Food Literacy is understanding the process of how food gets to your plate and what types of foods should be on your plate.
Sounds simple, but there are a lot of moving parts. One researcher defined food literacy to including planning and management, selection, preparation and eating. Jamie Oliver’s advocacy for food literacy in the U.S. the past few years has made it painfully clear Americans don’t really know the best foods to eat and default to starchy, sweet and processed.
Beyond the balance of produce, grains and proteins in our diet there is more to consider. How much energy is used to produce our food? Should Americans eat the average of nine ounces of meat daily? (answer no!) How often should be buy local? How important is organic? It quickly gets complicated!
Recently at the Urban Ag Conference, I had the opportunity to listen to food advocates talk about food literacy. Community workers in poor areas talked about how little information is needed to move families to healthier eating habits without harming budgets. Here are some ideas we can all implement in our own communities:
The most subversive thing we can do to fight “BigFood” is to prepare meals at home. Home cooks used fresh ingredients and less sugar and salt and very little (if any) food additives and dyes.
But saying that and implementing that are entirely different things.
Community participants need to teach people how to cook healthy foods. This can be done at Farmers Markets, through community classes, and through the school system. We can work with local elected officials to find funding and develop program that best meet local needs. Don’t look for blanket solutions, look for methods that resonate with your community.
Be a Role Model, Not an Ass
We can be role models in our community by practicing what we preach. Bring a healthy appetizer to your next party or talk to a neighbor about your farmers market finds. Give a demonstration in your kid’s school about the amount of sugar in drinks. Heck, start a blog about healthy eating (like we did!).
If you’ve ever been on a diet you know how easy it is to slip back into old habits. Even if you feel better with new food choices, life can get in the way and people can backslide. That’s OK, don’t judge, just be there for your community and continue to help those who ask (please don’t foist yourself unto people who don’t want the attention!).
Any food you’re sharing with others needs to taste good. Let’s face it green smoothies that seem to glow are alarming to someone who would rather chomp on a hamburger. Develop a few recipes that are flavorful, easy to share and inexpensive.
Advanced food literacy
Do you think you’re already pretty savvy? Take this Food Literacy Quiz to see how you do (confession I got 7 out of 15 right). Even if you know a lot, there is always more to learn!
How do you define food literacy? Have you worked to improve food choices in your community? We’d love to hear your stories.
Read More: What is the Definition of a Farm?