My living room veg garden: cabbage seedlings, burdock and sweet potatoes.

My journey from being a dentist to a food activist has been filled with twists and turns over the years. When the Occupy Wall Street movement started last fall, I was immediately intrigued. At the core of the Occupy movement is greed, corruption and the undue influence of corporations on our government. The corporate control of food in every level of our lives had been pretty darn clear to me for a long time, its a big reason I’m an active participant in the Occupy movement.

Corporate control of our food is every where you look. Here are just four examples (there are many more):

1. School Food: 25% of all school cafeterias are run by giant corporations such as Aramark, Chartwells, Sodhexo and others. These corporations are required by law to deliver a profit to their shareholders, that comes way before providing healthy, safe food to kids.  In my 10+ years of school food advocacy, I saw first hand that the school cafeterias who made meaningful healthy changes came from school districts that did NOT outsource their food service to corporations.

2. Genetically modified organisms, aka GMOs. Approximately 70% of all processed and packaged foods contain GMOs. One corporation, Monsanto, controls more than 95 percent of  our nation’s sugar beets, 94 percent of the soybeans, and 88 percent of the corn grown in this country. Pretty darn creepy. Learn more about Monsanto’s influence on our food system by clicking here.

If you live near me, get your seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library

3. Seeds. Ready for another creepy fact?  Five companies dominate the world’s seed market — Bayer (Aventis), Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta (Novartis and AstraZeneca). These  are the corps who make pesticides and genetically modified organisms.  Corporate control of seeds is terrifying, learn more by clicking here.  The answer to this is save your own seeds or be involved with a local seed swap. I belong to the Hudson Valley Seed Library – check it out!

4. A flawed farm bill  Sadly we live in a country where a happy meal is cheaper than a healthy meal. Multi-national meatpacking corporations like Tyson-IBP, ConAgra, Cargill and Smithfield are big players in the farm bill, keeping subsidies for corn and soy so they can profit from factory raised cows. Learn more about the farm bill by clicking here.

So what can YOU do to keep corporations out of your food supply?

Here are some suggestions:
1. Buy your veggies from a local farmers market.   It is essential that we all do everything we can to support our local regional food systems. With climate change and resource depletion (fossil fuels), we must rebuild local food. Regular visits to farmer’s markets can be a delicious way to wean yourself away from corporate controlled food.

2. Join a CSA.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture- its a great way to keep corporations out of our food supply, you deal directly with a farmer for an entire growing season. Local Harvest is a website that can help you to find a CSA near you. (l I’m psyched that Kitchawan Farm is a  starting new small CSA just minutes from my home. Learn more about their 2012 farm share by clicking here.

3. Buy your bread from a a local bakery. Get yourself some REAL bread! We have one a few towns away from here, in Port Chester, its called Kneaded Bread its a special treat and worth the trip.  You’ll find that 99% of bread in supermarkets contains questionable ingredients that don’t belong in bread. Most of it contains GMO ingredients. Get your family off of this poison!

4. Prepare you own meals instead of buying fast food, take out or frozen dinners. If you stop to think about it, how did we ever lose this skill of preparing food for ourselves and our families? You guessed it! Food corporations and their slick ad campaigns turned cooking into “drudgery” and sold us “convenience” YUP, it comes down to re-skilling:  learning how to cook, its really not rocket science. Get your kids started on this as well, child labor is appropriate, you’ll be teaching them life skills. By the time they’re out of high school, they should know how to cook for themselves. That way they will not be dependent upon the corporate run cafeterias at their college or worse yet, RAMEN!  Note that there are colleges with great food, UMASS Amherst is a great example.

5.Buy your milk from a local farm. Find one in your area and support it.  Corporate influence of our milk supply is truly disturbing. One thing you must make sure of and that is that the milk you drink does not contain Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone. rBGH increases your chances of breast, colon and prostate cancer.

6. Make you own cookies, cakes, and pies. With real ingredients. Organic butter. Fair trade sugar.  Teach your kids that these forms of treats #1 taste better……teach them quality counts,   #2 better for you and for the planet.  Stay far far away from toxic corporate cookies like Girl Scout cookies. Support your local troop with a check instead and make your own cookies at home.

7. Start growing your own. I often tell people, “gardens are the answer. what was your question?” The benefits of growing food are enormous, let me start to count the ways.  Getting your hands in the dirt, soil, has health benefits: anti-depressant properties, may help facilitate learning, may help people with asthma.

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