Truth and Consequences of Our Food Choices
“If we were really lucky, we’d get an orange at Christmas.” My grandmother’s eyes twinkled when she told that story, five decades ago. It was a time before oranges were available year round, thanks to a global economy and today’s global supply chains.
Fast forward to The Pollinators film (catch up with last month’s article, “The Pollinators Film: What's All the Buzz About?”.) It revealed the intricate risks underpinning a few common foods: almonds, apples, and blueberries. We saw the effects of growing corn, soy, and wheat as monocultures, which degrades soil, increases the array of unhealthy manufactured items on store shelves, and reduces plant and animal diversity. Yet, it’s our demand that drives what and how various foods are produced. I’ve been thinking about how my actions increase or decrease that demand. Here’s a starting point. Let me know what else you’re evaluating or already doing.
Food Choice Options
Buy local honey. Check labels for origin and contents. A label I read listed the ingredients as “honey flavored liquid!” That doesn’t come from a beehive!
Rethink almonds. Organically and sustainably grown nuts are better choices, but they’re transported long distances to reach our store shelves.
Find alternatives to resource intensive foods, such as almonds, oranges and tomatoes. At a minimum, eat these foods in season, sourced as close to home as possible. How about foraging? Listen to "Edible Wild Plants", as Massachusetts author Russ Cohen discusses collecting shagbark hickory nuts. He says his maple-hickory pie rivals pecan pie.
Shop farmers markets, not supermarkets. Find farm stands and market locations. Complete your table with local flowers.
Grow food. Start small. It’s surprising how much lettuce, peppers and cherry tomatoes a tiny space provides. Basil, cilantro and parsley are easily nurtured on a deck. Plant extra dill for swallowtail butterflies and their caterpillars. Fall is a great time to prepare garden areas for next year.
Photo Credit: Michele MacKinnon
Help the hungry access healthy choices. Donate food or funds to your local food bank. Next year, plant extra in your own garden and donate so all Connecticut residents benefit from nutritious, fresh food.
Don’t choose “cides:” pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or fungicides. Even small amounts are often lethal to bees and other pollinators. Tips here and here.
Convert outdoor spaces to habitats people and pollinators enjoy. Review the reasons why and the positive outcomes in this prior article, “Are You Nature's Best Hope?”.
Photo Credit: Michele MacKinnon
Get involved. Take up the cause for Mother Earth with Sierra Club Connecticut and other organizations working to protect the environment here in our home state.
Vote for change. Ask political candidates about their views on strengthening environmental legislation and reinstating rules weakened or rescinded in recent years.
These are perhaps simple, obvious steps. But there is power in numbers. As Peter Nelson of The Pollinators film says, “Many small steps can lead to big changes.” Let’s make our steps count.
A must-read to learn about where our food comes from —The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and the The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan
Follow one family’s slow food evolution - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen shows there are more choices than red or golden delicious apples.
Michele MacKinnon is a Sierra Club member, UCONN-Certified Advanced Master Gardener, garden educator, and speaker. Contact Michele MacKinnon for more information.