Unapologetic Food Renegade
Food is the vessel of Life.
Because Life is another name for God,
Food could be called “the vessel of God.”
If you truly respect and revere the Spirit
Then shouldn’t the first thing you do
Be to build a shrine within your own body?
– Eiwan Ishida, Genmai, (Tokyo: Japan Pub. 1989)
I admit it – I am a fake food prohibitionist, a food renegade and unapologetically so. While I understand the argument that the push for social change in the food industry is elitist, I wholeheartedly disagree. Cooking is not just the end product, it’s truly the journey from farm to table. The renewed focus on quality and transparency of ingredients is as much a part of the meal as the final garnish on the plate – it completes the picture.
That quality should come with a higher price tag. Cheap food is doing no favors for health and sustainability, not to mention the politics and labor concerns surrounding low-cost commodity supply. The fact that US citizens spend more on healthcare and less on food then almost any other country should be no suprise.
Saying that the cost of good food is prohibitive for people is a crap argument – it’s lack of knowledge. More and more resources are popping up for low-income families. On a national level, for instance, there are organizations like Operation Frontline [now Cooking Matters], “a groundbreaking cooking based nutrition education program that teaches families how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget.” As a volunteer chef for [Cooking Matters] MA, I see this method working and spreading. And it doesn’t have to be a gourmet, 100% organic, stock-made-from-veal-bones-from-your-local-butcher kind of meal every time. It can be as simple as the move from salty canned beans to dried, from Kraft ranch dip to homemade hummus, from cereal to oatmeal or toast or a hardboiled egg. Small change is still significant change.
There is a real issue of low-income families and their access to quality, nutritious food, and I don’t want to downplay its magnitude. The USDA reports some formidable statistics. Last year alone almost 17 million children in the US were faced with food insecurity – almost one in four.
Though we’re far from poverty, my family doesn’t make a lot of money; but our food convictions are so steadfast that we’re willing to sacrifice other things in favor of good ingredients (we don’t have cable, we live in a small apartment, we rarely go out to eat). This wasn’t something my husband and I grew up with, but came after gaining real knowledge around the high cost of cheap food. Once we glimpsed under the tip of that iceberg, for us there was no going back.
The negative health effects of a poor diet are numerous, as we know. This can be avoided, inexpensively, when people learn how to shop for and prepare healthy meals. When people get exposed to the realities of the food generally consumed by the American public, a seed is planted and change will begin to grow.
Look around your neighborhood and get involved!
Resources for Greater Worcester, MA
Hunger Free and Healthy: providing support and education around hunger, food insecurity, and nutrition
The Regional Environmental Council: Founded in 1971, REC has been dedicated to building healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities in Worcester for over 35 years.
Worcester Roots Project: Organizing communities which face social, economic and environmental injustice. Through cooperatively run and green initiatives, they help build empowered, self-sufficient neighborhoods that are safe for living, working and playing.
Project Bread, Worcester: provides free meals to children 18 and under at eligible locations in the community while school is out of session and works to alleviate, prevent, and ultimately end hunger in Massachusetts.
Any many, many more.
GOOD Transparency: Cost of Food
Michael Pollan on democratizing the values of the food movement and how do you make healthy food more accessible.