Tomorrow, the NC Council of Churches’ Rural Life Committee will convene the third biennial Come to the Table Conference. With meetings across the state over the next three weeks, the conference offers resources for faith communities working to relieve hunger and support local farms. Farmers will sit down with leaders in hunger relief; farmworker advocates will meet with nutritionists; pastors will talk with agriculture analysts; community workers and anti-poverty groups will share their perspectives with community gardeners and local food processors.
With this week’s Op-Ed article in the Raleigh News & Observer, the director of North Carolina’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems reminds us that these conversations are crucial to our physical and financial health, and the future of our state:
Subsidized, processed food is cheap and plentiful, but its long-term health costs are staggering. To the extent that the majority of such foods come from out of state, we are suffering a negative multiplier of sorts: in addition to the wealth we transfer out-of-state, we assume a health liability that grows each year.
By helping to make more local and fresh fruits, vegetables and other farm products available, we will not only impact food-related diseases, but also the health care costs the state incurs in treating them.
Availability of fresh farm products is one thing, but what makes us think they will be consumed more, especially by children who need to begin making sensible eating choices at an early age?
The answer is taste. Because we can grow varieties locally that can be picked at their peak of ripeness and nutritional quality – and have been bred for taste, flavor and nutrition rather than their ability to be picked green and shipped across the country – we can get kids to want to eat fruits and vegetables again. They will clamor (really!) for peaches and tomatoes, and we will change a mindset and our future.
Let’s get creative and utilize our important and rich natural resource base, long growing season and human capital, and bring our state back from the brink.
Come to the Table is all about getting creative! Workshop topics include community gardening, the theology of food and farming, organizing across communities, finding funding and support, cooking healthy, agriculture and food security issues in North Carolina, community financing, youth leadership, and more.
It’s not too late to register – visit www.cometothetablenc.org to learn more.