Eat Locally: Creating Healthy Communities

Eat Local - Paige MorseMy big goal this year is simple: BE better. To me this means listening to my body. Doing exercises that feel good. Fueling myself with nourishing foods. To me a big component of nourishing is local foods. Last year I attended a seminar on built environment that really changed my perspective. Not only did I start logging over 100 miles of two-wheeled commuting, but my thoughts on food sources strengthened. Here is what I learned:

We have to come together as a community, not just for ourselves but for our children but for the future. Do we want to let our children be the first generation to not live as long as us, because that is exactly where we are headed? And we can’t just implement temporary solutions and give away free t-shirts. We have to change what is available. We have to create a community where health can flourish.

Lately when I think about health the word which comes to mind is potential. Eating healthy and working out isn’t just about aiming for a rockin’ bod. It’s about our future health potential. I fully believe lifestyle and food can decrease risk. Therefore I eat and exercise for my potential and for any potential children that I’ll bring into this world. I don’t want my friends, family, and my 4 nephews to be a statistic. We should all share in the opportunity to have a long healthy life. We have to start in our community. We have to be the voice of change. We have to work together. Stop being so independent and thinking competitively but think of a greater good (children). Think compassionately and change the environment. To do this we need to look at food and activity.

The media and availability of knowing all the tragedy in the world has instilled us with fear. Gone are the days of what Mark Fenton called Free Range children. I am only 26 years old but my childhood memories are of being outside. Of roaming the neighborhood on bikes with my brothers and cousins, playing sports, jumping for hours at a time on the trampoline, hiking through the woods with my family, and so on. Sure I began playing organized sports at age 5, but my life was spent at home in the country with friendly Midwest neighbors and strangers with a wave and smile always available. Doors were left unlocked.

Now look at our society today. Be honest with yourself what do you see? We don’t have this free range. Activity is limited to the confinements of schools or sports being officiated. Technology has taken over. I look at my nephews (ages 6 and 4) and my little cousin (age 4) sitting on the couch with cell phones in their hands. What? This completely baffles me. We get sucked into electronics and games at such a young age now. A great author is Richard Louv who blames our lack of vitamin N and Nature Deficit Order for our youth’s problems. I have to say I agree with him. Something that has always stuck with me is Forest Bathing. A mere 5 minutes outside can boost mood. Therefore we can think our children would be happier if they were outside more. Personally hiking is one of my favorite activities. When I’m hiking not only do I feel connected, but I feel most alive. I feel most appreciative. I also believe that play facilitated my wild, vivid imagination and sculpted my creativity. Play keeps you on your toes. It always you to adapt. It’s natural. There are no rules or regulations. You enjoy the moment. Skies the limit. Furthermore, Free Range children are getting more activity and exercise without realizing it, all by just being kids.

So how do we solve this? Besides getting out more, we assess our community. Remember your grandparents stories of walking to school? We ride in cars everywhere. We are lazy. Let’s change the movement ratio. Instead of driving, let’s make walking and biking the first option. While I lived in Colorado Springs, I loved it. I walked or biked everywhere. Driving was actually a pain in the butt and I had to pay a meter. When I went to Vancouver Dom lent me a bike and a map specifically for bikes. Everyone there rode bikes or walked. They had separate overpasses just for bikers. So we need to audit our own communities so biking and walking is a primary way of transportation. We need people from all areas of the community to ask for change. ISU’s campus and the Heritage Trail are great starters, but what about the rest. How can we come together to make our town walk/bike friendly? We ask. We are the market; we have the potential to change. We have to demand the change.

Okay what about food? I appreciated in this presentation that we weren’t discussing a specific diet or way to eat, but the quality of food. I have always been a big proponent of knowing your farmer and supporting your local economy. I am in total bliss being at a Farmer’s market. I grew up with a family of hunters. We also were raised with a garden, my brother and I actually earned our school money by planting, weeding, picking and manning our own produce stand. I was raised to be self-sufficient and to know where my food is coming from. Therefore, if I don’t kill or harvest my meals myself, I like to know the farmer. I have visited several farms: L and A, Royer Farms and the Swiss Connection. Earlier this year I actually went on a cattle drive at the Swiss Connection and community was the biggest take away. I feel like the art of cooking and the family dinner is quickly fading, being replaced by convenience. I was raised on family dinners and holidays or Sundays at my grandparents. Home cooked meals by my grandmothers and my Dad were costume. We rarely ate fast food. This passion rubbed off on me. I love to cook and I love to prepare meals for a group. However, I know many of my peers don’t know how to cook. If we lose our cooking, we lose parts of our traditions and history. We have to get to the source of our food. There waiting for us are the healthy nutritious foods.

So what do we do to change our food communities? We ask for local. We join a CSA. We go to the farmer’s market. We find a grocer selling local produce (Baesler’s) or a restaurant. The big component of our break away session was Food Hubs. Basically a regional food hub would make it easier for farmers in the region to get their foods to grocers and restaurants. Food hubs would make local foods more accessible to a greater portion of the population. If given the choice would you chose something grown far away in China, or something grown in Indiana? I think we really want to eat local. Just like with the built community, we have to ask for it. We have to know about local food. We have to select the local product. If more communities set up food hubs, we would have more access to local foods. And there is a movement for food hubs, there are over 300 nationwide. Did you know Terre Haute is in the process of setting up a food hub? But for now what can you do? Go to the market. Shop at Baesler’s. Look into the Co-Op Terre Haute is creating. Make different decisions. I can’t tell you the happiness I felt walking around the market Saturday. Going to Joyce to discover they had grass-fed oxtail. I’d been searching for over a year for oxtail. Royer farms delivered jalapeno sausages to my booth. I talked with barefoot Jason about Walden and Thoreau. I told Carol how much I loved her lavender and all the baking I’d done with it. What a sense of community. Of connection. Food connects us! Let it!

We can create a healthy community, but it starts with us working together. Next we have to ask for what we want. We can change our children’s potential future. What are you going to do?

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