This Friday, October 24th, is the fourth annual Food Day – a celebration of real food and a call to action for all of us to get more involved with our food system. I love having this blog as an outlet to share my easy, family friendly recipes with friends and family and help other parents learn new ways to cook local ingredients in season. I confess that I get a little giddy when a friend texts me a photo of an unknown veggie and asks, “What the heck do I do with this?”
But the truth is that so many families who could really use some help getting healthy, real food into their kids’ bellies simply don’t have the time to surf food blogs or google new recipes. Where I live, 28% of our kids are considered food insecure – meaning that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Over 72,000 residents in our city live in areas with limited or no access to a grocery store that sells fruits and vegetables. These statistics are staggering but they aren’t unique to my city. This scenario is played out again and again across our state and in rural, suburban and urban areas around the country.
The theme for Food Day 2014 is food justice. Food justice covers a wide swath. Food justice is getting kids out of our sweet potato and tobacco fields and back into a classroom. Food justice is giving all families access to fresh produce and the ability to buy that produce. Food justice is giving high school students a lunch period that is longer than 17 minutes in a cafeteria that is located halfway across a large, open campus. Food justice is bringing working kitchens back to our public schools so our kids can have fresh cooked, less processed meals for breakfast and lunch using local produce from local farmers. Food justice is supporting our small farms and raising up a new generation of farmers before this generation dies out.
So, in honor of Food Day 2014, how can you fight food injustice in your community? Pick one thing you can do at home and one way that you can help your community and do it. Get your kids involved, get your church involved, get your workplace involved. The need is great and the army on the ground is small. Mark Bittman recently wrote a great piece about how food justice issues can seem overwhelming. There is certainly truth to that statement but it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to make some individual efforts to improve our food system – and if the big picture seems a little too big, just start thinking small.
Ten ideas to fight food injustice in your community…
Teach a cooking class in your neighborhood, YMCA, or community center.
Help a school start or maintain a school garden.
Visit your school cafeteria and eat with the kids – talk about real food and making good choices – bring your own healthy lunch and let them ask you questions about it.
Write to your principal, school board, and superintendent and let them know you want to see healthier options and a longer lunch period.
Learn more about childhood hunger in your community – check out the Team No Kid Hungry website and take action.
Buy local food, support local farmers and food entrepreneurs. That $7 loaf of bread at the farmers market costs $7 for a reason – it’s not mass produced and it’s made with real ingredients.
Skip the fast food – make fast food at home – bagel pizzas are my go-to fast food and the kids can make them without assistance.
Encourage your school to ditch the cupcakes at birthdays – can you read a book or do a craft instead? If parents want to give kids treats, let them do so at home, not at school.
Share this clip from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show about kids working in the fields – it’s not ok!
Speak up against junk food advertising targeting kids at your school and in your community. Do you really need a school spirit night held at a fast food restaurant? Probably not.
So what are your ideas? How can you and your family tackle a food justice issue at home or in your community?