I am not a hippie and I am also not a hipster. There you go- I said it. You see, ever since I've been at Pomona College, my so-called 'hippie/hipster' ways have been frequently commented on, and joked about. Most days, I find it comforting to have a secure place on a wall of 'hipster/hippie' values that I am generally in agreement with.
Lately however, I'm not so sure. You see, this image of hippie-ness that people comment on is often related to my opinions on, and attitude towards food. At Pomona College- the word 'food' is synonymous with the word 'dining hall'. We are able to have lengthy discussions about the crispiness of Frank's sweet potato fries, or fiercely debate the best sushi across the 5Cs. Let me be clear- I'm not rejecting this kind of dialogue, or critiquing what can only be our dining halls' amazing perseverance towards giving us good food. Yet, I do think that we have a problem-
We go to school in California- a mecca for real food, fresh produce and healthy fare, where we are privileged enough to have an organic farm (AN ORGANIC FARM!!) on our campus, and a dining service that has not only a sustainability mission statement and but also a hardline 5 year sustainability action plan- who knew?! As the supposed 'future' of America, and the so-called 'brightest minds' of our generation, we are being handed the awareness, the potential and the resources to combat some of this country's biggest health and wellness related issues- obesity, food deserts, malnutrition, factory farming, and a truly twisted agricultural industry intent on manipulating the way we eat. What are we doing instead? We're squabbling about the quantity of Snack.
As members of the college-going demographic, instant foods like mac n cheese, ramen and microwavable meals have been marketed to us as integral to our true college experience. The exhausted pride of your very first all-nighter won't be as victorious and facebook-status worthy unless there's been Redbull and Red Dye #40 involved. The fun of a drunken saturday night won't be as 'worth it' unless the vending machine has been raided and inhaled in overwhelming quantities. Snuggling into bed to watch a movie with your new college BFFs? Not as adorable and snap-chat worthy without some ramen and fake buttered, artificially colored popcorn in hand. For the 'brightest and best' we're sure doing a fine job of falling prey to the worst of our food industry and its clever marketing techniques.
One of the things that I hear most often from my peers in response to the “How are you today?” question tends to be a flat and weary- “Tired.”. Yes, we Pomona College students lead stressful, busy lives and are constantly juggling our various commitments. However, we are also completely blind to the fact that the food choices we make are actually holding us back instead of nourishing and fueling us. For the average 19 year old, eating those blueberry muffins in between lunch and dinner, and then some of those chocolate chip cookies after that, may simply be because they taste good and because with our current overzealous metabolism- the empty calories will be burnt without second thought. But those empty calories also make our bodies tired, they add to the growing insulin resistance that plagues most of our generation, and they most definitely do not provide us with the energy we need to perform at our best and to truly excel. As a generation, we have been given the 'eat real food' rhetoric since we were in middle school and McDonald's started selling wedges of fruit. We exist in a world where information is more freely available than ever before, and our access to nutritional science is quite literally- at our fingertips. Even yet, in a community where we envision ourselves as future movers and shakers, and we take great pride in how our #2 Forbes ranking is going to boost our chances of hotshot jobs that will change the world, we are completely unable to recognize that nutrition dense, macronutrient packed 'real' food is the only answer to healing ourselves, and reversing so much of the damage that we have already caused.
I'm not calling for a so-called 'hipster food' revolution. Oh no, that kind of terrible labeling and stereotyping is completely missing the point. I'm simply saying that we become more mindful of what we eat and how it affects us. For some of us, weight and looks are good enough incentive, for others newfound energy may be enough, and for others still, being surrounded by delicious, natural, whole food will be your jam. I'm saying that the way we're being told to eat, the way it's being marketed to us- giant stacks of refined white flour pancakes doused in fake 'syrup' as the perfect sunday brunch, or jars of 'trailmix' that are really just candy with a 'natural' label slapped over it as our late-night brain fuel- these empty, addictive, sneaky foods are really just tripping us up and holding us back. If we are to really show the world that we're taking charge, and that we're here to make a difference and live out our futures with as much energy, passion and dedication as possible - let's start with what we put into our bodies.
Written for The Student Life, printed on 25th October 2013.