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Nicki Anderson: Start your own Slow Food Movement

Tomatoes on display at the farmers market outside the Louis Joliet
Mall are grown in a hydroponic greenhouse in Channahon by Rainbow
Harvest | Photo by Bob Okon~Sun-Times Media
Tomatoes on display at the farmers market outside the Louis Joliet Mall are grown in a hydroponic greenhouse in Channahon by Rainbow Harvest | Photo by Bob Okon~Sun-Times Media

It’s that time of year when my garden is more than generous with selections of fresh vegetables and berries. Plucking a black raspberry off the bush and popping it into my mouth makes me feel lucky. Lucky because I have the luxury of eating fresh, seasonal foods, seven months of the year.

But I can’t help thinking about those who don’t have access to healthy food, much less fresh garden food. Perhaps the Slow Food Movement that was popularized a few years ago may be a starting point to raise awareness and access to good-for-you food.

I had never heard of the Slow Food Movement until a few years ago when I was doing a story on a restaurant in town that was a big proponent. The Slow Food Movement encourages taking the time to enjoy good food and understanding that the food you’re eating is not only healthy for you, but great for the environment and those who produce the food. Basically, it’s the antithesis of fast food.

I wonder if things might be different if there weren’t more than 160,000 fast-food restaurants in America. They make eating processed, unhealthy foods so easy. I can’t help but believe that much of the disease our country suffers from is a direct result of the food that is consumed.

The idea of going into my backyard and using the harvest to plan a meal is incredibly gratifying. But the reality is that many people don’t have access to healthy food much less the time or place to grow their own food. But that doesn’t preclude you from starting your own Slow Food Movement.

There are actually Slow Food chapters all over the world — with 200 chapters in the U.S. The idea of these chapters is to bring people together to learn about foods and traditions important to their region. There are four chapters in Illinois, the closest in Chicago. (slowfoodchicago.org).

To start your own Slow Food Movement, begin by supporting your local farmers. Staying close to home not only benefits your health and the health of your family but the environment as well. It’s a great starting point.

Local farmstands include: Keller’s Farmstand, Wagner’s, Mayneland and Weber Farms. Go online, type in the name of the farm, and you’ll find location and hours.

If you’d like to have your own garden, but space is a challenge, check out Naperville Park District Garden Plots (napervilleparks.org). The plots are a perfect way to start your own garden and connect with residents with the same interest.

If you’re not a green thumb and time is an issue, you can visit the Farmers Market at 5th Avenue Station from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. There are other farmers markets around town along with surrounding communities, including Wheaton and Glen Ellyn.

Another option I highly suggest checking out is the Green Institute in south Naperville. The institute offers education about farming and food as well as food co-ops. In addition to adult education, the 60-acre farm has programs for kids with a focus on nature, healthy foods and caring for the earth. The Green Institute is a not-for-profit organization that took over the McDonald farm with the vision of growing organic vegetables. At last count, they have more than 40 crops of vegetables. This little gem in Naperville is definitely worth a visit.

When I think about all the unhealthy food options that are so convenient, I understand why it’s easier for folks to eat more of that and less of the healthy options. But even starting a simple tomato plant or growing your own herbs is an easy way to gradually build your own Slow Movement and move away from the world of fast food.

The best part is that fresh, locally grown food helps farmers and it is your best defense against disease and obesity. Eat well, live well!

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