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Michael Jones and the Bexley Community Book Club to focus on mindful eating

 Brenda Layman
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Michael Jones, Executive Director of Local Matters, a Columbus non-profit with a mission of promoting healthful, locally-produced foods, will speak on “Vegetarianism and Sustainable Eating” at the Bexley Community Book Club meeting on March 1 at 7 pm, at the Bexley Public Library, 2411 E. Main St. in Bexley. The group plans to discuss Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals. Foer is the club’s featured author for 2012. Eating Animals explores philosophical aspects of food and the place it occupies in our lives, from vegan diets to meat-and-potatoes comfort foods.

Jones, a professional chef, is also the owner of a for-profit business, The Greener Grocer, located in the North Market. The Greener Grocer features locally grown produce. According to Jones:
“Issues in Eating Animals are important components of the work that we do, but from a different perspective. Why does our food system need to be reformed? The food system connects us to the most important issues of our time—health, environmental impact, waste, quality of life, and economic opportunity.”

Jones meets with local farmers and helps them develop cooperative channels for selling their produce close to the place where it grows. Less than one per cent of the food grown in Ohio is consumed in the state, he explained. Local Matters strives to construct partnerships between farmers and consumers. The organization also works with schools to provide and implement curriculum that teaches children about the origins of foods and equips them to make healthier choices about what they eat. Asked why he began his quest to bring fresh, healthy food to Ohioans, Jones responded with a story.

“When my daughter was six years old, I read an article about longevity. It stated that this generation of children has a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents. I thought I had misunderstood. In this age of nearly universal health care and abundant food, how could that be possible? When I learned that the reasons have to do with dietary quality, with the prevalence of diet-related conditions such as diabetes and obesity, I took a good look at my work as a chef. I decided that food matters, a great deal, and I wanted to do something about it.”

Personal epiphanies are powerful, but engaging a community is a challenge. Jones explained that Local Matters works through a model of engagement, being good listeners, and finding access opportunities in the community. “You find the place where you can begin to have a conversation, and then go on from there,” he said. Jones explained that, when people think about how they engage with the food system, they begin to realize how changing it is relevant to them. “They think about their personal experiences,” he said, “and that leads them to begin to consider it more deeply. You can take people back into it as far as they want to go.”

Jones said, of Eating Animals, “I think one of the reasons that it may be successful is that it is a good read and he tells a good story.” He explained that everyone has stories about food. Memories of family gatherings and loved ones often center on foods, and those stories inspire conversation about roles the origin, preparation, and consumption of food play in our lives. He encourages people to come to the Bexley Community Book Club meeting prepared to share stories about favorite foods, regional foods, special meals and special meal preparers. “We all participate,” he said, “therefore, for better or worse, we all have a responsibility for the outcome.”

Admission to the meeting is free. Books will be available for purchase.

For more information about the event, visit bexleyeducationfoundation.org. For more information about Local Matters, visit www.localmatters.org.

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