Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Thinking About Our Food

Whenever reflecting about the food we eat, I remember vividly becoming informed about the PBB food contamination in Michigan in the 1970s.  It was years later after the initial poisoning but once I knew, I quit eating beef and drinking milk.  To this day I have not eaten beef and it's only lately I have started to drink milk again.  As recently as May 2016 it is still a topic of concern as evidenced by this article, 43 years after chemical mix-up, Michigan blood shows elevated toxin levels.  Michigan Radio has coverage on this over the course of several years ending in 2014.

Some people zip through the grocery store without giving a thought as to what they are placing in their baskets or carts.  This disaster taught me decades ago to be a careful shopper, spending more time than most looking at labels.  In her debut book, Let's Eat!: Sustainable Food For A Hungry Planet (Orca Book Publishers, February 7, 2017), author Kimberley Veness explores how our food is cultivated and the journey it makes from place to place before it arrives in our kitchens and on our tables.

Do you ever wonder what your groceries would tell you if they could talk?

Within four chapters sources of our food are revealed, on a large scale and from smaller venues, how farming functions in cities and how growing food will look in the future.  Many of our fruits, vegetables and grains come from hundreds and thousands of miles from our homes grown in monocultures.  These extensive farms grow one crop and the pesticides and fertilizers used spread far beyond their point of origin.  The majority of meat comes from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations rather than from animals growing in pastures. Our seafood is similarly raised in aquaculture but even this needs to be better so as to not contaminate our water and lands.  Labels inform us as to the humanely raised meats.  Barcodes on produce tell more than you might think about your food.

People are working whenever financially able and out of necessity to farm within more compact perimeters.  Companion planting works on several levels, plants helping each other in a give and take relationship. Did you know ducks are used in raising rice?  Organic versus non-organic and pasteurized versus raw are discussed.

There are probably more people than they know who live in food deserts.  How can we fix this?  If you look around the city you can see common gardens or community gardens or food forests.  Some foods are now being grown completely inside in specially monitored environments.  More green is becoming visible on roof tops.

What does the future hold for our food?  Some are raising fish and vegetables together; a field called aquaponics.  Many cultures already consume insects realizing their value as providers of protein.  Did you know a hamburger was grown entirely in a laboratory in 2013?  Genetic engineering of food is an option being explored but it is still controversial.  When space pioneers travel to Mars their food will likely be grown using hydroponics.  As with many things in our lives on this planet great strides have been made but we need to change our focus to one of preserving as well as producing.


As key points are supplied by Kimberley Veness they are done in the context of a historical background.  In each of the chapters she includes a From Farm to Table section which is a personal reflection.  Farming Fact paragraphs or sentences are inserted several times in each chapter; informing us of items of interest such as the scientific proof of the happiness we feel when digging in the dirt, the alarming number of pesticides in a single grape or sweet pepper (non-organic) or purple and white carrots were grown before the well-known orange variety.  To challenge readers Kimberley Veness asks us to Chew on This!  In these asides she gives us an assignment such as listing all the food we eat for a day and its country of origin or find a local farm where you can get fresh seasonal food.  In all of these, the body of text and added elements, she speaks with readers in easy conversations.  Here is a passage.

THE "NO-TILL" ZONE
Tilling the ground is like kicking an anthill.  It took a long time for the ants to build the intricate passageways and chambers to make their home functional, and it will take just as long to repair the damage.  Like ants, soil microbes take time to build healthy soil.  Conventional farming, which over-tills the soil, strips away soil nutrients over time.  Because commercial agriculture is all about efficiency, farmers add fertilizers instead of waiting for the soil to regain its natural nutrients.


Throughout the title photographs have been selected and captioned in support of the narrative.  Special charts are included to present information on food labeling.  On the first page of each chapter single color line drawings highlight the main theme.


Whether you read Let's Eat!: Sustainable Food For A Hungry Planet written by Kimberley Veness in a single sitting or a little bit at a time, you will be captivated by the processes used to provide food for this planet's people.  Some of the facts are vivid eye-openers and others give us realistic options.  At the close of the book print, online and video resources are listed with a glossary and index.  This is another fine title in a continuing series.  If you wish to know more about Kimberley Veness the publisher provides an interview on their blog.


Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the choices of the other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.




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