A lot of good happened Monday on Military Island in Times Square at Food Day’s marquee event. The general public had the opportunity to stop at tables where they could learn about Food Day and its message of “It’s time to eat real, America” and other facets of eating healthy.
There was also a disconnect at this particular event: With the exception apples that were donated and handed out by New York growers, the “eating real” part seemed reserved for a select few. Fortunately, there were thousands of other events happening all across the country that were more inclusive.
I went to New York City yesterday to help the founders of Blog For Family Dinner at their tent where we educated anyone who stopped by about the benefits of family dinner. The organizers of the Times Square event invited them, and it was a great opportunity to spread the word about reclaiming family meals.
(Let me take a few words here to be clear: I’m not writing now as a representative of the organization I worked with, Blog for Family Dinner. This is my personal opinion.)
A few other groups were there spreading messages about healthy eating, too. Food Fight had educational materials that teachers can use in classrooms. Meatless Monday was encouraging families to participate in Kids Cook Mondays. There was a representative from New York City Coalition Against Hunger with information about how their organization can help people through the intimidating process of applying for food stamps.
People who stopped by the various tents were able to get some good information. What they couldn’t get was access to the feast that was open for the public for viewing only — it was held behind barriers they weren’t allowed to cross.
I often hear two general complaints about the real food movement. The first is that people who tell others to “eat real food” are trying to take away someone's freedom to eat foods like a Big Mac. The second complaint is that the real food movement is elitist. Only a privileged few can afford to eat healthy, whole foods all the time. I’m concerned that yesterday’s communal table behind barriers might have encouraged that second line of thinking.
When the exclusive, open-air lunch in Times Square began, several people asked me how they could get in where the food was. I had to tell them that the lunch was by invitation only. Behind those asking, the building pictured at the right loomed with a huge advertisement for Food Day that said, “It’s time to eat real, America. Join us at Foodday.org.”
The mixed message of the day didn’t really hit me until the train ride home. I'd been having a great time spreading the family dinner message, tweeting updates about the happenings in Times Square, and meeting many interesting people. When I had some time to reflect on the day, though, I wondered if the exclusive communal table didn’t come off as elitist to some of the people who stopped by to see what was going on. I’m sure that’s not what the event organizers had in mind.
The mixed message of the day hasn’t left me with mixed feelings about Food Day though. In fact, I’m encouraged by Food Day. There have been thousands of events held across the country in recent days spreading the word about real food. If you check out Food Day’s Facebook Page, you’ll see photos of events held all over the country where people promoted and shared real food.
As a whole, Food Day seems to have been a success, and I’ll be happy to be involved with the day in future years. Next year, though, I may choose to attend a more local event where shared food for everyone is at the center of the festivities.