Tag Archives: Food systems

Food as Medicine

I had a remarkable discovery the other day at City Market. It started when I spotted a lady in aisle 2 holding two different brands of coconut oil. Clearly, she was trying to decide which to purchase. As she asked for some assistance from a worker passing by, the two got to talking. From overhearing their conversation, I learned that coconut oil is stocked not only in aisle 2 with other products for ethnic foods, but also in the health & wellness department. I headed over to health & wellness, and sure enough coconut oil was there.

After the lady left, I went up to Sam (the employee helping the lady) and asked why it’s stocked in two different departments. He explained that coconut oil’s one of the most versatile products, for it can be used internally and topically, therefore it is a prominent feature in body care and a lot of ethnic cuisine. Sam said that City Market has it in a couple of locations to cater to the customers needs, “to give those folks looking to use it in food and those folks looking to use it on hair an easier time locating it”.

After talking to Sam, I learned that there’s really no difference in the coconut oil stocked in the wellness department and in the grocery department– both are organic and unrefined. This sparked a broader thought about food and how its function is socially constructed. Generally speaking, as a society we see our “food” as separate from our “medicine”. But is it really? Is it possible that Hippocrates was onto something when he said “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food”?

Does stocking the same food product in multiple departments remind people how versatile certain products can be? Or does it reaffirm the notion that our “food” should be separate from our “medicine”? What if grocery stores didn’t have a health & wellness department because everything sold genuinely contributed to our health and well-being? Which raises its own question: why are we selling things that aren’t good for us?

In City Market’s case, they sell a range of conventional products because they are the only grocery store downtown. Therefore, they have a contract with the city stating they’ll carry a certain number of conventional products to help out different types of people in town.

The coconut oil encounter led to a greater discovery that left me questioning how conventional medicine has gotten so far from the notion that food can treat and prevent many of our ailments. With more people on prescription medication due to increased diagnosis’ of chronic illnesses and serious diseases, our pharmaceutical industry is growing — meaning we’re actually getting sicker. At the same time, we have a food system that values highly processed, packaged, nutrient-deficient food that undoubtably contributes to overall poor health. There’s no question that as a society we could benefit from embracing the “food as medicine” philosophy, for it would inevitably place greater value on fresh, wholesome, nutrient rich foods. The question is, how do we do it? What kind of regulations, paradigm shits, etc. would need to occur?

FN 3/26

How is this blog different?

As a lover of all things food, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how many food blogs there are that offer delicious, healthy recipes, but also place an emphasis on community and the importance of using sustainably produced, local, organic, and whole foods when cooking. Some of my current favorites are My New Roots, Green Kitchen Stories, and Sprouted Kitchen. That said, with so many healthy food blogs, you might be asking yourself-  how is this different?

Have you ever read a food or health related article that you can’t stop thinking about? The kind that you go home and email your friends, talk about with mom on the phone and find yourself re- reading before bed? Maybe I’m just a huge food dork, but this happened to recently with social researcher, Jennifer Brady’s article Cooking as Inquiry: A Method to Stir Up Prevailing Ways of Knowing Food, Body, and Identity. In the article, she suggests that cooking can be used as a form of inquiry, or a process to explore the embodied self as it relates to foodmaking. Brady recognizes  the body and food as sites of knowledge and  uses a reflexive, collaborative “visceral approach” as a means of “thinking through the body” to enlist “the sensations, moods and ways of being that emerge from our sensory engagement with the material and discursive environments in which we live” [1].  As I’m very interested in furthering my understanding of cooking as inquiry, I will incorporate some of the practices and frameworks for thinking about the relationship between food, the body, the self into my posts.

In my blog, I hope to raise important questions such as: how are issues of power negotiated through cooking? How does the space of city market encourage or discourage social relations in cooking and food connect us to others and allow us to learn more about our food source? How does privilege and access affect ones purchasing decisions and thus health? What kind of people are purchasing healthy foods, and who is not? How do we make sustainably produced and nourishing foods available to everyone? Is this possible?

As a student at the University of Vermont, I’m studying Environmental Studies, Food Systems and Women’s and Gender Studies. I’m also very interested in Food Justice issues and hope that my academic studies, combined with my love of cooking, eating and community will offer a unique  perspective on issues regarding local, organic, and healthy foods.

WP 2/23