This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Electronic Highways

Published: December 9, 2004

Finding online connections to food

More than 70 years ago, a teenager entered a small home in the mountain village of a Mediterranean town and presented his bed-ridden little brother with a piece of the natural world—a bough from their backyard tree drooping with ripe pears. Today, that little brother is a grandfather and cannot eat a pear without remembering that day: the kindness of his brother, the smell of the outdoors in the bough and his community's connection to the earth and the food that sustained them.


At holiday times, we all have childhood memories filled with traditions and special foods. Recipes and traditions for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and winter solstice celebrations are ubiquitous on the Web. The Waterboro (Me.) Public Library, for example, has assembled an extensive array of Winter Holiday Resources ( The Food Timeline also will take you back to your culinary past (

But how many of us are connected to the earth and the source of our food today? How many of us survive mostly on processed food or even know the difference between natural and processed food? For a glimpse into the nitty-gritty of food and food-processing, select the full-text food science books in the Knovel E-Books database ( The numerous food-science books cover manufacturing and processing, food safety and quality, storage and preservation, nutrition and general references. In addition to "Baking Problems Solved" and the "Handbook of Herbs and Spices," sample titles include "Cereal Biotechnology," "Lawrie's Meat Science," "Novel Food Packaging Techniques," "Stability and Shelf-Life of Foods," "Foodborne Pathogens," "Food Chemical Safety" and many others.

Many initiatives have sprouted up to counter the effects of over-processing of food and the corporate control of our food system. A "slow food" movement began in Italy in 1986 and quickly has become international. It "promotes gastronomic culture, develops taste education, conserves agricultural biodiversity and protects traditional foods at risk of extinction" ( The Slow Food organization's Ark of Taste project aims to "rediscover, catalog, describe and publicize" forgotten flavors and foods at risk of disappearing as a result of "industrial standardization, hygiene laws, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage."

The slow food movement boasts local organizations all over the world, including the U.S. ( and Buffalo ( They invite interested persons to join a local group, trace their food sources, visit a local farmers' market, join a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, invite a friend over to share a meal, visit a farm in the area, start a kitchen garden, learn their local food history or to plant seeds with a child.

There are other local efforts to bring the food system closer to the people who rely upon it. The Massachusetts Avenue Project, advised by Samina Raja of the UB Department of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Architecture and Planning, and Diane Picard, has produced a report, "Food for Growth: A Community Food System for Buffalo's West Side" ( It outlines a plan for building a community food system to improve the quality and security of food available to the neighborhood and, at the same time, positively contribute to urban revitalization. The Community Food Security Coalition ( aims to "develop self-reliance among all communities in obtaining their food and to create a system of growing, manufacturing, processing, making available and selling food that is regionally based and grounded in the principles of justice, democracy, and sustainability."

Participating in an organic CSA program, where during the growing season each member receives a share of fresh locally grown vegetables, is another way to support the local food production and distribution system, to support local farms, to improve the nutritional value of the food you eat, to help protect the environment and to create new family traditions. Buffalo area CSAs include Buffalo Organics/Native Offerings ( and Porter Farms ( The Porter Farms site also lists local stores that carry its vegetables.

No matter what holiday traditions you cherish, food connects us all. Happy Holidays!

—Nina Cascio and Rick McRae, University Libraries