Friday, February 1, 2013

This Little Piggy... (The Journey - Part 4)

For some reason this nursery rhyme ran through my head the other day and I started really thinking about the words in a critical sense as it relates to my project.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.

An innocently read or spoken verse, but when looked at critically describes the unfairness of the food system in our country and around the world.

"This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home". Why did the pig stay home? Was it because he/she could not afford to travel to the market? Was it because there was no market near enough to his/her home to find food at? Was it because there was no money to buy food from the market?

"This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none". This statement may be fairly obvious, but when looked at even more closely I am able to see the criticism which may be applied to our food system in general. The concept of the 'haves' and 'have-nots' is never more apparent than when you read the statistics:
  • "Since the beginning of the recession, the number of Washington state families struggling with hunger has almost doubled. Prior to 2008, 88,000 households across the state experienced hunger. During the past three years, this number rose by nearly 100 percent to more than 160,000 households, 6.1 percent of total households and the 11th highest rate in the nation." (Children's Alliance, Hungry in Washington Sept. 2011)
  • "Washington ranks 11th among the states in hunger and 18th in food insecurity. Oregon’s rate of hunger ties Washington at 11th. States with the highest rankings include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Mississippi." (Children's Alliance, Hungry in Washington Sept. 2011
  • "A defining contradiction of American agriculture has been the persistence of hunger despite its having the world' most productive agri-food system. Americans on average spend only about 10 percent of their incomes on food - a much lower percentage than any other country. Hunger is unevenly distributed among different groups of people. Those most likely to suffer from food insecurity are people of color, the elderly, the disabled, inner-city residents, farmworkers, and children" (Allen, P. 2004, p. 22). 
Hunger is rampant in our country and growing more and more every day. I believe the reason for this, and studies have shown, it is due to the fact, "The largest twenty food companies exert tremendous control over food and farming, as both buyers o ingredients and sellers of product. The retail sector is even more amalgamated, with Walmart and three other large retail chains controlling 70 percent to 90 percent of the market in many regions of the country" (Hauter, W., 2012, p. 39, emphasis added). The people with the most amount of power control the vast majority of the market while a large percentage of the country cannot afford to buy food and the food they are able to afford is often processed and filled with chemical additives.

On a side note, as my project does not focus on the issues of animal cruelty, but this is a topic that is without a doubt tied to the injustices within our food system.  Correlations between animal cruelty, injustices to workers and the fact that many of those doing the work in slaughterhouses, on factor farms and in the fields cannot even afford to buy the food they help to 'produce' is - in my mind - one of the largest injustices of all.  One must ask the question, "why is the pig eating roast beef"?  Pigs are not naturally carnivores and the idea of a pig eating a cow is very disturbing to say the least.  While this topic deserves a more in-depth look, I will save it for a later post.

"And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home". Why did the pig cry all the way home? Was it due to the fact he/she could not buy any food and had to return home to the hopeful eyes of his/her children with nothing to fill their bellies? Did he/she cry because of the seemingly hopeless situation? Did he/she cry because they spent the entire day looking for work and were unable to find any? Did he/she cry because of the injustice? I have been thinking a lot about the ways in which children are taught and the messages they absorb, even from something as simple as a nursery rhyme. The "this little piggy..." rhyme bears much deeper thought the next time it is recited.

Allen, P. (2004). Together at the table: Sustainability and sustenance in the American agrifood system. University Park, Penna: Pennsylvania State University Press ; Published in cooperation with the Rural Sociological Society.

Children's Alliance. (2011). Hungry in Washington September 2011. Retrieved from

Hauter, W. (2012). Foodopoly: The battle over the future of food and farming in America. New York: New Press.

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