Why Eating Vegetarian Is Important

Eating vegetarian is rapidly becoming a new and important trend in food and food justice. The health benefits of eating vegetarian cannot be ignored. Even part-time vegetarians, those of us who can't resist a great burger, can partake in this important movement by participating in Meatless Mondays, cutting back on the red meat, focusing on eating more fresh and flavorful greens, and trying some of these great vegetarian recipes, like the leek bread pudding, above!

Now, eating vegetarian is no longer just an individual choice, but rather a movement that can affect our world at large. At Monday's great Food Republic event, MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan moderated an informative discussion that featured, among other topics, the imminent food crisis and the corrupt corn industry. With almost half the world's population living in poverty, spending most of their daily allowances simply on food, even a 10% increase in the price of food could drive another 10 million people into poverty. At the center of this issue is the global farming system and it's many faults. No longer treating food as nutritional essentials for the worldwide population, the market sees food as a commodity and food production is determined based on what will garner the most profits instead of keeping the important farmers and consumers in mind.

The foremost example of this flawed system is America's cash crop, corn. While natural corn is delicious and healthy, the heavily subsidized corn industry is primarily concerned with the production of high-fructose corn syrup, ethanol, and processed foods that eliminates the nutritional value of corn. Additionally, because of the government subsidies offered to the corn industry, it is noticeably cheaper for many countries to import big corn than to grow corn, and many other crops, locally, leaving many local farmers unable to compete and unemployed.

Instead of supporting the farmers and producers who provide our food, the corn industry has made it almost impossible for these important players to even contend in this unrealistic world market. Furthermore, the system increases many countries' dependence on imports, instead of helping to foster a system of exports to earn internal revenue. When global food prices eventually rise, these countries will be hit the hardest and will have little alternatives available to bounce back.

Eating more consciously, vegetarian or otherwise, is an important step in supporting food justice. Thankfully, from locally grown produce to grass-fed, organic beef, today's options for healthy and fair eating is accessible and manifold. Lunch is easy with this delicious, veggie filled sandwich, which is vegan too, but the crusty whole-grain bread and fresh avocado will keep you happily satisfied!

By making these important choices in what goes into our bodies, we are also determining the course of food systems in the future.  A reworked 2012 Farm Bill could redistribute government subsidies and help many farmers participate in a revised food system.  Additionally, the Farm Bill would combat rising food prices by fostering a system of locally produced food, which would decrease the need for imports. With these issues in our minds and delicious, healthy food on our plates, we can all help to effect change and support food justice!