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Household Food Security Handout

Mendo Food Futures

During times of economic instability more attention is paid to the very basics in life, such as food.Food is grown and moved from farm to fork by what is called the “food system.” The current food system in the United States depends on energy intensive agriculture, food processing, and long-distance transportation. Few of us get our food from the land we live on, or even from the state where we live. If any one of several potential external threats, such as an earthquake, economic collapse, fossil fuel depletion, or disease pandemic, were to occur we would lose access to affordable, reliable food.

Our security and local economy will be improved by developing a local food system, but this will take time. This handout addresses, in general terms, what steps households can take to be more resilient during a crisis, save money, improve family health, and help build a local food system. For details, look for topic specific handouts, and see the list of resources at the end.

Step 1. Create a food buffer

A person needs, on average, about 2400 food calories per day, most of which come from staples such as grains and dry beans. Plan to store at least about ¾ pound of grains and ¼ pound of beans per person per day. In addition to the grains and beans, store dried or canned fruits and vegetables, cooking oils, honey or sugar, and seasonings. Some people like to include powdered milk, sprouting seeds, multivitamins, and “treats” in their food buffer.

Step 2. Tend a Garden

The best fruits and vegetables you could ever eat will likely be those harvested right outside your home. While fresh produce isn’t dense in calories, it does provide essential vitamins, minerals and the flavors that make food enjoyable. If you don’t have the space where you live, perhaps a neighborhood or community garden is possible. To maximize the return on your efforts and provide for a diversity of food year-round, the following crops are recommended for the Willits area: kale, tree collards, chard, lettuce, potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, green beans, winter squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peas, garlic, potato onions, walking onions, common storage onions, table grapes, apples, raspberries, and strawberries.

Step 3. Know how to cook with whole foods and local produce

Getting accustomed to a diet based on whole foods and seasonal fruits and vegetables may take some time and learning. Doing so, however, usually pays off in terms of improved health and lower food expenses. The grains and vegetables are often accompanied by meats. One way to make a single purchase of meat last a week is to buy large, unprocessed cuts and use them as parts of many meals.For example, a whole roasted chicken can also become chicken pieces in a stir fry and a chicken soup base.

Step 4. Support local farmers

A local food system needs local farmers. Currently, most local produce can be found at Farmers’ Markets and through farm subscription programs, often called CSAs. Some of us can’t garden, and most of us won’t satisfy all our needs from household gardens, but we can support the livelihoods of those who do farm in our area by buying local food.

Step 5. Learn a useful skill

Aside from gardening and cooking, there are many skills that could be performed as enjoyable hobbies that would enhance food security. Food preservation comes to mind, including the arts of drying, fermenting, and cheese making. But opening a book on home economics or homesteading reveals ways to usefully occupy time, save money, earn income in work or trade, and improve community self-reliance.

Step 6. Join and share

True food security requires broad participation. Just imagine if yours is the only household on the block to be healthy and prepared for a crisis. Encourage others to take these steps, and better yet, do them together. Save money and time by sharing resources. Friends and neighbors can be great morale boosters and problem solvers for each other, which is especially important during stressful times. How might places you work, and the restaurants, stores, churches and clubs you frequent be part of the solution?

Resources

Web: For comprehensive information related to Mendocino County see: http://gardensproject.org/ and for more background on food security and related links see: http://www.foodsecurity.org/ and http://www.kitchengardeners.org/.

Books: For seasonal cooking a great start is Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice. For gardening, see titles by John Jeavons, Carol Cox, Steve Solomon, and various practitioners of permaculture. Keeping Food Fresh and Preserving Summer’s Bounty will guide food preservation. An encyclopedia of preparedness is When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein.

Community Groups: In Willits, the primary groups planning and organizing work towards a local food system are the Willits Action Group (WAG), and Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL). Look for their events in the local paper, find them at the Willits Farmers’ Market booth on Thursday afternoon, or call their offices at 456-9005 and 459-7076 respectively.


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