Cheryl Ghesquiere Molinatto is an MPH-RD Nutrition Candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the 2011 International Food Information Council Sylvia Rowe Fellow.
The fall harvest season is approaching which brings a time to celebrate food and the choices we have with regard to the food we eat. Living in the United States affords us numerous options for healthful, safe and enjoyable food year-round. We can provide food for our families from a variety of sources each with unique benefits, and in celebrating food this fall harvest, it’s beneficial to remember these benefits.
Let’s take a look at some of the options we have when it comes to the food we eat and the benefits we receive:
- Growing your own food: Whether in a container on the balcony, a vegetable bed in the yard, a plot in a community garden, at a school garden or your own farm, there is a sense of satisfaction seeing a seed sprout into a plant and providing edible fruits, vegetables, and other commodities. Connecting to food can occur on a new level when digging in the dirt and can provide an educational experience for children to learn firsthand how food originates.
- From a local farmer: Farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and “u-pick” farms all provide easy access to food grown in your geographic region. Having a direct connection to the farmer gives consumers an opportunity to learn how the food was produced. Buying seasonal foods at a market or belonging to a CSA may introduce you to new healthful foods you can incorporate into your diet. A u-pick farm allows you to connect with the plants that produce your food, without the daily task of maintaining your own garden.
- Shopping at a grocery store: The convenience of buying fresh as well as packaged and prepared foods from a grocery or convenience store is unmatched. Between juggling a career and family responsibilities, the ability of Americans to easily obtain nutritious food at reasonable cost is paramount. While some confusion surrounds modern food processing, much of the food we eat is in fact processed. Processed foods are any agricultural commodity that has undergone, “washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging, or other procedures that alter the food from its natural state” (2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report). Examples include frozen broccoli, packaged loaves of bread, breakfast cereal, and frozen dinners. These foods benefit us by reducing the amount of time we spend preparing meals, keeping our food fresher longer, supplementing food that is available and accessible locally, and helping us to consume the nutrients we need to stay healthy.
With the fall harvest fast approaching, join in the celebration of food and agriculture. It is a time to remember that our food supply allows us the choice to enjoy foods in a variety of forms (for example, a tomato picked fresh off the vine, a can of diced tomatoes added to a pot of chili, or a jar of spaghetti sauce atop a bowl of pasta for a quick meal). We can be grateful that eating a sandwich does not require the hours it takes to make a loaf of bread but that we can, if we choose, bake our own bread from scratch.
Updated September 28, 2011