My Relationship with Food
When you hear the word food, what do you think of?
- A slice of pie from your favorite pizza joint?
- Junior mints while watching the latest thriller in the theaters?
- Mom’s mac and cheese?
- Heartburn and indigestion?
- A succulent cherry tomato from your garden?
- Grilled fish that you just caught with your fishing buds earlier that day?
- Weight gain?
This past weekend I had the pleasure working with a new group of youth – WILL (Wilderness Leadership & Learning). WILL is a highly interactive 12-month, experiential-learning, youth-leadership, and life-skill-development program based out of Columbia Heights in Washington DC. On Saturday, we explored our relationship with food through journaling and discussion and it turned out to be an interesting and event enlightening activity for these teenagers.
I asked the students to journal about their relationship with food through words and illustrations. I asked them to consider the following:
Do particular foods come to mind? Events? People? Positive or negative feelings? Or maybe a little bit of both?
We had a variety of responses from Chipotle to Grandma’s oatmeal to chemicals to the food distribution system to hunger. You see, although there is overlap, all of us have a different experience with food. As I explained to the students, eating is the most intimate act we do with ourselves each and every day. It’s also one of the most important things we do each day, as our relationship with food will determine the future of both our mental and physical health.
Eating is not just an act of nourishment. It’s also an act of social justice and environmental stewardship. When we eat, we make a choice about what type of agriculture/land practices and farm worker conditions we support. We get to decide which if we want to support the family farms in our community or one in Chile.
Eating is social and spiritual. I spoke with the teenagers about the experience of eating and the people with whom we love to break bread. We also talked about fasting as a spiritual practice. Many of us have rituals that connect us to our food and ourselves.
For me, my relationship with food appears so simple and mind boggling, all at the same time. I’ve been exploring my relationship with food for a long time and have been involved in almost all sectors of the food system, from seed to plate. I’m amazed at how a simple thing like food can wreak so much havoc on the health of our environment and communities in one situation and then completely heal so many people, both physically and emotionally, in another context.
So I ask you, what is your relationship with food?