Tag Archives: organic

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

21-day Vegan Kickstart – would you join?

I recently read a post on the Huffington Post Food blog titled Meatless Monday: Make 2012 The Year Of Eating Vegan. The article discusses a 21-day vegan Kickstart program that includes recipes, meal plans, an iPhone app and an online support community for becoming vegan. Both for fun, and because I feel there are some missing points in this post that need to be addressed, I decided to play devil’s advocate.

Quote #1: “Admit it, you’ve been thinking about it. Especially with the holiday excess leaving you feeling as puffed as a fugo.” 
Actually, I haven’t been thinking about becoming vegan- and not everyone overeats during the holidays! I found this opening line offensive and feel it perpetuates preexisting stereotypes surrounding eating habits during the holidays, instead of bringing to light positive aspects of becoming vegan- which is what I thought the blog post was about.

Quote #2: “Maybe you want to go vegan to reduce your carbon footprint. Or because you need to reduce your cholesterol.”
Who says strict veganism is the healthiest and most environmentally responsible dietary decision? Making food choices that are good for the planet and your health are more complicated than simply “going vegan”, yet the author does not mention this. The blogger leaves the reader feeling like all they have to do is join the kickstart program and their lives will transform- suddenly their food choices will be healthy and environmentally sound.

Not so fast. One of my best friends has been vegan for years, yet she dislikes most fruits and vegetable therefore her diet consists of highly processed foods that are often from halfway across the world, too. In my opinion, if you’re looking to lower your food’s carbon footprint you should consider buying local and organic before jumping into the “kickstart” program.

Quote #3: “It just became huge,” says Susan Levin, PCRM’s director of nutritional education. Over 150,000 people have Kickstarted their lives. You can, too.”
I’d be interested to see how successful the program actually is. They might have 150,000 members, but how many of them remained vegan after the program ended? The fact is, changing your diet overnight isn’t easy. Instead of presenting readers with a variety of ways to improve their diet, the blog post promotes a strict adherence to a vegan diet. In my opinion, this paints a very black or white picture in terms of food choices, and could potentially lead readers that go off the program feeling worse off than they did to begin with.

Overall, this article feels more like a marketing pitch than it does an informative blog post about veganism. The post opens by suggesting that a vegan diet has health and environmental benefits , yet never explains what these benefits are –the very reason I would assume many readers would be interested in joining the program. What do you guys think, are you attracted to the kickstart program? Why or why not? Would love to hear your thoughts!

*For the record, I am not a vegan

WP 2/23

Surveying the Blogosphere

The blogosphere that I am joining is alive and active. Burlington, VT is a hotbed for local, organic and sustainably produced food, as well as discussions around the larger issues that exist within our food system. That said, the specific topics or niches that I found are that are currently being blogged about are: the local food system, sourcing food, educating consumers on how to make smart and informed decisions, outreach to community about food and food choices, farming, and nutrition – just to name a few. Overall, most of these blogs appear to be credible, and below I will discuss what led me to this conclusion.

  Above image: snapshot of City Market’s blog, Serving Up Vermont [1]

Serving Up Vermont is City Market’s blog and is run by Caroline Homan (City Market’s Food Education Coordinator) and Meg Klepack (City Market’s Outreach & Local Food Manager). Together, their job is to help source local food for the co-op and educate members about a wide variety of topics, including local foods and farming. Both women have a strong passion for food and local community. As a subset of the City Market website, I find Serving up Vermont not only credible, but a wonderful resource and example of how to successfully blog about topics regarding the local and organic food movement here in Vermont. I love that the blog is updated every couple of days and more importantly, that every post either has pictures, tips or delicious recipes. Serving up Vermont accurately reflects City Market’s mission, goals and direction therefore I find it mostly unbiased since the author’s outline their intentions (to strengthen the local food system and create better food security and sense of nutrition) right on the blog. However, it is important to note is that the authors of this blog work for CM (and are probably being paid to blog). This made me wonder- if one of  them disagreed on a specific stance that City Market, the City of Burlington, etc. took on an issue, would they voice it on the blog? What do you think? Should bloggers have the right to voice their opinion, even if it’s not in line with the company, organization, etc. that they are representing?

The Burlington Food Council is another blog contributing to the conversation of local food here in Burlington. According to the Burlington Food Council’s website, the group formed after a 2002 town hall meeting that intended to gauge the public’s sustainability priorities. Citizens voiced that they wanted more local, fresh and healthy foods at public schools and their communities in general. After this meeting, a group of volunteers and nonprofits worked together with Shelburne farms to receive a USDA Community Food Project Grant to encourage healthier food choices, and build capacity to meet community health needs (including improving school meals). The BFC formed one year later in 2003 as a way to connect nonprofit organizations, volunteers and government agencies and work toward the following goals: to build food knowledge and experience, to build food appreciation and access, to build local food systems. I find this blog credible because they’ve done extensive research including the Community Food Assessment that helped create an action plan for the school district and larger Burlington community. Based on the depth of work that the BFC has done, as well as their knowledge on issues regarding food, access to food, and community health, I consider them a great resource worth checking out.

The Campus Kitchen at the University of Vermont blog is a subset of the official blog of the Campus Kitchen Project and contributes to the conversation of food in Burlington in a slightly different way. The group helps to relieve hunger in Burlington by working with UVM Dining Services to salvage unused food and turn it into a nutritious meal to distribute to members of the community. In doing so, they provide a necessary link between the local food system and other social problems such as feeding the hungry. As mentioned on the CKUVM blog, the group is involved with multiple projects, including doing the majority of the cooking for Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf which according to CKUVM is a food bank, soup kitchen, and the largest direct service emergency food provider in Vermont (they serve one hot meal per day). CKUVM contributes to the online conversation of food in Burlington by providing a link between the social aspect of food and community involvement and food. Although the blog is informative, given CKUVM’S strong presence on UVM’s campus and in the community in general, I would expect their blog to be active and independent of other CKP initiatives. In reality, it is not. Due to lack of accessibility, I feel the online voice of CKUVM is minimal and can get lost amongst all the postings from different university’s that are involved with CKP. I feel this creates an inaccurate representation of the group given their level of involvement in the community. Perhaps the reason for having all schools post to one blog is tactical and helps provide a cohesive space for the organization,however,I just found it confusing and difficult to locate.

Sources: [1] http://www.citymarket.coop/blog/

WP 2/7