The Way We Eat

Published June 08, 2011, issue of June 17, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Two images of America’s children this summer illustrate the sharp divide over the way we eat: The first is from one of the growing number of Jewish summer camps with a fresh emphasis on healthy diet and helping youngsters make informed choices about food. These camps are raising fruits and vegetables, reducing the amount of soda and sweets that are served, and purchasing ingredients from local and organic sources. Goodbye bug juice, hello salad bar.

The second image comes from the depressing statistics contained in a June 7 report detailing how participation in Summer Nutrition Programs has continued to erode because of recession-driven budget cuts. The Food Research and Action Center, an advocacy group working to end hunger in America through changes in public policy, reported that the number of poor children receiving free meals during the summer dropped by 90,000 from July 2008 to July 2010.

“Our choices about food should not depend on where we happen to live,” writes Oran B. Hesterman in his new book, “Fair Food.” But they do. As Hesterman argues with uncomfortable clarity, America’s broken food network is not apparent if you happen to live and shop near abundantly-stocked supermarkets and fabulous restaurants. But if you happen to live in Detroit, the 11th largest city in the country, you have to leave town to find a major supermarket. Most of the nearly $500 million in food stamps pumped into the city last year was spent at gas stations, dollar stores, pharmacies and the like — not because the poor of Detroit are irresponsible, but because they have little choice.

Hesterman’s message represents an important evolution in the increasingly popular trend of growing and consuming healthier food. He takes nothing away from the backyard garden or the organic restaurant — change has to start somewhere, and every bunch of broccoli purchased at a farmer’s market adds up.

But it can’t just be about Berkeley and Brooklyn. It also has to be about Detroit. “My concern isn’t only about bringing back heirloom tomatoes to farmers’ markets,” he writes. “My concern is making sure that those living in inner-city neighborhoods have access to tomatoes in a form other than a ketchup packet at a fast food joint.”

Real political engagement is key. It’s the only way to realign the billions of dollars in public monies spent to prop up a food network that produces lots of cheap eats at low cost, but to damaging consequence to our diets, farmland, environment and safety.

This is a Jewish issue every bit as much as it is an American issue. With a tradition that puts a premium on how meat is slaughtered and meals are prepared, in which food consumption itself is a holy act, we have an obligation to look beyond our own table to work for a healthier, more equitable system.

There are many Jewish institutions doing that work; the Forward is fortunate to partner with Hazon on our popular blog Jew and the Carrot, and together we aim to raise consciousness about these issues and to map out ways that Jewish schools, synagogues and summer camps can respond.

Hesterman encourages a shift from conscious consumer to engaged citizen. If that can happen, then the campers growing their own lettuce this summer in plentiful gardens will one day work to reform a system that consigns other children their age to a desert stripped of sustenance.

Click here to listen to a podcast with Oran Hesterman.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.