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What Does the Future Hold for Food? We Have 5 Questions
You may not know her, but Stacy Malkan is fighting for you.
For over 15 years Malkan has worked as a consumer advocate to make the products we buy safer. Through the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which she cofounded, she's helped reduce hazardous chemicals in personal care products like shampoo, deodorant and makeup. Now, in her work as cofounder and co-director of the nonprofit consumer and public health watchdog group U.S. Right to Know, she advocates for transparency and accountability in the food industry to build a healthier food system.
The industries Malkan works to reform are large, powerful and protected, but her dedication and vision are supporting an explosion of consumer interest in healthier products and better food. At this cultural turning point, we sat down with Malkan to ask her about the current state of food—and what the future may hold.
So, what's on your dinner plate today?
Simple foods that work for a toddler! I buy organic as much as possible, especially when it comes to the grain products my child consumes in large quantities. I also try to avoid plastic food containers due to concerns about toxic chemicals leaching. For breakfast we often go with oatmeal, and a typical dinner is baked chicken and a vegetable, usually broccoli or asparagus (the only two vegetables my toddler will eat), or beans and rice, or pizza, which is always the most popular choice in my house.
Food defines us and our cultures in so many ways. Does that make it easier or harder to encourage healthy food production?
One of my favorite weekly activities is the local farmer's market. We try to go every Sunday. They always have a live band and wonderful food that stays fresh for so much longer than produce I buy in the supermarket. So in a very tangible way, food defines my community for me and my community helps encourage healthy food production. But conscious eating gets a lot more difficult when it comes to eating in restaurants and other communal eating situations that rely on mass production of cheap foods, such as school food—although local groups are trying to change that. The community has a huge role to play in supporting healthy food systems and local food production, and we need to step it up.
Where do we stand at this point? Is our food system getting more transparent or are things getting worse?
There are many positive signs. Organic demand is growing across all demographics. The largest group of organic buyers is millennial moms, and most women in that age group haven't even had children yet. Food companies are scrambling to meet the demand for foods free of pesticides and chemical additives. It's a disruptive time for the food industry, and full of possibility for transformation. On the other hand, large food and chemical corporations are pushing back with mighty force—spending hundreds of millions on propaganda and lobbying campaigns—to prop up an unhealthy food production system that depends on GMOs and pesticides and keeps consumers in the dark about what they're eating. So it's also a dangerous time and unfortunately I hear many consumers and reporters parroting industry propaganda without questioning it.
Where do you think the most (or least) progress is being made?
Most progress: consumer demand for healthy food and the rising awareness about the healing power of food are unstoppable trends, and the smart companies are stepping up to meet that demand. Least progress: bad policies that rig the market in favor of chemical-intensive, unsustainable agriculture, and factory farms that are not being challenged with enough power. The good food movement needs to figure out how to become an effective political movement to create a fair playing field.
Speaking of propaganda, what tip would you give people to help them see past fake "experts" like SciBabe?
There's an aggressive, condescending attack style common to the corporate propaganda campaigns to manufacture doubt about science and risk. The message is: "Don't worry your pretty little head and keep buying our chemical food." If people suggest you are ignorant, or try to shame you for raising concerns about our food system or insisting on transparency, ignore them.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
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