Growing up in Iowa in an era much simpler and much more naïve, we did not have one “food day”. Real food was as much a part of our lives every day as the great seasons that rolled across the prairie. My German grandparents lived next door and cultivated a garden instead of grass for a backyard. Arbors of succulent concord grapes defined rows of string beans, tomatoes and sweet corn. My grandfather was in charge of the growing while my grandmother commanded the preserving, basting, baking and pickling! Pretty much everything we ate every day was real, local and organic. How else would one eat?
How else indeed, let’s fast forward 50 years. After eons of corn and soy subsidies most children think a meal sprouts magically from a box and that chickens have nuggets! We have edged so far away from our food supply that we have cultivated generations of eaters who simply don’t know where their food comes from.
At UNFI we strive to bring that which is produced at the farm to the table and reconnect those roots. We are North America’s premier organic and natural distributor. We work hard every day to be the unparalleled leader in the distribution, development and marketing of natural and organic, wellness, and specialty food products. We believe every day should be a food day and we embrace Food Day each October as a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. It is a way to celebrate the connections that are happening all over the country between schools and local food―sustainable real food!
We have a multitude of distribution centers across the land distributing real, healthy, and organic and natural food. We proudly service over 30,000 customers across North America with over 65,000 products and employ over 8,000 associates. Our associates really love Food Day because it exemplifies everything we are about!
Last October, UNFI held Food Day events at 20 of our locations across the country. Teams organized activities ranging from healthy potluck luncheons to full-blown farmer’s markets. We enjoyed juicing bars, hydroponics, and organic gardening demonstrations. Donations were made to food banks and local food groups. A few facilities even put together cookbooks with healthy recipes submitted by our associates. The focus was on the importance of eating nutritious, locally sourced food. Associates were encouraged to join Community Supported Agriculture programs and shop at their local farmer’s markets.
The UNFI Foundation partnered up with Food Corps and The National Farm to School Network providing them financial support and associate volunteering. We participated around the country building gardens, holding community events, and doing all sorts of other activities that connect kids to healthy food. One of our grants provided eight school districts across the country the opportunity to plan Food Day events. From Maine to New Mexico and Iowa in between, school children were given an opportunity to gain a better understanding of where food comes from. They grew food and visited working farms. They created organic vegetable gardens, took trips to local dairy farms and picked apples in the fall orchards. Classroom activities were transformed into culinary events such as making butter and cooking applesauce!
Suddenly these children have a glimpse into what real food is all about. They are able to make the connection that food comes from the soil in a magical combination of sun, clean water, cultivation and preparation. Food Day gives them the opportunity to understand that food is cultivated, harvested, cooked and enjoyed. From the farm to the table, it’s the way our grandparents lived and the way our children must learn to eat.
Farm to School Month and Food Day honors the past and cultivates the children and the future by eating real and eating local. The Food Day celebration is just around the corner, October 24th, and if you haven’t made plans to participate it’s still not too late. With many events in all 50 states celebrating Food Day there is bound to be an activity near you. By using the nifty map you can search for registered upcoming events near you using your city, state, address, or zip.
Eat real, get real and honor your culinary roots by celebrating Food Day, every day, with people you know and love.
© 2014, Melody Meyer. All rights reserved.