A tribute to all of the people who are part of our food system—from farmers to truckers to salespeople.

Melody Meyer, Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations

November 25, 2015

4 Min Read
Gratitude for the good food movement

Thanksgiving is the holiday I adore the most. It’s about exercising my culinary muscle while throwing all buckets of restraint down the drain. I was just 12 when I concocted my first Thanksgiving meal for the family, so I’ve had some practice. As I remember, I secured a Butterball in a plastic bag, plopped canned beans in a creamy quagmire of mushroom soup topped off with French fried onions, then rehydrated a box of mashed potatoes … my how my culinary times have changed!

Even as the crepuscular light creeps further towards darkness, I am planning this year’s feast. The Tofurky is braising and the goose is brining, all the yams have been candied—drunk on bourbon and organic marshmallows, while the fresh asparagus and olive salad lies crisping in the cooler. The braised greens and Israeli salad of turgid cucumber, carrot celery and tomato will be a refreshing compliment to the 21-gun salute of the main courses. Then the aftermath, a fine pippin tart, will cool while the dough rises on sweet muffin-top hot cross buns (I’ll want two please).

Whilst this reverie of food preparation commences toward the great meal, which we will outlandishly and extravagantly partake, I have culinary and cultural ruminations on the state of our food, including the abundance we enjoy, the grace of the people who bring it to our table and immense gratitude for how far we have come in the good food movement.

Progress, dear pilgrims, is being made. Just this year, Big Food has begun singing a different song, recognizing the consumer’s disgust at ingredients that just don’t belong in our food. Nestle and Kraft will be striking artificial flavors and colors from their chocolate candy and mac and cheese, respectively. Dunkin Donuts will brush off the nanoparticle titanium dioxide that made its frosting white. Subway and Tyson will stop using human antibiotics in their meats. McDonald’s has served its first organic hamburger in Germany. General Mills has taken the GMO out of Cheerios. Campbell’s is launching lines of certified organic children’s soups, removing MSG and GMOs.

The cavalcade of good food victories is the grist of an ever-increasing bombardier of headlines. I am grateful for this shift. The good food movement is alive, shaping the bottom lines and brands of many big food companies!

As I take note of this shift, I set aside the headlines and feel the grace of the overarching abundance in this North American culinary existence. We have so much plenty, and so many souls contribute to this wealth. I hold much gratitude for the farmers, the orchardists, the vintners and the bakers. I give thanks for the retailers—our front line soldiers, the food and farm workers—never alien, but real hardworking salt of the earth that harvest, clean and pack and prepare our food. I hold deep appreciation for the long-haul driver with long red-eye nights “truckin'” to bring that bounty cross continent. I think of the forklift drivers, the customs broker and the salespeople—they all play a part in bringing a myriad of ingredients to my table. We must raise a toast to every one of those who have a hand in this copious culinary plenty. (If you are one, give yourself a hand.)

We eat in a world of amazing abundance and the good food movement is quickening, but our work is certainly not done.

Once the meal has been properly consummated and brought to titillation, and before the torpor of the aftermath sets in, let’s assign grace to the work we have yet in our future. We must labor to secure more funding for organic farming and seed production. We must fund projects that allow easy access to land for beginning farmers and ranchers. We must protect biodiversity in the landscape as well as through our foundation seeds. It’s time that the government fully regulates, tests and labels foods with GMOs. Our labor includes driving many of the cruel factory farming practices out of animal husbandry. Ultimately, we must bring to light the true cost of real food and the hidden costs associated with cheap food.

So let’s celebrate this day of gratitude fully realizing all that we have, recognizing those who have helped bring it forward while noting the progress we have made and the work still to do. The good food movement is growing; as you partake of this Thanksgiving, know that you are an instrumental part of moving it forward.

Enjoy a delicious holiday.

What food industry thanks are you giving this Thanksgiving?

About the Author(s)

Melody Meyer

Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations, United Natural Foods Inc.

Melody Meyer is the vice president of policy and industry relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). She is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical industry issues and is active in advocating for fair and equitable funding for organic agriculture.

Melody’s career spans several decades in the organic and natural foods industry, including nine years of international trade and development. She began her career in 1976 working in an Iowa Natural Food Cooperative. Her early years in the retail segment of the burgeoning organic industry provided valuable experience buying from local farmers and providing fair returns in order to increase their organic acreage. This experience led to a lifelong dream of changing the way people eat and farm.

Melody founded her own business in 1995, Source Organic, which joined organic producers all over the country directly with national retailers and wholesalers. Source Organic was eventually acquired by Albert’s Organics (a division of United Natural Foods UNFI) in 2001 and it became the procurement department for all organic fresh produce purchased for the company. Her dream was being realized on a national scale!

In 2004 she began importing directly from small banana producers in Latin America. They were uniting and developing self-governed organizations enabling the small producers to export internationally for the first time. This international business provided a new level of prosperity, allowing the communities to increase much-needed social systems and infrastructure.

She has been deeply involved in introducing fair trade certification to growers in Latin America with Fair Trade USA and FLO.  The fair trade premiums are managed by self-governed worker groups to provide education, reforestation, access to clean water and health care.

Melody is proud to be the current executive director of the UNFI Foundation, which is dedicated to funding nonprofit organizations that promote organic and sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems. Priorities of the foundation include organic research, protecting biodiversity of seeds, promoting transparent labeling and educating consumers on healthy food choices.

She is serving her second term on the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association (OTA).  She also sits on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Organic Products Advisory Committee (COPAC).

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