Grist for the mill: Good, bad news about local food

By Angela Glore February 03, 2014 03:49 pm

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a new local food column by Angela Glore. 

When I first moved to Crescent City in October, 2009, people would ask how I liked living here, usually in a voice that suggested my answer would be negative.

But we had moved from the middle of the Mojave Desert, where buying a gallon of milk meant driving over an hour to Las Vegas.

For two years before our desert sojourn, we lived in the Alaskan bush. We could buy a gallon of milk by walking to our convenience-store-sized “supermarket,” but it cost $8! Full-service grocery stores were an hour away by airplane.

Now we had landed in Crescent City and there were four supermarkets within a five-minute drive that could sell me a gallon of milk — I was in heaven! 

Easy, affordable milk combined with a gorgeous coast, towering ancient forests, and a Fred Meyer — close to my heart since life in Alaska — just across the border? What wasn’t to love?

Once the thrill of buying staples without burning several gallons of gas faded, however, I started noticing some flaws in the system.

Crescent City had a working harbor, but it was hard to buy local fish and seafood.

While Crescent City itself had a bounty of supermarkets, people living in Gasquet, Hiouchi, and Klamath had to travel to buy real groceries.

A lot of people couldn’t afford fresh, healthy foods. Obesity rates in the schools were high. There was pretty much only one full-time vegetable farm in the entire county. 

There have been changes since then, for better and worse. Del Norte County has gained Wild Rivers Market and a new outlet for local crab, but lost Ray’s and ShopSmart. The bottom line is the same: Many people can’t afford enough nutritious food for their families, local foods aren’t readily available, and too many students are overweight and obese.

Before moving to this slightly damp version of a natural paradise, I had lived multiple lives. I cooked my way through college, in campus kitchens and in music and dance camps for six summers. I was an outdoor educator, teaching sixth-graders about the natural world and colonial history, including the role of food in each.

I had intermittent weekend cooking gigs on a wood-fired cookstove belowdecks on a wooden Hudson River sailing sloop. I worked in orchards and farms, including my own small farm in New York.

I helped found my hometown farmers market. As a long-term student, I studied the archaeology and anthropology of food and farming, working with modern Mexican farmers growing ancient crops.

There’s a common theme to most or all of my past jobs: food. Even when I worked at the university library, I founded a staff Pie Day, which is still held each September.

So it was not surprising that I found food work here, too. Shortly after we moved to Del Norte, I joined the First 5 Service Corps as a VISTA volunteer, working with community gardens and the Crescent City Farmers Market, and helping bring people together to form the Community Food Council for Del Norte County and Adjacent Tribal Lands (DNATL).

Now, I’m part of the Building Healthy Communities food team, working with the Food Council and community partners to change our local food system for the better.

Starting with this column, I’ll be writing every month about food issues in our community and beyond. Sometimes, the column will tie a national issue to work happening here; other times, I’ll highlight upcoming local events and opportunities.

Some columns might focus on the dreams I have for what DNATL’s food system and economy could be in the future. Some of those dreams are practical and will be realized over the next year, but I might sneak in a few over-the-top dreams just to see how many of you are crazy enough to dream them alongside me. 

All the views expressed here are my own. Although I work in collaboration with many agencies, programs, and individuals in our community, I am not representing their opinions in this column.

Reach Angela Glore at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it