When you’re hungry, a question like “How did this food get to me?” is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, how your food made its way from field to factory to your plate is very important. The way that food is grown or raised, the way it is processed or not, how it is shipped to the store or restaurant or to you home, all affect our planet.
- Growing fruits, vegetables and grains takes a lot of water.
- Raising animals for food uses up a lot of those grains and even more water, and animals release methane into the air when they burp and pass gas. (Methane is a greenhouse gas.)
- Many "food fish" populations are endangered or close to it.
- Processed and pre-prepared foods take huge amounts of water and energy and fuel to cook or bake. to keep the factories running and to ship to market.
- Food packaging creates a lot of waste.
- Uneaten food usually ends of in landfills, and as it rots it produces methane gas.
What's a growing, hungry kid to do?
Try to eat things that were once alive. The closer your food is to its source, the less processing that went into it, and the better it is for our planet overall. Fruits and vegetables and nuts, straight from the tree, vine or ground, are always great choices. With everything else, try to choose foods that have few ingredients, and also ingredients that you understand. You should be able to imagine how your food was prepared.
Read labels. There are three things that labels can teach you: what's in your food, who made it and how it will affect your body.
- The ingredients list should be simple and easy to understand, but do not be turned off by ingredients with long and complicated names. It's possible that they are perfectly okay. For example, sodium bicarbonate is just plain old baking soda!
- Many companies in the food business are trying to be responsible and to do the right things for the planet. There are labels which can help you recognize these companies. Visit our Food Labeling page to see pictures and learn about them.
- How foods affect your body is covered by the nutrition label. You should learn to interpret things like calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, carbohydrates and fiber, as well as common vitamins and minerals.
Learn to cook. When you prepare foods yourself, three good things happen:
- You have a better understanding of what is in your food, and this will make you a more responsible buyer.
- You are more likely to try new things, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.
- You will crave freshly prepared food because you will see that it is so delicious.
You will also be doing your family a favor, helping out and helping everyone to be healthier.
Reduce your food waste. The food that you throw in the trash usually ends up in landfills where it sits and rots. rotting food produces methane which is a greenhouse gas that in large quantities is harmful to the atmosphere. Wasting food also means that all of the water, energy and fuel that went into growing, processing, packaging and shipping that food, also goes to waste. Wasting food also wastes the money that was spent on it. It wastes the time of the person who prepared it. Finally, in every community there are people who are hungry and do not have access to enough food. Most supermarkets and restaurants participate in programs to give extra food to food banks. When you throw away the food you bought or took home, that is food that could have gone to someone else in our community. How much food are you wasting? Find out, by trying our Food Waste Audit.
Try growing your own food. If you've ever wanted to try a green thumb on for size, you live in the right place. South Florida’s sub-tropical climate means we have warm, garden friendly weather all year round. The best part is- you can do garden fruits, vegetables right in your own backyard or in a school yard garden. When you can grow your own food close to home, no matter how you do it, you are taking a strain off of the environment by eliminating the pollution it would take to transport the food to your grocery store. Check our page on Vegetable Gardening in South Florida.
Want to learn even MORE about healthy choices? Visit Choose My Plate, a USDA website that provides nutrition guidelines, and tips on remaining healthy and fit! Make sure to play their Blast Off Game to see if you can fuel up with the right foods and correct amount of exercise! There are also Sample Menus and Recipes.