I love Marc Maron. If you don't know him, he's a deep, neurotic and astute stand-up comedian who hosts the popular WTF podcast. And he has food issues.
And I think his food issues offer a window into our country's food issues.
Let me explain.
Maron looks like a skinny, aging hipster (see for yourself here). And yet in nearly every episode of his podcast, he talks about how fat he feels. He'd be the first to admit that his relationship with food isn't healthy. He'll guiltily rhapsodize about the bacon-wrapped something-or-other that he ate at some dive on his latest comedy tour, then grill his guests for their dieting secrets. Just this morning, I listened as he and Hank Azaria spent over 5 minutes talking about food combining and hitting the treadmill and flirting with anorexia as a means of control.
Maron knows he isn't fat, but he feels fat.
Well, America is fat. You've seen the numbers: we are some obese motherfuckers.
But here's the thing: we're also starving.
And the two things are linked.
When people are struggling to make ends meet, they have to stretch their dollars at the grocery store. And processed foods, like chips and cookies, which are devoid of any nutritional value, are way cheaper than fresh fruits or vegetables.
Eat mostly chips and cookies (or Cup-a-Noodles or Chef Boyardee), and you get fat. But you aren't getting any actual nutrition... so, you're hungry. You're fat, and you're hungry.
Doesn't that just sum up America in a nutshell? Over-consuming, but empty.
No. There's another America, one where people care. You see this America in an incredible documentary I just watched called A Place at the Table, about the epidemic of hunger in America. It makes the case, powerfully, that it's not a matter of not having enough food. We have enough food. We just don't have elected officials who are voting to end hunger.
The film moved me to tears. But it also gave me hope, because there are people in this film, some of whom barely have two cents to rub together, who are doing something about it. Forming coalitions, making their voices heard. And it is now my moral obligation to help you hear their voices.
Will you do me the favor of watching this film? I'm not being paid to ask you. I stand to gain nothing other than the satisfaction of knowing that I have helped galvanize people to help feed children. If you watch, will you let me know in the comments? It's my birthday tomorrow, and I'd consider this a birthday present. And I will publicly thank every single person who takes action.
There's a scene in the film where a little boy is diagnosed with all kinds of medical disorders stemming from insufficient nutrition in his first year of life. There's footage of an overweight 8-year-old battling ashtma who didn't eat breakfast; all she's had to eat all day is chips. There are children eating a honeydew melon for the first time and it just breaks your heart. "It's delicious!", they exclaim, and it's as exotic to them as escargot. "Would you rather eat this than chips?", their teacher asks. "Yes!", they all exclaim.
Give these kids honeydew. Give them apples. Give them gorgeous green vegetables and make these things as available as the sugar and salt that they currently consume. Fill our children with vitamins and nutrients to power their little bodies and minds, and help them grow. If we can't do that as a country, if we can't feed our kids healthy food -- what does it matter if we innovate in biotech or fix our aviation industry?
Back to Maron. My diagnosis for him is the same as it is for these kids: eat fresh fruits and veggies. Let them fill at least half your plate at every meal. And while you're at it, fill your life with joy. Because everything in our lives is food, in that it either nourishes us, or depletes us. As a culture, and as individuals, we will stop obsessing over food when we restore our relationship with it.
What You Can Do to Help
- Watch A Place at the Table and encourage 5 people you know to do the same. The personal stories in the film drive the issue home like no statistic ever could. These people will stay with you.
- If you're on Twitter, tweet to your Senators and Congressional Representatives to take action to end hunger now. As actor and longtime hunger activist Jeff Bridges says in the film, "Charity is great. But we wouldn't ask charity to support the department of defense. So we shouldn't ask charity to solve the hunger crisis in America. Government needs to do that." (I'm paraphrasing.)
- Sign a petition to end hunger.
- Find out what you can do to end hunger in your zipcode.
Learn more about the hunger crisis in America from these organizations: