Welcome to Community Food Coach
This site provides a place to ponder the social, economic, cultural and policy implications of where our food comes from. It’s also a place to dream about food that is healthy, affordable, accesssible, tasty, and produced in a way that pays workers a living wage and protects the environment.
Click on a title to read the blog entry.
August 27, 2009
I grew up as a latchkey kid. Coming home from school to an empty house, I learned to comfort myself with food. The snacks that I ate after school – potato chips, ice cream, cookies – are the foods that I still crave when I feel lonely. At this point in my life though...
By Arnell J. Hinkle
I grew up as a latchkey kid. Coming home from school to an empty house, I learned to comfort myself with food. The snacks that I ate after school – potato chips, ice cream, cookies – are the foods that I still crave when I feel lonely. At this point in my life though, I‘ve learned to make healthier choices, and I imagine what it would have been like to grow up eating crunchy red peppers or fresh fruit for snacks, instead of salty, sweet or high fat foods.
Whether children are eating snacks at home or in an after school program, they are learning habits that will last a lifetime. If you make sure that there is a range of colorful, tasty, healthy foods available for snacks, your children will grow up associating snacking with healthy choices.
So if you are a parent or caregiver – provide fresh fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, or high fiber treats like hummus or graham crackers. Insist that the after school program your children attend does the same.
Furthermore, now is the time to tell your legislators how you feel about healthy foods for your children - the federal bill that authorizes all of the Child Nutrition programs expires on September 30, 2009.
Contact your legislator and tell them that children deserve fresh, local foods that support health, both in school and after school.
For more information about Child Nutrition Reauthorization, see http://canfit.org/pdf/ChildNntritionReauthorization.pdf.
To contact your legislator: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
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January 31, 2009
"Food Desert" - refers to a rural or urban low-income neighborhood or community with limited access to affordable and nutritious food.
By Arnell J. Hinkle
I spent a few days this week in Washington, DC. The air was frigid, but there was a warmth in town, as people seemed to be relishing the post-inaugural change in leadership. Dulles airport now has an “Obama” store. It’s supposed to be a DC souvenir shop, but 95% of the merchandise was Obama-related… everything from earrings to chocolate bars.
I was in town for a series of meetings, one of which was on the concept of “Food Deserts.” The term refers to a rural or urban low-income neighborhood or community with limited access to affordable and nutritious food.. The two day meeting was full of researchers and academics studying the problem, each seeming to be staking out their territory of expertise. Of the twenty or so speakers, only a couple admitted that in spite of the stereotype, many low-income, ethnic communities have healthy, affordable food. Although it wasn’t necessarily in a typical food store.
Bodegas, tiendas, street vendors, produce stands, and guys on the road selling fruit are common in many communities of color. Across the street from the hotel I was staying in was a corner store that primarily sold liquor. However, upon closer inspection there was a cooler full of fresh beansprouts, bok choy, eggs, and even fruit. The locals in this Chinatown neighborhood don’t have a grocery store nearby, but they can buy a limited selection of fresh vegetables at the corner store or get prepared vegetables at any of the local Asian restaurants. I counted 12 such restaurants in a two block area - Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and even Burmese. It seemed to me that the real danger to community food availability in this area of Washington, DC was the redevelopment and gentrification that was going on…lofts, condos, and chain restaurants driving out the locals, and driving up the real estate prices (even in this down economy).
It made me wonder what redevelopment without gentrification would look like. It also made me wonder if studying the concept of “Food Deserts” will lead to more food availability in neighborhoods, or to more middle class people making their careers on this hot, new academic topic?
Do you live in a “Food Desert”? If so, share your story. If not, tell me about the healthy, affordable food in your neighborhood. In any event, you can use the Community Food Story form to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.
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January 24, 2009
President Obama needs to know the racial frame on food justice, especially as it relates to children.
By Arnell J. Hinkle
Obama needs to know why community gardens can’t solve everyone’s food needs, and that it is the middle and upper class that benefit the most from most garden and food justice programs. He needs to know what the Department of Agriculture is doing and not doing to get healthy food to school children, he needs to know that the Department of Defense runs the fresh fruit and vegetable program and why they supply unripe fruit to schools. The result is that many low-income kids end up not liking fruit because the only fruit they get in school is unripe. Local fruit and veggies would be such a better idea.
President Obama needs to know that he can do a lot to make it easier for local community-based organizations (cbos) to get resources…cbos that truly involve community stakeholders and youth in the process and decision making. He needs to believe that youth in low-income communities can be part of the solution and that they deserve an outlet to make their voices known. He needs to know the numbers of farm workers and restaurant workers and their wages. He needs to know the number of children eating federal food and snacks and their ethnic breakdown, and what’s served in school lunches, summer food, snack and child care food programs.. He needs to hear about Child Nutrition Reauthorization and what needs to be changed. He needs to have a sense of what people are doing to make a truly just food system. Stay tuned, because in the next few months, Community Food Coach will be providing this information.
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January 10, 2009
Why is there a picture of a Dollar Store in a blog about community food?
By Arnell J. Hinkle
Why is there a picture of a Dollar Store in a blog about community food? Because in many communities the Dollar Store or some similarly-named store is the nearest place to buy food. Sure you can get some great deals, but at what price to your health? Most of the foods are processed or canned and full of salt, sugars, and trans fats. Many of the items are past their expiration or “sell-by” dates. Dollar-type stores are also notorious for being the place that tainted foods from China and other countries without adequate food safety laws end up. So, in an effort to be economical you can actually pay a high cost if you buy foods that aren’t good for your health.
If you must shop at a 99-cent type store, be sure to read the labels carefully, check the expiration date, and country of origin label. Try to limit your purchases to fresh produce, dried fruits, or to packaged items that contain fewer than five ingredients.
There should be a better alternative. Every neighborhood needs a food outlet that provides fresh, affordable, and healthy food choices. If your neighborhood doesn’t have one, ask your local political representative what they are doing to bring healthier food to your area. Ask for a farmer’s market, a small produce store, or a full-service grocery store - you know best what type of food outlet your community needs. If you want to learn what others around the country are doing to improve the quality of food in their communities check out Community Food Assessments.
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January 1, 2009
I am an expert in finding healthy things to eat, no matter where I am or how much money I have (or don’t have).
By Arnell J. Hinkle
New Year’s Day. I have a pot of black-eyed peas simmering on the stove. In spite of way too much education, and living far from the South, I still can’t face a new year without eating a bowl of black-eyed peas for good luck. The fatback of my youth is now smoked turkey, but the intent is the same. Start the new year with a ritual from the past that brings good luck.
I am thinking about my black-eyed peas, and wondering who grew them? were the workers paid a living wage? Doing a bit of research, I discovered that the US has about 60,000 - 80,000 acres of land producing black-eyed peas, and that farmers earn $0.35/pound for dried peas. It cost them roughly $370/acre to grow the peas, they earn about $385/acre when they sell the peas, so their profit is only $15.00/acre. Hardly seems worth it. However black-eyed peas are 23% protein, full of fiber, and do bring good luck. Seems like we should be growing more of them, especially since they are a relatively inexpensive source of protein. But farmers don’t get subsidies for black-eyed peas, few stores sell them, restaurants rarely serve them, and the foodies haven’t discovered them. We are left to our own devices, and need to cook up a pot for ourselves if we want good luck in the new year.
In my work I struggle with the contradiction between the desire for change, and a power structure that keeps certain conditions in place. Public health officials recommending that we all eat more fruits and vegetables, yet the government supporting farm subsidies for tobacco and cotton and not fresh produce, and providing junk food to school and after school programs in the name of profit. I see middle and upper class communities with grocery stores filled with reasonably priced food, and low-income areas without full service grocery stores, but filled with fast food franchises. I also see a lot of people working to get healthier food into low-income communities, but not being able to relate to the people who live in those communities.
This blog is my attempt to bring what I know about food, community, health, race and class to a larger audience. I am an expert in finding healthy things to eat, no matter where I am or how much money I have (or don’t have). I was a restaurant chef for seven years, and even used to cook for Diana Ross. I was an organic farmer for three years. I have grown food in India and Scotland and in my own backyard in California. I have degrees in Nutrition and Public Health and am a registered dietitian. For the past 15 years, I have been working with low-income communities around the country to change the food system, so that healthier food is available in neighborhoods and community based organizations.
My Blog Recipe:
- 1 part observation
- 1 part information
- 2 parts action
- dash of resources
Mixed together well with a little seasoning and perspective.
I hope you like the weekly dish!
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