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Eating Organically on a Food-Stamp Budget

  • SOLE Food
    Eating organically (and responsibly) on a food-stamp budget
    By Michelle Gienow
    Baltimore City Paper - MD, Oct 7, 2009
    Straight to the Source

For the past three years, following the typical Michael Pollan-fueled, now-I've-seen-the-locavore-light conversion experience, I've been trying hard to feed my family good food. It's more difficult than it sounds; the supermarkets are full of tempting, affordable foodlike products that ultimately owe more to industry than agriculture, once you start reading the labels. It took me an embarrassingly long while to figure out that buying foods so basic that they don't have a label is the key.

I found myself shopping less and less at the grocery store and instead buying directly from the farmers who actually produce the food, sometimes at the farmers market, sometimes at the farms themselves. Thus it is always local and usually also organic--in practice, if not formal certification--and, helpfully, affordable. I tracked down these farmers, and know about the food I'm buying, because I'm interested and I ask. In doing this I am, as Pollan urges, voting for systemic change with my food dollars, though in my case that's sort of a side bonus. This kind of conscious buying has come to be known as SOLE food, for Sustainable, Organic, Local, and Ethical.

In case you've been living under a culinary and environmental blackout for the past couple years, here's why SOLE food is worth investing in: Our current meat-centric diet, with its reliance on highly processed fats, refined grains, and industrial inventions like high-fructose corn syrup, is literally killing us. This diet is the main reason why one of every three adult Americans is now overweight, and obesity--which parties with its morbid pals diabetes, cardiac disease, and high blood pressure--is drowning ever more of us every year. (A study in the January 2008 issue of the International Journal of Obesity estimates that, if current trends continue, 86.3 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese by the year 2030.) 


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