Monday, September 04, 2006

The human cost of cheap food

I tend not to do dead-serious stuff, because -- well, probably because I'm not all that sophisticated, and also, because I like food to be mostly what it is: fun. However, as someone interested in everything about food, it's very important to understand the entire process. Part of that process involves the people who grow, harvest, and manufacture foods. In California particularly, and the United States in general, we face particular difficulty drawing the line between commerce and humanity (not just with food, with drugs, health care -- anything where human needs might interfere with turning a buck). There's the rub of capitalism.

Writer Mark Arax and photographer Matt Black have put together an outstanding article for the L.A. Times' West Magazine called "The Summer of the Death of Hilario Guzman," which followed a family's plight for one year as they faced death, poverty and uncertainty traveling between the grape fields of central California and Oaxaca, Mexico. It was truly heartbreaking and sought to explain all sides of the dilemma faced by farmers, immigrant workers and taxpayers -- and did it very well, I thought. There is no easy solution to the problem we face in California, but surely there must be a way to treat fellow humans as well as we treat our pets. The squalor is astonishing -- and it is our problem. And those kids? Ages 11 and 7, working to lay down trays and pull grapes.

The article and the accompanying photographs will be online for 7 days, free of charge. I urge you to look at it.


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