Food is Not a Luxury

Have you ever experienced hunger? I mean, real hunger–not cravings or the stomach rumblings

Food Shouldn't Feel Like A Luxury campaign.png

 you get when you skip a meal. The issue of hunger in America has been on my mind a lot recently. This winter I came across the Food Shouldn’t Feel Like A Luxury ad campaign from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The faux luxury ads, produced by Leo Burnett for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, aimed to raise awareness and illustrate just how easy it is to donate from just about anywhere you are by sending a text message.

My favorite piece of the campaign has to be the image to the right. I can’t count the number of times I came across it and didn’t “get it.” I admired the art direction, the use of the stylish black plants, the broccoli as a floral bouquet, but I never got it until I saw it online one day.
That’s what happens when someone who doesn’t read copy comes across a great ad campaign like this. Had I been able to conceive something half as awesome–I probably would have tried to get a job in advertising after finishing school. 
While catching up with episodes of Rescue Me on I repeatedly saw ads from the Ad Council for Feeding America’s “1 in 8” ad campaign. According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture, one in eight Americans struggles with hunger every year.
The punching bag of the gardening world, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, recently went on a huge public relations blitz across the country to promote the GroGood campaign where they asked Americans, gardeners in particular, to take a pledge to donate harvests from our gardens to local food banks. The last stop for the GroGood campaign occurred here in Chicago where they funded a community garden in the Uptown neighborhood
Open a paper, read a blog or website and you’re likely to hear about a huge increase in vegetable gardening in America this year. The recession has made gardening, vegetable gardening in particular, chic and big business. Just as big are efforts to get backyard gardeners involved in helping ease hunger by growing food for others.
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This spring while walking around downtown Chicago with two fellow garden bloggers we spotted several instances of landscaping with edible plants. We came across a median at Congress & Michigan Ave. where they used lettuce as a border plant. My first reaction to spotting this “trend” of landscaping downtown Chicago with unexpected plants, mainly edibles, was a positive one. I like the idea of landscaping with edible plants because they are just as beautiful as ornamental plants. When I think of landscaping with vegetables, I usually envision that the gardener will ultimately eat what he or she has grown.
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I was also enamored with the idea that food growing in public plantings around the city was part of some larger campaign by Da Mayor to raise awareness about urban farming or backyard vegetable gardening. I’ve been reading articles about mayors starting Victory Gardens around the world in response to the economic crisis, encouraging people take their future– literally–into their own hands and growing some of what they eat. 
That’s what the lettuce planting is all about, right?
So far the only promotion I’ve come across is for the landscaping company that planted the planters on Michigan Ave. (bottom image on the right). I even saw this at Garfield Park Conservatory (top image on the right) but I can overlook that since they’re involved in the urban greening/agriculture front in Chicago. 
But, please tell me that someone didn’t approve the use of edibles in public plantings in a year when many of our fellow Chicagoans are losing their homes. Please tell me that someone didn’t approve the use of edibles in public plantings in a year when the Greater Chicago Food Bank is reporting a 32 percent increase in demand for emergency food assistance. 
There’s a website or blog by the city explaining using food to decorate Michigan Ave. and how we’re suppose to be inspired, right? Right? Are we really spending money to decorate Michigan Ave. with food while 1 in 8 of our neighbors are struggling with hunger tonight?
Food shouldn’t feel like a luxury because food is not a luxury. Food is a necessity and not a decorative item for Michigan Ave. Not in a year when people are hurting.

If you would like to become involved in fighting hunger with your garden see the links at the bottom of the post; Community Grows For The Greater Good In Uptown.


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  • It's funny you mention this now, because I was just downtown this week and was enjoying the site of all the decorative plantings -- the flowerbeds. I thought about how much more impressive they were than our more modest plantings in Oak Park. Then I thought about the state of Chicago's public schools, and I wondered, SHOULD Chicago be spending a dime on pretty flowers when so many of its schools are failing and teachers have to buy supplies out of their own pockets?

    I honestly don't know the answer to that. It would be an awfully gray world with no publicly sponsored plantings and it would hurt tourism too.

    Your post gives me more food for thought. Heh.

  • In reply to CarrieKirby:

    I have to give you an "amen" for your thoughts on our schools and money spent on public plantings. One thing that's bugged me about the beautification projects that Chicago undertakes is that they are usually centered where tourist and the wealthy are the most exposed to them.

    I had to laugh at your "food for thought" line.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • In reply to CarrieKirby:

    I thought this post may be on using corn for fuel which is an insane idea!!! People are starving to death around the world, and we are using the food for fuel?

    Overall, we just need to build and to drive more fuel efficient cars. Or.... how about mass transit?

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