the challenge

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how difficult it can be to eat real food these days. By “real,” I mean food that you can prepare yourself from its natural state into a meal without the addition of preservatives, additives, or other synthetic chemicals. Probably one of the best ways to do this is to plant your own garden, but not everyone has the time or desire to grow their own food. Not everyone has access to a nearby farmer’s market, food co-op, or CSA (community-supported agriculture). It’s easy to defer to the convenience of packaged or prepared food from the store or fast food restaurant when this processed food is often much cheaper than its natural counterpart. Eating real food, knowing where it comes from, and having it at prices affordable to everyone is something we’ve moved farther and farther away from in our society. And in this economy, what keeps many people from choosing real food can be the expense.

But there’s also a groundswell that continues to gain momentum. It’s a reaction to the industrialized food choices, represented by CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations) and government-subsidized crops, and polluted by antibiotics, pesticides, processing and genetic manipulation. It’s a response to the declining health of a nation, with climbing obesity rates and related diseases, and children who for the first time may have decreased life expectancies as a result. It’s driven by people who want to do better for themselves and those they love and the world around them. It’s an effort by many to move back to our agrarian roots. It’s a move to a slower, simpler pace of life, though it might not be necessarily any easier to accomplish. One of these groundswells is Slow Food USA. It’s a “global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.” Slow Food USA has several programs to encourage, educate, promote, safeguard and connect people to their food and those who grow food. To address the issues of economy and cost of food, and take back the “value meal,” Slow Food USA has initiated the $5 challenge, and it will be happening on Saturday, September 17, 2011.

What’s involved in the challenge? On September 17, you can participate several ways. Cook a real food meal with friends and family that costs no more than $5 per person. Or host your own event, make it private or public, and invite people to participate. You can also try to find a local event in your city, if available, through the “Find A Meal” link on the $5 Challenge page on Slow Food’s website. If you’d like ideas for cooking your meal and meeting the real food criteria, click on the “Resources” listed at the top of the $5 Challenge page.

Sign up and join me. It’s a challenge I’m going to take. We can work together to restore the choice of affordable real food for everyone.

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