Island Food Community of Pohnpei visit for the ethnobotany class

On 06 October the SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany class visited the Island Food Community of Pohnpei offices for an introduction to the CHEEF benefits of local food and an update on the word being done.

There the students learned that local food is important to the culture, health, environment, economy, and food security of Micronesia.

Local foods promote local cultural practices and traditional  culinary arts. The serving of local foods in traditional manners conserves traditional handicraft forms such as coconut frond plates and baskets. The growing of local food also supports traditional artisanal agricultural practices.

Local foods are good for the health of the people of Micronesia. Local starches are complex carbohydrates that digest more slowly than rice, this slower rate of conversion to sugar appears to help reduce the risk of developing type II adult onset diabetes.

Local starches are high in minerals, and as the IFCP has shown, many of the unique varieties of bananas here have high beta-carotene concentrations, a precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is widespread in the FSM, yet the karat banana provides high levels of beta-carotene.

Foreign foods are linked to the rise of diabetes and obesity in Micronesia.

The environment also benefits from a shift to local foods. Foreign foods come highly packaged in plastics and metals that are slow to degrade. Local foods typically come only in their own husk. Local foods are highly biodegradable. Foreign foods contribute to the waste stream and environmental degradation of the island.

The local economy benefits as well. Money spent on foreign, imported food, leaves the island immediately and is lost to the economy. There is no multiplier effect for foreign foods. The purchase of local food is money spent which goes to a local farmer. That local farmer can then buy other goods and services. This is termed a multiplier effect, where one dollar is spent and respent within the economy, contributing more than one dollar to the gross domestic product. Local foods support local farmers and their local families.

All of the islands depend on ships to bring in foreign food. A strike on the docks in California, a ship bottled up in Saipan harbor, these events could theoretically impact the transhipment of food to the islands. In terms of foreign food, the islands depend on a supply over which the islands have no control. This is food insecurity. Local food is locally grown. Food growing in your backyard is your food, and is food security for your family and, more broadly, the island communities.

Each term the class has the opportunity to visit the Island Food Community of Pohnpei, and the presentations provides the students with an opportunity to choose to go local and eat local foods. The class is primarily composed on young adults who have yet to start a family. The good work of the Island Food Community of Pohnpei provides nutritionally important information to future fathers and mothers, a chance to raise a healthier generation of young Micronesians.

I suspect that the students will long remember this field trip and hope that they put what they have learned into action in their own lives.

The class was also informed of a world food day contest on Thursday October 15 and a celebration of World Food Day on Friday October 16 at Pwunso.


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