Unearthing the Journey of Our Food
March 26, 2014
by guest columnist Jen Haugen, RD, LD, Registered Dietitian, Austin Hy-Vee
Now, more than ever, people are interested in knowing the journey of their food. Consumers stop to look at ingredients on the food labels and seem confused. Consumers listen to “experts” who may not have any training in the food system. And let’s face it, most Americans are at least three generations removed from the farm. What does all that mean? It means we need to do a better job of telling the food story – of promoting what’s right with our food system (because there are already enough people who say a lot of negative stuff about it).
You see, for me, growing up on a farm gave me a great appreciation, perspective and knowledge of where all the food on my plate came from. As I sat down with my family each evening around the kitchen table, I knew that the freshly made applesauce was from the apples I had helped pick earlier in the week from our two apple trees, I knew that the pork chop on my plate was from a pig that I helped care for daily, I knew that the broccoli on my plate came from my garden that each day in the summer required tending. I knew that my grandmother’s homemade bread was kneaded by her own two hands and was lightly covered with fresh strawberry jam from strawberries that I helped pick each spring from a local strawberry farm. Last but not least was the milk in my glass – and although we didn’t operate a dairy farm, we knew many close by farmer friends who did and I knew exactly how that milk arrived in my glass.
These treasured and memorable experiences fuel my passion as a nutrition-educated expert to communicate the nutritional benefits of food, but where my real passion lies is with “unearthing the journey of our food from the farm to our fork.”
As a supermarket dietitian, I frequently hear the concerns of our consumers – whether it’s in the aisles or via social media. Here are two hot topics I discuss on a frequent basis:
Pesticides: Scientists and health professionals overwhelmingly agree that the mere presence of pesticide residues on food does not mean they are harmful. One food that comes up frequently? Potatoes. I love the resources provided on www.safefruitsandveggies.com, which include a pesticide calculator where you can easily see that a child could consume 6,494 servings of potatoes in one day without any health effect even IF the potatoes had the highest pesticide residue recorded by the United States Department of Agriculture. Check out the other so-called “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables on this website to clear up the mess of misinformation.
Food Biotechnology (a.k.a. Genetically Modified Organisms – GMOs): Not long ago, I was surrounded by a group of young mothers in our natural and organic section with major concerns about food biotechnology (although they chose the words GMO). I could sense the fear in their faces hoping for information about foods produced without food biotechnology. Knowing as a mother myself the importance and value we place on the health of our children, I delicately asked them why they had such concerns about this issue. Immediately, pictures of “Frankenfood” arose out of their imaginations. As a nutrition expert, I gave them the facts based on science, citing resources from www.foodinsight.org and www.bestfoodfacts.org. In my extensive research on this subject, there has never been one reliable study to indicate harm from eating foods produced with biotechnology. In fact there are a lot of positives that come out of this type of food production. For more information on this subject, check out my blog series.
It’s easy for sensationalism to take over in the food industry in a not-so-good way. But I encourage each of you to find the facts by trusting reliable resources, including nutrition-educated experts who can give the real story based on science and research. Of course there are more topics on the facts of our food system, which is why I write my blog. Visit my “Down-To-Earth Dietitian” blog to “unearth the journey of our food.”