Monday, February 1, 2010

The Story of Food

Right now, if you go to the produce section of any supermarket – anyone at all – and buy fruit or vegetables, or cottage cheese, or meat, you would have to eat something like five times as much of that food to get the same amount of vitamins and minerals as your parents or grandparents got in the 1950s.
Canadian writer and journalist Thomas Pawlick

Like the Story of Stuff, this short animated film called The Story of Food highlights the issues that come from not thinking enough about what we are consuming - in this case food.

The need to balance priorities and values can be a challenging one. Food budgets are often one place families can exercise some level of flexibility and many of the ecological and sustainable choices can be more expensive. It can be overwhelming to navigate choices when choosing one often means sacrificing another. Is it better nutritionally and environmentally to by local or organic? If you are new to these ideas the who thing can leave your head spinning.

Over the past few years our family has been slowly integrating changes into our diet. We've always shopped at our local farmer's market for things like local vegetables and fruits, eggs, cheeses and honey. (This has the added benefit of almost no packaging on these items, or packaging that is reusable and sustainable.) I canned far more this fall than I ever have meaning that more and more of our staples are local, many are organic. I have been finding more local sources for items like flour and have been investing more time making our own bread and yogurt. With a new freezer in the plans I hope to be able to freeze more of our winter needs - vegetables like peppers, beans, broccoli and corn, and fruits like berries, and peaches.
I'd love to try gardening but need to be realistic about what we could hope to achieve in our postage sized lot that sits in full shade all summer long.

But there are more things we could do:

~ Grow some of our own food - a small plot of greens, herbs in a window sill, tomatoes in a pot in a sunny corner, or plan a bigger garden if you have the space.

~ The movement to urban homesteading is huge. Use google to see if there is an organization or an urban farm you can visit.

~ Find out about community garden space, garden sharing programs and support these projects in our communities.

~ Grow heritage varieties, save and trade seeds, ask local farmers about whether they use heritage seeds and how you can support them.

~ Get to know local sources; CSAs, farmer's markets, local farm stands and support these enterprises.

~ Make more of your own food. Technology like bread machines and yogurt makers mean we can have fresh food, free from preservatives with a minimal amount of effort.

~ Teach our kids about food and help them establish a connection to it. We've been lucky to be able to tour local goat farms, apiaries, dairies. We are able to pick apples and berries each year for freezing and canning, help friends with their back yard chickens, meet the farmers who grow the tomatoes we can and who press the cider we drink.

~ Talk about the decisions we are making and why.

~ Tour the supermarket to see where food comes from. It can be a bit frightening.

~ Food, Inc. [videorecording DVD] / Magnolia Pictures,
~ Omnivore's dilemma (Young Reader's Edition) by Michael Pollan,
~ Fast food nation: the dark side of the all-American meal by Eric Schlosser
~ Scientifically engineered foods: the debate over what's on your plate by Allan Cobb,
~ Farmers market by Carmen Parks,
~ WWF's Biodiversity educational resources
~Resources for Rethinking
~ The Edible Schoolyard (some of the recipes and lesson plans are fun).

1 comment:

joanne said...

Hi karen
Great suggestions and so important to make part of your daily life.
We have tried to raise our kids to have a close connection to the food they eat, (buying locally and organic when we can, farmers market, growing our own food and freezing for the winter, cooking from scratch and not eating packaged foods, etc. ). We would like to do more preserving next summer but I am intimidated by it. I think we are also going to share a plot at Ignatius with some friends and grow root vegetables to store for the winter. Community gardens are wonderful!