Simple math shows that organic food costs more than conventional food. But, when it comes to all good things in life, we tend to get what we pay for. After a lifetime of nickle and diming my nutrition, I finally put my money where my mouth is in an effort to find out what all the organic hype is about. My ongoing food journey is now rich in flavor and full from a wealth of community spirit. I truly believe that quality ingredients are worth every penny and the resources that provide them are worth their weight in gold.
Finance experts caution that, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Factor in the value of time at the meeting or the cost of transportation and price adds up before the pitch even comes about for a return favor. I began to apply this concept to food and, at first, I discovered that cheap and easy food rarely had a noticeable payoff. At first, the value is high because the hunger pangs subside almost immediately, plus my kids play around so it’s generally a rainy-day savior. But, generally within an hour I feel bloated and de-energized. Four hours later I’m cranky and the next day I feel weighty and run down. The physical tax in the long run comes in the form of elements within my body that are difficult to flush out and portions of my portions that I just can’t control. By simply noticing the physical responses, I can motivate myself to curb my cravings and work different habits into my life to avoid fast food.
Now, the opportunity cost of fast food doesn’t necessarily stop at the last french fry. After all, the cost of that bag, the trash service to remove the bag, the process involved in recycling plastic elements, and the operational costs of managing the building skyrocket the costs associated with the business of food. But, if it still packages into a $6 value meal; where is the value? The truth is, there is no value in fast food. None. Whatsoever. Other than a fast fix for curbing cravings, there is less nutritional value in a fast food meal than in a rotten organic banana peel.
My beefs with fast food are many. But they are still not enough to keep me out of the chic-fil-a on a desperate and rainy day, so I need your help to popularize REAL FOOD. Together, we can support local farms, businesses, and purveyors of real food to make those options the forefront for our children. First of all, gaining an understanding of REAL FOOD will help quickly demonstrate that fast food is not food.
We are alive. When we eat foods that are alive, we bring life into our body. Anything that has been processed, cooked, pesticized, treated, deep fried, or homogenized is dead. Over time, those cells cause blockages in our bodies that lead to disease, illness, or even death. The biggest problem is that these false foods take a deep emotional toll on our wellness that is nearly impossible to discover until a lengthy separation allows healing from within. I’m making a sweeping statement against a lot of my favorite foods (forgive me Cheddar Bunnies) because we have to know the radical options on each side of the food spectrum in order to gain a full understanding of wholesome nutrition. Ever hear the phrase, “Only know the sun when it starts to rain”? Think about that when the refrigerator opens. How can we possibly know the benefits of an apple a day if we dip it in caramel and serve it alongside a heaping stack of pancakes?
The act of feeding children has opened my eyes in so many ways to the state of food in the union. I am constantly weighing options and debating how to meet their needs for nutrition and satisfaction. In the epic battle between sugar and salads, sugar always wins. Personally, today, I’m ok with that. It’s important to me that my children enjoy the act of eating. That they learn to calmly savor something for more than 3 minutes. I need them to know that it’s just as reasonable to get dirty in the middle of a meal or during the prep work as it is for them to make a mess on the playground even when this means I have to slice out caked-in food bits from crevices on the table with a butter knife. The opportunity cost of an emotional display of weakness in front of my kids no longer outweighs the value of saving dessert for last. Our progress on meal manners is slow, but they are consistently observant of me eating fresh leafy greens and creative, nutritious options so I know the future is bright.
A turning point for me in understanding the real opportunities in the value of food happened when I started to grow my own. The backbreaking effort of creating a garden coupled with the daily effort of tending the plants was tantamount compared to the yield in my backyard. I tried to incorporate a meager bite or two each day into my green intentions and I felt an immense richness from even the smallest cherry tomato fresh off the vine. I set my mind on a bounty and that has finally come full circle for me.
In the past year, I threw out my food receipts and washed away the concept of a budget. Focusing only on the needs of myself and my family, I found ways to look beyond the dollar signs on my meals and to truly appreciate the spirit behind the food. Time slowed down. Recipes no longer take 30 minutes or less. I now regularly spend hours in the kitchen, savoring the stolen bites my toddlers grab from the cutting board. I am literally watching my food grow. Second by second, day by day. I have seen a blossom erupt and a green pea shoot spring up from the ground overnight. In my opinion, nothing tastes better than an apple picked directly from the tree, but I never would have found that out if I hadn’t sprung for every apple along the way.
Earlier this year, I put all my eggs into one basket and focused heavily on the opportunity to host a CSA pickup location. I felt compelled to bring farm fresh food into my neighborhood, so I worked with Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op to establish a site in my backyard. This was a hard year to join in. Without the support of my husband, I tried to reach out to friends and neighbors, but came up short on my efforts to get enough participants for the group. Still, I prayed that I wanted to be a helper to others and I visualized the harvest market each day in my backyard with the hope that somehow it would all work out. I dedicated many thoughts in my mind to food and I dedicated many of my thoughts about food to gratitude. When I got the message that another site would combine with mine so that I could be a new host this year, my heart leaped with joy.
To describe the excitement I felt when the pallet of greens arrived in my backyard on Tuesday would be hard to express, except that I can say, “you kind of have to do it yourself to understand.” The CSA cost me nothing but time. However, from that time planting seeds of love, I am receiving more benefits than I can count. We are making new friends who come to our backyard rain or shine. I am inspired to provide fresh food for my family each day. Passing along the gift of over-abundant greens to friends is something that feels like it could easily become my second nature. The difference between joining a CSA and taking a trip to the grocery store is that this is an investment. I am investing in my nutrition by making a direct contact with the farms that provide healthful food near my home. I am investing in wide-open spaces and non-polluting business entities. Most importantly, I am investing today in an idea that says, “Good food is worth it” and passing that knowledge along to the next generation.
I am grateful for every meal that has nourished my heart and soul. To the people that have shared recipes, grown food, and taught generations of farmers the secrets of the land, I will always be eternally appreciative. It is very humbling to know how closely food relates us all when we allow ourselves to connect. Some day, I will be dirt again, but I am leaving behind a trail of creativity, inspired by the very food from which I thrive. To me, that is priceless.