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Incorporating organic food into the college lifestyle

Healthful grocery shopping in college is like getting a decent amount of sleep during finals week. You know what’s good for you and what you should do (buy vegetables and maybe actually get some sleep), but when it comes down to it, the right decisions are never made. Caffeine-fueled all-nighters converge with breakfasts of flaming hot Cheetos.

In the long run, beginning with the next day’s headache and stomachache, neither of these haphazard approaches to health do us any good. We spend hours in class learning how to take care of the world, but ignore the most basic lessons in taking care of ourselves.

Last month, researchers at Stanford released a study declaring organic foods as no more nutritious than nonorganic foods. The press ran with this finding as their chance to finally disregard organic food as a fad. Since college teaches us to be critical thinkers, we should ponder the true meaning of headlines such as the ones concerning this study.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for foods to be considered “organic,” they must be produced without any chemical fertilizers, synthetic substances, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These regulations imply more than nutrition. Rather, they are more concerned with what substances end up entering our bodies as “food.”

Buying organic is more about conscientiousness than the immediate health effects of buying different kinds of food. Like spending four years earning a degree, the immediate benefits aren’t obvious. It’s more about the bigger picture, which consists of keeping food natural, environmental sustainability, the ethical functioning of the food industry, and a push toward conscious consumerism.

In “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit,” author Barry Estabrook spends time with the migrant workers in Florida upon whom today’s fresh tomato industry subsists. When picking up your late-night cheeseburger after a long night in Odegaard, you would hardly think twice about the single, thin tomato slice resting on top of the patty. As it turns out though, this tomato likely plays a role in illegal immigration, modern-day slavery, and detrimental health problems due to the harsh pesticides the workers come in contact with on an average day of work.

We learn about such stark issues in political science, history, and biology classes, but scarcely connect our own actions to them. Buying dinner should be a thoughtful decision, as it has many far-reaching implications. Organic food allows us to consider both the world and our bodies as we make choices in the grocery store.

Walking the aisles of the grocery store usually involves reaching for the cheapest items possible, but more thought should be given than this. Processed junk food and nonorganic produce may be cheaper, but at what other costs? As many have learned from cramming the night before a final, taking the quickest and seemingly easiest way out is not usually the best option. The grades may end up the same, but the pathway to getting there matters. A tomato grown in the neighborhood P-Patch is very different from a tomato grown by a migrant worker living in poverty because of it.

Eating organic food, and eating conscientiously in general, should be a consideration for the average college student. Think of eating organically as studying at a decent time, both in the night and in the quarter, and without Adderall. It takes more time and effort, but actual, digestible material is entering your body without chemical residue. It’s difficult and may not seem worthwhile at first, but the habit can be broken and you’ll be better for it.

Reach opinion writer Kali Swenson at Opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @Kaliswens

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