Tahlequah Daily Press

October 11, 2012

It’s about the food

A new event in Tahlequah aims to promote sustainable, locally grown food, and its uses and benefits.

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Everyone has favorite foods, and even babies will spit out what they don’t like. Many people don’t have to think about where their next meal will come from; many do.

But how many people think about how that food gets to the grocery stores?

Food will be the focus of an new event in Tahlequah on Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 3 to 6 p.m. at Norris Park. Food Day Tahlequah will coordinate with a national event that day, and will feature a food cook-off, farm-fresh cuisine, pumpkin-decorating, an End Hunger Games food drive, music, seed starting, educational booths and refreshments.

“It’s important to develop a culture that celebrates healthy food and to know where it comes from and how it’s grown,” said event Chairman and Northeastern State University faculty member Mark Carper. “This event will raise awareness that food is not just sustenance, but a cultural conveyance.”

Committee members met Wednesday evening at the Iguana Cafée to work out their plans .

One of the goals of National Food Day is to improve connectivity among growers, kitchens, chefs and the public, Carper said.

“We want people to eat real food, not food high in fructose sugar or glycemic starches,” he said.

Linda Johnson, with Tahlequah Farmers’ Market, said her group will be supplying the food for the cook-off and setting up vendor booths.

“Any attention the farmers can get is good, because a lot of people don’t realize we’re providing a valuable resource to the community,” she said.

The event is being organized by Sustainable Tahlequah, the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, Tahlequah Main Street Association, Farmers’ Market, Cherokee Nation, NSU Committee for Sustainability, NSU Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Club, and the NSU Permaculture Club.

“People are disconnected from the origins of the food they eat, so bringing awareness to that is important because if they don’t have that awareness, they’re not going to see the importance of protecting local, sustainable food sources, and that it’s the livelihood and lifestyle of the farmers,” said Deb Hyde, chairwoman of the NSU Committee for Sustainability.

NSU students will be helping with the project, said Cassandra Crawford, program director for NSU Dietetics and Nutrition.

“My students are coordinating the End Hunger Games good drive, one of the events for Tahlequah Food Day,” Crawford said. “And while we’re promoting sustainable food at this event, during this time of year, it’s also important to collect non-perishable food to support the CARE Food Pantry.”

One of the cook-off participants is The Branch restaurant.

“We’re one of the teams involved, and looking forward to this event,” said General Manager Ken Smith. “We get to use all of the locally grown products at The Branch. We even had our own garden this year.”

One of the judges for the cook-off, Bridget Barlow, said that after she and her children watched the movie “Food, Inc.,” about industrialized foods, she’s been really concerned about what she serves her family.

“We’re getting away from processed food at home,” Barlow said. “I wonder about the chemicals are being used on our food, how the animals are being given antibiotics and how they’re being killed. You have no control over it.”

She speculated on how many people realize hamburger is derived from herds of cattle that are “ground up together.”

“It’s really scary,” Barlow said. “I wonder, how does it work to go back to basics?”

Get involved

To get involved in Food Day Tahlequah, contact Mark Carper at (918) 444-3510.