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Follow Your Food

To really learn about our food, let’s look at the whole story. #trust

For as long as humans have been around, food has (obviously) been an anchor to our existence. It’s part of who we are, where we come from, how we express, comfort, and entertain ourselves, and maybe most importantly, how we care for ourselves. It’s also a pathway to connect with other people. Isn’t it fun to try foods from “somewhere else”? Yep. There is a reason “regional food” is trending.

As fewer of us (unless you are a farmer) have the knowledge and expertise needed to grow and raise our food (not to mention cook it), the urgency to understand it is almost becoming palpable.

This quest to better understand our food is actually not new.

Originally, curiosity about food was urgent: “Will there be any/enough?”

That turned to “What can we grow/raise where we are?”

Then, it went to “What is available/on sale/what do I feel like eating?”

Throw in a little “What does this actually DO for me?”

Next, we have “What do I know how to cook?”

Then it was “Let me show you my pretty food with every bite arranged in this bowl” with a glorious filter (or two) applied. 😉

Enter 2020, and we find ourselves revisiting most of these steps at once. Talk about coming full circle. Here’s the thing. I wanted to share this with you because our human experience with food is kind of always the same. We need it, we need to know what it does for us, we need to know how to store and prepare it, and we need to know techniques not to waste it.

Which brings us to how we talk about and approach our food decisions. The phrase “farm to table” comes to mind in capturing the nearly endless nuances of our food/health/agriculture conversations. You may think this is a modern catch phrase that attempts to capture the emotional connection to food and farms so many people are searching for these days, but you’d be wrong. Remember that mention of coming full circle? Yep.

This phrase – and home delivery of food directly from farmers – has actually been around since 1914. I rest my case. Same, and yet different…

history of farm to table from USDA
Screenshot from USDA. “Mailboxes, Mom and Pop Stands, and Markets: Local Foods Then and Now. A National Agricultural Library Digital Exhibit. Accessed 1.15.2021

Having this look at where we were and where we are now is fun. It reminds us that we have had this constant and ever-changing quest to better understand our food while also having enough of it to support our health and well-being. Cool.

This is where it gets really good.

Following our food from farm to table is quite the journey. There is much to know if you really want to dig in. I’d like to suggest that maybe the most important thing to know is how much is being done behind the scenes by diverse experts the whole way through that food’s journey to our plates.

Informed choices and following the science enables us to enjoy and eat a wide variety of foods on whatever budget we have with whatever details we both need and want.

Let’s get to know more about our food, starting with what is in place to protect our food supply, why we value and like what we do, and what/who makes our food possible. How can you start from a positive place of trust and curiosity? By starting at the beginning of story and finding out more about how food really gets from the farm to our tables and bellies.

Here are some starter questions you can ask yourself or your loved ones at your next meal to gain a better understanding of your own personal food journey.

What foods do you connect with your family history?

What foods do you get excited to eat?

What foods can you afford?

What foods do you know how to cook?

What foods best support your health goals, values, and tastes?

Do you know how these foods are grown? Where they are from? Why they are grown and raised the way that they are?

international food
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

The food supply chain and all the endless experts and workers within it is like your personal team, working to bring you what you want and need without you having to worry about it. From the farm to the facility that organizes it/packages it/makes sure it’s food safe to the retailers and restaurants to us. Having worked directly for and with farmers and retailers, I can confidently share this optimistic point of view because it’s what I have personally experienced. Is it perfect? Pretty much nothing ever is. Is there room for improvement? Pretty much always the answer to this, regardless of topic, is yes. Are there people working to make it better? Yes, including me. And you, if you are reading this. #teamwork

Beyond my training and experience, here are a few additional expert resources for you to delve into as you wish to learn more about the team behind our food supply. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s just a few that I’ve compiled for this particular blog to offer a snapshot and help you get a feel for the truly amazing infrastructure that helps make sure we have a safe, affordable, abundant food supply produced in a way that is intended to make sure this happens year after year.

Bottom line: there are rules, regulations, resources, best practices, and guidelines for every step of our food’s journey before we choose it and the care and use of that food becomes our responsibility. Nice to know, right?

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Code of Ethics for the Nutrition and Dietetics Profession

American Farm Bureau “Farmers for a Sustainable Future

American Medical Association Principles of Medical Ethics

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Voluntary Accreditation for Public Health Departments

Conference for Food Protection

Consumer Brands Association

Consumer Goods Forum

Environmental Protection Agency “Laws and Regulations that Apply to Your Agricultural Operation by Farm Activity

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Food Industry Association

National Restaurant Association COVID-19 Reopening Guidance

National Restaurant Association ServSafe

National Retail Federation State Retail Associations

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service Research and Promotion Programs

United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Land-Grant University Website Directory

United States Food & Drug Administration Guidance for Industry

United States Food & Drug Administration New Era of Smarter Food Safety

World Health Organization “Healthy Diet

Thank you to every single person who works within the food sector and health care – from agriculture to transportation to processing and food safety to retailers, restaurants, and companies who make the equipment and utensils that enable us to select/store/cook/enjoy our food and more – so many people with so many skills. We see you. We need you. We appreciate you.

How will you take action to improve your food and health knowledge?

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

One reply on “Follow Your Food”

Greetings my friend! Always fun to read your blog! Warms my heart to see your unending passion for food in our lives. It is not only the basis of health, but fun and friendship. Happy 2021 miss Kim! B 🙂


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