Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

Why Good Food Is Glue For Communities, and Two Organizations Fighting the Good Food Fight.

A story of two organizations who are across the world from each other, but still understand how communities are brought together and empowered — with food.

Good Food Is Community Glue

Before I talk about how local food culture can be the glue to a community, let’s take a second to define “Good Food”. This is one definition of many, but I think it makes the most sense in a societal and community-health context.

Characteristics of Good Food

In the context of this article, good food is…

Note: Every bullet point links to a study or article that explains why it’s “good”. So if you don’t agree with me, read the attached links before arguing in the comments 😉

How Good Food Brings Together Communities

So how does good food bring together communities? It’s actually a simple positive feedback loop.

When people eat nutrient dense food, they feel better (90% of seratonin, the happy hormone, is located in the gut). Locally produced food tends to be much more nutrient dense and minimally processed.

When you buy whole foods, you need to cook them, and cooking acts as a great opportunity to socialize with the people you’re close to when compared to the alternatives. Michael Pollan explains it well:

We forget how much time it can take simply to avoid cooking: all that time spent driving to restaurants or waiting for our orders, none of which gets counted as ‘food preparation’. And much of the half-hour saved by not cooking is spent watching screens.

So all of these characteristics of good food build on one another, and ultimately culminate in people eating together more. Another way good food brings together communities is through the buying process.

If you’re buying food that’s locally produced, you’re likely buying it through a produce share, farmers market, or local store. The person you’re buying it from likely wants to share the story of that food with you and how it made it’s journey from seed (or fetus for the non-vegans) to your hands. This “food story” weaves together the different pieces of your community that came together to put this food in your hands.

Once you become aware of who produced your food and how they did it, it’s much easier to feel grateful towards those people and processes. And gratitude is the ultimate connector in our lives.

Hopefully this helps you understand how good food helps families and communities become more connected.

Now, to look at some amazing people/organizations who are fighting the Good Food Fight.

Organizations Creating Massive Local Action Through Good Food

These are two organizations who I’ve been blessed to work with. I wanted to share their story with the world, and why the work they’re doing is so important.

Mangwende Orphan Care Trust Permaculture Center

Have you heard what’s happening in Zimbabwe?

It’s pretty dire. Here’s the short version:

  • Robert Mugabe lead Zimbabwe to Independence in 1980, was president until 2017, and was popular but made some poor decisions.
  • There was a coup in 2017 by Mugabe’s right hand man Emasoni Dambudzo Munangangwa.
  • The ensuing corruption, inflation, and droughts left many people lacking food and other essentials.

You can read more about the status of Zimbabwe here.

In this context, Evans (prounced eevans) Mangwende is creating a permaculture-inspired farming network. Evans is the son of a powerful chief in Zimbabwe. His father was the leader of a district of 336 villages, and while Evans’ uncle has inherited that position, Evans has used his natural charisma, intelligence, and leadership to gain trust with many of these villages.

He spends most of his time in the Marembo and Mzembe villages, where the Permaculture Education Center is going to be focused. You can see exactly where the area is at this link.

Evans in front of one of the huts that will become lodging in his Permaculture Education Center.

He wants to give power back to people in Zimbabwe through educating them on how to grow a diverse collection of food, from mangoes to papayas to jackfruits.

He wants to end the dependence on imports and transform his network of villages into a food production powerhouse that provides both nutrition and economic opportunity that his people have been lacking in these tumultuous times. Here’s what he’s been doing to make this happen, as described wonderfully by Robin Woolner:

First off, Evans obsessively grows fruit trees and collects fruit seed. Everyone he knows has started little nurseries growing fruit trees from his seed. His mom, friends but most importantly, the farmers in the villages. On our walks he would frequently stop by a farmer and chat for a while, then he will get very serious and say, “I need you to do something for me.”

They say, “what can I do, chief?”

“you must grow these fruit tree seeds for me. I will be by to check on them soon.” He then teaches them how to grow papaya, avocado, or whatever seeds he brought.

The farmers are almost always excited to do it. He later explained to me that he will only take a few trees, the farmers are growing the trees for themselves unknowingly. In this way he has already begun a massive decentralized nursery project at almost no cost. There is also the subtle beginning of food forest education. By already growing the trees farmers are beginning the process of starting their own food forest and are more likely to want to be educated in agroforestry and permaculture when opportunities arise.

I’m currently working with an amazing team from a Gaia Education program to get Evans the funding necessary (around $5,000 to start) to build a more permanent education center where people from all over the region can come. There, they will receive education and hands on training that allows them to bring regenerative farming techniques to their villages.

Want to get involved or support this project? Here’s how you can do so:

  • Visit the gofundme page, donate a couple bucks, and share it with all of your friends!
  • Follow the Facebook Page for updates!

That’s a Good Food movement in Sub-Saharan Africa that is uplifting communities. Now, we’ll travel west to the equally sunny and hot Phoenix Arizona (that’s where I live 😛)

Orchard Community Learning Center

While Phoenix isn’t in dire circumstances as Zimbabwe, there are communities that could be healed with good food. Almost half the people of South Phoenix is Hispanic or Native American, and a quarter of those populations are below the poverty line. Access to affordable and convenient Good Food is essential to these marginalized communities who are trying to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Here’s a few programs they have in action to promote a Good Food system in South Phoenix:

Food to Food Composting

Here’s how it works:

  1. Households and restaurants give their food waste to The Orchard.
  2. The Orchard uses their awesome process to turn this food waste from potential landfill waste into healthy compost. In doing so, they prevent methane from being emitted from the food waste and further screwing up our changing climate.
  3. The Orchard sells this plant-based compost to local farmers at reasonable rates. Since they’re experts at creating good compost, it’s really healthy. And guess what happens when you have healthy compost to fuel your soil? More nutrient dense food :)

Healthy Roots Café

The Healthy Roots Café is probably the most wholesome thing I’ve ever heard of. The menu is all plant-based and sourced from local farmers. The food is served by kids that go to V.H. Lassen Elementary school, so the kids can understand the connections between food and community from a young age. Check out the Facebook Page for more info.

STEA³M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Activism/Agriculture/Arts, Math) Education

They added Activism and Agriculture to STEAM! That’s freaking cool.

With this program, The Orchard works with local schools and community organizations to offer workshops & camps for youth, field work experiences, raised bed garden installation, and on-site garden coaching. They help kids build hands on skills, learn how to work in a team, and develop a closer relationship to their community.

These are my favorite programs that The Orchard is doing, but you can see the whole Gamut on their website (made by yours truly 😉). They also manage and sell produce at multiple farmers markets.

In summary, they’re supporting local farmers, making local food more available to the community, and teaching kids the importance of a sustainable food system, and how to play their part in creating one. That’s doing some work for Good Food!

Do You Want to Support what The Orchard is doing? Here’s how you can do so:

Playing Your Part In Spreading Good Food

The great thing about the good food movement is that it’s easy to get involved. Just pay attention to what you eat and where it comes from! Spread that awareness to others in a way that’s not intrusive and judgmental. Get enthusiastic about how fun engaging with good food is!

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Go grocery shopping at the farmers market and bring a different group of friends every time.
  • Use the groceries from the farmers market to plan a dinner with your close family and friends. Make this a weekly thing that everyone can look forward to.
  • Make small changes in your diet and snacking. Instead of snacking on processed candy, try apples and peanut butter. Instead of Jamba Juice, buy your own produce and make a smoothie every morning. As Michael Pollan said, the convenience of making things in your home will save you time from standing in line and driving.
  • Talk with community organizations (HOA associations, your hobby groups, etc) about hosting large potluck dinners where all the members share their favorite recipes.
  • Donate to organizations promoting Good Food and making it more accessible to your community.

Do you have any other ideas or things you’re doing right now to promote Good Food? Let me know in the comments!

Good Food Revolution

Are you inspired yet? I hope so, because I’ve worked myself into a frenzy 😅.

But to recap…

Good Food is:

It’s the glue of communities. And could be the glue of your community too.

How do you get started? Eat Good Food.

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