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By Tammera J. Karr Ph.D.
October is our last big hurrah for gardens and warm weather out here in the Pacific Northwest. It is the time of harvest throughout the nation, apples, pumpkins and root crops are gleaned from the soil. The leaves on the trees begin their kaleidoscope of color change from green to reds and gold’s. And for me over the last three years it is the launch of the National Food Day presentations and events here in Douglas County.
I have spent the last few weeks on the phone talking with teachers at area high schools, and community food distribution programs like UCan and NeighborWorks Umpqua. Combine this with the lessons my son has learned on single life and what is needed to eat well as a GUY on his own — and well to be honest my flabber has been gasted…..
Growing up my mom had all kinds of kitchen gadgets, we had several different types of can openers from the pointy ended ones you stab a can with and lever the top open to a really ugly avocado green GE electric can opener. I never once took a class or listened to someone instruct me on “how to use” a can opener. We learned from watching our family, and if we were taught how to use one, we were small children – not adults.
It never once occurred to me, until a conversation with a very nice lady at UCan, the use and operation of a can opener is not known by everyone today. Yet when she shared with me the numbers of teens and adults who depend on UCan for food, who do not know how to use or own a can opener, so central to self-sufficiency – I was stunned, as I hope you are. This led me to reflect on a conversation with a local high school teacher the week before. I asked them how many of their health class students did they think lived off food stamps and didn’t know how to prepare simple foods. To this day, I am relieved I was setting down when they told me more than 50% of their students.
The whole premise behind National Food Day is to bring about Healthy, Local, Affordable and Sustainable Food Awareness to communities. The concept may be viewed, as one relating to inner city slums, however the sheer number of individuals fed through the Douglas County food distribution programs is staggering. Current statistics rank Douglas County as the “least healthy” county in Oregon, where 20% of the population, including 30% of children, do not have enough food to eat. In times past, Douglas County was well known, for its specialty agricultural products throughout the Pacific Northwest region, local farms provided fresh produce and meats from the coast to areas north and east of Eugene.
The most permanent, reliable and available source of wealth Douglas possesses, is her winding valleys and fertile soil. Here thousands of people have built their houses and here they draw from the willing earth the food that supports many thousands more. – A. G. Walling in A History of Southern Oregon, pub. 1884
When I read through, a report by the dynamic young individuals working through NeighborWorks Umpqua, Oregon Food Bank, AmeriCorps and RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) published in 2013 – I was humbled by the meniscal role I have played and the ignorance I possess, on the topic of hunger within my county and state. It is past time for us to do what we can, to return this once vibrant agricultural area, proud of its independence , back to one of health , through education programs like Food Day, and others.
Now don’t think I believe in handouts – it is “hand Ups I believe in” education models from the past that taught young men and women how to be self-sufficient like 4-H, need to be encouraged and supported along with returning home economics and cooking classes to our school system. I know for some of you it is taught-amount to treason, to say good bye to sports programs if it means kids don’t know how to fed themselves; but think about what your tax bill will be for all the sick folks on the dole ahead of us, as it stands now. Taking back control of our self-sufficiency and that of our children results in building entrepreneurs and sustainable communities we can be proud of.
Now a word on storage containers…. A topic I must admit never entered my mind in connection with food self-sufficiency and health, until my son reported the following to me.
“Mom , I never thought about how, not having storage containers would impact my cooking and food choices.” He went on to say, “when I wanted to fix real food for dinner, I looked around and saw I didn’t have any way to save the left overs – nothing to keep food fresh in the fridge, so instead I picked foods that were processed and in single serve cans to eat.” “I can’t believe how much more expensive buying food like that is, over the way you taught me to do it.“ The next words out of his mouth made me smile. “ When I come home can I have some Pyrex storage containers, please to take back with me, so I can eat better food?”
Now don’t ya know that conversation got my brain buzzing, over just how much those of us with stable incomes take some things for granted, when it comes to eating. More on that later….
To Your Good Health and that of our County.
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