If we are what we eat …
In Other Words
Like many children who grew up in the suburbs of America, I had a typical, and rather uninvolved, relationship with the food I ate. I was an athlete and had healthy parents, so tried to be thoughtful, but I spent very little time wondering where the food we bought in the grocery store came from and what, if anything other than satisfying my hunger, my food was doing to my body
When I moved to a small college town in Oregon for graduate school, I got in the habit of going down to the farmer’s market on the weekend. On bright summer mornings, there wasn’t a better way to spend an hour or two than walking by the river, sipping coffee and contemplating the splendid array of fresh, incredibly bright and tantalizing fruits and vegetables. After a time, I even started buying some. Immediately, I was impressed by the taste and incredible affordability of the food. For less than I spent on that coffee I was sipping, I could buy a bag or two of locally grown, picked-just-this-morning fruits and vegetables.
I was hooked.
When I moved into my own house, I started a vegetable garden and have depended on a small but steady supply of fresh vegetables every summer since. Like many others who have small vegetable plots, I still buy the majority of my food from a grocery store. But, I am far from alone in delighting in eating what I grow, and each year the local food movement grows stronger.
Next week, on Oct. 24, the nation will celebrate its second annual Food Day. Organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Day is “a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.” With a strong focus on health, the day is also meant to highlight hunger, agricultural policy, and animal and farm worker welfare.
For all the greeting card-inspired holidays that fill our calendar, I find this new national celebration day to be worthy of some involvement and attention. According to their website, foodday.org, 50 million Americans are near hunger and those who are near the poverty line are lured into buying cheap, overly-processed foods, contributing only to increasing waistlines and declining health. In fact, it is because of this diet that one-third of children born after the year 2000 will likely develop diabetes. And it is this downward spiral that perpetuates the current estimation that this generation of children will, for the first time in history, have a shorter lifespan than that of their parents.
While the local food movement is growing, and many people nationwide are becoming aware of just how far their food has traveled to get to their table, so far it isn’t enough to change either the food system or our health. The USDA estimates that only 1.6% of food sales are direct farm-to-table, including farmer’s markets, CSA’s and school gardens.
There is much that divides us, nationally, internationally, and even within our own towns. But food is not only something that all of us need, it is also something all of us want. Who doesn’t want food that is affordable, delicious, and good for us too?
According to the Food Day website, there are four events taking place in Spokane and over 1,600 events taking place in all 50 states on Oct. 24. We don’t have to drive to Spokane to recognize this day, and in fact, it doesn’t even have to be something we do on just one day. Whatever our situation, eating healthy and thoughtfully is a goal to be achieved by all.