Nine Steps Towards Family and Community Food Security

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In the spring, plant a garden. If you don't have a yard with room for a garden, talk with neighbors, friends, or members of your church about starting a community garden. Sometimes owners of empty lots will allow people to plant gardens on them. Churches often have properties that can be turned into garden space. Most cities have land that can be made available for gardens. Some areas have programs to distribute free seeds.

Buy directly from farmers. Many cities have markets where produce is bought directly from farmers. Here in Kansas City, every Saturday in the summer and fall there is a farmer's market at the City Marketplace on the Missouri River downtown.

Learn to process your own foods. Home methods available include dehydrating, pressure and boiling water canning, brining, pickling, salting, and candying. You can learn how to do all these things from your local County Extension Office. Find them in the Blue Pages, usually listed under state or county government. They have free publications and often offer classes to teach people basic food security skills. In Kansas City, Missouri, the number is (816) 221-7207.

Think carefully, make serious plans, follow-through. Make your decisions and stick to them. Be firm in your purpose. Don't get distracted from your project. When fresh produce or meats are on sale, buy extra and preserve it yourself. Stock up on roast and cook all of it. Have a nice dinner with your family, and freeze or process the rest in mason jars. Next time you want roast, it's already cooked, all you have to do is warm it up. One "cooking session" can produce several meals. Get some basic equipment, such as a crock pot, grain mill, pressure cooker, and dehydrator.

Make your own snacks. Start by saving money in the over-priced junk food section. Beef jerky bought in stores costs $10 to $20 a pound. But you can buy roast when it is on sale. Add seasoning and spices and some time in the oven or dehydrator and you have a tasty snack you made yourself for maybe $3.00 a pound. Think about how expensive fruit leather or trail mix is in the stores. Make it yourself for a cheaper price, just like you want it. It could be your own unique snack food, personally customized for you and your family's lifestyle and tastes.

Join a food co-op, or help start one. Get together with friends and buy larger amounts of basic foods (in the 50 pound bag size, for example), and then divide them up among the group. Go to a farmer's market and negotiate prices for bushels of vegetables or fruit.

Store your extra food carefully. Talk to your county extension office about ways to store food safely. Package your food so that roaches and rats can't get at them. For dry foods like flour, macaroni, rice, beans, etc., double bag them in large ziplock baggies, and put them in food grade plastic buckets with air-tight lids. You can often get free buckets and lids by asking at bakeries, donut shops, and restaurants. These businesses get food supplies in such buckets, and they may throw them away if nobody wants them. Label and date each bucket so you know what is in it. Rotate your supplies. If you have 25 pounds of flour, and buy five more pounds for the current month, put the new flour into the storage, and take out the flour you bought a month ago and use it. This ensures that your food supplies will always stay fresh.

Work together with your neighbors. Not everybody can afford to go out and spend money for their own processing equipment, but a church or neighborhood association willing to spend a few hundred dollars could set up a productive community food processing operation in a church or community kitchen. Fund-raising activities such as bake sales, raffles, street fairs, soliciting donations, and applying for grants are ways to fund such programs. Community organizations can provide land for gardens, loan tools, supply seeds, fertilizer and mason jars at low prices. They can organize classes in how to do home food preservation.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. We start small or we don't start at all. Make a small amount of progress each month, and you build a secure and safe future for your family. That adds up over the months. If something bad happens, you are in a better position to get yourself out of the hard times and back into better times.

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