Sure, it’s easy to focus on everything that’s wrong with the modern food system. The corn subsidies that make Coke and Doritos cheaper than tea and apples. The junk food industry that advertises sugar-coated sugar to our kids for breakfast. The research sponsored by food and beverage giants like Pepsi Co. All those things are serious problems. But keep it in perspective: we have plenty to be grateful for.
This spring was unusually cold and wet. But you didn’t have to worry that you’d end up going hungry because of it.
All the junk at the grocery store is annoying. But at least you know that if you’re hungry, there will be food available for you to buy, and you won’t have to stand in line all day to get it.
We take these things for granted. But this kind of food security wasn’t always available – and to many people on this planet, it still isn’t. So even though you might be (justifiably!) angry at the problems with the modern food system, here are 7 ways to help yourself keep it all in perspective and be grateful for what you have, even though it isn’t perfect.
1. Volunteer at a food bank
Hunger is not restricted to sub-Saharan Africa! Help out someone else and get a solid reality check on how fortunate you are by volunteering your time at a food bank, soup kitchen, or some similar organization. Not sure where to start? You can look up a food bank in your area here.
If you can’t find a food bank close to you, you can also just find someone in your community who could use a little help with making meals – maybe an older person who struggles to cook as much as they used to. Offer a ride to the grocery store, or an afternoon of your time to help cook up a big batch of chili or soup for the week.
2. Chat with a farmer
Good food takes an amazing amount of time and love to grow. It’s easy to forget that when food is so cheap, and when we can walk into any store and get whatever we want, whenever we want it. But talk to a farmer, and you’ll get the story of everything that has to happen before you can pick an apple up off the grocery store shelf. Ask about how your food is grown, what kinds of problems can pop up, or what the farmer has to do to make sure the food gets from seed to market intact.
Knowing the hidden worries and sleepless nights that go into your food will make you appreciate what an astonishing blessing it is to just waltz into the store and buy lunch.
3. Plant a garden
If you have space where you live, you can go one step further than talking to the person who grew your food: you can grow it yourself. Taking care of a plant from the seed to the table gives you a whole new perspective on how valuable and precious your food really is.
4. Volunteer on a farm
If you don’t have a garden of your own, you can often find volunteer opportunities at local farms, especially if the farm has a CSA program. It’s a great way to get out of the house, meet some new people, and get a whole new perspective on how much work it takes to bring fresh food to your table every day. After you’ve spent an afternoon yanking weeds out of the kale, you’ll never take your salad for granted again.
5. Eat a meal.
“But I already eat meals three times a day,” you say?
You put something in your mouth three times a day, chew it, and swallow it. And when you’re done, you’re no longer hungry. But is it really a meal? Do you actually sit down to eat mindfully and concentrate on your food? Do you share it with someone you love? Do you even close your email?
Eating a meal, with the focus on the food in front of you, can help you appreciate your food more. And if you have a loved one to share it with (or cook it for), even better.
6. Keep a food gratitude list
If you’re feeling sulky or irritated at Paleo or the world in general, writing down a “food gratitude” list is one of the quickest ways to break out of the funk. Just write down this sentence: “I’m glad I can eat this/these____________________ (fill in the name of the food here) because it _________________________ (fill in whatever health benefit you’re getting from the food).”
- I’m glad I can eat this sweet potato, because it gives me strength to lift heavy weights.
- I’m glad I can eat these eggs, because they give me energy to make it through the whole morning without a blood sugar crash.
- I’m glad I can eat this sauerkraut, because it helps me control my IBS symptoms so I can leave the house without worrying about my bowels.
7. Cook mindfully
Cooking is typically something we cram in around the rest of our lives. In the 20 minutes between work and the dentist, we’re zooming around the kitchen trying to throw together a salad for dinner. In the middle of the morning rush, we’re scrambling eggs with one hand and answering email with the other.
Some days, there’s just nothing for it: cooking has to squeeze into the gaps left by everything more important. But that shouldn’t be every day. Even if it’s only on the weekends, make the time at least occasionally to put on some relaxing music and take your time with a recipe. If you actually slow down and treat the cooking process as something to savor, it magically transforms from an annoying chore into a precious gift.