My biggest regret is that I did not give the post the time it needed to clearly express what I meant to express. Given the response in the comment section, I can see that my actual intentions were buried underneath careless word choices that did offend. I apologize. I hoped that the fact that I was, indeed, shopping for my own family at WinCo would display that I knew that many people choose WinCo for varied reasons, and that many people could still choose wisely within WinCo.
The responses to my post seem to be concerned with two things. First, that I was judging people, specifically about their parenting, by their cart contents. Second, that I am/was arrogant, haughty, and/or smug about having "better" cart contents.
To address the first concern, first. I can now re-read and see how someone might assume I was judging people's cart contents, and possibly even their parenting based on said contents. I am sorry for this. I do not recall anyone's cart contents excepting the woman who very nearly ran me down with a cart full of only soda. I mentioned her cart contents because of the soda weight added terror for my ankles. I hoped that the mention of "conservation of momentum" would give the soda comment context to emphasize the danger of large carts moving quickly with heavy content. I made no judgement about her except that she was in a hurry and presumably buying drinks for a large gathering.
I think the assumption that I connected cart contents with parenting came from my comment about under-developed facial patterns and behavioral issues. Here I really should have removed the paragraph, because behind that little sentence is a huge body of reference that I did not provide, and with which many of my readers may be unfamiliar. There are two things to note in this regard. One, I passed by two children, with different families, in close succession who had such pointy faces with small nostrils so close together that they could not breathe out of their noses and were nearly panting while standing. This was the most profound example I have ever seen in person of the things I have been studying in Dr. Price's book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Two, I saw them right after having an unnerving time seeing the name Cargill on the meat packages knowing the icky food practices (especially meat) of Cargill and their competition. The proximity was a glaring reminder for me of all that is wrong with the industrialized food system right now. I reacted strongly to it.
The post was not in any way meant to be a reaction to parents or shoppers. One can buy soda, sketchy chicken, and Mac'n'Cheese anywhere. On any given day, that might be a healthier choice than the other options. I am deeply sorry that I communicated so poorly that I could be read as having made snap judgement about parents, or any shoppers, based on a walk by in the store. I regularly buy things in the store I would not want Sally Fallon-Morrel seeing, not to mention my husband, who brings home all the things I can't even bring myself to purchase for him. I have had - on plenty of occasions - the whining, begging, yea tantrum-throwing kid in the store/park/etc. I was not feeling smug. I was not criticizing parents. What I was feeling, having made the decision to shop for my own family at WinCo due to our own budget restrictions, was victimized by the industrialized food industry. As I looked at the children present, I felt strongly that everyone in that store was also being victimized by that industry and that many might not even know it. The only comfort I could give myself was that WinCo was providing local jobs in a bad economy. For me, that is a bitter comfort.
I did not think a single person there was a bad parent. I think parents are amazing. I find parenting to be the most demanding and difficult job I could have ever imagined, and I fail at it every day. Parents love their kids ferociously. Parents deal with any myriad of personal and collective sufferings and travesties and have to make very complicated decisions about priorities in the midst of those sufferings. I completely respect that other people's priority structures are what make the most sense for them. I support them in making those decisions and I assume that they truly are the best decisions given their circumstances. I was not judging parents. However, I was angry, sad, and judgmental of the people behind the industrialized food giants, the ones who actually DO know what they are doing. The under-tone of moral superiority was directed, not the shoppers at WinCo, not the employees of WinCo, not even at the main shareholders of WinCo, but at the small group of people who have decided that their profits are more important than the long-term health of millions of families.
As I have been thinking over and over this post (I have tried writing this three times since Monday) and trying to find a way to respond better, I have wondered if even my arrogance in the face of the industrial food giants is wrong. However, I have not yet reached the point where I can shake it. I am really, really mad at what is being done to food in this country. I have wondered if, perhaps, I am too informed. I have wondered if, perhaps, I am too informed from the wrong sources. Ignorance or apathy might be better, because if it weren't for the fact that I am divine determinist and have peace that God is allowing all of this for a reason that will be eventually brought to good to those who love Him, if it weren't for that, I would have such profound indigestion over the whole thing that it wouldn't much matter if the foods I was eating were nourishing or not.
The food that permeates those interior shelves is NOT the food that even we grew up eating. The genetically modified foods are a whole new ballgame. The technology was only developing in the 80's and has only become mainstream in the last decade. That means the first generation to be guinea pigs full-time for GMO foods, is my children's. I can get over crammed feeding warehouses. I can get over ammonia-washed hamburger filler. I can get over burger that is molecularly equivalent to corn (here is a Pollan article on the dangers of corn taking over the food supply). What I have a very hard time getting over is a diet that is near 70% genetically modified. I simply have no trust in what those genetic modifications might be doing inside today's children.
I have not shared much of what our family has been going through for the last two-and-a-half years. I have hinted at bits, and my close friends know that life has not been easy. We could scarcely afford to feed our family immediately after deciding to become pregnant with Penelope. The first trimester (and most essential, nutritionally speaking) was terrible, and has had the repercussions (combined with being my third pregnancy, closely spaced) of gestational diabetes, a badly overweight baby, and a slew of allergies for her that now has me eating out of only two food groups.
Last June our situation was even worse as we were finally and completely financially ruined from failed business ventures. From June to November of last year, our family of 4-5 was living on $250 a month for groceries. Gratefully, I anticipated that as a possibility and funneled our tax return into buying half a pastured cow and decently stocking our pantry with rice, beans, and oats. So, $250 a month did not include buying meat, rice, beans, or oats. We ate only rationed meat (twice a week) from our cow, what our CSA provided us (at $25 a week), raw milk and pastured eggs from a local farm, chicken a couple times a month, and typically a take'n'bake pizza a few times a month when Andrew was in charge of dinner (also didn't help with the 11 pound baby).
Come the end of last November, I had decided that half-starving our family was no longer an option and that groceries were going to have to be more important than rent. I very nearly sold my wedding ring to pay rent. I had an offer with a request to come purchase it so fast (the Christmas season) that it scarred me into keeping it. We finally broke down and told our church we needed help. They helped us beyond what we could have imagined. They rescued us. I still tear up when I think about it. They helped us work with our landlord to get out of our lease, they provided a stable place for us to transition into a smaller place of our own (where we are now). In the midst of that, Andrew lost the new job that he had just landed a few months prior, and we have only just now found new full-time work that Andrew will start on Monday. We didn't know about this job while I was shopping at WinCo, nearing the end of my rope.
Our financial counselors from church strongly advised, repeatedly, that we get on food stamps. For a number of reasons, mostly pertaining to my childhood and family background, I resisted. However, we finally decided to do it so as not to burden our community any more than we already had/were. I know the humility of shopping with food benefits.
I share this to say that I am no stranger to having to make tough financial decisions about food. You can still choose health in the midst of poverty, it just takes a lot of know-how and a lot of time. I realize that not everyone has that all of the time. I realize how rich we have been in the midst of poverty. We have a great marriage. I have had a mostly functional kitchen (our transitional space had only a convection oven, 1 burner, and a mini-fridge, but I learned you can still cook whole foods with a convection oven, one burner, and mini-fridge). I have had the know-how from years of studying Nourishing Traditions and the Weston A Price Foundation's materials. And I have been able to remain a stay-at-home mother despite strong suggestions that I get a job as well to help our financial recovery.
I grew up in daycare with a single-mom to three young kids. We ate a lot of frozen TV dinners. My mom really tried to make sure each food group was represented, and there was almost always a salad, be it iceburg with bottled French dressing. I grew up thinking that boiled hotdogs topped with instant mashed potatoes and american cheese was HEAVEN. When we were with our dad every other weekend, it was a fast food paradise. My favorite were Big Macs. We were poor until I was twelve but we had each other and we loved each other well. I had a great childhood. I am even pretty healthy, all things considered. Sure, my face is narrower than traditional people groups - just like almost every other westernized person living right now. I have crooked teeth. I have had two c-sections. I now wear glasses. My first and third children have narrower, more underdeveloped faces than my middle (with whom I was able to give a more nourishing pregnancy).
I am not perfect, not in food and health, and obviously not in communication and love of my neighbor. I did not mean to sound smug. I was venting, and if I had thought better, I would have never hit publish. I know there are far worse things that could happen in life than eating gross beef. I know that it is "just food". However, it is an important part of my life. Three solid meals around a shared table is what has kept me sane these past two-and-a-half years. It is what has made me feel like I had something tangible to offer my children and my husband. It has grounded me when I was tempted to find escape. Nourishing food has kept us energized and hopeful in the midst of some difficult things (beyond financial). It has kept us healthy at a time when sickness would have been the proverbial last straw.
This is the fuller picture of what was behind my post last week. If you are still reading, I am humbled, and I thank you. If you find me in need of further correction/exhortation, please let me know, gently.