Thoughts on Food
As we recognize that our choices have far-reaching results, our decisions become more meaningful. Eating local foods, reducing meat consumption and educating others supports sustainable food systems. Thus we can improve our health and ensure more and better food for our own bodies, those of our neighbors, and for the rest of our planet. Rather than consuming exotic and expensive foods simply because we can afford them, we can eat in ways that all of us together can afford, both economically and spiritually.
Increasingly, much of our food comes from a limited number of large corporations. For example, six corporations now control 90% of the grain traded in the world.
Large-scale production does produce growing quantities of foods at lower costs. In supermarkets we pay far more than what farmers receive for what they grow. Emphasizing profits, corporations have a strong incentive to determine what we eat and how we get it. They often make heavy use of powerful petrochemical insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. These can harm farm workers, our ecosystem and water supplies.
Think Globally, Eat Locally
When we support local farmers, we create relationships that help ensure good food for ourselves and we know where our dollars are going. Using local food saves money on transportation, advertising, and packaging. Because local food does not travel far, it is often fresher and more nutritious. It is also less likely to be treated with preservatives.
Each meal is a chance to explore new combinations.
Just Food uses public education, policy analysis, and advocacy to address food security, hunger, agriculture, urban gardening, and community development. Rather than duplicating the work of other organizations, it works with Food for Survival, Community Food Bank, the Northeast Organic Farming Association and other groups.
To facilitate, Just Food sets up forums where a farmer meets shareholders to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Volunteers recruit shareholders, find food-distribution centers, and do accounting for the farmers.
A single share feeds 1-2 people and costs about $300 a season - as little as $10 a week for a wide range of fresh, tasty, often organic vegetables. Members get weekly food deliveries during the growing season (about 30 weeks) that starts in June. Some farms extend the season by using greenhouses and growing durable root crops. Shares are usually purchased by April.
There are now 6 farmers and about 325 households involved in New York metro-area CSAs. To find one in your area, contact:
For the New York
metro-area contact Kathy at Just Food:
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Shopping for fresh veggies in the
Additional Sources for Local Food
Greenmarket helps manage farmer's markets in New York City. It visits all 200 participating farms, ensuring that each one grows what they sell. For locations of farmers' markets in NYC, call Greenmarket at (212) 477-3220.
Another way is to request that your supermarket carry local foods. Just ask the manager. It may be easier than you think to bring delicious local produce to your market.
Less Meat...More to Eat
Livestock eats much of the world's grain. If the USA reduced meat consumption by 10%, we would free more than 12 million tons of grain a year - enough to feed 60 million starving people. Why use our resources wastefully when resources can be used more efficiently to feed people?
How can vegetarians be sure we get enough protein, minerals and vitamins? There is usually sufficient protein when we eat enough to maintain our normal body weight. These include foods that are high in protein such as tofu, split peas, lentils, beans and nuts.
Nutrients in some foods compliment those in others.
Foods like leafy green vegetables, broccoli and raisins are high in iron. Vitamin C - from citrus and other sources - helps us absorb the iron.
Green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli are rich in calcium. So are soybeans. While some people think milk is the best source of calcium, the phosphorus in milk inhibits absorption of calcium.
Vitamins we need include B12 + D. B12 is needed by the nervous system and for cell growth. Good sources include nutritional yeast and vitamin supplements. Vitamin D helps the body metabolize calcium. Fish is a good source, but you can also replenish Vitamin D by being out in the sunlight. (Of course be careful not to burn.) Or, you can take tablets.
Additional Techniques for Health
We can focus on preventing disease. This is better than going to the doctor after things go wrong, like taking a car to a mechanic only after it breaks down! At a time when health care is very expensive and malpractice suits abound, we need to take more responsibility. Robbins posed the question, "What do vegetarians die of?" He answered with a beautiful analogy: "Maybe we'll just ripen like fruits, and fall off the tree when we're at our sweetest, without disease."
There are connections between what we put in our mouths, our health, and the health of our planet. Whether we are vegetarians or meat-eaters, we are making food choices all the time. Let them be good ones!
NOTE: Hearts and Minds will add more listings, how-to articles and recipes for socially responsible cooking.
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