On Local Food: Education, Choices, & Change

There are thousands of labels in a grocery store.  Most are confusing and skew the truth; not disclosing everything it took to put such a nice little package on the shelf for you. Companies take great care in diverting your attention toward specifically added vitamins and nutrients, branding their products so you feel better about buying it. “Organic.” “Transitional.” “Enriched.” After all, Cheese Puffs have cheese, which has calcium, which is good for you, right? (This was someone’s logic that I recently heard. My mouth dropped.) We are removed from the makings of real cheese. “Healthy” has become a moving target as marketers and magazines pitch their products and ideas. While labels contribute to this problem, lack of education does, too.

There is an overwhelming amount of conveniently packaged foods, enriched with man-made vitamins and minerals, and falling far short of the nutrients a local tomato provides. The illusion of choices has actually led to a culture of confinement.

Farmers Markets are creating a platform for real choices, and are redeeming the ill effects of packaging and poor labeling.  At a farmers market, we transcend roadblocks to the person growing our food. Farmers Markets have the ingredients to make healthy choices for every meal, without the confusion found in a grocery aisle.

While we just celebrated National Farmers Market week (August 3 – August 9), we can continue to celebrate the amazing tastes of local food and why it matters by utilizing a farmers market.  Farmers Markets provide choice, not confinement, and they have something special that’s essential when it comes to our food - transparency. At a Farmers Market, there are no questionable labels; what you see is what you get. And by talking with farmers, you can learn their growing practices and make an informed decision.

Education is everywhere at a Farmers Market, and closing the gap on a lack of food education allows us to make choices that strengthen the local community and create lasting behavior change. (For Chattanooga area farmers market locations and recipes to try, check out the newest Tastebuds Local Food Guide in electronic form.) Learn about your food from the farmers that grew it and have nothing to hide. These farmers grow and harvest food that touches not only our mouths but also our community, environment, and how we view the world.  Farmers have a big job – so next time you’re at the farmers market, thank them.

“Farmers Markets have the ingredients to make healthy choices for every meal, without the confusion found in a grocery aisle.”