There is little to dispute that statement. Food, as we all know, is critical to maintaining life and health. Everyone does have to eat, but not everyone has to, or even wants to, eat the same things. The evidence of that can be found in the aisles of every supermarket and the array of restaurants in every city and town across this land.
So, if everyone knows that, why are we bringing that up here? Our examination of millennials’ fascination with food in our last blog, coupled with the article about the influence of the hippies’ role on American cuisine, led us to ask ourselves a couple of questions.
We believe those questions have real relevance for every organization whose mission is working to reduce hunger and/or improve the health and well-being of this nation’s older adults. First, we simply inquired “Did the food preferences of the hippies of the ‘60s and ‘70s really have any long-term impact on the American diet?” The answer to that is a pretty clear and resounding “yes.” Natural foods, macrobiotics, an interest in vegetarianism and health food surely all contributed significantly to the organic and gluten-free choices that have become a mainstay of our diets today. We can regard these as the long lasting culinary contributions of the hippie “movement” – and move they did as they hitch hiked or road tripped by van throughout the country. Their food preferences, which were as much a part of their movement as long hair and acid rock, traveled with them and took root widely. And those food preferences have become mainstream today.
Here is another connection between the hippies and today. We can say with certainty that a large number of today’s senior citizens were part of that hippie movement. If they weren’t actively involved, they were inevitably influenced by the hippie culture in which they were immersed. While they might have trimmed the long hair and shed the tie-dyed shirts and bell bottoms, we know that it is unlikely that they have abandoned the food preferences they developed in the 60s and 70s.
And that brings us to a broader question. When we speak of making foods served to older individuals in senior nutrition programs “culturally appropriate,” what do we really mean? The question is easy to answer in a purely ethnic context. But we believe it demands that we take a deeper dive in our thinking about importance of “culture” in addressing hunger. One aging hippie we know put it this way: “Are vegetables swimming in liquid and ‘mystery meat,’ as some of us boomers called college cafeteria food, served up on styrofoam appetizing and appealing?” Is it “culturally appropriate?” We imagine that we can agree on the answer. At the same time we all acknowledge both the invaluable role senior nutrition programs play today and the inherent difficulty they face in addressing the cultural appropriateness issue when they work to serve seniors from more and more varied geographies, nations and cultural backgrounds.
Here is the more important question– one that we leave with you. How can we start a movement to find those answers and put them into practice?