At its simplest, food is a good thing. The right kind of food nourishes us, comforts us and sustains us. But right there, we’ve already run into a hitch. The right kind of food. It’s not always easy to define, and filling my shopping cart with it can be even trickier. Loosely, many of us define the “right kind of food” as Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole, having also been raised humanely and with respect for the land. My preference would be to always buy this kind food straight from the farmer, warm from the sun and still covered in dirt. During the Pennsylvania growing season when our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share starts up, I’m lucky enough to do that. But when that isn’t an option, I find myself at Whole Foods.
It’s there, standing in the entrance, that the seemingly infinite number of nutritional philosophies, environmental factors, political motivators, personal food preferences and cost issues that influence my food choices overwhelm me. So much that I am left paralyzed at the door, shopping cart idling away from me as tornado of competing priorities whirs through my head. When I regain consciousness, I’m left frazzled and feeling guilty for not doing enough to support the local food economy that I badly want to help build. And this is just after considering the short list of food choices for myself and my family. At other times I worry about all of the other people who do not have the time, energy or resources to devote to sorting out the issues of where to shop, what to buy, and what they can afford. Granted, I come from a long line of worriers and it has been said that I worry too much. But I wonder if there are any of you out there with some of the same concerns?
In a recent short essay on Superhero Journal titled, “Good Enough,” writer Andrea Scher aptly points out that many of us don’t allow ourselves to be satisfied with what we have done, and instead end up focusing on everything that we haven’t done yet. The result is constant stress and a nagging feeling of never being “good enough.” In the case of eating healthfully and contributing to a local food economy it’s easy to be overwhelmed by this feeling. The obstacles standing in the way of a network of local, organic and environmentally responsible food economies are large. For this reason and others, buying seasonal, local, organic, whole foods 100% of the time is simply not an option for most people. But this shouldn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our food, or take pride in the steps we are taking to support sustainable food systems.
Which brings us to One Step at a Time. This Fresh category will introduce manageable steps to providing the healthiest food for ourselves and our families, supporting local producers of organic, humanly raised food and even improving our environment and access to good food for our wider communities. You may find some of these ideas doable for you or you may find that you already use many of them, in which case please share! Others you just won’t have time for, and that’s okay too. The reality is that a huge number of factors influence our food systems. To this end, some of us may be most comfortable writing a letter to our congress person about the change we want to see, while others prefer to shop at organic farmer’s markets and let their consumer dollars do the talking. Either way, by focusing on one step at a time and taking stock of what we’ve already done, we can let go of the “never having done enough” feeling and start enjoying our food. Because in the end, it really is a good thing.
Does this all sound familiar? Do you all have ideas or specific concerns that you would like for me to address in upcoming One Step at a Time posts? If so, feel free to share them below.