Declare Your Food Independence

Aug 03, 2009 | Updated May 25, 2011

What is more emblematic of this country's deep rooted commitment to rebelling against the status quo than the impending July 4th holiday? It's a holiday which celebrates the collective commitment to individual liberties, freedom and democracy. As part of our individualistic spirit, how often do you seem to hear lately about people removing themselves from "grids." I'm referring to energy grids, food grids, education grids and any other behemoth industrial structure that stagnates our growth, individual freedom and ability to operate outside of the confines of our sometimes restrictive corporate or government structures. While this should be a day that we each take the time to read the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights and celebrate heroes like Paul Revere, instead we ususally opt to take to our backyards to grill, baby, grill.

I'm not asking you to give up your cherished grilling time, but each of us has the opportunity this holiday to make a radical political statement by declaring our food independence. What does this mean? Well, it means a lot to each one of us as unique individuals. But, collectively, it's about saying 'no' to our industrial food system which is feeding us an unhealthy corn-based diet that is contributing to skyrocketing obesity rates, helping to fuel global warming, scaring us with constant food recalls and offering us foods that barely resemble food (a friend recently received a piece of sausage resembling a Pabst beer bottle. American kitsch? Yes. Healthy? No.).

It's time that we return to our roots. Literally. We need to support a food system that offers us healthy, safe, sustainable, fresh foods. And what better time to begin than on Independence Day? Below are some tips for how to launch your food independence to have a healthier, fun holiday.

1. Skip the so-called "meat" hot dogs and choose veggie ones instead. I know this might be blasphemous for me to write, but unless you are getting meat from humanely-raised, grass-fed beef, you're more likely to be consuming a hot dog filled with antibiotics, hormones, chemicals and corn. Not so yummy, eh? Instead, join with millions of others who will be enjoying veggie hotdogs during July-National Veggie Hotdog month; they're tastier, healthier, have less environmental impact and are humanely raised.

2. Ok, so option 1 might have been a bit extreme for some of you. If you choose to eat meat this holiday weekend, check out Eat Wild for local, grass-fed beef and dairy sources.

3. Grill some fresh farmers market veggies. Skip the vegetables shipped thousands of miles and instead choose produce grown by a farmer near you. The Eat Well Guide is a handy online-tool that will allow you to find local farms and farmers markets.

4. Go on a corn-free diet. Corn is everywhere; it's an ingredient in the food and perhaps even the packaging of a zillion products in our kitchens.

5. Don't eat anything you can't pronounce (excluding hard to pronounce international dishes like souffle or babaganouj). Don't eat anything with more than 5 ingredients (this is care of the food guru Michael Pollan).

6. See Food, Inc. This eye-opening movie connects the dots to explain who and how our food system really operates. It will make you want to change how you eat.

7. Plant a garden in your home or join a community garden.

8. Choose sustainably raised seafood. Not to rain on your parade, but many fish-stocks are dwindling at alarming rates and many fish are filled with chemicals like mercury. Make sure you eat fish that are safe for you and the planet.

9.Start a compost bin. You'll have lots of kitchen scraps from your farmers market produce which can be turned into nourishing, rich soil that can then be used on your new garden.

10. Choose hormone-free dairy. Do you really want to your sparkler-topped July 4th ice cream sundae to be made with hormone-laden dairy? Me neither. Choose organic dairy or soy ice cream.

Sarah's Social Action Snapshot originally appeared on