Food Day a Good Day for Food Thought

Alabama is having trouble getting its produce picked.  As reported in the Camera on Friday, Alabama’s tough immigration law has frightened most Hispanic workers out of the state.  But American workers are not picking up the slack.  “Americans simply don’t want the backbreaking, low-paying jobs immigrants are willing to take.”  Those few who give it a try “show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch.”  Many are not physically fit and end up quitting after just a day or two.

Monday, October 24, was the first annual Food Day in America.  It was started to provoke thought about just the sort of issues raised by Alabama’s plight.  Acouple examples:

  • How sustainable is a food production system that doesn’t allocate adequate sales revenue to keep harvesters on the job more than a couple days?  Certainly every other company–from computers to house ware gadgets–pays factory workers enough to keep product churning off its lines.
  • As consumers, how do we feel about our demand for ever lower-priced foods that can only be bankrolled by immigrant labor desperate enough to do “the harshest work you can imagine doing?”  Our lunchtime “value meals” rest on tomatoes and lettuce picked by immigrants willing to thrash around hot fields doing backbreaking labor that Americans wouldn’t touch.

These are tough questions, especially in a recession and especially with food prices already rising faster than inflation.  I was out harvesting from my gardens this weekend and can readily commiserate with those unseasoned hands in Alabama.  This is indeed hard work!  I’m glad that Food Day is here so we can together begin taking stock of  how food gets to our tables.

  1. Is too much money leaking out of the system to clever packaging, excessive marketing and over processing, leaving inadequate revenue to pay producers and pickers?
  2. How do we account for the proportion of food that is no longer health-giving but health-destroying?
  3. Are there other ways to structure the production and delivery of food that would yield a healthier population and justly paid harvesters?

While we have an amazing food production and distribution system, imbalances threaten it.  The exciting news is that Boulder County has long been experiementing with new forms of food growing and distribution.  Throughout the county and beyond, there are growers, markets, CSAs, farm stands, packing houses, ranchers, food producers, grocers, restaurant, caterers and others, all dedicated to offering us alternatives.

Even though Food Day is over for this year, how about getting ready for next year.  Patronize these local resources whenever possible, ensure their continued experimentation, and demand fairness all the way up and down the food chain.  But be ready to put your dollars behind your words

In the News: Talkin’ Skinny but Eatin’ Fat

Article Chronicles America’s Trouble Putting Healthy Words into Everyday Actions

Virtue has always been hard to embody, and healthful eating is no exception.  As a recent article summed it up:  Even though restaurant menus now broadcast the nutritional damage inflicted by our favorite foods and offer more weight-conscious options, it matters very little.  “When Americans eat out, we still order burgers and fries.” **


The association between eating out and getting a treat is deep--and hard to ignore or break. So don't try. Cook in instead!

I can relate.  As a kid, we got to feast on pancakes at IHOP on Sunday morning if we successfully suffered through church services.  What quickly formed was a deep association between eating out and total treat-dom.  When I could finally afford to go out as a young adult, that association was always front and center.  Eating out had to involve a dish with lots of cheese and/or cream.

But what if you’re ready to change the “eating out means major comfort food” dynamic–either voluntarily or because the health wounds inflicted by restaurant meals have begun taking their toll in a serious way?  Here’s an unlikely, but probably the best, solution:  Cook!  Don’t keep exposing yourself to unbearable temptation.  You’ll just succumb to it and then feel disappointed and depressed.  Conversely, cooking in:

  • doesn’t put you in the highly uncomfortable position of munching on salad while the rest of the table gorges on a double cheese pizza
  • is a lot less expensive
  • is way more healthful
  • let’s you control the agenda, exposing yourself to only the temptation you can handle
  • doesn’t take any more time or cause any more stress than deciding on a restaurant, battling traffic to get there, finding a parking spot, getting a table, waiting for a table, waiting for a waitperson, waiting for a meal, wondering if you’ll like what you ordered, maybe not liking what you ordered, paying more than you’d like, then reversing the whole process to get home again
  • and surprise, cooking is a lot of fun, especially when everyone joins in the kitchen and no one tries to be a perfect hostess hero.

When I was a kid, it was fine to feast on pancakes when we were good enough at church to earn that treat, because that didn’t happen very often!  But face it, in today’s world, we eat out a lot more than this, in fact, way too often to justify treating ourselves to comfort foods every time.  Maybe there will come a day when you can eat out and stick with one of the healthful options at a restaurant.  That will be great.  But for now, go easy on yourself and cook your own good, wholesome food that tastes just the way you like it.

I know what you’re thinking:  “But I don’t know how to cook, can’t cook, hate to cook, never know what to make, never have the right ingredients, never feel like cooking, and I’m so bored with what I make. . . . ”   So come to one of our two upcoming classes and get over that kind of thinking.  We make cooking fun, engaging, creative, healthful, natural and easeful.  Give it a try: 

Longmont Live Well Classes

  • When:  5 Wednesdays, Oct. 12 to Nov. 9    6:00 to 8:00 pm.
  • Where:  CSU Extension Conference Room/Kitchen, Boulder County Fairgrounds, Natural Resource Bldg., 9595 Nelson Rd. Longmont, CO
  • Cost:
    • $15 per class (scholarships available)
    • Cost Saver:  Register for all 5 classes, only $10 per class
    • Bonus: Host a pay it forward get-together, get a $25 grocery gift card
  • Register:
  • Questions:  303.443.0353

Erie Community Center Classes

  • When:  5 Thursdays, October 13 – November 10     5:30 to 7:30 pm
  • Where:  Erie Community Center, 450 Powers Street, Erie CO
  • Cost:  All 5 sessions:  R $115 / NR $145 (Includes free copy of  Take Control of Your Kitchen, the guide to organizing your kitchen for fast, healthy meal making)
  • Register:  Class # 7523.310
  • More Information:
  • Questions:  303.443.0353

** From “Americans Talk Healthy but Then Eat Their Words,” Christina Rexrode for the Associated Press, The Denver Post, October 3, 2011, p. 1A.

Mary’s Every Year Autumn Musings

Ever feel like the ball at the end of a cue stick, getting blasted from one end of the pool table to the other?  The entire meaning of things seems to be getting through one event so you can make it on time to the next.

Pool Balls

Disconnection . . .

This is what “disconnected” feels like to me.  Rolling around at the mercy of outside forces, with nothing to hang on to.  Interestingly, by just tuning into the seasons it’s possible to gain a toehold and a sense of reconnection.

I always write about the seasons at this time of year, likely because it’s such a poignant, meaning-laden time.  With a final blaze of awesome gold glory, summer’s green vibrancy collapses into winter’s cold and darkness.  Take even an hour to feel and absorb the changes underfoot and you can’t help but sense the bigger order of things–the fabric underneath all those smashing pool balls.

The food connection?  Easy.  We are leaving summer’s eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and cherries; shifting on to winter’s comforting root vegetables and cold weather greens, brassicas, pears and apples.

Farmers Market Veggies

. . . reconnection

Note this shift.  Bring some of the local autumn bounty to your table each day.  Acknowledge and savor the change of seasons:  something very real to hold you on the pool table of life!

Here’s a great way to acknowledge the seasonal shift.  Join the Food Day celebrations coming up Oct. 24!  Just commit to have a local foods meal, for just you and your family or invite friends over.  You can make it a potluck.  Watch a food-related movie together.  You get to decide what your “event” looks like.  Just be sure to map it on the Food Day site and you’ve taken a powerful stand in support of the local, healthful, safe foods that not only give us connection, but also taste great!  Read all about Food Day (it’s like Earth Day but with a Food Focus) and the Boulder County Eat Local Challenge which has been organized to help Boulder County folks participate in this important day. 

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