Community food systems help foster healthy people, healthy communities

MSU Extension offers three concepts to help build your community food system.

Communities and families are constantly looking for ways to be healthier, but it is not always easy to figure out where to start. Establishing new patterns of food shopping, meal planning, and eating can help to rebuild a healthier food system in your community.

Michigan State University Extension suggests these three simple concepts:

Learn the basics of cooking – Good food starts with selecting fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats and dairy. Equally important is how you prepare that food to retain the nutrients make it tasty. If a healthy food tastes good it is more likely to see a return on a dinner menu. There are many cooking classes available at food stores, specialty markets, MSU Extension, health food stores and restaurants. Wonderful tutorials and lessons on basic cooking methods are available free on the Internet. If trying something out for the first time it is best to keep it simple with just a couple of ingredients. Try new vegetables raw, and then move on to experimenting with simple recipes and techniques like steaming or sautéing.

Eat Together – Families are running in a dozen different directions in the course of a day. With school, extracurricular activities, sports, friends and jobs, it is hard to learn about a local foodshed or community food system. But a family can gain some knowledge by simply starting to eat together. They can talk about where food comes from and how it got to their table. Involving kids in the meal planning and the cooking is another great method to increasing food education. On the weekend, take 20 minutes with your family to discuss what is in season, where you can find it, what stores and markets you will stop at and what you will cook.

Explore your community food system – Where are the local restaurants? The farmers’ markets? The farms? Are restaurants featuring local foods? It is a fact of life that Americans love to eat out, sometimes a couple of times per week. It is also a fact that many people would like to eat healthier. Choose restaurants that offer more options in local food sourcing and healthier meal options. Are there food-buying clubs, natural food co-ops, or a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) near you? Do research on websites such as Local Harvest, Locavores, Pure Michigan, and Michigan Farmers Market Association.

Food policy councils, foodie groups, and gardening groups are also great places to hang out with people who are also trying to improve their local food system. The Michigan Food Policy Council supports these efforts across Michigan.

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