Each May, the craving for fresh food reawakens with the earth. As if we’ve been hibernating all winter, we Michiganians emerge from our dens, blinking in the glare of a sun we’ve rarely seen in six months and say to ourselves, “I want fruit and vegetables.” The difference is that unlike creatures that actually hibernate, most of us start spring with an extra layer of fat created by long, snowy weekends spent watching movies and eating chips.
Fruits and vegetables are the new darlings of dieticians, or perhaps they’ve always been. When I was a child, the “food guide pyramid” was built solidly on a foundation of grains. Honestly, that pyramid was much more appealing to me than today’s recommendations; I shamelessly admit that bread and butter is my bread and butter. However, even a cursory Internet search will reveal that recommending six to 11 servings of grains per day was the clever work of some lobbyist who either did not take his advice or now has diabetes.
When it comes to vegetables, I’m not that adventurous. Growing up, I suffered under the misunderstanding that vegetables was a synonym for green beans, since they were the only vegetables ever to grace the Pressley family’s dinner table. However, as the prevailing wind of healthy eating seems to be blowing from the Flint Farmers’ Market, which is scheduled to open at its Downtown location this summer btw, I suppose it’s time to get outside my comfort zone and experiment. What exactly is a parsnip, anyway?
My primary difficulty with produce, aside from the fact that I’m a picky eater, is the expense. Fresh fruits and veggies, especially organic ones, aren’t cheap. For those of even more limited means, produce is often out of the question. People who struggle with hunger must stretch their food budgets to stave off the pain of an empty stomach, maximizing every purchase by choosing inexpensive, high-calorie foods such as breads, cookies and highly processed snacks. The result of this poor nutrition is often obesity and related health problems.
Although I’ve simplified the problem a bit, the fact that food-insecure people have limited access to proper nutrition just breaks my heart. What’s the solution? you may ask. Well, it so happens that the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan just kicked off the public campaign for the Hunger Solution Center, scheduled to open next January. President/CEO Bill Kerr explained how this facility will increase the Food Bank’s ability to distribute produce to the hungry from four million pounds to 12 million pounds. Yes, you read that right. Think for a moment about what thrice the amount of produce will mean for the people whom the Food Bank serves.
As Old Man Winter takes his turn at hibernation through the long days of sunshine and the fragrance of growing things, I’ve decided to be grateful for my access to fresh food by trying new vegetables. Or perhaps I’m just delirious with the joy of spring. Let me know which veggie dishes I should try: email a recipe to email@example.com. Happy Spring!