Earlier this week I finished The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan. I knew instantly that this was going to be a tough book to review. First of all, I loved it. It is probably one of the few books I could re-read and learn something new each time I read it. There is a lot to think about in terms of the food we eat and where it comes from.
McMillan sheds a light on this by assmiliating into three separate aspects of the food industry. The first is working as a migrant worker. The work is hard, hot and tiring, something I could already guess. But while Mcmillan spends time in this environment she also realizes that the workers are honest people intent on earning a living and making a better life for their families. The companies they worked for paid little - very little, yet the cost of migrant workers' salaries accounts for just sixteen percent of a food's cost. Raising wages wouldn't drive up food prices that much. And, some companies are dishonest, paying their employees far less than the wages they deserve. However, if an employee chooses to file a complaint, the penalty a company would have to pay is far less than paying higher wages.
The second place McMillan worked was at a Wal-Mart in a produce department. Upon sharing some of McMillan's account of this, my oldest daughter no longer wants to ever set foot in a Wal-Mart again. While it is no secret that Wal-Mart does not treat their employees well- failing to hire them for full time hours so they don't have to pay benefits as well as providing poor medical insurance - cleanliness also seems to be a concern in the produce deparment. When I shop for fruits and veggies I usually opt for Hy-Vee or Fareway, noticing how much fresher the items look there. Well, it turns out I was not just making this up.
The last stop on McMillan's journey through America's food industry led her to Applebees, a large chain restaurant. While I will probably eat at this restaurant every once in a while, her experience does make me question cleanliness as well as the healthfulness of the food I have eaten there.
While I have already been on a bit of a journey to eat more healthfully, The American Way of Eating, is a thought-provoking look at our food industry.