Girl Planting seeds

It Matters Where Your Food Comes From

Farm_produce_shutterstock_322801925By Deirdre Imus, July 20, 2019-I talk, think, and write a lot about food – which foods to eat, which to avoid, the benefits of organic produce, the risks of eating processed foods, how to avoid harmful ingredients like pesticides, artificial flavorings and preservatives, and genetically modified organisms, best known as GMOs.  There is so much information to parse and consider when making the critical decisions about what to feed yourself and your loved ones.  Every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack can feel like a monumental exercise in not getting it wrong.

But for as much as we think about all of this stuff, we rarely stop to consider where the food itself is coming from. Eating fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, eggs, chicken, beef, beans, and other food grown, raised and produced on farms local to where you live is a great start. Buying locally helps support nearby businesses and cuts down on your carbon footprint in a real and quantifiable way (less travel time for the food to arrive at your door = less gas used to transport it there!). 

It has become trendy in recent years to buy local, but it’s more than just a hip idea. Understanding where our food is grown, who grows it, and how they do it helps us develop not only an appreciation for the work involved, but an understanding of how the magical processes work.  No matter where you live, you may not be far from farms whether rural or urban, and many are open to visitors or offer scheduled tours. It’s a great activity to do, particularly with children, some of whom think cheese comes from a plant, or that fish sticks are made from chicken or pigs, according to a survey conducted in the UK in 2013.

And really, who can blame these kids for being confused? If all they see is the inside of a supermarket, there is no frame of reference for where or how food is grown or made.  Have them help you make bread, so they can see how just a handful of simple ingredients can produce an item nearly indispensable in many households. It’s also extremely easy to make nut butters from scratch. Involve your children in cooking, baking, and preparing foods as often askids_cooking you can so that they understand how it all works, and that food doesn’t just arrive for them at the table in the way they see it.

Farmers’ markets are also a great place for people of any age to learn more about local farmers and food producers, and about their process, whether it’s a cheese maker, fishmonger, bread baker, or honey harvester. They each have a story to tell, and we should all be listening. Many farmers’ markets also accept SNAP, and a national list of these markets is available here.  

As always, read labels on store-bought foods, but not just the ingredients. In this day and age, many smaller companies are producing foods sold at larger markets, and they often include a short paragraph with some background about the company. 

In other words, take the time to think about where, exactly, your food is coming from. It is the least we can do for the people who help get it to us, and the most we can do for ourselves and anyone else we feed.

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