January 3, 2012
To anyone in the food industry – or really, to anyone who pays any type of attention to what’s going on around them – the epidemic of obesity is not a surprise. The story has been talked about unceasingly by nutritionists, chefs, educators, and medical professionals. In a nutshell, we in the US are getting fatter and so are our children. With a topic as big (pun intended) and unwieldy as obesity, most would say that there’s really nothing any of us small food business owners can or should do to help. I would argue that there is which is why I want to issue each and every artisan food business owner a challenge this year…
The more I read about the obesity epidemic in the US the more apparent it becomes that there are multiple factors that play into the issue far bigger than any one of us can tackle. However, one thing that isn’t talked about much is that there is basically a generation of people who don’t necessarily know how to cook for themselves. They were raised on convenience food, fast food, and take-out so no matter how easy a recipe claims to be, it is still befuddling to them. As an example, when I went away to college there was one friend who – kid you not – arrived at college not knowing how to boil water. Thank goodness for the college’s meal plan otherwise he would have starved before Christmas break!
The sad thing is that this generation of “uncooks” are now grown up and are passing along their lack of cooking skills to their children. How can we, as a nation, expect these children to grow up and take control of their own health if they don’t have the basic tools and appreciation for food cooked from scratch?
So my challenge to every artisan food producer is that you connect with one person during the year and help them appreciate handcrafted food, help them understand the benefit of quality ingredients to both a product’s taste and their own personal health, or share with someone the joy and pride of creating real food with their own hands. I realize that what I’m asking is not simple – you’re going to have to try to counter billions of dollars of brainwashing that’s hammered-home that processed food with ingredients you can’t recognize is better. But if we can each start by helping just one person – adult or child – realize what ‘real’ food really is then collectively we’ll be making a difference.