By, Captain Planet Foundation service member, Suzie Pope
When I sat down to write this blog, I was reminded of an essay question on the application to become a FoodCorps Service Member, “What has your work, education, or personal experience taught you about the relationship between food, health, education and inequality?”
I remember my initial response to that prompt was, “There is no way I can represent the deeply complicated relationship between food, health, education, and inequality in under 750 characters!”
So I decided I would start with the relationship between food and health. That is an obvious relationship, right? Eat your vegetables, stay away from fried foods, carbs, and sugars. Well, it isn’t that simple and it’s also not that obvious.
I was weeding chickweed out of a beet bed with a young man volunteering at the the farm where I used to work, and I mentioned to him that chickweed is an edible, healthy weed. Then I offered him a taste. He responded with, “I don’t eat things like that.”
As our conversation evolved, I learned that Aaron didn’t eat anything green unless it came on his McDonald’s hamburger, he said he had never eaten fruit, and he was convinced he was healthy because he made a practice of going to the gym every day. If he thought a diet of fast food and the gym could make him healthy, what was his definition of health? Somewhere along the way, he, and millions of other students, was not taught how food was involved in his health. So where is this linkage taught?
During my service, that’s one of the questions I sought to figure out. I start with a simple question: “Where does food come from?”
The first answer, without a doubt, is “the store.”
Then we play a fun game that traces their favorite foods back to a garden or farm. Their Taki chips were made from corn, and we can grow corn in the garden! Sunflower seeds are actually flower seeds! Peanuts and potatoes (French Fries) grow under the ground! Pickles are cucumbers, and we can grow them!
When you start to see food as something more than just stuff you get from the store, you are starting to see what we put into our bodies with a little more discernment. When you grow your own food, there is excitement and pride when you eat it. Suddenly kale isn’t so scary and doesn’t always need Ranch Dressing to be good. McDonald’s becomes a little less appealing than you thought before and then naturally, health starts creeping in.
With a good diet of fresh food, you aren’t so tired, concentration is easier, emotions are more balanced, and you don’t get sick so often.
Overall, things start to get a little sunnier because you are taking some control over your body and becoming healthier. Health is a human right, and I am so appreciative and humbled to be a part of the movement in our country to make good food that provides health and all of its benefits more equally available.