February-A Culture of Food, by Elliott Royal
Culture is learned, transmitted and adapted. Our perception of food is generally associated with how our family and friends perceive it. When food is not available in bountiful amounts, the appreciation for it when it is available will be high. Food and water are the most important elements of human existence. The absence of one or both reduces the quality of life. These elements are not always accessible so it is not unusual for adults and children to experience hunger in the United States. Acquiring nutritionally dense foods is difficult when income is limited.
Food historically is associated with bonding and family. Dinner is not just nutrition. It is an opportunity for families to get together and bond over a meal. Now with the busy schedules of children and parents, the value of dinner is often minimized to simple food consumption. Food consumption has sometimes been associated with negative feelings such as boredom, stress and fatigue instead of coming together for community and good nutrition. Environment or the context in which food is consumed has a strong effect on dietary habits.
Different cultures have various dietary habits that may not promote healthy options. Cultural dietary habits are observed and maintained over time. These habits are embedded in individuals and become difficult to change. Poor dietary habits lead to an increase in chronic health issues (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and more). Over several decades, obesity has gradually increased. By encouraging healthier food options, society can promote life longevity.
Food consumption is still a joyous occasion. We have gatherings to celebrate food. We have meetings over food. Food is a privilege. Food is an art. Food is love.
Elliott Royal, MA
Food Access Coordinator, Health Educator
Mecklenburg County Health Department