• Holly Rutherford

Food Center Friday Op-ed: Take what you can get, or advocate for what you deserve?


It's been a great week here at PRFC! We are busy coordinating, thinking about future endeavors and partnerships, and thinking lots about spring. Recently, Merrilee and I went to the Sangerville UU Church food pantry to pick up food for some of our homebound seniors. I was very happy to see that there were fresh vegetables from local farms donated to the food cupboard, and they had a great selection of turnips, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, squash and pumpkins. We're always told to "eat the rainbow," and the availability of these fresh foods certainly helps community members achieve that!

Lots of folks that fall within the low-income bracket have heard "take what you can get" so many times that they truly feel that they should be grateful for whatever they are given. How do you feel about this perspective? I find it to be difficult, because while I believe that gratitude is very important, we also need to understand that we're deserving of certain things. Everyone deserves equal access to healthy food, no matter how much money they make. Certain people don't deserve to eat lesser quality food or food that they dislike because they are facing hard times.

I went to a seminar about access to healthy foods in Vermont a couple of years ago, and we practiced repeating these phrases out loud:

Food preferences are important!

I'm allowed to have them!

I am deserving of healthy food!

It's okay to want to choose what food I put in my body!

I think that these are things that we don't hear often enough. I know and understand that many of the systems in place align more-so with the "take what you can get" attitude, but I don't think that there is any reason to take this to heart. I think that this attitude gives us even more of a reason to advocate for what we deserve.

What do you think? Were you raised with the "take what you can get" attitude, and still believe this to be a good principle?

Folks with children; do/did you cater to their food preferences or picky eating? This seems like such a tough call to me. My mom cared a lot about the food preferences of my sisters and I; she didn't necessarily prepare separate meals to accommodate what we wanted at the moment, but she taught me that it's okay to want to choose the what/when of eating. I was never forced to eat anything that I disliked, but I was encouraged to try new foods. I know, though, that I was lucky to have a mom who had the time and money to dedicate to such details. Many people were raised with the rule that they needed to finish all of the food on their plate, whether or not they enjoyed it or were hungry.

My response to this is: Doesn't this take away autonomy over one's body? Shouldn't we be teaching children about healthy eating while allowing exploration and preferences? Isn't there a better way?


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