There are many methods of food production, distribution and processing and the impact on today’s society can often be hard to track. Within the Ride for Food partner network, we have a wide variety of organizations hard at work tackling their important piece of our food system puzzle. Leading up to the ride we will be posting a ‘Tell me more about:’ series to shed light on some of the intricacies of the food issues and causes around us.
Tell Me More About: Food Literacy
For a lot of Americans these days, food comes from the grocery store. It comes from somewhere, gets there somehow and is packaged up for us to take home. Once it arrives in kitchens and on plates food typically is consumed quickly and with few thoughts or questions (maybe a few complaints). ‘Food Literacy’ is the understanding of where our food comes from and what implications our food choices have on our health, the environment, and the economy. Think you know your stuff? You can test yourself with a food literacy quiz a the end of the post.
Within the context of food literacy, there is a lot to understand about how food is grown, processed, transported, acquired, prepared, consumed, and disposed of. Lack of food literacy is the root cause for familiar issues like obesity and other diet-related diseases. There are several organizations that work to increase food literacy and combat the adverse effects of food issues on our society. Tackling food illiteracy can be broken down by encouraging people to engage in a few different key areas:
There is no better way to understand where food comes from than getting your hands dirty and growing it yourself. Several of our partners recruit participants on farms or community gardens. The Food Project has built a national model of engaging young people in sustainable agriculture. Each year, they work with 120 teenagers and thousands of volunteers to farm on 70 acres in eastern Massachusetts. At the Urban Farming Institute, they engage urban communities in building a healthier and more locally based food system through urban farming. Encouraging local food production by communities is a great way to increase understanding of our food system and increase the availability of locally sourced, sustainably grown food.
In our fast-paced lifestyles, food preparation is slowly falling by the wayside. Prepared food from restaurants and grocery stores is extremely convenient and sometimes hard to pass up in a pinch. But the more we get into the kitchen and prepare our own food (bonus points if it’s from a community garden or farmers market) the more food literate we become. Our partner Fresh Truck provides access to fresh, nutritious food to areas that have limited access to grocery stores. An important piece of their work involves collaborating with community health centers and nutrition education programs to increase cooking and food literacy.
Increasing food literacy hinges on promoting and inquiring about aspects of our food system every day. Volunteering time with food organizations all along our supply chain is a great way to increase your own food literacy while also spreading additional awareness. Do your shopping at a local farmers market and ask vendors questions about what you are purchasing, how it was grown, what is the growing season, preparation tips or anything that gets you curious. Try something new, whether it’s a new food or cooking technique, it will help broaden your food horizons step by step.
Want to test your food literacy? You can take this quiz and see how you stack up.