Thinking about food a little differently…

My apologies folks, this post will not be a recipe post. Rather it will contain my rambling thoughts about, well… food!

I am going to put forward a question to you, dear readers: Do you ever sit down with your morning cereal, or your afternoon banana snack, and think about the food you are eating? I don’t mean thinking about the food in terms of tasty factor (although that is always important too), but I mean really think about the food you’re eating. Do you every ask yourself where exactly the food came from, how it was processed, how many people it took to make the finished product of cereal, and what truly is the cost (environmentally, nutritionally, ecologically, geographically…etc) of the food you’re eating? No? You don’t think about those things? Unfortunately, I tend to forget about these things as well, as I’m running out the door to work in the morning, or scarfing down a snack in the afternoon between events. These questions are very important though, and here’s what got me thinking about them:

I attended a lecture last night at the U of A called “Taking Charge of Dinner: Growing, Knowing and Loving Food” (I find the title so inspiring that I just had to head to my alma mater after working a 10 hr day.) There were two wonderful and inspiring guest speakers: Nettie Wiebe and Jessie Radies, that challenged the audience to think a little differently about their relationships with food.

Nettie Wiebe, a international food activist, eloquently painted a picture about our personal relationships to food that I will not soon forget – She spoke  about how our individual relationships to food, here in North America and in the Canadian Prairies, should not be one of just eating to eat, or food as a commodity that is marketed and bought and sold, but rather, food is about a personal relationship that you have with others and with yourself. Food is about so much more than just sustenance; it is the cultural construct of our lives, and (just to embellish a teeny bit), it feeds our creative souls. I loved the image that this created for me, as this is how I feel about food. Sure, I am persuaded once in a while by a beautiful commodity food item, however, it is the relationship I feel to my food, and my desire to share it with those around me, that I cherish when eating.

Nettie painted another picture for me that I wanted to share with you all: Currently, the way most people think about food is a linear food chain, that goes from growing a product, harvesting it, processing it, distributing it and finally, having it land on your table after you purchase it from the grocery store. Instead of this image, Nettie got us to think of a more interconnected world where our relationships to food are much integrated, and rather it being a linear chain, it is viewed as an interconnected web, where customers have personal relationships with producers and farmers, and who are conscientious about the food they produce and consume and how it benefits the local food economy and their individual health. Beautiful thought, no?

Jessie Radies, founder of live local Alberta and Original Fare, was able to paint an entirely different picture of food for me, that, after being engrossed in Nettie’s beautiful picture, was much more tangible and accessible to me as a local food consumer. She started off my illustrating to the audience how, if we as Edmontonians, were to dedicate only 20% of our food spending to the local food economy, it would generate 1.5 BILLION dollars within the local food system. (*Note, these numbers are from Seatle, but can you imagine the impact that it would have here?!) These dollars directly come back to you, as the consumer, in original local products (you’ll never find a product like happy camel anywhere else, would you). This can happen simply by eliminating the middle part of the linear chain Nettie previously discussed. This is honestly done so easily, and the benefits to the local economy are enormous!- Make yourself a deal to go to the farmer’s market once a week to get local fruit and a loaf of bread. Done. That’s 20% right there.

As a volunteer for live local Alberta, I appreciated Jessie’s shameless plug of live local’s good food box, because they have honestly made it so simple for you to support the local food system by buying local products through them, and they will deliver it to your door!!

Needless to say, I was inspired last night to continue to live as local as possible, and to encourage those dear to me to really think about the food that they are eating (try it, it’s fun!). Stay tunes for more locally inspired recipes, and more ramblings about food thoughts.

Yours in food solidarity,

Jacquie

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3 Comments on “Thinking about food a little differently…”

  1. Hi Jacquie
    Thanks for coming to the talk – one minor point. The 20% shift to local food resulting in 1.5 billion in annual incomes was a study from Seattle & Puget sound. Those are not numbers for our region. We don’t actually know how much impact a shift would have here.

    Thanks for your blog and I am so glad you enjoyed the talk.

  2. jennskim says:

    Thanks for sharing! This was a really interesting post. I totally agree with Nettie as well about food being much more than just a basic necessity. Also, the part about our food systems being an interconnected web is so true. I wish more people would think about where their food actually came from. I think if everyone did our food system would look completely different.

    I work at a university hospital and we have a farmer’s market from May to October. It’s such a great idea. I would go during my lunch break and pick up a few ingredients. I love it. I can’t wait for May to get here!


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