Stop Calling Food ‘Poison’ out of Respect for all Mothers

Let’s stop calling food poison. I understand that 75% of processed foods are packed with GMOs and many other things feared bad for us. However, I also understand 1 in 5 children do not know where they will get their next meal. After working at a food pantry for the past 2 years, I am have learned a lot. In fact, I am embarrassed in my own social media terminology around food. I have referred to food as toxic and inferior. I was wrong and in some ways unethical.

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Don’t get me wrong, I do believe we need to fight for labeling rights and I do want to feed my children the most nourishing foods. I was a cloth-diapering mother who made her own baby wipes and baby food. I still clean with baking soda and buy from a local farm. I make and have made my decisions to minimize the chemical exposure to my children but I also have that privilege.

I do not have the right to bash another mother’s food choices. In doing so, I unintentionally make her feel bad. All parents want the same- healthy and happy children. Unfortunately, there are many parents who are forced to choose between medication, electricity, transportation, and clothing over food. Their number one concern is getting any food on the table.

Privileged Thoughts on Childhood Hunger- Lessons Learned

It wasn’t until I became the president of the Al Beech West Side Food Pantry, my eyes opened up. I stopped. I took time and observed the world around me. This is what I see weekly:

  • I see a harsh world where children are not thriving in school because they are too hungry to think.
  • I see a homeless mother with a child on her hip running from an abusive relationship. She is not cloth diapering. In fact, she is most likely using the same disposable diaper over and over again because diapers are too expensive.
  • I see an embarrassed father asking for an emergency supply of food. He lost his job and could not go home empty handed to his children after an unsuccessful day of job hunting. His wife does not get the choice to feed her children organic food. A good day is feeding their children yogurt with blue dye.
  • I see a teenage mother with a 2 year old who has been in and out of kinship care. As a freshman in high school, she cannot identify most fresh produce and believes Lunchables are gourmet.
  • I see a grandmother who has full custody rights of her 3 grandchildren. She is not concerned if the canned vegetables are lined with BPA plastic or if the canned tuna is high in mercury. She just wants food to feed her children.
  • I see food bashing and shaming in social media and it needs to stop. Parents of all economic classes are impacted and we can teach behavior change and fight for political action in large corporations using better words and not scare tactics.

 Childhood Hunger Facts According to No Kid Hungry:

  • 1 in 5 children do not know where there next meal is coming from which is 1 in 4 locally for Northeastern, Pa.
  • 62% of American teachers have students who are hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home.
  • A hungry child will become sick more often and miss school.
  • A child that does not do well in school is less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, which will have a negative impact on their economic future.

Comments

  1. says

    It is so sad that so many children our going hungry. I also agree that moms can be judgemental of other moms at times. I don’t have a lot of mom friends so I guess that is a good thing. Sometimes we can all be too hard on each other.

  2. says

    This post is a breath of fresh air! While I strive to make good nutritious food choices for my family, I can certainly understand why mac & cheese in a box and frozen chix nuggets might be a meal 3 or 4 times a week. I would not harshly criticize any parents without knowing what their circumstances are….we are all striving for happy, healthy children and doing our best!

  3. says

    I help with hunger in a different way. Some people are in a position of having to choose between buying food or buying diapers. I work with Cloth for a Cause, an organization that lends cloth diapers to struggling families and teaches them to care for the diapers in the manner that works best for their living situation. Since they don’t have to worry about buying diapers, they can instead use that money on food.

  4. says

    Beautifully written and SO on point. You put in to words exactly how I have been feeling lately surround the whole ‘organic vs poison food’ thing. So THANK YOU for this blog post & I hope it reaches many readers because the message is a great one. Respect is such a wonderful gift to give :) I will be sharing this article as much as I can. xo

  5. says

    I am really happy to finally hear someone say this. I buy mostly organic food but I would never judge someone else for buying conventional or hitting the fast food lane. Unless we are going to offer to start buying groceries for them, I think judging others for eating the food that they can afford is really disgusting and I wish that more people would open their eyes like you have! And bless your heart for volunteering at the food bank!

  6. Toni says

    Thank-you so much for sharing this. I myself try to feed my family the freshest food I can, but a lot of times it’s hard especially since the price of fresh fruit and vegetables keeps going up . I watch sales at all the stores near my home for good,fresh food but living on a very limited budget, due to myself being disabled due to major back issues and a failed
    back surgery (that I thought wouldhelp,but just made my issues worse ) and my husband being disabled from Parkinson disease, I do not have many choices when trying to feed my family for a month. Hopefully prices will steady out and I can get more healthier choices then I do now.
    Thanks again for posting, hopefully some read it and understand why it may look like bad choices but it’s feeding my family for the month.

  7. says

    I had never considered this but it is true that we shame some mothers by condemning their food choices for their families when they may not have the option to provide organic, healthier foods. I think it is so important to be respectful of others choices when it comes to their families, because we never truly know the reasons behind them.

  8. says

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written post. We can and should do better to remember how our language affects others. Perspective changes our understanding drastically and not everyone has the same opportunities!

  9. says

    Great read, I’ve never called food toxic although it seems all the rage. Food isn’t as “fresh” as it once was but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for us. Im thankful to be able to keep food on the table. This puts things into perspective.

  10. Bekah says

    I’m sorry but I must respectfully disagree. I do agree that it’s important not to judge and make people feel bad for their choices but let’s be honest gmo’s and dyes are poison. Those are “ingredients” that no other countries have in their foods. Perhaps we, regardless of our economic position, as a country should demand better.

  11. Kathryn says

    Thanks so much for sharing! I think most Moms want the absolute best for their kids and that can look different in every situation.

  12. says

    Thank you for writing a post like this! I’ve wanted to say something like this for a long time. I think it is great when families can afford all the top of the line organic, gluten free things for their families, but to bash a mother who buys a $89 TV dinner for her child is so wrong. She is feeding her child and there is nutrition in the meal, maybe not as much as other meals, but there is something in it that the child wouldn’t have otherwise…or people in general who don’t have a lot of money for the more healthy expensive things. Thanks for writing this!

  13. Real Concerned. says

    No! This is NOT good enough!

    Our children deserve so much better than this!

    Tell the truth.
    Call a spade a spade.
    Toxic food is toxic food.
    All too much processed food is inedible and should not be given to children!

    The richest country in the world should be more than able to provide American children the highest quality organic food. But making corporations richer — including processed food corporations, and GMO corporations — is so much more important to our politicians and power brokers.

    I have worked hard over the years advocating for our right and childrens’ right to have access to the best quality organic food. The food “industry” has other ideas–profits above people.

    Our kids deserve the best; anything less is a copout.

  14. Elizabeth Bennett says

    The real shame is that the food available to us here in the U.S. has petrochemical food dyes, BPA, questionable preservatives or unlabelled GMOs in it in the first place. I agree completely with the point about not shaming other parents or the poor, as we are all doing the best that we can for the children in our care, but the fight still needs to be taken to the food corporations to remove potentially and known harmful chemicals from our food supply. All children deserve to have healthy food. All adults too for that matter. Shaming and attacking parents for what they can afford to buy puts the blame and attention on the wrong issue. The real issue is: why do we tolerate these chemicals in our food supply?

  15. John says

    While I agree with the authors overall argument that others food choices should not be criticized of the food choices they provide their families, I still don’t understand the assertion that organics are better or that GMOs in some way are harmful. Could someone please provide some clarity on this issue?

  16. says

    You raise a very important point here, but please understand that those who are stating that food is toxic are only doing so because this situation is a very serious issue that affects each and every one of us. If more people don’t stand up and fight for our rights as human beings and consumers to know what is in our food, then we are allowing corporate America to destroy our health and that of the planet. Our rights are being seriously violated here.

    Don’t we all deserve clean, pure, nutrient packed food? What you see in most grocery stores is stripped of essential nutrients and real ingredients, in favor of cheap, artificial sugars, food additives & colorings, common allergens, pesticide laden GMOs, and chemicals, many of which have already been banned in other countries! The food industry actually reformulates products to exclude many of these things to be exported, but continue to give us synthetic junk that doesn’t even resemble real food. All in the name of PROFIT.

    Doesn’t every child and family deserve to have access to nutrient packed food, with real ingredients? Why does our government subsidize corn and soy farmers, when their highly processed, GMO crops are making our factory farmed animals and people sick? Why are we allowing the food industry to do serious harm to the very soil that future generations need to depend upon for decades to come?

    Pesticides kill the bugs that nourish the soil farmers depend upon. Is it really a stretch to suggest that they kill people too, if we eat them every single day for years (besides being exposed to many other toxins on a daily basis)? Is it really a coincidence that rates of obesity (which is now higher than the rate for hunger), chronic illnesses, food allergies, and mental illnesses have soared since the whole low fat, fake food trend began in the late 1970s?

    All Americans have the right to vote, but it’s time that more used their wallets, in any way they can, to send a message loud and clear that Americans deserve the same real, nonGMO food that many other countries are getting. And if someone cannot afford the better options, they can still call legislators and fight for their right to have access to real food. Our children and our planet are depending upon us to demand better from corporate America. We all need to come together on this, and do what we can do to change this unfortunate situation. Every dollar, every cent, every call or letter to a politician, counts.

    If more people don’t start demanding better, then our future is very grim indeed. The real poison here is apathy. As Americans, we have an obligation to make informed choices. Please don’t give people an excuse to do nothing, because we are all in this seriously messed up situation together. In doing so, you put even more power into the hands of those who are putting money over the health of our people and our planet.

    And one more thing – we all have access to public libraries. We can all learn about this topic, and sending a letter to a politician doesn’t cost more than a postage stamp. We need to inspire people to create change if they are not satisfied, and no one should be satisfied only having access to cheap, artificial food.

  17. TIm says

    Respectfully disagree.

    This angst would be best served fighting against the system.

    The food system is being made entirely for profit, for the benefit of corporations, their boards and occasionally the shareholders. Rage against this injustice.

    There is PLENTY to go around, there always has been. It’s not a production problem, it’s a distribution and greed problem. (Read “Hammer” about the life of Armand Hammer or “Critical Path” by Buckminster Fuller if you doubt my food data).

    All kids, all people, young and old, should have access to healthy, organic food. There is no reason, except to fatten the wallets at Syngenta, Monsanto, DOW and other chemical killers. These chemical corp killers are destroying the drinking water, destroying the air, destroying the soil, all for profit. That’s where the angst should point.

    Consider how many children cannot think straight because of poor diet. Consider how well children in schools worldwide eat compared to the US. This is a travesty. Contact your politicians and stay on them.

    And to John above, yes, growing organic foods is not only more beneficial to the environment, the foods are also more beneficial for you according to over 300 studies: http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-organic-foods-20140715-story.html

  18. Kenny F says

    What shall we call it then, if not “toxic” or “poison”? It sure as hell isn’t food!

    Who’s feelings are we sparing?

    There’s a pass given in this country — if it kills you within a few hours of consumption, it’s poison. If it kills you over a few years it’s processed food — this is not a question of making low-income mothers feel better about themselves, it’s a question of getting EVERYBODY — ESPECIALLY mothers (and fathers) — on board with demanding, DEMANDING that the food available to them isn’t poison.

    They should be out in the streets saying “stop poisoning our children!”. To call it “poison” isn’t a judgement on the people who consume it, it’s a judgement upon the “food”, the corporations who produce it , and a government that subsidizes it.

    Call it what it is and you’ll get more attention…and when a low-income mother says “boo hoo, stop calling the food I’m feeding my child ‘poison'”, you say “it IS poison. And you and your child(ren) deserve better. Open the door. Have the conversation. Children eat what their parents give them. They’re 100% at the mercy of the parent. They trust the parent 100% to not poison them. They have to. I think we, as adults, lose sight of this. “If mama puts it on the plate in front of me, it’s safe.” What child doesn’t think this?

    BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE. Write your congressman about subsidizing carrots and broccoli instead of corn and soy. Shop in the produce aisles. Even if you can’t afford 100% organic, do what you can do. Stay out of boxes. Cook fresh food. Make a lot and freeze it for nights you don’t have time/energy to cook. This is not an impossible task — our forebearers did this for hundreds/thousands of years without 1/1000th of the technology and convenience that we have in our kitchens.

    Enough is enough.
    Call it what it is and get people to listen. By not doing so, you’re only enabling those who produce poison for profit to continue doing what they do. And if the moms feel sad or bad that you’re accusing them of feeding their children poison, then turn “sad and bad” into MAD, and get them change what they’re doing.

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