Sunday, March 4, 2012

Urban Food Forest

I guess being a vegan, it's kind of taken for granted that I'm kind impassioned on the topic of food and the environment. Local food gets me especially excited, because whether or not we think about it the way that we eat food or purchase it has an incredible effect on our world. The US has gotten in the habit of shipping food. Bananas in Ohio? No problem, they're coming on a plane from South America. Strawberries out of season? Maybe a bit pricier, but they're available for that moment of extravagance.

There are a lot of issues that I care about, but I guess that we all have to choose a few stories that we want to stand on and put our time, thought and energy into. I chose to act on the issue of health. The health of the planet that we're lucky enough to have, the health of ecosystems and individual personal health.

So when my brother sent me this article, I got really excited.

All the food we buy comes with a price in fuel from shipping. Buying food from far away and out of season leaves a larger carbon footprint. Sometimes it's easier to ignore those added costs than it is to monitor our own gas mileage. And the labor conditions aren't always fair either. And once again it's really easy to disassociate and ignore these hidden costs, because they're not right in front of you. When you don't experience the miles that the food is travelling to get to you or have to taste the exhaust from that truck, it's easy to forget about. When you don't have to see the people who grew the produce and lack the opportunity to asses they're working conditions, it's easy to forget about them. But the farmer, truck driver, merchant, all of those people and steps are part of the story of the food.

With local food though, those fuel costs don't exist. It's minimal impact and it's eaten in season at the peak of flavor. That's an edge that a lot of other countries have over the U.S. when it comes to the amount of emissions. In Thailand, most of the eggs I ate, it wouldn't be too difficult to find the chicken that laid them. Often that chicken was in sight at the restaurant or food stand. That's really cool. I see projects like this as an awesome step for the U.S. toward cutting emissions and building a more sustainable lifestyle.

I also love the idea of being able to go out and pick your own food from this forest area even though you live in the middle of the city. The outdoors is good for people. It makes people happier to have sunshine and greenness and fresh air. I think it would be fun also to be a part of the story of your food, to have that connection with it.

I think that the impact of this kind of project could go deeper than that though. As far as individual health, this place would create a place for community and developing relationships in the community. America can be super gung-ho on the individual success story, it's you making your way in the big wide world. But people, people need community. We need other people to be with, to smile with, to laugh with. Those relationships are what really makes life worthwhile and this project hopefully will help a lot of new relationships happen.

Anyways, a lot of times I'm kind of embarrassed to talk about local foods, because it's kind of hippie-ish. And the word hippie has a surprisingly stinging negative connotation sometimes. But it is an issue that I really care about. I am kind of hippie-ish maybe. Here's a project that I've been working on and hope to get more involved with as far as local foods go as a solution for some of the disparity between rich and poor.

I guess I can't deny it. I've chosen this story to stand on and try to make a change every day. I still have a long way to go individually towards meeting the way that I think I should live, but I'm headed in a good direction. I try to do my best to make people consider it quietly. I bike to school, church and the seven miles to my kickboxing gym on the West Side when I can. And I hope that by seeing me on the road, that I can make even one person consider getting on their bike to get somewhere instead of hopping in the car. I hope that I can make a difference in the way I live.