Healthy Plate, Healthy Planet series:
By Carol Spearman, Becketwood Member
More and more people in our community are having reactions to certain foods. For some it is a matter of feeling uncomfortable if they eat an ingredient to which they are sensitive, but for others it can be life threatening. In our congregation up north where we had a monthly potluck, soup and bread dinners during Lent, and a whole host of community dinners, several of our members decided they couldn't participate because of their allergic reactions to food. At Becketwood we serve daily meals, have special events with dinner included, and serve treats at many meetings. Several people with food reactions have shared that they must stay away from such events because it is difficult to explain why they can't indulge in what is offered. How can we be more sensitive about food issues and ensure that people are not excluded from meals and events?
Numerous health educators inform us that obesity, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer are often related to what we eat. Most of us ignore the information and continue to eat the things we enjoy. It seems that it is too much work to read labels. We can't afford organic produce, we protest. We can't believe our food is not good for us. We've made it to this age without problems, so why change now? But can we try to be more sensitive to the growing number of Members who have found that their health is related to the food they eat?
We can make a commitment to learn about the food system and how it affects the health of our Members, our children and grandchildren and others we care about. A good start might be to check the ingredient list of the items in your refrigerator and cupboards, particularly things like salad dressings, ice cream, bread, luncheon meats, barbecue sauce, soups, snack foods, beverages, crackers, cereals and any prepared food mixes. For instance, an average blueberry muffin mix has about 12 genetically modified ingredients. Anything with corn syrup, cornstarch, dextrose, soy, canola, artificial sugar or names you can't pronounce is likely to be a product that contain toxins. Your salad dressing may contain an anti-freeze called propylene glycol.
Many condiments available at Becketwood may have these ingredients. There is a group working with the Jason and the Food Service Committee that is making a list of these so that Members can have information to help them make better choices. You still might like to have your grape jelly with corn syrup, but you will know that there might be a better choice for your health.
Today, growing evidence exists that the heavy consumption of wheat is causing health issues. Today's wheat is far different from the wheat our ancestors consumed. In addition, extra wheat gluten is often added to our bread products, and many chemicals are used in the growing and harvesting process. More and more children and adults are becoming sensitive to wheat and some are finding that they are being diagnosed with celiac disease. Some people think it is a fad to avoid wheat or gluten, but wheat can be a serious problem for some of our Members. Others just feel better when they avoid bread, cereal and, of course, cookies and other sweets.
As we have new Members arriving, there is more awareness of how food reactions can affect health. A group of Becketwood Members are working across the Environment, Food Service and Wellness committees to gather more information about the connections between our food, our health and the well-being of the planet. If you see the title “Healthy Plate, Healthy Planet,” that's us. We want to share what we find through blogs, films, speakers, books, informational notebooks, and bulletin boards. We are just beginning and would welcome anyone who wants to join us.
Jason and his team are very willing to assist members by providing alternatives, but they need to know individual issues. We want to ensure that new Members, and those who have excluded themselves from the dining room and events, can fully participate at Becketwood. If you invite friends for lunch/snack or dinner, it might be wise to ask if they have any foods they avoid. People with food sensitivities don't want to be a bother, so they often avoid telling others about their issues. Asking can be helpful to them, because our recipes might include ingredients that could be harmful, regardless of how delicious the item tastes.
Protect yourself and those you love by taking the time to learn about the relationship between health and the food system. It might just improve your own health, as well as helping those who are already suffering from food-related problems.