Home BGG2WL We Are The 99%: Occupy Wall Street AND Big Food, Too

We Are The 99%: Occupy Wall Street AND Big Food, Too

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Photo taken at Occupy D.C. from the Occupy Miami fb page

Lately, on my way to Manhattan each day, it never fails. Every day, it’s the same routine – a ton of people crowd on my beloved 4 train around the edge of Brooklyn and by the time we arrived at the infamous Wall Street, at least half of them would exit. I never knew why – always assumed these were people simply preparing to work late – until I saw the #occupywallstreet (also referred to as #occupywallst,  #occupyws or #ows) hashtag on twitter, and did a little digging.

Thousands of faces appear on the street and across Brooklyn Bridge, literally occupying Wall Street. Taking a closer look, cities are being occupied (or preparing to be occupied) all across the country: Boston, San Francisco, Miami (with its 25% unemployment rate, I’m not surprised), Washington D.C., Chicago… everywhere.

Why are they “occupying” some of the largest cities in America, and the financial capital of the world? Quite frankly, because they “are the 99% who are tired of suffering at the hands of the 1%’s greed.”

I’ve compiled some rather bleak numbers, here.

Graphic courtesy of Mother Jones. Click photo for more info.

Graphic courtesy of Mother Jones. Click photo for more info.

Graphic courtesy of Mother Jones. Click photo for more info.

What do these numbers say? In a nutshell, when we talk about “99%” and “1%,” we’re talking about people with far more money than we think (see image #1)… mostly because we think we have far more money than we actually do (see image #2.) It means that our politicians are more closely “yoked” with that 1% than they are with the people who elected them in the first place.

…and lastly, the most important ones (well, at least, to me):

Why am I writing about this? Easy. The 99% of us who aren’t millionaires are suffering because of the decisions the 1% are making to protect themselves, and our government is helping them do it. It ties into food because corporations have been working overtime trying to prevent us from knowing about our food – everything from veggie libel laws to outright lobbying to prevent non-GMO brands from telling us they’re non-GMO – and our government isn’t protecting us.

Take a look at this tumblr account, titled “We Are The 99%.” People my age who lack any desire (or, in some cases, ability) to complete their degree programs because there are no jobs, or because the scholarship money has run out, or because their federal aid was cut, or… take your pick. People whose parents can no longer afford to house all 4 of their adult children who struggle to find jobs, people who’ve applied to over 700 jobs (yes, seven hundred), people who are in dire need of health care and work jobs with horrific commutes simply to ensure that their sick children have health insurance… you name it, it’s there.

Perhaps I noticed this because I run a food blog, but the number of people who said things like “I drank lemonade for dinner!” or “I lived on powdered mashed potatoes all summer!” was astonishing to me. The number of people who had to choose between rent and food (and, invariably, chose rent – and rightfully so) broke my heart. I’ve been there – when my daughter was an infant, I paid the rent, bought her food, and had $3 left over for myself for the week… and lived off of a gallon tub of ice cream for as long as I could make it last. I didn’t live near a grocery store – I got that tub from a local bodega… before bodegas sold anything close to a fruit or vegetable.

And then, it hit me – we, here at BGG2WL, are also the 99%. Many of us have had to make hard choices and make major shifts in how we think and approach food and paid a pretty penny for it. We represent a collective of people whose lives have been changed by greedy corporations who insist upon putting their profit margins before the health of their customers and consumers. We represent our children, whom they target from infancy to be “cradle to grave” consumers with products as insidious as mountain dew-themed baby bottles. We represent our elders who suffer ailments brought on by the horrific chemicals these companies put into their products, while they lied and told us they were healthy. We represent that 99% who is tired of our politicians abusing the positions we’ve elected them to by priding their campaign donations above the public’s trust. We represent the 99% who don’t understand why our FDA and USDA are full of major food corporation executives, as if friends refrain from scratching other friends’ backs just because of a little thing like ethics. We represent the 99% who have grandparents who died of heart disease from their trans-fats-laden margarine that they swore was healthy (and we believed them because, well, if they weren’t, the government would’ve stopped them, right?), their e-coli-tainted ground beef that they swore was healthy, their eggs that they’d sworn were laid in clean conditions, and all the other foods that they tell us are processed properly and are stll resulting in deaths and recalls.  We are the 99% who want to eat without fear of having our evolutionary survival mechanisms used against us to prevent us from controlling ourselves, then have it thrown back in our face as “cute marketing:” we are the 99% who don’t want to be dared to “eat just one.” We are the 99% who don’t understand why these corporations insist on personal accountability for us, but there is no high demand for accountability for them.

Corporate greed has led our companies to insist that we don’t need to know when our food contains genetically modified ingredients, lest we be “horrified” by the thought of eating frankenfood. (So, in other words, you don’t want us to draw logical conclusions, so you hide the information that’d allow us to make them? Okay.) Corporate greed has led our companies to host sham conferences and “expos” to try to persuade America’s dietitians – the people we go to for nutritional advice – that cheetos and fritos are “healthy” and “good for you.” Corporate greed has allowed these companies to abuse their work forces, hire illegal immigrants and treat them like garbage, spray our food with any chemical that will help them sell MORE food and use human lives like real time guinea pigs to determine whether or not a recall should take place. Corporate greed has put their profit margins over the education and health of our country – we don’t know what’s in our food, what it’s doing to us, how to avoid it or how to live without it. You’ve done a damn good job securing your profits when you’re providing food to a community that no longer knows how to cook for itself – a basic fundamental survival skill.

Occupy Wall Street, as a movement, is about people who are terribly tired of being abused by a collective that markets their businesses as if their sole focus is pleasing the public, only to be working behind closed doors to keep the deck staked against that same public. Demands like “caps on tuition increases” and “livable waassistance stop giving employees only 39.5 hours so that they can’t qualify for full time” may fall under a general belief of what #ows is about, but so does a lot about the food industry: stop allowing corporations to influence our public policy so heavily. I’m not even talking simple lobbying, here – I’m talking something very specific: specific like companies that specialize in genetically modified crops begging the government to prevent companies from announcing that their products are GMO-free. I’m talking about intentional obfuscation of the truth, right down to downplaying the fact that there is any truth beyond what they’ve told us.

I may have my personal qualms with some parts of the #ows movement, but because they have hit on the corporate investment in our public policy, I offer my support. While they’re occupying Wall Street, I’ll occupy my kitchen, and keep it free of corporate influence.

Ah, “free of corporate influence.” Here’s hoping we can say the same of our food politics (and politics in general, really) some day.

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Ti October 10, 2011 - 10:21 AM

*slow clap*

Jewel October 10, 2011 - 10:48 AM


jjbsgirl October 10, 2011 - 12:12 PM

Thank You!! I love your website and this post further cements that for me. Keep up the informative and good work!!!

Eva October 10, 2011 - 3:16 PM

This is GREAT. They need to go back to the law that made the food companies put “imitation” on food that wasn’t genuine.

Tiffany October 10, 2011 - 4:00 PM

I second Ti:

*Slow clap*

Tasha October 11, 2011 - 5:44 AM

Intelligent and well articulated article. Amazing and you speak the truth.

Curlstar October 11, 2011 - 9:44 AM

Standing ovation!

The graphic you shared on Congress is the main reason why I’m completely done with them and their recent ridiculous arguments as of late. As I sit here in my office across from the Occupy DC protest and read your article, it all makes sense. All of this is connected to one simple issue: greed. I am hoping that this OWS rumble will grow into a roar.

matt October 11, 2011 - 1:42 PM

This is a great article. So much info. I am going to post a link on the occupy the food system facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/OccupyTheFoodSystem

T.R. October 11, 2011 - 9:49 PM

I third Ty:

*slow clap to a thunderous roar*

Erika Lade October 19, 2011 - 10:24 PM

Wonderful post! Please join our rally against Big Food on October 29th!
Here is a link to the Facebook event (when logged in): https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=242895862425684

candice November 2, 2011 - 10:47 PM

Erika, since you live in the ny area, there’s a radio station that gives the occupy wall street movement a half-hour show a few times a week. It’s wbai 99.5 FM. I know you don’t want advertising in your comments, and that’s not my intention. I just wanted to inform you of a medium whereby the occupiers express themselves as opposed to being summed up by a 30-second sound bite and commentary by some political pundit.

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