JenReally Speaking

20 Dollars art5

Make it count

Where I Spend My Food Dollars and Why

There is little doubt that our food system is broken. There is an ever-increasing amount of information entering our media, both main stream and off the beaten track about how we are getting sick from the foods that we eat. Most people are at least marginally aware of the statistics about American obesity, particularly in regards to children. It is a widely stated statistic that 9 million American children between the ages of 6-19 are overweight or obese[1]. Also shocking is that 12.4 million children go hungry[2]. These children hunger in a nation that is as overfed as it has ever been in its entire history. In that very conundrum lies the clearest illustration of the heart and the result of our food environment. Many of our children that are already obese will surely develop type II diabetes as early as in their teens. While others rely on state funded school lunch programs for what is sometimes their only guaranteed meal of the day, and that meal they go without during the summer months. The phrase coined for this is food insecure and is defined as: “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or the acquisition of acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”[3] Which is to say that these children live in households where they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. We have for the first time a generation of children who are not expected to live as long as their parents did.[4] We are slowly but surely killing not only ourselves but also our future.

As eaters we are told that what we have to do to get better is eat better, and most of us believe that without a doubt we can all make better food choices. We can choose to eat veggies, lean meats, fruits, legumes, fish, we can choose not to eat that ice cream or that slice of pizza, but choice is a luxury that not all of us have. The access to foods in America, especially fresh foods, remains deeply a class issue.

In a Nation that so clearly disregards the health of its very children by making it’s regulatory bodies (USDA) toothless, classifies a french fry as a vegetable, and where it took the English celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver to create a television show Food Revolution to aid the dialogue in the mainstream of how each and  every one of us can change our habits and thus the very core of our life, our health, translates to this: it is in fact up to those of us who have the means to change the system through our individual demands.  Every time you plant a vegetable garden, purchase from a sustainable farm, go to a farmer’s market, a coop, an organic store and buy food you are voting. As more and more of us demand food that not only won’t make us sick but is grown in a more ethical way for the eater and for the planet we live on, we change the world just a little bit. Enough of us do this we change the world a lot. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Gary Hirshberg’s success with Stonyfield Farms.[5] At the end of the day, his company would not be making the money that it does if we as consumers were not demanding his product.

For a long time what we now consider to be organic stores were more often called coops and were not only far and few between, but were perceived to be visited only by that strange group of people who didn’t necessarily look like hippies anymore but still had some of the left over smoke clinging to their clothes. My step mother Lynne was the first one with whom I entered such places, and unwittingly, or maybe not so unwittingly she instructed me on what food looked like, smelled like and tasted like. I immediately made the connection that things that did not resemble these foods were something else that had been reformed into something that was  at best a treat. My father was a man who believed in cooking at home and the importance of dinner as a corner-stone for defining his family. The fact that I was making fresh pasta for our dinners before the age of ten still colors how I feel about box pastas (CHEATER!) all these decades later. Thankfully, organic stores and products, coops, farmer’s markets and CSA’s have arrived in the main stream and even if one does not shop at them, most people are aware that they exist. In this post I have tried to consolidate some of that information (and will continue to update this as I learn more) in relation to the greater New York area. Here are my discoveries and I welcome any and all venues that I have missed.

Grow NYC provides not only a list of farmers markets in all the boroughs but also a linked list of all of their purveyors, and I found that most farms did indeed have their own websites.

The GreenPeople website has a fairly comprehensive nationwide list of organic food sources in many states, they also provide a meat vendor list. The issue of how to keep green eating affordable is something that I am asked to address a lot, and one of the answers to that question is to invest in a whole or half a pig or lamb, some places sell beef by the quarter, either already broken down for you, or if you can do it on your own even better, and freeze the meat.  Local Harvest, also brings us a nationwide site where you can type in your zip and product and the site generates a list of sources nearest you.

Though I found the allstays site visually confusing, it is a pretty decent list especially for travelers.

This is a good harvest date site which I always find helpful information to have before I head out to the market, knowing what I can expect to be at the market helps me plan my menus.

Just Food is a great website for Local City Farms, CSA’s and food activism. Grist and Civil Eats are the other two that I read for food policy and politic information.


[1] http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/1197994908531FS16OVR08.pdf.

[2] onexone.org, feedingamerica.org

[3] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/?q=node/view/104

[4] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp

[5] http://www.daylife.com/topic/Gary_Hirshberg

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