Sunday, September 14, 2008

Guest Blog - Healthy Eating

by Coleen:

I've been struck, recently, by the slow food craze that is taking over
the bay area. Well, let me be more specific, it's taking over the
foodies' hearts here in the bay area. Tom and I are interested in the
concept, and the idea of slowing, savoring, bringing the family back
around the dinner table and all it entails sounds mighty appealing to
someone who values both food and relationships. And I just read an
article in Sunset magazine which spoke of bringing people back to
the farm (or close to where the food was produced) to (no pun
intended) feed the hunger for reconnecting with the land, where food
is actually produced. It's lovely, it really is.

And then I read the fine print of both of these events...and my eyes
pop a bit. Let's get back to nature, all right, but make sure you
bring your credit card. Dinners al fresco in Soquel will run you about
$180 a head, and the slow dinners in SF this past weekend were over
$100 as well. I do understand that the mass production of food (not
necessarily in good conditions, etc) has cheapened the price of food.
I get that small family farms cannot produce their produce for said
cost. But I'm not at all convinced that people aren't making a very
healthy profit on this as well. And it isn't so much that they are
making a profit--we all need to make a living, and farmers are no
exception. But I start questioning the percent profit and what the
ultimate results in this cause and effect equation. Because right now
what it looks like is this:

Healthiest eating = must be rich

That disturbs me greatly. I have my own issues with money (although
you wouldn't know that today as I've gone out to breakfast, got my
hair cut, and am now leisurely sipping coffee at a coffeehouse, but
that's a different entry), but I really think me being disturbed comes
from a more righteous "anger". What it implies is that kids in the
ghetto don't have a chance of eating well, even if their parents were
dedicated to feeding their kids organically (or locally or whatever),
merely because of finances.

But what I'm trying to do today (and tomorrow and the next day, I
hope!) is to not just critique (an easy trait to embrace, as it gives
me "power" to call out the flaws elsewhere) but to try to help achieve
change. So what does that mean here? How can I try to let everyone
taste the fruits of local living and eating? Does it mean trying to
plant gardens in Oakland? Supporting the efforts in Berkeley schools?
Trying to get flamin' hot cheetos banned? Seriously, though, is it
about taking kids to farms for outings? About trying to get grants and
volunteer chefs for recreating something like this that is more
affordable for all? Heck, even though I could afford a splurge for an
activity like the above, I don't find it to be the best use of our
funds. But I do want to support these ideas. How can I go about that,
and offer it to others?

(note from me: please offer your ideas in the comments!)


meloukhia said...

Coleen, you have very neatly pinned down one of the major problems with the ethical food movement, which is the sheer expense involved. It's not just that it's expensive to eat ethically (and I think there's a difference between healthy and ethical eating), but that spending a lot of money on food has become a status symbol for a lot of slow foodists. That's one of the reasons I've largely dropped out of the movement, because I think it's bound up with so many class issues.

I do think you might want to explore the difference between healthy and ethical eating; local food, for example, isn't inherently healthy, and non-local food isn't necessarily unhealthy. If your primary concern is nutrition education, that's a separate issue from sustainable/organic/local/ethical food, and a lot of people seem to be getting tripped up with the slow food propaganda on that point.

Eagle Dawg said...

Washington passed legislation encouraging connections between the local farms & schools for both field trips and produce in the cafeterias, more info over here. I'm honestly baffled by the SF dinners, not seeing that around here!