a long strange trip

For hundreds of years, people fed their families via the crops they grew and the animals they raised or hunted.  Most items came from their own properties.  What they didn’t supply themselves came from small, family owned stores in the nearest town.  There was absolutely no confusion as to the where the food originated.

The families produced the food together.  They tended to their crops together.  They raised the animals together.  They prepared the meals together, and sat down at the table… together.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

Today’s families spend most of their time on the go or apart from one another.  For some families, the parent or parents are working multiple jobs and have little time at home with their children.  In many cases, latch key kids handle dinner for themselves and their younger siblings, which leads to heavy utilization of pre-fab products – the Stouffers generation.  For other families, time is spent largely on the go, meaning a life of endless drive thrus and more pre-fab products.  Family dinners exist between text messages, phone calls, and emails, in front of the television, or on the way to the next soccer game or band practice.

A recent USA Today article written by Katherine Muniz (March 24, 2014) outlined ways in which Americans waste their money.  Two items stood out to me over the others.  First, according to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans waste $165 billion annually by tossing away unwanted snacks and meals. The math works out to approximately $529 per person each year.  Second, Americans spent $2.8 billion on candy last Halloween alone, and an annual $117 billion on fast food.

How do we feel, as a society, that this is acceptable?  How do we, as a society of people who “live paycheck to paycheck,” continue to throw money away that we truly cannot afford to lose?

I believe that one of the first things we have to do is re-prioritize.  We cannot spend our lives going through fast food locations, pulling from dollar menus to support our families and expect to get what we truly need.  The average fast food menu does not provide for the vitamins, minerals, low fat, low salt, low sugar diet that our bodies need to run sufficiently.  Such a diet also does not give us the energy we need to live full and happy lives.  We cannot expect such a diet to be a catalyst for an end to diabetes or obesity.  It is not the answer.

Do we need to make more money?  Certainly that would be helpful.

But the challenge with supplying our families with food that is both plentiful and nourishing does not only lie in a lack of finances.  It also lies in the actual cost of food that is produced, the knowledge about working with unprocessed foods, and the politics behind food and big agri-business.

I have some very big questions that need to be answered.

Why are chips cheaper to buy than apples?

Why is a fast food hamburger more cost effective than raw chicken?

Why is it easier to purchase a pre-made entree than it is to buy the items that would allow us to make that entree at home ourselves where we can control the quality of ingredients and eliminate preservatives and other items on the ingredient list that we can’t even pronounce?

Why is the government subsidizing those crops that do not actually help the average family eat a healthy diet?

Why is it helping big business to create junk food, and enabling that junk food to become a large part of our diet, rather than ensuring the food we SHOULD buy is economically viable?

Why are they protecting big business and allowing us to purchase contaminated food on a regular basis rather than demanding better quality of food from all companies who produce our food?

Why are small farms going out of business and their families struggling to put food on the table when the foods they produce are the ones we need so greatly, and why are the big companies able to treat them like criminals?

Why do so few people know how to plant and raise vegetables for their own use?

How does the same federal organization who created the food pyramid, and in doing so definitively outlined the requirements of a healthy diet, not demand the accessibility of all foods necessary to meet said food pyramid’s requirements for every citizen, young and old – and actually get away with it?

And why does our nation rely so heavily on private charity to supply people with food to feed their families, especially when that food is so heavily laden with sugar, starch, salt, and fat, rather than having that burden fall on those with the power and financial resources to initiate real change?

Finding solutions to these challenges is what I have made my mission.  I cannot change the world by myself, but I can give my best to change it for as many people as possible…

My most precious memories are all connected with food in some way, whether the thoughts take me back to my grandmother's kitchen, or to a celebration with friends in a fabulous restaurant in NYC. I am a chef, and I not only enjoy trying new recipes and flavors from all over the world, but I am also committed to sustainability and helping others find food security in a world that has too many mouths to feed, an abundance of ignorant waste, and too many who don't know where they will find their next meal…