Rep. Tim Ryan (D) of Ohio calls for a return “to a way of life that connects us back to the earth, to each other, to our communities, and to what’s really important” is a new book that is now available in local bookstores. The veteran legislator, now serving his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, takes on the government, large corporations and the industrialized food system throughout the pages of the book. He also discusses costs, health and nutrition, the environment, labeling and food safety, and family farming.
In his book, The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm (Hay House), Ryan says the time is ripe for Americans to stop eating “the food that is making us sick,” and he admits being influenced by Michael Pollan’s work. Pollan famously coined the 7-word approach to staying healthy: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
It’s a good read, and Ryan outlines a way out of the morass. As he notes, in the midst of plenty, too many Americans go hungry, have eating habits that contribute to obesity and other medical problems, and find good nutrition not only unattainable, but far too expensive a goal. The taste of food has become almost secondary.
“Our food system is technologically efficient but socially deficient. It is not delivering healthy, affordable food to large numbers of our citizens, in both the cities and the countryside,” he says, urging citizens to take matters into their own hands to change habits and to change policy. Ryan notes the growth in popularity of backyard gardens and farmers markets, a trend that is apparent in every state. He is also adamant that “real food” should be made available to everyone, not just the affluent, and that children must be taught about food, and taught the difference between fresh, natural, healthy food and “food-like substances.”
Although Ryan’s book contains very little that is new, it can be a valuable resource, and a “guidebook” for anyone wanting to find more information about the current system of food production, policy and delivery in this country.
Two specific aspects of the changing food scene are stressed: The Farm to Table Movement, and Urban Food Revival efforts. Each offers profound possibilities for revamping the way Americans look at food, according to Ryan. He also joins other food activists, including Jamie Oliver, in calling for a new way of “marketing” food to children. “Too few of our children are learning where food comes from,” he says, “how it grows, what’s nutritious, what’s not, and what the best cooking methods are.”
In the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, numerous local school districts are in the process of implementing plans to bring school gardens and food and nutrition curriculum to their students. From the elementary level to community college programs, a new emphasis on growing food, farming, nutrition, food safety and culinary arts has become evident. Educational programs are offered by gardening groups and non-profits; alternative farming methods, including aquaponics and hydroponic growing are popular, and some innovative community and municipal efforts are targeted to address “food deserts” and enourage home grown food.
Ryan’s current book follows A Mindful Nation, published in 2012, which dealt with the stress of modern life, and also addressed issues of health and resiliency in meeting challenges. He addressed the need to find creative solutions for problems, both on a national and personal level. His current book also focuses on challenges, specifically that of providing “real food” for the nation’s families, and for improving the overall health of the nation’s citizens.
While many readers will not agree with everything Tim Ryan has to say, it is worth reading his book to learn some of the reasons and background for “the way things are.” There are also a number of suggestions available for changing the status quo, for getting additional information, and for getting involved, on a family or local level.
That, says Ryan, will make a difference on a national and global scale, and contribute to a better future for the children of the earth, and for the earth itself.