Finding the fresh in Philly

Columnist Sarah Sanders explains how to eat fresh at Temple. For some Americans, food comes with a side of guilt. We burden ourselves with questions concerning calories, fat intake and carbohydrate breakdown, worried sick that

Columnist Sarah Sanders explains how to eat fresh at Temple.

For some Americans, food comes with a side of guilt. We burden ourselves with questions concerning calories, fat intake and carbohydrate breakdown, Screen shot 2010-09-06 at 9.02.29 PMworried sick that the buns on our McDonald’s hamburger might give us more pinch on the waist.

However, some patriots don’t even bother to ask questions. If it’s on the shelf, it’s edible. There are no concerns about health because food equals substance, which means survival for however long.

Thus, people go after what tastes good, no matter how many doctors and nutritionists warn them against trans fats and high-sugar ingestion.

I seek to discount both the “carbophobes” and the “gluttons,” as the latter do not ask enough questions about their food, and the former ask the wrong ones.

On one hand, I understand that we, now more than ever before, have less control over the food we eat. Perhaps that’s why we’ve given into eating whatever’s cheapest or whatever provides immediate gratification – we’ve lost touch.

Sure, I realize that most of the frozen chicken I see in grocery stores comes from animals that rarely, if ever, saw sunlight, but I have less than $5 in my pocket, and I have to eat something.

I’d like to share a both useful and tasty recipe in each of my columns.

At the same time, however, I want to feed your head with important information regarding the food you eat now and have probably been eating your entire life.

I’d like to introduce you to the world of food politics, so that you realize the sort of “food fights” happening in this city, this country and the world.

Farmer’s markets have become somewhat trendy during the growing season, and you can find dozens happening every week in Philadelphia. Most of these markets – like the one next to Ritter Hall – are organized and managed by The Food Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to “ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food.”

Efforts like this are important in neighborhoods like the ones you encounter in Philadelphia, where bodegas are the food suppliers and families mostly consume meals high in salt, sugar and trans fats.

After researching these famished areas, The Food Trust released a report in 2001 that demonstrated how poor access to fresh food is related to disease in these neighborhoods.

This report helped to launch a citywide initiative to open more supermarkets in underserved communities throughout Philadelphia. The relatively recent opening of the Fresh Grocer on Broad and Oxford streets is a product of this initiative.

I’ve checked out this grocery store a few times, and I’m still struggling to see the freshness. I decided to base my fresh guacamole recipe on the options available in Fresh Grocer, while also keeping in mind my own values concerning food.

First, you’ll need some produce. In the past few years, I’ve gradually increased the percentage of organic and chemical-free food in my house. If these words don’t mean a whole lot to you, don’t worry, as I will get to them later in the semester.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic produce section in Fresh Grocer is approximately 3 feet by 10 feet. The tomatoes hail from Mexico and are not loose, but rather, come in packages of four, priced at $5.99 per package.

Surprisingly, the avocadoes were domestic, grown in California and priced at $2.99 per fruit. The garlic came from Florida, each package containing three bulbs, at $3.49 a bag.

Finally, Fresh Grocer did not carry any organic limes, so you’d be obliged to buy them conventionally. Just calculating the cost of organic produce from far away, our guacamole costs nearly $20. It’d be much easier to go for the salsa con-queso dip The Fresh Grocer has on sale for $2.

I don’t want to discourage you from buying fresh or organic produce, and I definitely don’t want to discourage you from impressing your friends with homemade chip dip.

I just wanted to plant some pertinent questions in your mind, like why it’s cheaper to buy processed items versus fresh ones, because you eat the food in stores such as Fresh Grocer everyday.

And if you’re not eating food from a store like that, you’re eating a meal in a cafeteria or a diner that was made from food grown, raised or packaged in the same places that distribute to these stores.

Ultimately, I want to keep politics out of the kitchen. Even though we may not want to acknowledge it, we are at a point where eating is a political act.

Sarah Sanders can be reached at

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