Earlier this week I wrote a very different article, drawing unnerving parallels between global industrial agricultural practices, pesticides, poor human and environmental health, nutrient insufficiencies, and the most at-risk population to contract COVID-19.
But Tuesday—Election Day—it felt crummy editing such a daunting topic. Who needs additional controversial messages? Not me. So, let’s trade election news for expansion and introspection, and talk food consciousness.
“Food consciousness” elicits various images and inquiries—from awareness of complex food systems to how food makes our bodies feel and minds function. Do you know we are actually born of food? Chew on that for a minute…
Back in March, we became acutely aware of our basic needs: food, finances, community. Throughout history, food either has brought people together—breaking bread—or separated people—the haves and the have nots. In this unprecedented time, it’s difficult to foster emotional togetherness (as we experience divisiveness) or physical togetherness (thanks to the pandemic). Still, we can still make intentional food decisions at home and with our pocketbooks that help us feel connected with our food community.
One such intention is to abstain from food conflicts that create rifts—even presidential candidates don’t talk about better food systems that mutually benefit humans and the environment. They don’t touch GMOs or pesticides, social disparities in food production and access, corporate and organizational food and nutrition decisions made for financial gain, or, that Americans eat for health versus pleasure (while suffering from disease).
The positive flipside is that holiday traditions, religious offerings and celebrations somehow occur amidst pandemic hardships – and food remains central to these events.
In fact, social distancing has helped many people find peace in eating alone, unapologetic for strange preferences or nutrient requirements that used to separate us—a vegan diet, allergies, eating disorders, poor cooking skills, mealtime chaos, challenging kid behaviors, exhaustion, budget.
With food togetherness mostly on pause, food consciousness may be cultivated at home.
Start by asking a few questions about your food views: Does your inflexibility reflect a deep value (like locally sourced food) or, simply, stubbornness? Does quality need to be toxin-free, or just a family meal without distractions? Do holiday recipes incite self-judgement, or joy? Do you prefer favorite comfort foods, or spicy new recipes? Do you even like to cook? Which neighborhood restaurants do you choose to support, and why?
Then, become aware of how your food reaches your mouth. With children and others, recognize the many pathways between planting seeds somewhere unknown or in the backyard; the life cycle of a vegetable, management or adoration, sun, soil, insects; how food was harvested, packaged, and by whom; the long or short journey to a store; efforts to prepare. What about wild or farmed animal foods? Imagine environments from birthplace to plate.
Finally, consider what your responses say about your food consciousness. How does your gut respond? Do you have more to discover? Habits to change? People to thank? Recipes to share? Farms to support?
These musings and conversations can feel a bit unsettling, at first, considering less-so-lovely mechanisms often behind industrial agriculture, commodities, global infrastructure, environmental wellbeing and your own health. Yet it’s vitally important to pay attention, ask questions, gather knowledge, vote with your choices. Because, if you don’t practice food consciousness, who will?
Jamie Truppi, MSN, is an integrative nutritionist focusing on functional foods and family wellness.