW flavor! To put it in perspective, when was the last time you saw an add for an whole unprocessed apple straight from the tree?
Even American politics is ripe with obvious examples of how unhealthy the connection between money and food is. Food assistance programs are being cut while politicians are complaining about how the people who earn so little that they qualify for food assistance are abusing the system. Politicians are taking food stamp challenges to both prove and disprove that the amount given for food assistance is too little. At the same time, corporations responsible for overwhelming the U.S. market with crops whose long term safety is questionable enough that they are banned in numerous countries are being given breaks and the equivalent of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards from the government.
Food is necessary to life and through out history it has been closely interwoven with our religious and spiritual paths, from the sacrifice of animals to the gods to the respect for and restrictions against eating cows in Hindu society. Many religions place restrictions on certain foods as well as incorporate the sharing of food into their practices, for example many Catholics avoid meat on certain days and the sharing of the body and blood of Christ (bread and wine) is a central part of their practice. You can see this mirrored in cleansing fasts and cakes and ale in some pagan paths. Since we need food to live it is not surprising that food and religious and spiritual beliefs became entwined.
No matter what the current political, scientific or alternative leaning is there are certain choices that most people will agree are a good idea in the long run no matter who is right. Eating foods that have gone through minimal processing (including while they are growing) and transportation means less wasted energy and resources and less possible contamination of the earth. Purchasing foods with minimal packaging per serving means less pollution. At the same time eating food that would fall in the above categories is commonly believed to be good for your health. Making choices that support not only yourself but the world around you is always a good choice no matter what your path.
Pagans are a very diverse group of people with both conservative and liberal viewpoints, but when it comes down to it we all want to be healthy and want the planet we live on to be healthy. We cannot live without food, water and air so we, like everyone else on the planet, have a vested interest in eating healthy sustainable food, drinking pure water and breathing clean air. Pagans, as a whole, tend to be very connected to the earth so should be even more inclined to be concerned over the long term consequences of our choices to the health of the earth than other groups. We can choose the kind of society we want to belong to and choose to support a healthy relationship with food that can make that society come to be.