“Learn about how the Government has affected our eating habits and its unintentional effects on the American appetite.” [Exhibit preview blurb]
What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet is a fascinating exhibit, partially sponsored by the Mars, Inc. (Seeds of Change). It reveals archives of records, photographs, videos and posters from the holdings of the National Archives in Washington DC. The exhibit intricately sows the seeds of how our government has been involved in the nourishment of the American people and how we have been protected from some of the atrocities that were attempted to by pulled off by profiteers. The exhibit begins around the time of the Revolutionary War and spans to the late 1990’s.
The exhibit is broken down into four sections from Farm, Factory, Kitchen to Table. With each section tracing how food has been intrinsically involved with the development of our food culture. Through each section, we learn how our government has brought about regulation to keep concerns of food safety and regulation at bay. Every industry from factory farming to candy production, was the recipient of intense scrutiny and management, eliminating things such as Bred Spred which was a new and improved coal-tar spread for your morning toast! Posters such as the Vitamin Donut, demonstrate how propaganda was used to influence the diet of a people who at a time were conforming to what was determined to be the best for us.
In the 1830’s Congress enacted a seed giveaway program, whose intentions were to broaden what American farmers grew, by introducing and testing rare plant varieties, found all over the world. By the time the program had reached 30 years, it was distributing 1.1 billion free seed packets of common vegetables and flower varieties to farmers and gardeners throughout America. During this time of trialing new varieties, the United States was also sending plant hunters to reaches of the world. These gentlemen were set on voyages to discover new fruit, herbs and vegetable varieties, unknown to most. Many of these excursions gave us many of the staples we use to this day, such as the Meyer lemon, that is native to China and was brought to us by agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer in 1908.
In the mid 1920’s, farmers could tune into radio programs such as The United States Radio Farm School and Farm Flashes, one of many examples that brought to light how our government was supporting its agricultural roots and encouraging agrarian knowledge to be prolific. A theory that can be highly debated these days with several controversial food subsidies, corporate interest versus family farm and now the cross-pollination of genetically modified organisms (GMO) throughout fields and farms all over America, to name a few.
There is a lot of information, provided we seek it. For those that do not, or simply choose not to, are cast under the spell that the higher authorities know what is best and are here to protect our health and well-being. Understanding where our food comes from, how it is grown and where it is grown, empowers us as consumers and by-products of the food system. Growing our own food will only deepen that empowerment. Growing our own food from seed and saving our own seed will give us freedom and sovereignty.