Alicia's Food For Thought

Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution – Film Review

Hi readers,

As you may or may not have noticed, I am an avid documentary watcher. I LOVE documentaries. A few of my favorite are Helvetica, Iraq in FragmentsFood, Inc., and Black Gold. Now I have a new documentary to add to the list- Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution by Jean-Paul Jaud. My cousin Jinah would be proud to know that the film is made entirely in French and it is about a small village in France, named Barjac, where the mayor mandates an all-organic menu for the lunch program in the local (private) school. They serve 200-220 meals a day and the film focuses on different the stakeholders such as the farmers, parents, kids, and health care advocates.

I don’t think I can count how many times I’ve heard how French cuisine is the best cuisine in the world, or that there is nothing better then a French meal. Julia Child became famous for making traditional French cooking accessible to the modern American wife/mom. I did not grow up eating any French food, went to France once in my life, and have only seen beef bourguingnon from watching Ina Garten on the Food Network. But what I liked about this film was how even the French has lost touched with eating and enjoying the right food and that America is not the only country dying from an eating disorder.

In parts of the film, government officials try to explain the increasing numbers of people (including children) that die from cancer and how the food industry and pesticides play a role in that fact. What I found alarming was how one government official said that the current generation will not be as healthy as their parents. Being 20 now, a lot of the times I do feel like I think I’m invincible and that of course I am healthier than my parents, but at the same time I can’t run 5 miles straight (I used to when I was in Cross Country!) like my dad can or work out three times a week like my mom. And our health is obviously linked to our environment and what we put into it. After the mayor mandated that the kitchen to go all-organic, the children noticed that the food tasted better and that is was of higher quality than before. They even started a small garden in their school and all the students collectively took care of the produce together and were served the fruits of their labor together in the cafeteria. I can’t imagine the satisfaction it must feel like to be 7-10 years old and being able to enjoy food that you grew with your own two hands. It would be my dream to see other nursery schools, hospitals, and regular schools (not just private!) to look towards small-scale agriculture to serve the younger generation.

I’ve written before about the issues of prices and how organic food is more expensive than buying the everyday food items in the grocery store, but at the same time we have to look at the collective costs eating this way is causing us. The film makes it very clear that you can not put a price on health and you can not put a price on our future. If you think about all the hidden costs that goes into mass production of food you will realize that the organic food ends up cheaper. How? Well, as more and more farmers spray their fields with toxic chemicals, the yield on their farm goes higher, but as every farmer is doing that believing they will get more bang for their buck, the prices decline rapidly as their is much more supply than demand. If this was a traditional business, the head honchos of a company can cut costs by firing employees, closing down factories, etc. But a farmer can not lay off his land, instead he needs to squeeze out even more produce in order to stay afloat – but then the price declines even more. Then farmers demand the government to give them compensation on their losses and hello guys, that money comes out of our taxes! It really is not a question of finances, but a question of seeing how these issues are real, but at the same time they are preventable by controlling what you eat.

As I was reading The New York Times today, there was an article called “A Federal Effort to Push Junk Food Out of Schools” that talks about how the Obama Administration is pushing for legislation on banning candy and sugary beverages in schools. I love how Michelle Obama is talking about childhood obesity being a priority and she wants to take initiative in addressing this problem but at the same time, there was a 7-11 down the block from my high school, and if I craved a Twix bar or Spicy Hot Cheetos, my open-campus allowed me to get it if I wanted it. I see how schools not supporting such poor eating habits, I still feel like nutrition and eating well in general needs to a part of a school’s curriculum if you want to see any improvements in younger people’s health. Not to dog down on this federal push, but I think Michelle’s approach to the White House Garden is more applicable for students to be involved in their food. I think changing the Coke cans to Aquafina bottles is not the same as teaching kids how to be accountable for a communal garden like they do in Barjac. They should learn about how worms are necessary in order for soil to grab the nutrients it needs or what a zucchini flower looks like. I understand that Barjac was a small school and I can’t tell you how to apply that same curriculum to larger American public schools but I do think it has to come from the parents. Parents really need to advocate for a holistic curriculum at schools and until there is one, parents should do holistic teachings at home. I also think it is quite a rarity for a mayor to mandate such a law. As he says in the film, telling parents they are killing their children does not win him any votes, and telling farmers they are killing the country does not win him any votes either, but he says it is a conversation necessary to have. He would definitely have my vote if I lived in that lovely French town.

This also reminds me of another article that I read about non-GMO certification, but I think I will wait to talk about that when I do my film review on The Future of Food. Anyways, people have been asking me about what I did in Turkey so here is my little blurb:

When I was in Turkey, I studied Muslim and Islamic identity through the Halal diet and I came to realize that my research was completely invalid because in Turkey everything is Halal. I assumed that they had all the different choices we had and certification on our groceries like things being Kosher, Organic, Fair-Trade, Free-Range, Pasture-fed, etc. But it was the status quo for things to be Halal since it is such a integral part of their culture and they don’t even need to think about the certification of their food being “lawful” to eat. Needless to say my paper did not hold a lot of substance, but it made me really wish for it to be completely normal for things to be made organically, naturally, and sustainably and that we didn’t need any certification for it at all.

Hope you had your fill of Food for Thought and see? I told you I would be blogging more regularly now. :)


Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

2 Comments so far
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Alicia- I just added Food Beware to #1 in my Netflix.. just need to get this Sopranos disc back to them ;) Can’t wait to see it. Great post, as usual! Xx

Comment by bridget

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