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Summer’s the time for great eating

Art by Arnaldus de Villanova (1240-1311)

Finally, summer days are within our sights. With them, a shift in our eating habits toward more fresh foods. With rising interest in healthy, local and sustainable choices, summer is a common time for families to start new commitments to healthier eating habits. How do we keep the crunches time, convenience and cost from derailing our best intentions?

I have been eating my way through a multi-summer experiment to answer that very question! Planning ahead is a great start to stick to a new goal, as is making small, manageable changes that we can increase over time. Here are the options I’ve tried in order of level of commitment, start-up effort, cost, and four-season management: buying organic from larger grocers, shopping at the co-op for local and organic, shopping at the farmers’ market, investing in a CSA (community supported agriculture), growing your own garden at home, growing your own garden plot at the community garden.

Buying the larger chains’ organic options help us vote with our dollars and send a message that consumers want organic options. The more people buy organic, the more we drive up the demand and drive down the prices. However, our money still ultimately leaves our community because with larger chains (even if locally owned or managed) the food is shipped in, and the decision-making is not tied to our local interests. But in a pinch, spend the extra cents to buy any product organic that you can. The cost difference pales in comparison with long-term health benefits and consumer-steered values in the marketplace.

Buying the co-op, especially now with two location options, may not be as expensive or inconvenient as it seems. You don’t have to be a member, but members get perks. Plus, you have more control over your experience and options to order items in bulk for cheaper. What I like is that they do all the research for me. Everything is labeled for whether it is organic and its origin. Some items are more expensive, but like anything in life, you get what you pay for. Consider again the long term benefits of avoiding toxins and voting with our dollars. You can also save money at the co-op if you invest in the time and effort it takes to buy in bulk, avoid pre-packaged food, bring your own containers, shop sales and plan ahead.

Farmers’ markets may supplement, and later in the summer even replace, grocery store veggies. They are a fun community event and a great way to celebrate your neighbors’ harvests twice a week. It is a great place to go for specific needs such as local protein and honeys, locally started plants, and fruits and veggies later on in the summer. Plan ahead to schedule, as markets occur only at certain times. Located at 14th Avenue East and Third Street, the large Duluth Farmers’ Market is now open Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons. There are smaller markets, such as the Greater Downtown market beginning in July and others in West Duluth, Hermantown and Barker’s Island. A quick google search pulled up too many to list.

CSAs are "Community Supported Agriculture." These are local farmers. You buy a share before the season starts, and then receive a weekly or bimonthly share. Some split these with family and friends because shares get huge by late summer. The benefits are that someone puts in the shopping time for you. It reduces packaging waste and transportation costs. There is no better way to vote local with your money. You are supporting a regional neighbor who is in turn healthfully utilizing the land and feeding you from within a few miles. The downfall may be if you get caught with more veggies than you can eat and one big lump sum paid in the spring can be tough. CSA’s are fun if you aren’t too busy to add box pick-up and menu planning to your routine. Find local options at minnesotagrown.com.

If you have the time to invest in learning how to garden, Duluth is full of resources to help you start. It helps local pollinators and the soil and has tons of physiological, physical and mental benefits for you. Just be careful not to buy any plants with “neonaticides” (harmful pesticides and herbicides that are killing bees).

No space of your own? You can buy a plot for ridiculously cheap through the Duluth Community Garden Club. They have resources for gardeners and plots still available. Check out duluthcommunitygarden.org

I buy nearly 100 percent of the foods I buy at the co-op. I prioritize groceries in my budget because I like the health benefits. Each summer I either invest with others in a CSA share or endeavor to grow veggies myself and trade with friends. It adds money and time, but the experience is worth it.

Roughly 40 percent of the food a family buys gets tossed in the garbage. Changing habits once food is in the kitchen can save far more money than sticking with crappy mass-produced foods made with scary ingredients and planet-ruining practices. Make choices now that your older body will thank you for. Our personal health, the planet’s health and our integrity in voting our principles with our money: priceless.

Shawna Weaver

Shawna Weaver is a board member of Sustainable Twin Ports, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. She has Ph.D. in sustainability education and teaches at Animal Allies Humane Society and the College of St. Scholastica.

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