Katherine Kelly is the co-founder of Cultivate KC, an organization that grows community-engaged farms in Kansas City. In her many years of farming, Katherine has developed a theory about the reasons for the American obesity epidemic: she believes in our food the missing ingredient is love.

That might have surprised you. You might have been thinking about fast food, packaged food, eating out of a vending machine, a sedentary lifestyle, or many other factors. But Katherine explains the relationship between food and love: “Historically, we have been fed by people we knew, we loved, and we were connected to.” When we moved to an industrial system, we replaced much of our homegrown or homemade food with food made in a factory. Often now we are not fed by people we know or are connected to. Sometimes we are not fed by actual people!

Katherine further explains, “I have over the years developed a theory that one of the reasons that we eat too much is because we are looking for that thing that is missing in our food. And that thing is connection and relationship.” Or to say it another way, the missing ingredient is love.

Remember Personal Connections

Do you remember the deliciousness of holiday meals made by your mother or grandmother? Part of the joy of the holidays is gathering together with people you love, but when the food is also made by people who love you and are taking care of you, it contains those ingredients of connection and relationship that are crucial to the health of food.

When you think fondly of your grandmother’s mashed potatoes, it’s not only that the potatoes themselves tasted good, but how much love she put in them when she made them for you.

Creating Personal Connections

Katherine has often been called “Farmer Katherine.” Families visit her farms and she talks with them and they get to know her. When they go home and prepare the food from her farm, they say to the children, “Farmer Katherine grew these carrots” or “Farmer Katherine grew this spinach.” Katherine remarks on that connection. “What happens then is that when they sit down to eat, I am another presence at the table. And I’m a positive presence, because I’m another person helping to take care of them.” Instead of eating in isolation, the family is eating nestled in in a community.

How to Add Love

Food that has connection and relationships does not come from a package. As we see with Farmer Katherine’s experience, the connections are created from the people who grew the food to the people who prepared it, and then to the eater. This is why Katherine advocates eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you want.

Katherine’s advice is to go to the farmers’ market. At the farmer’s market, you can meet the people who grew the fresh fruits and vegetables, and just that meeting creates a connection. You can cook the food with a little olive oil so that you get that nice savory feel. “You can’t go wrong with a diet like that,” Katherine says, because it will provide the nutrients we need.

She also says that as you eat, you can picture the person who grew the food. That invites that meaningful relationship to your table and reinforces the connection.

I recommend adding good things to our life when we are trying to make a change. Adding good things fits in well with the idea of small changes, and allows us to focus on positive changes. As we add more good things, it will crowd out the bad because there won’t be any room left. One small change to start with is Katherine’s approach of abundance. Eat all the fresh fruits and vegetables you want and enjoy the place of abundance.

As the next step in small changes, try going to the farmers’ market and buying fruits and vegetables from the people who grew them. Ask them about the food and the best way to prepare it. Remember the farmers and talk about them when you sit down for dinner.

What other steps can you take to add love to your meals? Let me know in the comments.

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