My man and I start every morning with coffee. He buys his national brand at the grocery store. My favorite coffee, with its chocolaty aftertaste, comes from Mexico. I get the beans, roasted locally, from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. I am not ashamed that I’m a coffee snob or that I’m privileged enough to afford fresh roasted beans.
My husband is a man of habits, most of them good. He loves his canned mandarin oranges, and fresh ones when they’re in season. He eats an apple almost every night after dinner and drinks a glass of chocolate milk before bedtime. Only the milk and, sometimes, the apples are Oklahoma products. So much of what we eat and drink crosses borders. I have no desire to change that.
We are fortunate to live in a global economy that includes prospering local farmers and ranchers. I want people here and abroad to be as privileged as I am, able to enjoy healthy, good tasting food…and a good cup of coffee or tea.
The economics of food doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can support local foods while enjoying the things we can’t grow in our backyards.
But what if we don’t have access? What if we live in a food desert, miles from a grocery market? What if war or a border wall or tariffs stop the flow of foods we have come to depend on?
I often ask elementary students to make lists. Lists precede sentences, and groups of sentences on a common theme precede paragraph making.
This week they made lists of foods that couldn’t live without. The lists ranged from four items to 41. And that four-item list was hard to get. It started with one item: bread. The third grader finally added meat, raisins, and apples.
It was as plain as my own list that the foods we think we need are a mixture of the homegrown and the exotic, what we need to survive and what we need to satisfy certain longings.
Do we know the difference? Maybe in our quest to be food secure, learning what we need to thrive and knowing how to get it is where we should start.