I’m in the desert. The “food desert*”.

I am currently in the desert, or one of them. Stranded in Phoenix, AZ on the way to San Francisco. (Okay, “stranded” is a bit severe, but you get my point.) On my way to the 2011 Fourfold Healing Conference that starts today. One of the planes I was to be on had some mechanical issues, so there was a new plane, and yes, delays. And I landed here. In Phoenix, on the way to San Francisco. I have no problem with Phoenix, or with deserts, per se. I do have a problem with what I have been experiencing, however. A food desert. I’ll tell you more.

I woke up today in my airline voucher room feeling stranded. Stranded between two islands…or oases. I became aware of my thought that I was between two points…two places or “oases” (yes, get the visual here)…and I am. I am between my home and my destination point. I am between my home and a conference. But it is more than that. I am lost in a desert, a food desert, between my home, where I create, serve, and eat nourishing, REAL food, and a conference where they will serve and I will eat nourishing food. (Yes, locally sourced, organic, nutrient-dense, prepared traditionally so the nutrients are available to the body. At a conference!) In between, there is not much REAL food to eat! Oh, a banana or an apple or two at the airport…I even found an organic yogurt (albeit the second ingredient was organically milled cane sugar). But that was it folks. It is a FOOD DESERT OUT HERE between these two points. And I’m in it. (Temporarily, thank God.) The scary thing is, this is “what is” for the average American, and certainly the average American traveler. Heck, even those in business class are out here with me. No REAL food to be found. Or very little. NONE on the plane and the food from the restaurant at the airport in DC gave me a racing heart, dry mouth, deep thirst,  and smelly flatulence! BTW, flatulence means that your body is having difficulty digesting the food you have eaten. The smell reflects the amount of toxins your body is having to process. So if you’re smelly often, you may want to review what you are eating and how your body is digesting or failing to digest your food. :))

As I said previously, I have no problem with the city I’m in. (In fact, if I had a longer layover, I’d get to see a dear cousin who lives here.) The hotel is nice, and they will do their best to serve a lovely, typical American breakfast…continental or “full”. The folks with whom I am traveling, all seventeen of us sharing this unplanned stopover–will probably say it is wonderful, bountiful and delicious. But I am blessed and cursed with “eyes that see”…or just with “knowing” what REAL food is, and what our bodies need to thrive. I am HOPING for REAL BUTTER…but I have a feeling that even if I find it, all that I will be able to spread it on will be refined wheat products…no sourdough, no sprouted grains, no soaked oatmeal.  I am HOPING for REAL CREAM…but that is hard to find in these days of full fat fear…if I am able to find even “half and half”, bet your bottom dollar it won’t be organic, it won’t be from grass-fed cows, and it will be UHT (ultra-high temperature pasteurized). I KNOW I won’t find any ferments…I may be able to find some plain yogurt. But again, it will be from cows raised on grain, not organic, certainly low-fat or no-fat…Perhaps I’ll find some bacon or sausage–but locally sourced and nitrate free? Think again. So…what to do? Not eat? Not an option today, folks. I am living on 4 plus hours of sleep after a very choppy day of travel, with a full day and weekend ahead of me. So I have to eat something. At this point it’s just “fuel for the body” to get to my final destination point…where I KNOW the food will be nourishing, whole, REAL, and truly satisfying. Until then, I’ll do my best to pick and choose the best of what I am presented with. Until I am out of the desert.

The bigger question of course remains…how to populate the food desert between the two points with REAL food. With the ability to discern what is nourishing and nurturing food that will help the body thrive. And that, as you know my dear readers, is the point of all I do. On to the conference and back into my life to “teach, teach, teach!” and do my best to make the desert fertile with REAL food. For all of us.

*Note:  I am borrowing a term that is usually used these days to describe urban areas where there is no fresh food to be found for sometimes miles. Yes, miles. Those “food deserts” must also be addressed, and some of the efforts of “urban agriculture” are doing so. For examples, see the city of Baltimore and San Francisco. Future Harvest offered good information about urban ag at their conference this past January.



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17 responses to “I’m in the desert. The “food desert*”.

  1. I found out that Daisy sour cream, while not organic, has only “cultured cream” as it’s ingredient. That’s something, right? I don’t normally eat sour cream, but I slathered a baked potato with it at the airport when I was hungry.

    • simplybeingwell

      Jenn, yes, that is definitely something. I would do the same! (However, I would bet that Daisy sour cream comes from conventional cows that are fed grain. Therefore the nutrient profile and fat profile and content would be different/less as you know.)

  2. Pam Hannam

    I have friends in Phoenix — one a health nut — wish I’d known earlier you were in this fix. I’d have sent him on a mercy mission. Although, quite frankly, I’m not sure if even HE has access to REAL food. 😦 Good luck on the rest of your trip. It’s a sorry state we’re in, indeed —

    • simplybeingwell

      Pam, you ARE the sweetest. I didn’t land till after 11pm Phoenix time, (1am our time), so I was really fried by then. Just delirious! And it was off on the plane at 7am the next day…so I really was on my own. The point, as you know, is that the WHOLE COUNTRY is a food desert, except for these little patches of oases here and there…yes, what a state we’re in!! xo!

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  4. Let me know how we can do this since it is very hard to travel when the food choices are so poor…hard enough going to limited grocery stores and restaurants too…

    • simplybeingwell

      Donna, I am on it. Look for a post in the near future on thoughts of how to travel and do the best we can in terms of our health!! Thanks for the comment!

  5. Emily

    You just described what I go through with food decisions almost every month when I go on business travel. It is incredibly frustrating and I would love to see a future blog on some tips on what to pack for a week long trip with no refrigerator. I’m never given a rental car on my travels (and rarely have a fridge in my hotel room), so I am left with my own two feet and public transportation (which does not always exist) or a very expensive taxi if there is even a decent grocery store around. I usually take tons of soaked nuts, fruits/veggies, and some cheese. It gets me through the plane rides and airports. Other than that, I’m at a loss and end up eating poorly all week and feeling lousy.

    • simplybeingwell

      I will work on the “tips for travel”! The other thing we need to think of while travelling is supporting our liver and helping detox gently to get rid of all the garbage we have eaten. :))

  6. Rajae

    Great post, Monica! And how I feel for you… I know I’ve been there, too! Good luck getting to destination, and come back with some wonderful knowledge from the conference!

  7. Tawanda

    I normally do 3 trips a year, one to WAPF conference and as you mention (from a nutritionally aspect) is not a hardship, but the other two trips, with one being a week long – I’m still trying to wrap my head around how devastating it is from a nutritional aspect.

    Eventhough I’m no Sally or Monica, in the kitchen I do the best that I can and on travel I really feel the lost of (what I consider meager) attempts at obtaining nourishing food. I come home unquestionably, uniquely starved and depleted. But I’ve only been away from my normal routine for a week??

    For me, what feels the most lacking is fats and VitC. I’m sure there’s more, but these are so pronounced that they overshadow everything else. Yes, I’ve noticed the food desert as well.

    • simplybeingwell

      Tawanda, thanks for the comment. Yes, the fats are the biggest problem–in addition to the toxins in conventional food that our bodies/livers have to process and get rid of. Often, I am very tired just from that process alone! I think my strategy for travel from now on will include bringing my own celtic sea salt, a jar of coconut oil (even if it’s two or three 1 oz. jars for air travel), and a bunch of crispy nuts. Perhaps a dry salami, too!!

      • Tawanda

        Thanks for the strategies, I also thought of what I was really trying to get at with the Vit C; what I lack on travel is also kombucha or any fermented foods – that’s what I think I’m missing and I’m calling it VitC. But it’s whatever these ferments are providing in my normal routine. So, just have to figure how to supplement that and I should be set, at least for a week.

  8. Christina Sabin

    I’m planning on travelling across country next fall for a vegan weekend wedding in the catskills. I’m already thinking about what I can take on an airplane to supplement all the nice fruits and vegetables I’m sure to find there. I think I’ll make some jerky from local pastured beef and a big hunk of raw cheese.

    • simplybeingwell

      Jerky sounds great and so does raw cheese. I would also include some hard-boiled eggs and crispy nuts, a la Nourishing Traditions. :)) be well!

  9. Zingzap

    I totally understand the frustration of your travel woes. I have experienced them myself. I recognize that this was an unplanned stop but lest people think too poorly of Phoenix in general I wanted to point out there are options to find real food in the area. They may not have helped you but they may help someone else.

    http://www.localfirstaz.com/ is a site people can search for local sources of all kinds of products including foods.

    Not sure if it would have helped you, but there is a place in Phoenix I follow on FB. https://www.facebook.com/Lucismarketplace?ref=ts
    Luci’s Marketplace. It’s one of the first places I plan on visiting when I get out there later this year.

    Phoenix also has a year round public market http://www.phoenixpublicmarket.com/

    There is also Slow Food Phoenix and Edible Phoenix as resources. http://www.slowfoodphoenix.org/

    I also check localharvest.org and eatwild.com or greenpeople.com to find local options when I don’t know my way around. Local harvest has about 30 listings for the Phoenix area.

    Sure they may not be the most convenient but they are there. We who want real foods are working against a big tide right now. But we are gaining ground. I think more benefit comes from putting the effort into seeking out the sources and supporting those who join us in spreading the information about the benefits of eating in a way that nourishes ourselves and the planet.

    • simplybeingwell

      Thanks for the info! The article wasn’t about being in Phoenix. It was about the “food desert” that exists all over the country–it is the norm, as you know.

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