Wild Foods to Alleviate Poverty

Do you think harvesting wild foods would take too much of your time? Think of it this way, if you don’t do it yourself then you pay someone else to do it for you…which means working more! Click here to view an interesting study with the Pwo Karen peoples living in the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary of Western Thailand. This study, published in 2006, found that Pwo Karen folks spent 14.63 days a year gathering wild food plants (per household). If a Pwo Karen household decides to stop gathering those wild food plants, and switches to purchasing commercial food crops, they need to engage in paid work for 143 days/year to cover the cost. I don’t have to think about that one much. Send me to the forest!

One of the challenges facing the researchers in this study was separating out times people spent foraging for wild foods. I faced a similar challenge while documenting the time I spent harvesting and preparing foods during our 2005 Local Food Challenge. Among other things, I recorded distance traveled to get wild foods. This was really hard to separate from my daily life activities, as there were very few times when I drove to distant locales only to harvest wild foods. Food weaves itself into so many areas of our lives, and oftentimes it happened that I was visiting a friend with a patch of wild strawberries nearby…or going to a conference where I would see a large stand of wild leeks in the forest.

Nearly 1 in 8 Americans are living in poverty according to the US Census Bureau . We have poverty here, in much larger numbers than we care as a culture to admit. The USDA’s Economic Research Service says American’s spent between 30 to 44% of their income on food in 2003/4. So, cut back on your hours at work and start harvesting nature’s abundance! It’s a leap, but this is the 11th Hour.

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