Tuesday, May 4, 2010

the real problem(s) with real food

Is that it's not accessible to everyone. That's a huge problem. In a recent post, Sheila commented:

I have to take a a 45 minutes Subway ride to the nearest Farmers market. We have are lucky enough to have a TJs nearby but its still a 35 minute bus ride in the opposite direction. And it took us a long time to start doing the bus ride thing because it did sound a bit overwhelming to hop on bus with four million other people and 10 bags of groceries, but it has been the best decision we have ever made. I really wish would have done it sooner.

My city is making small strides to alleviate that. They set up small farmers markets in bad areas of the city (and I mean small - 3 or 4 vendors) but it's a start. Our regional market is located just outside the city, and most vendors accept food stamps. There is a downtown market once a week - still takes a bit of time to get to if you have no car, but runs along the main bus route.

I know some areas of my city, and in many other cities - even having a grocery store that sells fresh food is a problem. Many areas only have corner convenience stores that sell pre-packaged and bagged processed foods. And even those are charged premium prices.

Another problem is that many people don't see anything wrong with  processed foods. I'm not militant, I'm talking in general. Some people get all up in arms when I put down processed foods - I mentioned in my rant-ish post that it's not unusual to find a bag of chips in our pantry or white flour or even a box of mac and cheese on occasion. But there are problems with processed and pre-packaged foods, even beyond the health/nutrition problems:

" Three generations of us have managed to walk this earth without understanding the fundamentals of food production - when to plant seeds, when certain foods are locally in season, how to put up garden produce, what cows, pigs, sheep and chickens eat, how they are slaughtered and processed or the labor that food production entails. 

When we are unaware of these things, we are also blithely unaware of the industrialized food systems destruction of our land and resources, of it's abuses of human labor, of it's propensity to poison our land, water and bodies with toxic chemicals, of it's rapid consumption of our dwindling petroleum resources. 

We are simply unaware of how our food is produced. We have such little understanding about t, that we are willing accomplices in horrendous, environmentally destructive food waste. According to Timothy Jones, a University of Arizona anthropologist, 40% of the food grown in the United States is lost or thrown away. Upon studying household waste streams, Jones discovered that 14% of our trash was perfectly good food, unspoiled and in it's original packaging. Since very few people have the time to keeping their own gardens and/or inclination to compost, all but 2% of their wasted food ends up in landfills, where it produces methane, a majoe source of greenhouse gases. Our inability to produce and process our own food also results in Americans spending one of every eleven food dollars on packaging."
-Shannon Hayes

In Shannon Hayes's book Radical Homemakers she talks about how we've gotten trapped in this consumer culture/processed food culture. And I was nodding my head the whole time. I've been planning on writing a post on Ms. Hayes for a while, and will soon! But basically, she says that we're in this cycle of working to pay for what we need, because we're not home to create/grow/tend to what we need - because we're working. I'm looking forward to the day that I can work only part-time and stay home and garden and cook and clean and etc . . . Being home to do those things will enrich our lives in more ways than one.

So. We don't have real food, because it's not accessible. Sometimes because we don't have grocers/markets that provide it. Sometimes because we are unwilling/unable to grow it ourselves.

Or maybe we just don't know how. Maybe we don't know why, or where to begin?

Do you live in a city with few fresh food options?

This is a great article, with some real life ideas on how to make a change. Transforming food deserts doesn’t always require government or corporate intervention.  Some of the best transformations result from individuals or grassroots organizations getting involved.

What about starting a community garden?

Do you have a balcony or patio? There are tons of resources. Check out The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) or one of the many sites dedicated to apartment gardening, like: Easy Balcony Gardening.

No balcony? Try Window Farming

There really are so many ways to get involved in knowing where your food comes from. There's a revolution brewing, and it's becoming easier than ever to make these changes in your life.

It does, doesn't it? Maybe now even more than ever.


Star said...

I have a hard time finding stuff around here. We have a WalMart and another local store. None of them really have a decent organics section. The nearest are about an hour away.

So I do what I can. I buy the most important things organically. When I get the chance to, I make a longer journey and stock up. I go to farmer's markets when I can, and I try to make as much from scratch as possible.

I have a terrible time gardening. I'm really, really bad at it. If I mess with a plant, it dies. It doesn't matter how well I tend to it or how much I try. I have the opposite of a green thumb. :/

I'm pretty excited, though, because we're getting our own chicken coop and chickens soon. So I'll have fresh eggs from healthy chickens.

I also want to talk to our neighbors. Since many of them are farmers, I'm hoping we can buy some stuff off of them, and maybe even go in half on meats - pay half the cost of it, all the food costs for the animal, and then have them raise and slaughter it and split the meat.

I think people get caught up in changing everything at once, and they don't think, "Well, ok, this is what I can do now, this is what I can work on." It's much more daunting to make real change when you want it all at once. But that's not always feasible.

Sara said...

My peas are not looking good.

I have wondered how much money I could save if I had the time to stay home and actually homemake/be a homemaker. I've yet to figure out how doing that can still bring in income sufficient to pay bills... It sucks if I think too hard about it. I get so much joy out of making stuff for my kids, I wish I could do it more.

Earth Mama said...

This is a great post. It seems so contradictory to me to get in a vehicle and drive 40 minutes to the growers market to get local food. And I have also made that connection. Either we are working and paying others to provide us with what we need, or we have no money, or little, and provide ourselves with our own resources. Its a funny trap of sorts.


Little Messy Missy said...

I am lucky to be able to grow my own food. I also preserve it and share it.

Valkyrie said...

I am downright hostile toward processed food. But I'm like you--it's not like the blue box of Mac n' Cheese has never crossed my threshold. It's just not a very frequent meal.

I'm not a snacker at all, so I always forget to buy chips and stuff like that. My kids (who are snackers, naturally) are always wandering around hungry.

I'm blessed to live in an area where fresh produce (organic or not) is readily available. They even deliver it to your door. I belong to a program that delivers a box of fresh, organic produce to me every week. It's so much fun to get that box--it's all locally grown and they just put whatever in there. You never know what you're going to get. It has really made me branch out and experiment with veggies I would not have eaten otherwise.