By Andrea Dwyer, Executive Director
I bet I wasn’t the only kid with a case of food envy in grade school. My mother insisted that my siblings and I either come home for lunch — it was a four block walk — or that we purchase the hot lunch prepared in our school cafeteria. I longed to be one of the kids who ate a “packed” lunch, which most often consisted of sandwiches made with squishy Wonder Bread, mayo and lunch meat, salty treats like potato chips, and those delectable little cakes with filling in the middle. According to my mother, that type of processed food was more expensive — and less nutritious! — than the made-from-scratch hot lunches that we could buy for twenty-five cents.
Over time, efficiencies and subsidies were built into the way food is produced in the U.S., so the price of non-nutritious packaged foods was reduced to a point where stretching food dollars flip-flopped. Many families and school districts now “splurge” to add fresh fruits and vegetables to school lunches. Those same efficiencies and subsidies reduced the number of people who farm and crops that are grown. Incredibly, in the U.S. today there aren’t enough farmers growing enough fruits and vegetables to meet USDA nutrition standards for the nation — the very standards that chronically underfunded school lunch programs must meet.
In the 70s, the growers, cooks and eaters who founded venerable institutions like Tilth Producers, Seattle Tilth and, and PCC, saw that profit-oriented corporations were beginning to dominate conversations about feeding people. Our founders valued a farm-to-fork culture that prioritized healthy humans, soil, plants and animal. By the 1990s, when childhood obesity began climbing, more people turned to these institutions to teach us how to use sustainable practices when growing and eating food.
More recently, we have challenged ourselves to think in terms of systems change, and to strive for a greater impact. Today, we work with schools to start and maintain gardens, we teach school cooks how to incorporate healthy food into their lunch programs, and we help connect schools to farmers so they can source locally. And we don’t stop there; we also break down barriers that our neighbors face in accessing and affording healthy foods, and we help farm families have the knowledge, land and other resources to thrive.
It’s an exciting time to be involved with Seattle Tilth and I’m proud to be working side-by-side with you in these important efforts. Thank you for all you do to ensure that the future is abundant.
How have the ways you grow and eat changed over time? I’d love to hear your stories — please email me.