How Does War Affect Your Food?

War touches everything. Over history it has divided time periods and influenced the food we eat to a great extent, both in availability and quality. Poor nutrition is not often considered a casualty of war, but what is more unfortunate than a permanent, negative shift in the way we nourish our bodies?

It all started with Napoleon—a strong military and political leader. Ambitious. Strategic. And a little bit chubby. Napoleon had a one-track mind: to win wars at all costs.

In 1809, Napoleon put forth this challenge: Anyone who could find a way to sustain his army for long periods of time while they were at war would be rewarded handsomely. Their food was going bad.

French inventor Nicolas Appert rose to the challenge. He began experimenting with food preservation by putting foods in glass jars, sealing them with cork and wax, and placing them in boiling water. Canning was born, and Appert walked away with a hefty cash award of 12,000 francs, plus his name in the history books.

Refrigeration followed. Then frozen foods were "discovered" by Charles Birdseye. In 1924, we started using ethylene gas to force the ripening of produce in the backs of trucks instead of allowing time for natural ripening.

Then there was war again. After it ended, we found ourselves with factories full of nitrogen that had been used to make weapons. Profit-driven innovators came up with the idea of re-selling that nitrogen as fertilizer for plants.

Today, common fertilizers are composed of a formula containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Unfortunately, they don't include the other 17 trace minerals that are essential for optimum health.

From here, we began making pesticides and herbicides in the 1940s. In the 1950s, we sent our women to work to cover for the men while they went back out to war. We encouraged them to come out of their kitchens, and promised that our microwavable TV dinners in aluminum containers were just as good as their homemade meals. While dinner was nuking, women could earn an income, do their nails, or watch TV, as long as they remembered to add the new "processed foods" to their grocery lists.

Today we've evolved to food mechanization, GMOs, and plant breeding. We're smarter about the processed foods, but now time is an issue. We're depending on double incomes. No one is home for dinner. And even if they were?we've forgotten how to cook.

Some might say we've lost our "food sovereignty" which was once the downfall of the Phoenicians back in 300 B.C.

Phoenicia and Food Sovereignty

Residing in what is now Lebanon, the Phoenicias enjoyed a rich, civilized culture based on lumber exportation. They grew to obtain great wealth due to their enormous and beautiful cedar trees, whose infamy is Biblically referred to as "the cedars of Lebanon." Their land was plentiful. Their people were strong. And their soil was rich.

The Phoenicians were self-sufficient and prosperous. But as they started to clear-cut their cedars over time, the quality of their soil decreased. It became harder for them to grow their food. And their people started to go hungry.

The leaders of the time decided to do what other civilized nations often do—they went to war. Their goal was to expand their borders. To take over more fertile land and find healthier soil.

They rose up against Alexandar the Great, who crushed them and took over their entire civilization. Historically, nations who could not feed themselves would not survive.

  • 1
  • of
  • 2
NEXT

About the Author

Vanessa Rodriguez 

Vanessa Rodriguez is the former nutrition editor for Active.com, and author of The Summit Seeker. She is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and an avid ultra-distance trail runner. Keep up with her adventures at vanessaruns.com.

Vanessa Rodriguez is the former nutrition editor for Active.com, and author of The Summit Seeker. She is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and an avid ultra-distance trail runner. Keep up with her adventures at vanessaruns.com.

Discuss This Article