As a sixteen-year-old dishwasher at one of Chuck Muer’s restaurants over 30 years ago, I had a defining experience that forever changed the way I think about food. With my water-soaked leather work boots moving quickly below my long apron, I swept around a corner in the back of the well lit kitchen. There I saw laid out on a long stainless steel table a whole fish the size of a small adult with shiny silver skin and black streaks, its mouth slightly open, and its eyes glaring out, black as the night. Never having seen a fish this size before, I blurted out, “What is THAT?”
The kitchen manager, who was standing in front of this fresh delivery said, “It is a tuna.”
“A TUNA?” I asked.
“Yeah Mike. It is a tuna fish,” he said.
He could see I had a puzzled look on my face. I literally was stunned. I said, “I thought tuna came in those little circular cans.”
He laughed and said, “No, tuna comes from a tuna.”
I could feel my brain short circuit a bit. The obvious seemed so disconnected from my experience. I only knew tuna from the can with the green Starkist label that sat on our pantry shelf. Of course, today it seems crazy I could have been so naive and disconnected. Yet that moment changed my relationship to food by creating a greater curiosity in me to understand where the food I am eating originates from and it forever solidified in my mind the difference between fresh versus processed.
In a meeting I had recently with Eric Davis, United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Food Director, he described the need for the youth of our region to make this very connection. He said, “So many kids don’t know where even fruits and vegetables come from. Part of the work ahead is to get kids connected to the source of their food and to understand what quality food looks and tastes like.”
We have kicked off the “No Kid Hungry” campaign along with our partners Share Our Strength and the State of Michigan. Just as the name says, our work is to ensure that no kid goes hungry in Michigan. Moreover, not only do we need to ensure there is access to food, but that the quality of the food is high. In part, educating parents, caregivers, schools, and children about what one should expect from food and where food is coming from will strengthen the demand for quality. We want all children to have a sense and appreciation of where their food is coming from.
With 1 in 4 children in the region finding themselves hungry, we must and will make progress. There is great work taking place right now as school ends to ensure “No Kid Goes Hungry” this summer. To lern more about this work, click here.