I love food. It might be my second biggest love after my family. I’m certain that anybody who eats a meal with me can see the pure joy I derive from it. Indulgences included, I have a great relationship with food. My smile is brightest when I’m eating a healthy mix of nutritious food that acknowledges the need for treats every now and then. (Clearly, my need for treats increases as my mileage does!)
Today, it’s so easy to become a foodie, and there is a growing foodie culture in the Hudson Valley, the “breadbasket of New York.” The region is rooted in an agriculture economy, as I have mentioned before, and the produce that is grown is quite diverse. We could adhere to a 100-mile restriction and get most of our food, if we planned ahead, pickled and canned, and/or were okay with more historic winter diets. We’d be supporting local enterprise while being responsible about our carbon footprint as it relates to food suppliers. And a major theme of the local agriculture movement is just that: instilling an understanding of where our food comes from. In turn, this would inspire a better relationship with it, not only with how and what we eat, but also in our appreciation for production and transport. Comprehending the complexity of our food systems could impart a more sustainable approach to how we live, improving our diet and decreasing the ecological impacts of our food habits.
The intentions behind the local food movement might be noble at heart, but how they are leveraged by capitalism can be disingenuous. Is the marketability to our locavore sensibilities merely a passing fad, a way to gain market share? What are the repercussions of creating a culture around food that isn’t accessible to everybody? When surveying the city of Poughkeepsie, it was found that nearly one-quarter of the population identified some type of food insecurity during the year. Whether this skipping a meal or going hungry it’s a very real issue in the city. In the fairly local region of Dutchess County, there can, in fact, be such disparity within the food networks that the citizens exist in. This is one issue that we hope to work on and is related to our decision and mission to program our newest housing development with social-impact space related to food and food education.
I didn’t grow up food-insecure, but as part of a lower-class (and always hungry due to my fast metabolism and active lifestyle) in a way, I have always been a foodie. Food is such a large and important budget item in low-income households that it’s hard not to embed a sense of continued need and intrinsic value in it. And it’s interesting to see how that continues to manifest itself for me even now that I feel much more financially secure.
My relationship with food is evolving as we immerse ourselves in the cultures surrounding agriculture up here. As the summer has progressed and our CSA has continued to produce, we’ve had some unique opportunities to pick our own vegetables and herbs, such as basil, beans and parsley (other produce is usually already picked for us to collect). I get lost in the act of picking to make sure that we have enough. I take as much as I can because of the embedded value and the opportunity I’m giving to take as much as I want.
So I pick and pick and pick, getting lost in the act of squatting to twist beans off the plant, dropping them in a bag, and repeating with no abandon. I feel a visceral need to make sure that we’re supplied for. But I also see the mission of the locavore movement and get closer to the earth while working for the food. And it recenters my value for food; it begins to nurture beyond nourishment. Perhaps this model can challenge the learned need to hoard when food is available; perhaps this economy and these resource networks can be reimagined to have great impact on people’s lives beyond their diet.