I’ve learned to shut up and listen!

Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Nutrition / Food / Recipes | 0 comments

One of the wonderful things that can happen when training someone is that, sometimes, people start talking!

I work with people from all walks of life, and every one of them has a book of knowledge of which I have no inkling. So, over the years, I have learned that when someone starts talking, I need to shut up and listen!

Michele Connors started talking a few weeks ago and I was fascinated by what I heard.

She is the owner and operator of a business that buys and sells frozen fruits and vegetables from all over the US and from around the world. Her business delivers bulk produce to customers located in the States who then repackage it for retail sale. Her fruits and vegetables can be found in; Bush’s Beans, Kashi fruit granola bars, McDonalds strawberry shakes and Wegmans brand vegetables. Her annual sales volume is between 25 and 30 million pounds!

Michele’s occupation gives her a unique view of the world food-supply chain that few of us know. With her permission, I am sharing some of what I learned.

Item #1

Terms we hear and use are: “Buy Local”, and “Locavore”. Both relate to supporting local agriculture and the reduction of long distance shipping of produce. A Locavore, in fact, is someone who tries to eat only food grown within a 100-mile radius. But doing that, and getting the year-round variety of produce we have come to expect, is not  possible in Western New York. Even so, many of us try at least, to select grocery items labeled “local” so as to help our farming community. But get this: per USDA 2008 Farm Act, produce can be sold as “local” if it is grown within 400 miles of its marketplace meaning that in Rochester, it could come fromToronto!  The “local” label can also be applied to produce grown anywhere within the state in which it is being sold, and when you consider that some states may span 800 miles, we begin to doubt the rationale for searching out, and paying a premium for, what comes down to just a label.

Bottom line… if we really desire items grown close-to-home, we need to confirm that fact by asking our grocer where it originated. Ask him what his “Homegrown” sign means.  And do that at the farm stand too, which may be selling carrots from Long Island, or Hamilton, Canada!

*Some info from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Item #2

It all comes down to CORN. There are 3 demands for corn:  human consumption, biofuel, and non-food. Farmers earn more from biofuel and non-food corn, and less for that produced for human consumption. As a result, less is planted for human consumption, and the price of that segment goes up. In addition, demand for corn overall is increasing, with an astounding 25% of the 45,000 items found in today’s average grocery store containing it! And some of those corn-containing items will surprise you… soda, toothpaste, diapers, trash bags, cleansers, batteries, and the shine on the cover of your magazine!

As an example of price increases: in 2009, Michele’s company paid $.46 per pound for corn, three years later in 2012, she paid $.55.  And in her opinion, price increases will continue.

Item #3

Donate to your Local food banks. Every town has one but I will name three that I support; FoodLink, Penfield Community Cupboard, and Perinton Food Shelf. These organizations report an increasing need in the community and they tell me that they are seeing college educated families asking for help. It’s so important to help when we can.

With the aching economy and lack of available work with life supporting wages, it doesn’t sound farfetched to think that there could be families in our own neighborhood who are in trouble. Donate!

Item #4

Food Desert. Know this term. A food desert is an area with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet. In some countries, a food desert might be due to poor agricultural land or farming techniques. In our area, it would be due to the population in an area living in povery. Supermarkets exit areas of poverty to locate their stores in more affluent areas leaving poor neighborhoods with fewer food choices. Small mom / pop stores are less likely to carry wholesome foods in favor of items that sell well such as candy, cigarettes, soda, and alcohol.

Well, I hope you found this information as interesting as I did. As the months go on, I will keep listening, and where it seems right to do so, I’ll report what I learn to you.

 Thank you for reading.

 Tom

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