Why Do We Insist On Growing Poisonous Things?
If poison is harmful, why do we insist on growing things that produce it? In our community garden this month, I discovered a gardener was growing a large Devil’s Trumpet plant. So large in fact, that over its likely several years of life, it has managed to spread seeds into a neighboring box and begin a new growth there. Devil’s Trumpets are skyward-faced cousins of the Angel’s Trumpet, and contain poisonous seeds, flowers, and occasionally fruit. Yet, a gardener has decided to risk the health of wayward consumers nonetheless.
Why? I don’t know for certain, I’ve not met the gardener to ask them. But if I had to guess? Because the flowers are pretty, and the risk of harm is lesser to them than the joy of its purple petals. Joy, often, is and deserves to be a factor we neglect when judging others’ decisions. The binary of “good vs bad” creates all kinds of harm: it ignores cultural preferences and significances, creates social and psychological stresses, and is generally poor pedagogy in its over-simplicity. But we rarely consider the role that joy can and should play in the choices we make in our lives. Especially when it comes to food.
Elijah’s Promise has been developing a system for teaching and about and evaluating food and nutrition education that takes all of these factors into account. Nutritional density and diversity are essential, but so are the other facets of how we interact with food several times a day every day—joy included.
As we begin this next school year in the coming weeks, we want to remember the Devil’s Trumpet. It’s not enough to simply rule out poison for poison’s sake. Sometimes, we just want to eat unhealthful things because it makes us feel happy. And that’s okay. That’s why we resolve to teach our students and our community at large about the joys of a full and healthy relationship to food.
About the Grantee
Elijah’s Promise harnesses the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger, and change lives.