Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More Thoughts on Food Revolution/School Lunches

I've been alternating between thinking about the food/health crisis we are facing in the US and the health care bill that recently passed. Rather than get too political (though, if you've read me long enough you KNOW how I feel about the health bill passing-no more lifetime caps on insurance, no more "pre existing" exclusions, insurance till the kids are 26-all good things for the momma of a special needs child to hear) I'm going to talk about food again.

I love to cook, I love to eat (hello big booty), I love to garden. There's not much about food that I don't love. Nothing brings me more pleasure than sitting down to a big meal, cooked from scratch that's sure to elicit "yummy" and "more please" from my family and friends. I grew up eating mostly farm fresh meat and eggs and fresh produce from the garden; certainly it was supplemented by store bought food, but what sticks out in my mind were the things raised by us, eaten by us. My grandmother even went so far as to raise our Thanksgiving turkey each year.

I think, society, as a whole, has lost respect for food. It's like being in a long relationship or marriage; yes we love the other person, but sometimes we get so comfortable that we take them for granted, lose a little respect for them and need a wake up call so we remember what it is that we love and appreciate about them again.

I watched "Food, Inc" on Netflix earlier this week; it was an eye opener. Yes, I realized that food was all processed on a large scale but I couldn't have even fathomed how large the scale was. One of the points brought up was this: McDonald's is the largest purchaser of ground beef in the US, as a result most ALL beef is made to fit THEIR standards, not our own. I'll let that sink in for a minute; the beef at McD and what you buy at the supermarket are one and the same (as a general rule) Do you think McD's beef is low quality? Heh.

Very few of us grow our own food anymore. A lot of people simply don't have the time, desire, or space to do so.(time and space are really just challenges to work around, in my opinion) Last year we built a four foot by four foot raised bed garden and were able to grow tomatoes, one lonely green pepper (ooh but was she tasty!) basil, and green beans. There was nothing more the kids loved than going out to find the reddest tomatoes or long skinny green beans. More than once, they would pop these finds into their mouths long before we got back to the house.

This year we're doing two four foot by eight food raised beds (at least that's the plan at the moment, they may end up larger) and a separate bed for pumpkins, squash, and bean tee pees. We figure it's going to cost us less than a hundred dollars to grow all the tomatoes, beans, onions, garlic, green peppers, and maybe even potatoes (not to mention squash and pumpkins) we'll need over the summer and hopefully they'll last into the fall as well. The advantages of growing our own food? For one, we know what's being put into the soil/onto the plants, we're saving money by not having to pay upwards to $1.69 a pound for green peppers (and even more for red!! jeez oh pete, red peppers are obnoxious...but oh so tasty!) and we're showing our kids HOW things are grown. I think most of this generation's children are completely out of touch with how things get to the grocery store. Showing them the process from seed to table is SO important. It'll teach them just how easy (or hard!) it is to grow food, hopefully making them more aware of the waste they are producing when they throw away food.

We're so lucky to live in a highly agricultural area; we can drive a half a mile in three different directions and be at a different farmers market. We have an apple orchard less than five minutes from the house, we have a vineyard ten minutes from the house, there are farms all over the place where we can buy beef, eggs, and milk. I wonder, if all schools, put a mandatory gardening or animal husbandry course into place if children would stop wasting so much food? If they'd appreciate the work and effort that goes into food? Would it make them more conscious of what they are putting into their bodies?

Before you scoff at my "lofty" ambitions I think it's important to say that I don't think we give kids enough credit. They are very bright and things we think they don't understand we are SO wrong about; they have an almost unlimited capacity for learning and understanding if we give them the opportunities to be exposed to them-opportunities which, of course, include healthy food options, whether at home OR school.

Just some things to think about...

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