My first encounter with the novel idea of food sustainability was when Michael Pollan’s fantastic book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, arrived in my mail the summer before my freshman year here at UC Berkeley. It was sent to all incoming freshmen as part of the campus’ On The Same Page program, a seminar series that discusses the issues of industrial agriculture and food production presented in the book. I read a little bit of the book and was immediately blown away at the profound ideas and evidence Pollan presented. At that time I was an avid environmentalist who thought I knew everything about human destruction of the environment: deforestation, biodiversity loss, you name it—but the truth was I knew nothing about our food system’s effect on the environment. This is why I was so blown away by Pollan’s work. He opened an entirely new realm of information about our food system that I could delve into and analyze through an environmentalist scope.
When it came around to spring semester of my freshman year, I signed up for Jenna Kingkade’s DeCal, Food Sustainability Journalism, to further my knowledge in this field. The class was an enlightening experience because all the students needed to research and write about an issue related to food sustainability in the Berkeley area. I chose to investigate industrial beef production to learn about how the system functions and what undesirable ramifications arise from having that type of system. I also researched sustainable alternatives to industrial beef, like local grassfed beef. It was a very fascinating process, to go out into the world and interview people—I felt like a true journalist. The end product of the class was the Naked Bear Magazine, a successful 10,000 copy publication consisting of all the articles that the DeCal students wrote. The magazine was distributed to the UC Berkeley student body, and 2010 incoming freshman.
I grew up the youngest of six boys in a family with two busy working parents. They tried raising my oldest brothers on healthy, natural foods and cooking, but by the time I was born, that gastronomic idealism soon dissolved. I was raised on convenience foods. Junk food, fast food, chips, soda, candy were all a dietary mainstay for me. While I was in junior high, I would come home after school and eat hot pockets and microwavable burritos. In high school, I would go out to eat fast food for lunch almost every day. I believed this was normal, healthy eating even though it was causing me to feel terrible. Having this dietary background, I was entranced with the ideas of healthy eating that were omnipresent in Berkeley. Pollan’s more recent book, In Defense of Food, added more fuel to the flame. After reading it, I became aware of how unhealthy processed foods came to dominate the American diet, and subsequently mine. Through my own research I came across many parallels between eating healthily and eating sustainably. In the end investigative escapades, I realized there is an innate marriage between the health of the planet and the health of our bodies.