Community Interview By: Annie Demarest
Katelyn grew up in Carmel Valley, CA (“right by the ‘Salad Bowl,’” she adds, “Salinas Valley”) before moving to San Francisco for college. As a result of her mother’s love of gardening, teaching, and the exploring the outdoors, Katelyn’s childhood included healthy, home-cooked meals and frequent trips to farms and food stands in the surrounding area. With sustainability at the forefront of her interests, Katelyn has worked on the Think Outside the Bottle campaign in an effort to ban the sale of bottled water in U.S. national parks. I sat down with Katelyn recently to discuss her how her ideas of healthy living have been shaped by her upbringing and how they have changed as a result of moving to the Bay Area.
How would you describe healthy living in your community? Your community can be the community you grew up in, the community you live in now, or a comparison of the two.
When I think of healthy living, I think of eating lots of vegetables and less processed food; cooking meals at home rather than eating out; and smaller portions. In my direct community, it’s not eating a lot of meat or sweets but having those once in a while.
What about cooking meals at home is important to healthy living?
Smaller portions, I will always eat less at home than I do at a restaurant. And then I personally cook with a lot of non-fat milk, I don’t use a lot of salt… and yes, smaller portions.
Katelyn pauses to answer a text message and laughs, showing me the screen.
My friend, Maddie, just texted me saying “We’re eating cookie dough and watching the Bachelorette.” I think I’m very affected by the people I eat with. My roommate, MJ, eats out a lot and I definitely eat out a lot because of that. It’s definitely a lot easier to eat vegetables if your friends like them and like cooking them.
Q: Are your friends healthy in your eyes?
A: I think everyone has a different idea of what healthy living is. My friend Gabi, for example, has a very different idea of healthy: vegetables — one a day. She’s also big on meat and potatoes. Oatmeal is her go-to healthy food. Living together [sophomore year], I think I had an effect on what she ate because of the way she grew up was eating a lot of starches — not vegetables as a main part, not the meat as a small addition [as I was raised]. I was always cooking vegetables and I think that made her reconsider the importance of fresh produce in a healthy diet.
Q: What was your childhood like in terms of food and health?
A: My mom made my baby food out of fresh vegetables, if that gives you an idea. An average meal might have been homemade chicken tenders, baked vegetables and a salad on the side — we always had a salad on the side — and then maybe a little meat and potatoes. But we wouldn’t have meat every night. And always, you know, wild rice, whole wheat bread…
Q: Do you think it had to do with the location you grew up?
A: I think a good amount had to do with growing up in California — compared to living in Ireland [junior year of college], where I ate very few vegetables because they weren’t very good as nothing was in season; everything was imported. [Fruits and vegetables] were also way more expensive. Growing up there, you’re going to eat less of those things — fresh spinach, tomatoes — like I’m used to here in California.
Q: What would you like to see change in your community, either here in San Francisco or back home in Carmel Valley?
A: Restaurants could change. I guess I would like to see more — I mean, I know here in San Francisco there’s a big push — local and sustainable healthy eating. I think being connected with where your food comes from and how it’s grown is a really important part of living a healthy life. Maybe this is too obvious, but being connected with your body and knowing how it works is so important to being healthy and living a healthy lifestyle.
Q: Absolutely. And how might you change the food system? Your answer can involve any part of the food process, from growing to packaging to consumption…
A: I’d go back to sustainability. The idea of shipping so much of our produce and foods and relying on mass production just to have a certain vegetable at a certain time is so ridiculous. Healthy living isn’t just what you breathe; driving trucks across country, spraying pesticides all over your food just so they won’t have a blemish on them — I wish that would change, or at least that more people would be educated about how their food options come to them. Maybe we can’t change the process, but maybe we can change how people make decisions on purchasing their food and the way they make food at home.
Thanks, Katelyn, for sharing your thoughts on food and healthy living with us at Healthy Planet USA!
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