.Food, Glorious Food

The joy and pain of having too much or too little

It’s one of life’s simple pleasures. And I’m not just speaking anecdotally. A recent study conducted by OnePoll determined that food-related activities comprise one-fifth of the top 50 things that bring us joy. Among these are: a home-cooked meal, dining out, having a picnic, discovering new food, buying fresh local produce and the smell of toast in the morning.

Of course, this same survey listed “exercise” as a joyful item, so perhaps the research is questionable.

In any case, we are abundant with food-centric pleasures in the East Bay. How lucky we are to have at our disposal such an array of craft distillers, cheesemakers, restaurateurs, pizzaiolos and all manner of cookbooks, classes and camps for whatever culinary adventure we desire! Not to mention the multigenerational farmers, ranchers, fisherfolk and laborers who work our land and sea so that we may eat, gleefully. 

And yet.

Not everyone has enough food for sustenance, much less pleasure. About 1 in 4 people in the Bay Area lack consistent access to nutritious food. In 2020, over 9% of folks in Alameda County and 8.5% in Contra Costa County reported food insecurity, according to a 2022 Feeding America study. Due to the pandemic and resulting economic fallout, the Alameda County Community Food Bank estimates 1 in 4 county residents is experiencing or at risk of hunger.

At the same time, 40% of all food in the U.S. is wasted. These disparities exist, but there are things we can do to help mitigate them, like: eliminating food waste at home (visit stopfoodwaste.org for tips); volunteering or donating to a local food bank or organizations like Meals on Wheels, Berkeley Food Network, Food Shift or Feed the Hood (through the East Oakland Collective); eating locally; and supporting policies that reduce waste and increase food security.

We deserve the simple pleasures that food can bring. An entire economic and agricultural ecosystem thrives because of it. But we must also be champions for food justice as much as we are champions for our favorite chefs and restaurants.

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