Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Simple Suggestion #201... Consider your food's sources

a view in our greenhouse today...
 Black Prince heirloom tomato plants
Wow, what a great bunch of people at this most recent round of Simplicity Study Circles. They're teaching me a lot -- and last night's discussion was the best one I've attended yet on the topic of Simplicity and Diet, just for all that I learned.

To be honest, I'm not the best at carrying through on this Simple Suggestion -- but as I've admitted often in the past, I'm no expert in Simplicity, but a traveller on the path toward a simpler, saner and more sustainable way of life. When it comes to food, growing, canning and freezing the organic bounty from our own backyard is my main effort toward ensuring that our family is eating healthy and local foods. But there is so much more that can be done, as last night's discussion made clear. For example, a wee conversation before we even got the circle started showed me that it wouldn't be that difficult to make my own yogurt -- and it would save on the hundreds of non-biodegradable plastic containers my family seems to collect because of the commercially produced store-bought variety we favour. So now I'm looking into how to make my own yogurt...

It's so easy to take our food for granted, to forget where it comes from and how it affects our bodies and our planet, and to allow the food system and its marketers to dictate to us how and what to eat. But the commercial food system is deeply flawed -- filled with Genetically Modified Organisms and super-processed foods that contribute to all sorts of health problems like obesity, heart disease and early-onset dementia, not to mention the impact its production is having on our only planet. And in the quest for greater food diversity and globalization, unsustainable food chains have been developed the world over. It is estimated that the average mouthful of North American food travels 1500 km from where it is produced to where it is consumed, contributing mightily to the planet's dis-ease through the increase in fossil fuel emissions and global climate change. Do we really need to eat strawberries from Argentina in January? Or can we learn to preserve the ones that grow at our local u-picks in the summer in jams, sauces and tarts, or support locals who make preserves and sell them at our local farmers' markets?

Today's challenge is one I know that I need to take to heart more often than I do. Producing food for my family in our garden is one thing, but being aware of the food system's conundrums is another. I know I should eat fewer animal products, but does it make sense to eat almonds all the way from California as protein instead? Where is my food coming from? Can I find more local sources that are using better farming practices and fewer pesticides in food production? And am I doing all I can to avoid processed foods that contain too much sugar, salt and fat?

There's always room for improvement, as we all acknowledged in our discussion last night. As consumers, we have power to push for improvements at our local food stores and suppliers, by asking hard questions about where our food is coming from and whether it could be sourced more locally.

Changing our diets can seem scary or overwhelming, but less so if we take one small step at a time. This is mine: instead of taking the convenient way out and buying my yogurt at the store, I have found two friends who are willing to share their own methods and expertise (thanks Su and Diane!), so guess what I'll soon be doing...? Watch for a yogurt moodling, coming soon...

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

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