ColumnToday is Food Day so get your forks and knives out and start partying.
Despite the fact that I often roll my eyes at days, weeks and months that are dedicated to celebrating or building awareness for specific things – did you know it was recently National Chocolate Cupcake Day? Does a certain cupcake really need an entire day to itself? – one that we should all be able to get behind is Food Day, celebrated on October 24, 2011.
The gist of it? Real food.
Now that may sound like an oversimplified celebration, but when we think about it, how often do we truly honor real food? We spend plenty of time wrapping fancy fruits in artisanal prosciutto, sautéing chantrelles in organic, hand-churned butter with a touch of sea salt, and drinking cocktails with biodynamic gin infused with freshly grown herbs. Not that any of these things are bad – in all honesty, that list just made me hungry – but sometimes we need to take a step back and simplify, especially when we’re talking about improving the U.S. food system.
Sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, the day is based on 6 principles:
- Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
- Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
- Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
- Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
- Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
- Support fair conditions for food and farm workers
There are events around the country, from Anchorage to Birmingham. In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Food Policy Council is hosting a series of events throughout the day, including honey tasting, free farmers market apples and fruit picking. For Washington D.C. residents, follow along on Twitter as there are plenty of people taking part in events throughout the day, including food trucks.
But, as with any “day” we have to remember that, ultimately, it’s not about that day. Take part in Food Day as much as you want, but your real food system impact is going to be what you do tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.
As David Katz, Director, Yale Prevention Research Center, wrote:
How can any day we put food into our bodies – or any day spent hungry and wishing we could put food into our bodies – not be Food Day?
On a routine basis, we overlook the profound importance of food. It is nothing less than the source of all construction material for the growing body of a child. Can any loving parent or grandparent truly sanction the construction of a child out of “junk?”
So how do you have an impact on a daily basis?
1. Buy local
We’ll say it once and we’ll say it again: buying from producers near where you live not only reduces the environmental and economic costs of transportation, but oftentimes it allows you to develop a personal connection with the person growing and making your food.
2. Eat together
Food is fun, so throw a dinner party. The quickest way to a man’s heart may be through his stomach, but that goes for both genders. We all need to eat and we all come together around food, no matter what our backgrounds. Serious change comes from influencing those around us, so stop being so serious with your food politics talk and just get your friends to eat.
3. Vote with your fork
Take it from Marion Nestle:
Vote with your fork. Every time you make a food choice, you are voting for the kind of food system you want. More voting for sustainable, local, and organic would be game changing. It doesn’t have to be 100% one way or the other, just more.
4. Support those who don’t have access to real food
Food deserts are a real thing, and so is access to healthy, fresh food. Make sure your local school is serving up fresh greens to its students, support food kitchens, get a community garden going. Do your part to ensure that everyone has access to things that are going to make them, and our food system as a whole, healthier.
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.
Images: Anna Brones