Community stories: Rules, beliefs, and values about food

Article was written by Terri Ward, FoodWIse Nutrition Administrator, Kenosha and Racine Counties
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Two things I absolutely love just so happen to tap into my creative streak and unite people: food and stories.

After all, everybody eats and there’s nothing like a story to honor the human experience, explain a perspective, and inspire ideas and connections. FoodWIse educators learn from our community members every day by hearing stories about their food rules, beliefs and values that further influence dietary choices and behaviors.

We witness a lot of “aha” moments as learners connect beliefs and values to their own habits or challenges surrounding food and meals. We share strategies that support positive health behavior change, many learned from our partners and students, through sharing stories.

I’m inspired by this aspect of our work and also curious how we can connect our community members by better understanding beliefs and values surrounding food and eating. We want to hear from you: What is an underlying rule, value, or belief about food that affects your food choices or patterns? I’ll go first!

As my children get older and cook more for themselves and our family, I share tips about how to “rescue” produce, extend the life of food, and use foods we have on hand before they go bad. Yes, there is eye rolling.

When they see a brown spot on a vegetable, or feel a soft spot on an apple, they immediately make the yuk face and head for the trash, where I try to intercept to show them how to cut out the spot to save and use the rest of the food.

In spite of their irritation, or maybe because of it, I feel, as most parents do, it’s important to teach them habits that will help them be successful adults. I also recognize not wasting food is an important value for me. Where did this come from?

I was raised in a home where “not wasting food” was a core value. Wasting food was even considered a moral transgression. Yes, there was eye rolling. But I can still hear both of my grandmothers’ comments about starving people (they lived through the great depression prior the establishment of a federal food safety net) and how we need to be thankful for what we have and use it wisely. I also worked as a chef for many years where food cost is a metric that can make or break a business, so I have strong understanding of how incremental waste quickly adds up to money down the drain.

That same value, not wasting food, can also easily lead to some unhealthy behaviors, like parents and caregivers over-serving youth and demanding youth “clean their plates”. This is one example that illustrates how unhealthy patterns might begin and may lead to eating disorders, overeating, obesity, or other food related problems. The intentions, or underlying values, are “good” but sometimes there can be unintended consequences.

We hear stories like these often and would love to hear from you! Follow the link to share your story: https://forms.gle/AJGRqXKXwzTJLis47.

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