March 7-13, 2007

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Letters to the Editor

Fat fight

I just read Sara Bir's recent bit about food choices ("Fear of Food," Feb. 21). Sara is a fun read, usually because I find myself screaming at your paper while I read her. Seriously, her most recent piece makes it clear that Sara has never: shopped for groceries in Richmond, West Oakland, Agua Caliente or Apple Valley; been dependent on food stamps; even seen a USDA food label; or given much thought to the parasitic relationship of poverty and wealth in the context of capitalism. The personal-responsibility argument, which is often followed by a boot-strap lecture, ignores reality. Most people don't have land to grow their own food, can't afford organic only and work 40-plus hours a week to stitch the ends together. Many poor people have to rely on public transit that makes a 20-minute trip to the grocery store into a three-hour tour. Add kids into the mix, and is food from a box still such an obvious no-no?

This reality is total absent from her thinking. The only voice of poverty present in her article is the tiny minority of "hardcore" homeless men that can be seen in parks across the country. Even there she misses the point, most of those men are vets abandoned by the yellow-ribbon brigade (and everyone else) to heal from war without any social support, and they deserve to be written about in that context instead of dismissed as wise old winos.

Ben Saari, Santa Rosa

Sara Bir responds: Boiling our country's nutrition and weight issues down to black and white extremes is part of the reason we have such a problem with overconsumption in this country. Not all overweight people are poor, and not all poor people are overweight. In order to maintain a balanced diet, it is not necessary to completely avoid processed foods and consume "organic only." You don't have to grow your own food to eat healthfully, but it does help to understand that food is grown somewhere and does not appear fully formed in Taco Bell nachos or a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.

The problem then becomes raising awareness of how our food choices affect our health without sensationalizing the matter through flashy rhetoric about the latest dietary fad. Ben is correct: the connection between poverty, obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes is alarming, as is the difficulty of procuring fresh produce and whole foods in low-income urban areas; many people trapped in the cycle of poverty have no choice but to eat badly.

To get a handle on things, we have to stop holding other corporate institutions completely accountable for the state of our national eating habits. That does not mean saying "people are dumb and lazy" and sitting back smugly to watch our country's descent into a blubbery Babylon of high fructose corn syrup and refined white flour. I feel that a grass-roots movement of educating people to make their own wise nutritional choices is more logical and sustainable than imposing a ban on trans-fats, requiring all restaurants to list caloric values on their menus or railing abstractly against "the man." Creating more fear of food is not the solution.

Fear-mongering in Marin

Fear is being marketed to us, and we are buying it. In supposedly enlightened Marin County, there was a recent Homeland Security-sponsored drill on Feb. 22 for Marin's new mobile command center. The drill centered around a mock-threatening call from a person urging a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq. Can you see how we are being brainwashed to fear those who want an end to war--not those who provoke and impose war?

Hermann Göring was the leader of the Gestapo under Hitler. These are his words at the Nuremberg Trials. They ring truer than ever today: "Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

They are selling us fear. Are we buying it? Visit org or to learn about local campaigns for peace with justice for all the world's people.

Wendy Tanowitz, San Anselmo

I am irritated

I was at Cafe Gratitude last night, March 1 (First Bite, Feb. 21). I arrived at 6:30pm and, due to really poor service, it was 9:30pm by the time we were finished. About 45 minutes after taking our order, the waitress finally brought our appetizer and then informed us that she had lost the paper on which she had written our order, so we refreshed her memory.

I Was Grateful I had good company to dine with, but three hours for dinner was rather intimidating. I won't go back again.

Barbara Anaman, Fairfax

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