Let’s kickoff this editorial with an exercise: Close your eyes and say one single word: food.
What images come to mind? Rows and rows of vibrant citrus trees speckling the horizon? Rolling pastures of grain waving like ever-moving sand dunes? Gardens as far as the eye can see brimming with seasonal vegetables?
Not even close?
For me, it’s an all-too-familiar (yet ever changing) food guide pyramid; back-of-the-box nutritional labels; quickly followed by packaging, packaging and more packaging—and I’m a CSA member!
If any of this imagery popped up for you, read on to explore a few ways that we as consumers and Cupertinians can abate this sterilization of our food system, revive our barren relationship with precious edibles, and help downsize our waistline along the way.
So why focus on food?
At a recent Transform workshop, I was shocked to learn that about 1/3 of kids in Santa Clara County are overweight or obese. Some say this is tied to a lack of physical activity (i.e. only 16 percent of kids in Santa Clara County are getting to school by biking or walking), others to our incessant craving of sugary sweetened beverages (i.e. one typical soda can has ~10 tsp. of sugar!).
Most public health advocates and practitioners agree that the best two ways to combat these staggering statistics is healthy eating and exercise (see the Let’s Move website to learn more).
Yet, before you head to your doctor or pediatrician to write a vegetable prescription, consider these resources that lie just outside your front door here in Cupertino.
As a resident of Cupertino, you really have it made when it comes to access to healthy food. All the NPR chatter about “food deserts” is focused far away from our land of chow-time abundance. Sure, what was once a city known for its aisles of apricot orchards has been replaced by concrete-laden food sources, but boy do we have some great local pickings (literally)!
Let’s start above ground where healthful edibles are available to all, green thumbs or not!
First, consider scouring the produce section of our local grocers and farmer’s markets. Certified Green Business, Monta Vista Market makes it easy by offering both Cupertino-grown produce for purchase (how’s that for local?) and a variety of other organic foodstuffs.
Stepping outside, farmer’s markets offer a way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful, and seasonal produce. In Cupertino, we are lucky enough to have not one, but two Farmer’s Markets: on Fridays at Vallco, which accepts CalFresh/EBT, and Sundays at the Cupertino Oaks.
If home or office-delivery of fresh organic and pesticide-free foods appeals to you (all mostly grown/produced within 100-miles of our lovely Silicon Valley), then local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Freshness Farms may just do the trick!
Now for the horticulturists and aspiring green fingers. In addition to the wealth of edible schoolyards and classrooms that speckle our school campuses, we have another great community resource: McClellan Ranch.
Did you know that the City boasts a 60+ plot community garden as part of its 18-acre natural preserve McClellan Ranch Park?
Did you also know that this garden is home to the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners vegetable trials, created to “help the public learn about growing tasty alternatives to the standard vegetable varieties sold in supermarkets”?
This space is perfect for individuals and families alike to learn about gardening and start to produce their own food. Have space in your own backyard?
Local nonprofit Valley Verde offers free gardening and nutrition classes AND will install a free raised bed garden for low-income community members. They also offer a fee-for service model, a low-cost Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Kit, and free guides for the aspiring gardener in all of us.
Wishing this piece narrowed your options down to one slimming, socially-conscious, environmentally beneficial, feel-good, food recommendation (think: edible wrappers)?
Well, this Cupertino local food roadmap is an attempt to help you navigate the healthy food choices that make the most sense for your family and ultimately “Make Food More Awesome.”
Whether you elect to grow or buy, these tips seek to improve your family’s health, shave your grocery bill, reduce your environmental impact (limiting associated pesticides, herbicides, and transportation fuel) and help you reduce food waste (compost!). And who knows, maybe gardens “as far as the eye can see” really will be a part of Cupertino’s not-so-distant future!