Friday, September 14, 2007
Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today.
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Steamboat Springs Last month at the Strings in the Mountains tent, Steve Schroeder, former president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, talked about health care and the critical issues facing Americans as we try to live healthy lifestyles.
We may be living longer than ever, but people in 41 other countries, including most of Europe, live longer than us because of better health care and healthier lifestyles.
So what does this issue have to do with gardening? One of the top reasons the U.S. has slipped in rankings as a country providing a healthy living environment is that we've become addicted to a fast food culture, creating some of the heaviest people in the world with the shortest life spans. Behind genetic factors and smoking, obesity is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S.
Reliance on high-calorie, highly processed foods is a leading contributor to our country's obesity epidemic. Yes, Colorado has the lowest incidence of obesity of the 50 states, but did you know obese Coloradans nonetheless account for 17.6 percent of the population. And that percentage is on the rise. Sadly, this trend really has affected our children. The American Dietetic Association reports that french fries are the most popular vegetable and that one-third of young children eat virtually no vegetables at all.
One of the ways to combat obesity and embrace healthy eating is to slow down a little and savor our food. A movement started in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1989 to promote a culture of slowing down and knowing more about the food we eat has expanded to more than 100 countries. It's called the Slow Food movement, and we hear about it now and then through restaurant promotions such as at the new Bistro c.v. restaurant in Steamboat, which attempts to buy as much of its produce as possible from Colorado farmers.
Essentially, the Slow Food movement promotes and preserves local food products, culinary traditions and the stories behind them. This includes promoting the preservation of heirloom varieties of food and the formation of seed banks so gardeners can share these often hard-to-find varieties. The objectives also include promotion of local meat products, small-scale family farms and slaughterhouses as well as educating the public about the risks of factory farming, genetic engineering of produce and meat, and reliance on just a few varieties of produce.
Part of this movement also is about focusing on the rewards of learning about the food we eat, taking an interest in finding out where it comes from, and understanding how our food choices affect the rest of the world in terms of how much energy is expended to bring it to our table, how the animals and laborers who grow the food are treated, and what kinds of practices and chemicals the producer uses to grow our food.
Maybe our busy lifestyles or our financial situations won't allow us to spend time and money making our own pasta, cheese or juice drinks, but all of us can benefit from sitting down at a table or counter when we eat. And if we make just a small effort, we can learn about and appreciate the food that we eat.
To learn more about the Slow Food movement, visit www.slowfood.com or www.slowfoodusa.org.
Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Exten-sion Service Office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.