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This week brings another update from Eleanor Baron’s Nourishing Words Blog out of Concord, New Hampshire, where a group is participating in NWEI’s  Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability discussion course. This post offers up reflections from Session Three: A Healthy Appetite. To follow Eleanor’s blog, click here.

Each week, we begin with an “opener,” offered by one person who shares a thought, a memory, an object—anything relating to our work in this course. It gets us thinking and talking. Beth, as an opener for Week 3, brought a bag full of packaged foods from her home cupboards, most of which were labeled “organic.” What we passed around surprised us all. One by one, we read the labels, revealing marketing claims, additives, chemicals and trans fats lurking in the fine print. The exercise left us all feeling a bit humbled, wondering what’s in the shadows of our cabinets and cupboards at home.

Our readings had primed us for talking about how our food choices impact our health and how packaging and marketing affects our decisions. Already an arguably conscious group regarding food choices, one by one we realized our weak points—what could stand closer scrutiny. We talked about our go-to comfort foods, the foods we eat without much thought at all and foods we’ve long ago given up. We talked about how we make food choices in the first place.

It’s easy, in this world of food awareness, to feel a bit smug in our choices. After all, we’re gardening organically, shopping at farmers markets, joining CSAs and striving to fill the cupboard with unpackaged, real, whole foods. With a few exceptions that we’re prepared to chock up as minor, we’re doing the right things.

But why? … (*To read Eleanor’s full post, click here).

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. ~ Mary Oliver

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For those of you following NWEI’s blog, you may recall that local food is a buzzing topic in Oregon and Washington’s Columbia River Gorge region, where nine groups recently met to participate in NWEI’s Menu for the Future discussion course. This week we have an update from Gorge News:

Starting the week of Feb. 20, nine different groups of eight to 10 people met once a week for six weeks in towns across the gorge including Goldendale, The Dalles, Hood River, White Salmon-Bingen, Stevenson-Cascade Locks and Mosier.

On Sunday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m., the Mosier group (hosted) one big community potluck at the Mosier Grange with all 80 participants from each of the individual groups.

Using the Menu for the Future discussion course book (created by the Northwest Earth Institute), these groups of diverse citizens explored the confusing number of food choices and contradicting information around health, fair trade, industrial agriculture, organics, family farms, sustainable food systems, GMOs and other juicy topics related to the food system.

The Mosier group of around 10 volunteers facilitated and organized the Let’s Talk Food Discussion groups because of their enthusiasm for the Menu For the Future curriculum. After the Mosier Group participated in the discussion course last winter, they were inspired to take action. They started their own Farmers’ Market in downtown Mosier last summer and have now organized the food discussion groups this spring with hopes that other communities will also become active in their food system.

A number of local establishments helped by providing a place for the groups to meet including 10 Speed East in Mosier, JoLinda’s in Stevenson, Solstice Pizza in Bingen, Presbyterian Church in The Dalles, Grow Organic and Dog River Coffee in Hood River.

Scholarships for the course books were available from Gorge Grown Food Network, which made it possible for anyone to participate regardless of income.

For more information call Emily Reed of the Mosier group at 503-360-3532.

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