Food is essential. It sustains us, it comforts us, and it brings us together in community. Our bodies crave it, our days are punctuated by it and yet, for many, our relationship with it is fractured. As someone who grew up in an urban environment, food, as I knew it, came from the grocery store. Much of it was sold in boxes, bags or cans that advertised how quickly and easily it could be prepared – Just pop it in the microwave and, presto, dinner!
As a teenager, I started questioning my diet. What was this food that I was eating? Why were there so many ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce? Where did it all come from? I began to minimize my consumption of packaged and fast foods and turn more to fruits and vegetables and other foods that I could readily identify. My curiosity intensified as an adult. I read books, watched documentaries, taught courses on sustainability with a focus on food, and participated in activities that expanded my understanding of agricultural practices. All of this has led me to the belief that our personal, communal, economic, and environmental health is best when we have a more intimate connection with our food and its source.
This past summer, my husband, Jim, and I relocated to the Cedar Valley. I was confident that our new home in the heartland of this country would provide me with great opportunities to continue my education about modern food practices and production. Shortly after we arrived, I was excited to learn about the efforts happening here to build a food co-op, exactly what I have been craving since those early days of questioning. Although a food co-op provides a place to buy fresh, healthy, ethically sourced food, it is not just a grocery store in the traditional sense. It is also a community space for the exchange of ideas and information, it is a place where we can learn from and be inspired by our neighbors, and it is an opportunity to gather around practices that promote a happy, healthy lifestyle.
My family has felt the warm embrace of the Cedar Valley community from the moment we arrived, which has inspired me to want to give back in meaningful ways. My eagerness to participate as an active member of the food co-op is a direct result of that inspiration. I believe in the power of a food co-op to bring people together in celebration of food, rekindling a relationship with the very stuff that sustains us, to heal the fracture that separates us from what nourishes us.