Food: It's a Misunderstood, Misused Term

Food: It's a Misunderstood, Misused Term

Beyond "what we eat," food is used in a variety of compound terms that seem to need rethinking.

(This is Part 1 of a two part series. Part 2 is “'Farm:' A Term with Problems of it's Own.”  https://www.lexiconoffood.com/post/farm-term-problems-its-own)

I'm new to the "lexicon" idea, but I'm quickly learning it's importance. I tried this as a submission and it was rejected, so I'm posting it in my area. There are a number of root terms that affect many things, and that need discussion. “Food” is a key example of this.

In one sense, "food" is simply what we eat, and we all know what it is, (though I welcome more comprehensive definitions).

There are also questions about fake food, things like tranfats that were never in the human diet. Al Krebs (The Corporate Reapers,) quoted Mary Hartman (“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” TV show) as saying "They don't make food out of food any more."

Beyond "what we eat," food is used in a variety of compound terms that seem to need rethinking. Examples include "food system," "food industry," and "food movement." When used in these ways, "food" refers also to many things "farm." Food books, films and other resources often have a large "farm" component. Farming (farm production) is part of the "food system" or "food industry." On the other hand, "farm," (which can be used in similar ways, and see my post “Farm: A Term with Problems of it's Own,”) is in some ways a much larger category. What's called the "food system" or the "food industry," necessarily, involves many non-food items, (in addition to food,) which can be produced in the same factory at the same time. So it's really an artificial division to speak of a system and an industry that's merely "food."

Certainly the “farming” or “agriculture” system is much larger than food alone, and some of the non-food farm products are completely or mostly separate from food processing.

Likewise what's called the "Food Movement" includes "farm" sectors. These sectors include the many things "farm" that go beyond food. There are, then, many things "farm" that are not often not included in the Food Movement.

Sometimes these days, given the overwhelming urban or food-side leadership of the Food Movement, we find that the other things "farm" are viewed negatively, with arguments that farming should be more or less "food only." This is a grave mistake based upon severe misunderstandings. It's a misunderstanding of some key farm issues that are important to the Food Movement. What are perhaps the biggest farm issues cannot at all be adequately addressed with a food-only bias. "Cheap food" is the easiest example. It's misunderstood because "farm subsidies" and the "farm bill" are misunderstood. Any adequate solution involves "supply management," but you can't do that only in terms of food. You can't do supply management on food grains and ignore feedgrains (and oilseeds and cotton, etc.). The only adequate solution is to include all relevant things "farm," as far as is possible, as in farm bill history.

On the other hand, of course, there are many fewer U.S. “farmers” than “food” consumers, so Al (A.V.) Krebs, for example, emphasized the use of the term "food" by farm-side activists (by "Family Farm," "Farm Justice" activists). In this sense food is big.

On the other hand, internationally, the number of farmers is enormous, and their rural regions make up about half of the world.  Since the Food Movement almost always, (and overwhelmingly,) misunderstands farm subsidies, it also misunderstands global food issues, like hunger, rural poverty, and free trade.  Misunderstanding “food,” therefore, is a fatal mistake.

Any effective movement must be both a “Farm” and a “Food” Movement.  In this arrangement, “Farm” should be placed first.  The farm side, in the "Family Farm" (Farm Justice) Movement mobilized great masses of activists for many decades prior to the rise of today's “Food Movement” as a huge phenomenon.

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