The Restorative Life: Our Relationship to Food

This is a continuation of ideas about creating a restorative life based on starting with the essentials.

Today our focus is on how our choices around food can be an important aspect of creating a restorative life.

We’ll start by looking at what’s been happening and the changes that are underway.

Some Background

Before the pandemic, rising inflation and the war in Ukraine, we were already facing the consequences of global climate change. In the western part of the United States, we have been experiencing increasing drought conditions that threaten to change the way we access food. 

We don’t often think about how we get our food.

California is responsible for 70% of US fruit and vegetable production, the very foods that doctors tell us are maybe most important to our health. Washington, Oregon and Arizona are also important for these foods. The top five agricultural states that produce the most food are California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraskas and Illinois.

Living where I do in Aurora Illinois, I can drive past fields of corn and soybeans, but not all of those crops are going to people. A good portion goes to support feeding animals.

For those of us who want to eat more fruits and vegetables, we are highly dependent upon all the states that are seeing the wrost drought in a thousand years.

We need to make some big shifts in how we support agriculture not only in America, but throughout the world. 

The war in Ukraine may lead to extreme food shortages in Africa and other parts of the world. 

As someone who cares about the future of the earth, you have probably given some thought to what you can do about the interdependency between addressing climate change and decreasing hunger in the world. 

The next few years are likely to be tough ones, but they could also be times of awakening to new priorities and discovering new ways of feeding ourselves.

What is Your Relationship to Food?

Many of us in the United States struggle with eating poorly. According to CNBC, despite the $71 diet and weight loss industry, 95% of diets fail. There are many conflicting views on how we should eat, but almost every doctor says eat more vegetables and greens. And yet, foods that are generally good for us like fruits, vegetables and nuts are becoming more difficult to grow, and require significant amounts of water. If you like meat, the requirements for water are even higher. 

Agriculture is not only affected by climate change, it contributes to it. According to the USDA in 2018, agriculture and forestry together accounted for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

With the Internet and global interconnectivity, we can see the ways in which we all affect each other. We also might begin to see solutions. We’re moving into a time when we could find ways to end hunger in the world if we chose to do so. 

But it will be incredibly more difficult if don’t address climate change soon. Some of the conflicts in the world arose in areas where food is almost impossible to grow like Syria, Somalia, Yemen. 

I discussing big issues today, not to overwhelm us, but to offer direction. 

Many of us have the power to eat the foods that are most nourishing to ourselves, and find ways to help others access healthy food as well.

Individually and collectively, we need to create a new relationship with food.

As individuals, the steps we can take may appear small, but they matter. 

If you feel compelled to become more restorative around the way you consume food this year, here are a few ideas:

  1. If you are not already doing this, start by eating the most nourishing and healthy foods. Be mindful of how fortunate you are to have access to nutritious food. Allow yourself to notice what truly makes you feel better. Your food needs may be different than someone else’s.
  2. You might want to create a food strategy, not a diet, but a discovery process for noticing what truly nourishes you and is good for the earth too. Your strategy might include how contribute to helping end local and global hunger.
  3. Try not to waste food and consider the packaging of your foods. A lot of food and its packaging ends up in landfills. Compost food scraps when possible. 
  4. Keep a well stocked pantry. Given the pandemic, many of us have more resources on hand to prepare for emergencies. This is a wise thing to keep doing, because challenges to food supply lay ahead of us. 
  5. Grow some of your own food if you can. Nowadays, you can live in an apartment and get a food system to grow some vegetables. I personally love to grow herbs that I can take into my house during the winter. 
  6. After you have satisfied your own needs, think about if you could contribute time or money to local food pantries, community gardens or any other way to help those who need support in your community.
  7. Buy from local and regional organic farmers. To protect our food system, we need to stop using toxic chemicals that destroy pollinators and other wildlife.
  8. Support organizations working to end hunger around the world including investing in businesses and communities that are involved in supporting healthy and regenerative agriculture.
  9. Teach others what you know about creating healthy food systems – whether it’s how to eat well for health, growing your own food, permaculture, organic farming or any other aspect of creating a restorative approach to sustaining ourselves.
  10. If you are doing all of the above, honor yourself for being part of the shift that we need to make to become a healthier, more just world. 

Today’s question: What step might you take this month or in the year ahead to support restoration of global food systems?

I know many of you have a positive relationship with healthy food, you grow your own food, and do work to end hunger and mitigate against climate change. Thank you for how you choose to live and work.

As this year goes on, I would like to share some real life examples of people living restoratively. If you would be willing to share your experiences with being an earthkeeper around food or anything else, I would love to amplify your story. You can contact me at karen@mindfulearthkeeper.com. I would love to elevate your work or lifestyle so that others can learn from you!