In earlier days we had our parents and grandparents teach us everything about food, including where food comes from and how, when and by whom it was grown. We used to know our farmers and had some sense of seasonal eating because there simply was less available around the clock and we shopped outside at farmer's markets. We also knew the stories, traditions, and the land tied to the food and the recipes. While this food knowledge is still around, it is quickly disappearing, and this loss robs our food culture of meaning and diminishes what could have continued to give us the tools to build a healthy, lifelong relationship with food.
Food literacy is defined as "the scaffolding that empowers individuals, households, communities or nations to protect diet quality through change and strengthen dietary resilience over time. It is composed of a collection of inter-related knowledge, skills and behaviors required to plan, manage, select, prepare and eat food to meet needs and determine intake".
Vidgen HA and Gallegos D. Defining food literacy and its components. Appetite. 2012; 76:50-59.
Local and regional food literacy goes a bit further because these food systems include the regional farming community, and thus, deepen nutrition education as they integrate bioregional availability of food, agricultural knowledge and practices, and cultural food traditions. From a system's perspective, students learn about the pathways of food through various distribution systems, including food hubs, to various markets, such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture, buying clubs or procurement processes from farm to institutions. These food systems offer a plethora of food literacy opportunities, ranging from farm visits to managing CSAs or farmers markets to leading culinary endeavors, such as Food Next Door. Thus, farming and culinary skills become an essential component of food literacy!
At UCCS, food literacy is taught around the clock- be it at our campus farm and greenhouse, at Food Next Door or with the Flying Carrot Food Literacy Team and other Dining and Hospitality Services outlets, or in UCCS's Farmhouse. With the help of SWELL students, UCCS provides a resource for up-to-date information on food as it relates to various topics from food, nutrition, health, and sustainability to growing, cooking, and eating, not forgetting the stories or flavors that connect us all to something deeper and related to place -- here in Colorado.