When Heidi Witmer came to lecture our class on her work with the food justice movement in Carlisle, I found her approach informative and optimistic. She painted a portrait of her growing up in Pennsylvania from her adolescence to her college years that gave insight to how her upbringing inevitably led her down the path of community-building by way of the food justice movement. While her story compelling, my mind seemed to wander away from her narrative and towards her initial question she posed to our class: ‘What’s the difference between nutrition and nourishment?’ (in which she later defined the difference between the two: nutrition is often based solely on what someone’s opinion of “healthy” is whereas nourishment holds a more personal connection and addresses the question of, “does this meet a need for you?”) Prior to Heidi’s distinction between the two, I had used the words synonymously, never aware of the vast discrepancy present. As Heidi continued to talk about how the misinterpretation of nourishment and nutriment play out in the nationwide fight in ending obesity), specifically among children (as seen with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative), I couldn’t help but think of the plethora of families in socioeconomically deprived inner city communities where nourishment often takes precedent over nutrition.
Thinking out of a Carlisle context, consider inner city communities that lack the financial and emotional support to gain access to resources to fresh food and are blindsided by the government, who continuously inundates these communities with fixed programs that provide members with short-term, unsatisfactory results rather than options to pursuing long-term, fulfilling results. With a food system concentrated on consumption rather than production, the quality of food has decreased and consequently, community health becomes an issue but often overshadowed by crime and gentrification in these inner city communities. It is especially difficult to voice the dangers of food choices to a community that is more concerned with violence in their neighborhoods and are just grateful to have the means to purchase groceries at the nearby grocery store, never mind organic or ‘sustainable’ produce.
In our fast food nation, because food choices are accepted as temporary and quick, many people are unfamiliar with the long-term effects these ‘practical’ yet impulsive eating choices can have on health. Part of this unknowingness stems from the lack of civic education provided for residents of these communities; thus, they resort to what’s familiar to them, whether that me the dollar menu at the local fast-food joint or the inadequate produce available at the nearby convenience stores or limited-assortment supermarkets.
With all this said, I found myself conflicted with Carol Adams’ argument in “The Feminist Trafficking Animals” on our society’s consumption of animals. Throughout the chapter, Adams argues that eating “meat” cannot be considered a personal choice but rather the mere act becomes a debate between the “political” and the “natural”. While I commend Adams for her firm (but at times frighteningly aggressive) stance on the cycle of oppression animals face by women, I do not think it was in her favor to make general statements about the need for all communities to adapt a vegetarianism lifestyle regardless of finances. Such statements like “vegetarianism has often been the only food option of poor people,” reinstates the ignorance often exuded by those who simply write about the oppressed and have little or no experience of being oppressed. I’m still a bit unclear as to whether Adams identified as an ecofeminist or not, but based on her outright claims and disregard for the deeper socio-economic implications behind why individuals follow certain ‘diets’, I’m gonna go ahead and say negative. But perhaps such a situation is too deeply rooted in the experience of certain individuals within these oppressed groups that an ecofeminist analysis would prove to be irrelevant, vague, and misguided. Perhaps a womanist view would be more appropriate in breaking down the layered intersections of people, nature/environment, and the welfare of human life and planet earth.
In no way am I trying to belittle Adams’ main argument, but my goal with responding to her chapter was to shed light upon the gaps and holes that are overlooked when discussing our meat-eating culture. Education and activism outreach, political engagement, policy-making, assessment of nourishment vs. nutrition are all just a few steps that should be integrated into the building the future of inner city communities in hopes of reducing daily trips to the fast-food corner store among residents and thus, alleviating widespread community health problems.