For Release November 23, 1999

Give Thanks for Your Food

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Over the years Iíve written a lot of different Thanksgiving columns. Iíve talked about Squanto and his "county extension agent" role with the Pilgrims.  Iíve talked about the all-American food of the Thanksgiving feast, and Iíve talked about all that we have to be thankful for and what I personally am thankful for. I started thinking again about what we have to be thankful for and that got me started thinking about our food.

A friend and I were visiting this weekend and talking about a few news items that had seemed to have captured Americaís attention earlier this year. Events that, when you really think about them, really shouldnít have been that big of a deal. In passing I mentioned that in Europe, these items wouldnít have been an issue. My friend responded, that was because Europe had bigger problems to worry about. Then he shocked me by saying, "Maybe what we need here are just a few more problems to help us realize what is important." Wow! Now thereís a concept and perhaps an all too true analysis of todayís American society!

Getting back to food now. How much do you now about the food you eat? I am constantly amazed at the responses to the question, "Where does your food come from?" Most consumers donít think about the source of their food beyond the grocery store or the fast food restaurant. You walk into any grocery store and you are faced with anywhere from 2 to 12 choices of the same food item. How many of us have walked into a grocery store for weeks on end to find half the shelves empty or only one brand of something you use on a regular basis? How many times have you not purchased an item or gone to a different store because, "they didnít have the brand I prefer."

How many times have you walked away from one or more meals a day and said or thought, "Wow, I ate too much that time!" How many times have you gone hungry this past year? I donít mean you were busy and ended up eating dinner two hours late, I mean you only had one meal a day and it was skimpy at that. Have you ever really calculated how much of your paycheck you spend on food and then separated out food prepared at home and food at restaurants?

Even though we have people in our own community, state and country that go to bed hungry many nights, we live in a nation of incredible food wealth. And all too often we take it for granted. We are at a crossroads in food production in this country. We will probably see massive changes over the next ten years. This is not a good time for farmers and we may lose quite a few farmers in coming years which will consolidate more and more of the U.S. food production in fewer and fewer hands. This is a very critical time for each and every food consumer to become much more knowledgeable about the food that they eat.

Later this week, many of us will be sitting down to a literal feast. A feast that is made possible by the hard working men and women who proudly call themselves farmers and ranchers. I trust that each and every one of you will take a few moments to think about those fine folks and their hard work and then give thanks for them and the fruits of their labor. Then start looking into what you can do to help keep as many of these food producers in business as possible.


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