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Join the “Food Revolution” on May 19th

At the farmer’s market in downtown Evanston, I cashed in eight coins of green plastic, each worth a dollar, to a small, middle-aged woman named Oriana. She was selling specialty fruits and vegetables, including pawpaws, persimmons, and watercress, from her orchard and nursery in northwestern Illinois. Her eyes expressed disbelief that one college student would be consuming two pounds of watercress in one week, when most families would pick up just one half-pound bag.

For $8, I got a week’s worth of watercress for salads, green smoothies, and juices, all while supporting a local farm and asserting my preference for sustainable agriculture. Buying plenty of fruits and vegetables and foregoing processed junk food is my own way of tapping into food activism. But communities around the world can get together to discuss their own roles in the movement on May 19, a day dedicated to the “food revolution.”

English Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver announced Food Revolution Day via YouTube, as part of his larger campaign to inspire people, especially children, to educate themselves about what goes into their food and where it comes from. Oliver encourages  “schools, businesses, chefs, restaurants and food lovers” to get involved in Food Revolution Day. They can host dinner parties or local events, or attend an activity in their area to get the conversation started.

Bringing food education into schools and empowering people with the skills to cook healthy meals at home rank high on Oliver’s list of long-term goals for the campaign. Funds raised from the community events hosted that day will go toward the Jamie Oliver Foundation’s food education projects in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. One of these projects involves giving out Food Education Boxes, stocked with a piece of fruit, recipes, and fun facts that aim to get school children thinking about eating fruits and vegetables.

Although 2012 marks the first official Food Revolution Day, the “good food” movement is already well under way. Rather than swallowing the marketing campaigns of food corporations, Americans have started to speak out about what kind of food we want. That’s why McDonald’s abandoned the use of “pink slime" in its burgers in February, why strawberries are now free of the pesticide methyl iodide, and why Starbucks stopped using the insect-derived dye cochineal in favor of the more vegan-friendly coloring agent, lycopene. Big victories like these drive the movement, but the revolution can occur on a smaller level too—and it may not happen overnight.

I became vegetarian when I was in middle school, but I can’t claim I was a big eater of vegetables. There are plenty of kids who, like I was, are satisfied eating pizza and a cookie in the cafeteria and avoiding spinach and carrots like the plague. I waited until college to start educating myself about nutrition because that information wasn’t really available to me before. And although I don’t buy all of my food local and organic, I’ll gladly pay a part of my student budget for food that’s not only good for me, but also good for the farmer and the land on which it grows.

Krislyn Placide is a student at Northwestern University and an intern with the Center for a New American Dream. 

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