You’ve Graduated! Congratulations! Now What? Five Ways to Eat Local and Eat Healthy Away From Home, part one.
By Elena Gustavson
Here in the weekly Harvest Watch, we write about our local farm and food scene, but mostly as it pertains to us as adults of a certain age, who have a bit of life experience under our belts and knowledge to navigate the many choices in front of us. For young people, especially those who are just recently graduated from high school or college, they are entering a brave new world of how to advocate for their own healthy eating and how to use their limited resources to support local food and farms. There are dozens of fantastic resources out there on the internet, our bookstores and our libraries, but in preparing for this particular article and wrapping my head around what RAFFL can do to support the young people in our community, I thought I would post a few questions to my Facebook page. And wow! Am I glad I did. Within a few hours, I received a dozen plus comments chock full of practical, thoughtful ideas. There is so much wisdom out there, that it will take half a dozen articles like this plus as many workshops to put them all to good use!
Ultimately, what stood out, not only in my friend’s comments and the other articles and resources I looked into, is that there are five things that a young person can learn now, before heading off towards their new adventures in August. We tested a few of these ideas out last year, working with a group of students at College of St. Joseph for a series of classes we called “Beyond Ramen”. So pull up a chair and enjoy the read!
Learn to use a knife. Myself, as well as many others who teach cooking, are fervent advocates of basic knife skills. To use a chef knife properly, you open up a whole new world of possibilities in the kitchen. Three basic techniques, plus proper knife handling and cutting board, will allow a person to prepare a nutritious, delicious and inexpensive meal in less time than it can take you to order and pick up take-out. Trust me. It’s true.
Learn to read and use a recipe. Many young people I have worked with would tell me that they knew how to read a recipe, but then in practice, it wasn’t always true. And that isn’t surprising. If a young person is living at home where the adults are not only making the food choices, but also cooking them or in a dorm where a person has to use or rely on a meal plan, how can we expect our kids to know how to use a recipe if they rarely have the opportunity to do so? This summer, invite your teenager into the kitchen and make room for them to experiment with recipes, cooking food they like, either for themselves or the for others.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Farmers’ Markets really are great bargains. Local food has a reputation for being exclusive and expensive, but many of us working on food system issues in the State, we are looking to change that perspective so that more Vermonters can see Vermont grown food as their own. In addition, a recent pilot study by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, showed that Vermont farmers’ markets are “price-competitive”, especially for organic produce, and when it comes to seasonal produce, pastured meats and pastured eggs, they were often cheaper than at the local supermarket. A friend of mine, who is a local food writer and cookbook author, shared that when her eldest went to college, they made a bargain with him: They would purchase a local CSA if he didn’t waste any of it. By providing a few basic pantry staples and recipes for “favorite flavor themes”, his confidence in the kitchen increased to the point that he started trying out new recipes and improvising a bit here and there. Sounds like a win-win.
Stay tuned for next week’s Harvest Watch article with more tips and ideas for your onward bound young adult!
- Vermont Business Magazine, Study Finds Farmers’ Markets Competitive, May 2, 2016
- Jamie Oliver’s Dream School on YouTube.com - Basic Knife Skills
- USDA’s Choose MyPlate.gov
Elena Gustavson oversees RAFFL's outreach programs, communications and manages its food and cooking program, Everyday Chef. She is most energized by interacting and learning from others, so you will often find her conducting RAFFL's cooking workshops where the focus is nutritious food and increasing confidence around cooking. In her free time, Elena enjoys hanging out with her children, gardening, recreating favorite processed foods so they are both nutritious and NOT processed, running for fun and hiking meandering trails. She's also been known to read on occasion and sing loudly when she thinks no one is listening.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald on June 28th, 2016.