Back in May, I wrote a post about my goal of using more local foods and preparing at least one meal a week with foods that had not travelled far. Two months later, it is much easier to do this and most of our meals are made with foods from our region. Our markets have an abundance of fruits and vegetables and are heading into the peak late summer and fall season. Everyday the media carries a new story about the importance of eating well. Yahoo featured a link last week to a story called Eating like a Mediterranean. (whatever "a Mediterranean" is!) But many people still need help adopting healthy lifestyles.
The hospital I work at has a beautiful setting and good work environment, but the food provided for sale for staff, patients and visitors is appalling, especially for a health care facility. Our cafeteria is operated by a catering company that sells sandwiches, burgers and fries. The tuck shop is run by volunteers and sells ice cream and more candy bars.
Each day I am greeted by these machines and often watch patients buying a soft drink and chips between meals. I guess you cannot keep fresh apples or peaches in a vending machine and they would not bring much revenue for the hospital.
Our regional Cardiac Care Centre is in the other city hospital across town. This summer they are sponsoring a weekly fresh food market in the parking lot, selling local fruit and vegetables. They are hoping to attract people in the neighbourhood as well as staff, visitors and outpatients and provide them with some healthy food choices.
I stopped by last week and even got 15 minutes free parking at the curb. The prices were excellent and the food was top quality. I bought a little of everything (except eggplant) and spent just a few dollars. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is something that should be done on every hospital property. I don't see enough of it where I work.
When we were up north, we had another local foods education. This area of Lake Huron, on the east shore of Manitoulin Island, is the site of a fishery where rainbow trout are stocked and raised in a netted off area of the lake.
Cold Water Fisheries is located in Little Current and we stopped at the factory store and bought a large box of cleaned and vacuum wrapped trout fillets for a very inexpensive $2.25 a pound. Their biggest customer is Costco where the fish is sold at a much higher price. The store employee told me that all the fish was shipped from Manitoulin Island to the Costco warehouse in Toronto, a good 4 hour drive away, and then it was driven back to the Costco outlet in Sudbury and other stores in the province. She said there were no local retail outlets who bought their product directly. Most of the big grocery chains buy and distribute food this way. No wonder the consumer pays a premium price for many items.
I finished the book The Omnivore's Dilemma and recommend it highly to anyone who is interested in understanding how food is produced and marketed in North America. It sure has made me more aware of the impact of my food choices, not only for my health, but for the environment.