Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pulling together in tough times

Maybe I've read Casaubon's Book one too many times. Or maybe I've just been seeing too many headlines about shortages in Mexico or Zimbabwe.

But today on CNN Headline News I was shocked to see a story on food rationing at an American Costco. And I have to wonder: Is the U.S. approaching a food shortage, and what can we do about it?

It's no surprise that pain at the pump is impacting Americans. Prices overall are going up. Food banks all over Indianapolis - and, I suspect this country - are experiencing fewer donations and greater need.

What can we do?

From a humanitarian perspective, support your local food banks. Our neighbors need our help, and it doesn't take much to make a difference. Pick up an extra can or two of food when you're shopping next and deliver it to your local food drive. (My church makes it easy - just drop it in the shopping cart at the door.) Or bring by a meal to a neighbor who's experiencing tough times, whether it's a return home from the hospital or a loss of a job. If we all made minor adjustments to our habits, we could help so many people.

From a household perspective, support the local guys. As I found last weekend, often the cost for farmer's markets are similar to the stores (even with organic products), and the quality is better. Not to mention, you are supporting your local/regional economy, and you are reducing the amount of fuel associated with transportation costs.

Those of you with green thumbs can always plant a garden - no matter what the scale. Even a few pots with tomatoes can be planted from an apartment deck. And onions and garlic are among those simple plants that can be planted and can grow, no matter how brown your thumb actually is.

And, finally, watch your diet. Try to simplify where you can. Potatoes are more sustainable and require less resources than potato chips. Reduce the amount of animal proteins in your diet, as they require space for grazing as well as the grain resources to be fed. Create your own pasta dish instead of buying boxed Pasta-roni or another prepackaged item, which costs more and feeds less. By making simple, smart choices, you are reducing your environmental impact and your overall food costs.

Yes, we may be in for challenging times, but pulling together resources can go a long way towards making a difference.

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