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Food Justice: Take A Bite Out Of Culinary Crime!

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You will not find any super heroes here or at least find anyone wearing a cape and possessing extraordinary powers. Though, you will find people spreading the word that what you are eating may be contributing to the destruction of your well-being. Their weapon of choice: educating the public that you don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to get the benefits out of your food. Rather, you just need to understand what you should be eating…and why. That, my friend, is what they call “food justice”. This is the premise that places how and what a community eats squarely in the context of community building and social change. One of the groups heading this movement is Columbus’ own Greener Grocer.

On their web site the grocer explains that it, “…is built as a Social Enterprise model”. “Um…what?” you might say. Well they go on to explain that they, “…are a business that was formed to generate social value, not just to generate profits. Social value is created when dollars and programs are combined in a creative way to generate improvements in the lives of individuals and the community as a whole. Make money by doing good.” Hence: be profitable by offering local food, produced by local people.

That is the for-profit portion. The main cog is the non-profit sector of The Greener Grocer. This falls into the hands of Local Matters. They play a vital role in ensuring that the entire community of central Ohio has easy access to local, healthy food. No, you don’t have to eat like a rabbit and be a so-called “tree hugger” to understand the organization’s drive. Trust me; I’m not hugging any trees (the bark tends to chafe a bit too much for my taste). Nor do I eat like a rabbit. Unless those cute, furry little guys have suddenly become ravenous carnivores (I smell a screen play on the horizon!). Although they do believe that locally grown and healthy food has the power to transform, sustain and build community in Central Ohio.

Yes, you CAN eat meat. No is saying “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t”. There aren’t any food Nazis here. They just want you to be wary of how much meat and processed food stuffs you scarf down. Local Matters believes, “…they can harness the power of healthy food as an important key to community change.” They go on to say that, “Just as healthy food nourishes the individual’s body and soul to create health and well being, so it is capable of nourishing and transforming the neighborhoods we inhabit into healthy communities by affecting systemic social, economic and environmental change our region.”

For instance, many underserved neighborhoods either don’t have the access to the sorts of locally grown foods they need or are unaware of the importance such foods are to their well-being and the lives of their children. If parents understood the benefits and how easy it is to create a healthy lifestyle, imagine the change that could take place in our children. You know those whom we will be determining our future. (I know….details, details, details)

One of the programs Local Matters has that is geared toward aiding this process is the Veggie Van. This “Mobile Farm Market”, which began last fall, distributes locally grown, fresh and nutritious foods in underserved communities. The van makes two hour, predetermined stops in various neighborhoods. Last year the van and its band of food justice defenders hit a handful of neighborhoods each week. This year its popularity is bursting at the seams with 36 locations wanting the Veggie Van to spread its good food will all over the Columbus and Central Ohio. They plan to conduct demonstrations and educate the public on how they, too, can be good stewards of our future by growing their own food or buying locally grown food.

There is a cost that comes with the food the Veggie Van peddles, but you can expect it to be a bit more reasonable than what you may find at your typical grocer. Also, the Van is equipped to accept EBT cards (Food Stamps) in addition to credit cards and cash payments and follows through on Local Matters mission of addressing food justice in our community. Again, no super heroes needed. Just a group of people with the drive to educate the public on the power of fruits and vegetables.

Local Matters, and The Greener Grocer, assist the local community and economy by offering products that come from Columbus-area farms. Even the dollars you spend at The Greener Grocer on their goods and services allow them to subsidize the Veggie Van, donate healthy items to local food pantries and support local farmers by paying them a fair price for their goods.

Folks, farming is still a major part of our economy. They, like you and I, are working hard to be successful in Central Ohio. It isn’t easy by any means, but they love (and trust) in what they do. If you haven’t taken a look at your local farms, you should. You will get a better idea of where your food comes from and how important it is to sustain yourself as well as local farmers. You can do this by taking that extra step and contacting one of our area agriculture experts. If you don’t know how to find a local farmer, I’ll give you a little help. The Wayward Seed Farm (in Marysville) is an operation run by Adam Welly & Jaime Moore, good friends of mine. You don’t necessarily have to purchase anything from them, but use them as a source for answers on local farming, local food and how they arrived to where they are today. Though, be careful….it is hard for Adam to slow down once you get him started!

Having grown up in agriculture rich Southern Ohio, and coming from a farming family, I think I may have had this knowledge fed to me from the start without really knowing what it meant. And I am better for it. I’m smart enough to understand that.

No one is saying you shouldn’t eat out, you shouldn’t eat meat or you should drastically change your approach to food. You can even indulge every now and then. But what they are trying to do is to get you to think more about what you eat and what you put in front of your children. Go ahead, you can be finicky. Just be finicky about where your food comes from, what it is made of and how much of it you eat. You can even expand your horizons. For example: what fruits and veggies haven’t you tried? There are thousands of ways to fix various veggies that ACTUALLY taste great. You just need to do some research and experiment. Your body, and children, will thank you for it in the long run.

Food Justice – taking a bite out of culinary crime one plate at a time!

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