By Jackie Hernandez
As an (untrained) anthropology enthusiast, I sometimes find myself pondering the roots of our food culture and how it affects our lives. Why do we get (or not get…) chocolates, of all things, on Valentine’s Day? When did quinoa become every Angelino‘s best friend? And most recently, how can I use food culture to help others? This last question came about as I realized how much food affects our mood, our health, our appearance, our environment, our wallet, and arguably, our effectiveness in school and work. Yikes! Food is a huge deal. Plus, food and eating bonds people together and is a form of cultural expression…. For example, as a Californian, I really related to this video while studying abroad in Australia… (skip to 1:40)
I feel, girl, I feel.
Despite being aware of the importance of food, I know I fall into bad eating habits sometimes, like skipping breakfast or relying on processed foods. I also know that there are many people who are in far worse eating situations, due to lack of healthy alternatives. For them and for myself, I started to take an active interest in urban gardening and how it has the potential to change the way a community eats.
For example, one man in South Los Angeles named Ron Finely started planting vegetables in “parkways”– also known as “that little strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road.” His hard work eventually made it possible for families to plant certain foods in public spaces, giving them easier access to healthy foods, not to mention, a new community-bonding recreational activity. I wanted to do the same. Of course, I hadn’t attempted gardening since the third grade, after a field trip to a Los Angeles tree sanctuary in which each child got to take home a tree seed, a seedling planter, and their best intentions to grow a new life. Unfortunately, my young sprout perished in its planter, thanks to a massive pine tree that heavily shaded my apartment window. Ironic, I know.