The last week or so has been very busy here in Sonoma County. And there's lots of food system news from further afield.
The thread running through everything for me is that food is more than fuel, and even more than the right fuel.
It began for me in the middle of the week with our monthly Food System Alliance meeting. With lots of new members and some significant work behind us we are trying to find a new focus. The conversation was the best yet about this. But there's some wondering going on about whether the entry point of health which has kept us going for the last several years will change as grant and staff support from the county health department goes away in the middle of this year. Could it be that we are looking at economic justice (or social equity which seems to be a phase that sells better these days) to be our new focus? Where are the places in our food system that are perpetuating or increasing inequality? Or, more positively, how can our local food system promote greater equity?
On Thursday - news from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the first time suggests that the environmental impact of our food choices are to be considered as part of the picture. Hooray!
Eat your eggs with whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and veg; lower your meat consumption, watch the saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. The feds have caught up with us!
Read in full and comment (for the next few weeks) here:
A sensible environmentally aware diet. Call it Mediterranean or Nordic depending on your cultural tastes - or combine them into what I am calling the Norditerranean diet. (Much better than the Medic diet.)
On the same day we had our Sonoma County Hunger Index Forum. While the focus was clearly and deliberately on reducing the meal gap, I was surprised to see people representing so many different aspects of the food system and our foodie culture there. What a gathering at the Redwood Empire Food Bank! We add a delicious supper, premiering the new vegetarian option from the Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels, prepared for 200 people on the federal SNAP allowance per meal of $2.27. Really - the meal made me wish I were eligible for the program - though thankful that my only qualifying stat is the age number.
My sense is that to make further progress on providing the 34 million missing meals here, two things will be necessary. One is in the area my panel covered, grassroots action. We need more community gardens, and just plain more community and neighborliness. We must develop policies that support such activities, rather than regulations which frustrate them. (The gleaners in the county are working hard to resist the latter, for example.) The other thing we need is more opportunities for people to earn a living wage. Reducing the income gap would contribute greatly to reducing the meal gap.
Friday evening and Saturday I took a break from all the food system work and just enjoyed it. My great niece was visiting, so we picked up dinner from Ruthy's Real Meals http://www.ruthysrealmeals.com/ on Friday, tasted at a few wineries and Vella Cheese http://www.vellacheese.com/ on Saturday stopping for lunch at El Molino in Boyes Springs, and ate in on Saturday evening with a nice winter soup (even though winter here was a 70F day) made with produce from my garden and Imwalle Gardens https://www.facebook.com/pages/Imwalle-Gardens/.
Speaking of enjoyment, of food being more than nutrients, what about the news from the San Francisco school district, where work is underway to improve choices and ambience in school cafeterias? More fresh foods alone were not enough. Wouldn't it be wonderful if school dining everywhere could be made slower, more pleasant, more constructively social? Go SFUSD! http://www.sfusdfuturedining.org/
This new week began, and this frenzied period of food system activity wrapped up, with the annual conference of the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative. The best yet. And I came away with so many ideas that I am going to write part 2 of "more than nutrients" later.