August 19, 2011

Considering the Energy of Food

Food is life. As author Barbara Kingsolver writes in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, “all living takes dying”. She would know. Her book chronicles one year of her family’s life spent eating food raised either on their farm or within a 50 mile radius of it. From growing and preserving vegetables to raising and slaughtering poultry, the Kingsolvers did their best to re-connect with their sources of nourishment.

Vermonters may be familiar with this ‘localvore’ concept, which establishes community networks for growing and eating more local food. Both this movement and Transition Town, a grassroots effort to address climate change and provide alternatives to dwindling oil supplies, raise awareness about the need to shift the way we use energy. From the fossil fuel, wood, coal and natural gas that power our technology to the beans, grains, meats and vegetables that allow us to live, society needs resources in order to produce more of them.

Local chanterelle mushrooms
Yet, the current food manufacturing system consumes more than it produces. As Michael Pollan argues in his recent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, large-scale food production has grown beyond its capacity to sustain itself. With so many options many are left feeling confused about what to eat. As Pollan explains, “what’s at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth”.

By learning about the impact that our food choices have on the people and places which provide that nourishment, we may begin to notice how food access, or lack thereof, affects our communities and our health. Food Works is a Vermont organization that supports “local food systems by connecting area farmers to under-served populations”. Their ‘Farm to Table’ program delivers local produce to dozens of meal sites, including nursing homes, hospitals, and mental health programs, to serve those who are “nutritionally at risk”.

When a factory produces our food and ships it to the supermarket for us, we forget where it came from and how to use the strength of our bodies to raise it, cook it, and savor it. The more food we buy, the more money we must earn in order to purchase it. How can you divest yourself from this cycle?

Try these ways to reduce energy consumption when acquiring food.

Plant a garden. Visit Nofavt.org to find farmers or community gardens with public plots.
Source local food through Vermontagriculture. com. Find farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and purchase or trade work for local produce, grains, meats, cheeses, and more.
Help your neighbors! Meet those whose gardens grow abundantly and work with them in exchange for vegetables.
Preserve food. See the previous post on this blog for easy recipes to preserve greens.
Get involved. Volunteer with the Foodbank’s Gleaning Program and collect excess farm produce for donation to those who could not otherwise access it.

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