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Novel raises dysfunction of food system

By Shirley Chen
On February 7, 2013

Wenonah Haute, author of "Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America," visited the UConn Co-Op on Thursday, spreading awareness of the corrupt food system and how people can help.
Dennis Pierce, the director of Dining Services, is often questioned by students about the source of food and how Dining Services faces these challenges. He noticed that many students are not aware of what they are eating or the food policies in place in the United States. He recommends Haute's book to all students that are concerned about these issues.
Haute grew up on a farm. She learned to appreciate farmers when she lived with no electricity. It sparked her interest and passion in farming and the need for political activism to change the food system.
Consumers often see subsidies as a way to blame farmers for their food system. They do not realize that farmers are actually the victims in this case. Right now, the USDA states that there are approximately 2.2 million farmers in the United States, which is a cause for concern as there used to be 6.8 million farmers. This large decrease in the number of farmers is mostly due to the large food monopolies controlling the food market, decreasing competition and resulting in the loss of business in smaller farms.
American farmers have an average income of a little over $19,000, and most of their income comes from the government. This is a concern because the market system is corrupt in the way that these farmers are not making the cost of production, putting them in danger of going out of business.
Haute continues with listing different types of soda, juice and chips, all produced by PepsiCo, one of the 20 largest food processing companies in the United States. These food companies have a lot of political and economic power in the market and they are the ones who control what consumers eat. Their food dominates what is sold in large supermarkets as well as small grocery stores.
Haute says that this is possible because of the passing of a farm bill in 1996 that deregulated farm policies. It helped large processed food companies save a lot of money. For example, the meat companies saved about $4 billion. This farm bill gives the processed food companies an incentive to take advantage of the farmers.
Food processors are also very involved with the media. But most importantly, they hire food scientists to use fat, sugar and salt to addict consumers to the food they produce, usually junk food. These scientists study human brain chemistry on how and what types of food give positive responses. When consumers eat the food that initiates this positive response, they will connect it to their specific brand, which is a way to make people addicted to their food. They also dictate nutrition policy.
Haute sees people's interest in food issues. She encourages people to fix this dysfunctional food system and wants to point them in the right direction on how they should take action.
Students can help with this cause. Lucy Sedgwick, a field organizer for Food and Water Watch, said, "Students can send an email or write a letter to their local state legislators addressing these issues. They have a very powerful voice to make these changes. Other ways to be more initiative on campus is to promote awareness to other students by screening and outreach."

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