More than 75 people filled plates from tables crammed with homemade food at a church in Glenwood Landing Sunday, gathering for an opportunity to network and learn about small-scale solutions to large-scale issues.
"People say, 'Oh, organic food - it's so expensive, it's so elitist,'" said Amy Peters to those in attendance. Peters is president of the board of directors for the Sustainable Sea Cliff Cooperative, a "buying club" which connects members with local and fair trade food products.
She continued, saying the cheaper prices of genetically modified food - practically all mass-produced food items - provide a false sense of value.
"The cost is deferred. It's deferred to cancer, it's deferred to autism, it's deferred to obesity," she said.
She noted the use of herbicides and pesticides, and mentioned a gene included in corn crops which causes the stomachs of bull weavels to explode upon ingestion of the corn. The long-term effects of this tinkering with the nation's food supply are only beginning to be understood, she said.
"There are so many allergies that we never heard of that are so prevalent now," said Peters, citing common allergies to peanuts and wheat gluten.
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She partnered with Greg Sturge of the group Glenwood Arts and Ann Rathkopf of Slow Food Huntington, a local chapter of Slow Food USA, to hold the Locavore Challenge Potluck Dinner at Glenwood Community Church, where it is in its second year.
The event is one held in communities throughout the state to mark the end of the Locavore Challenge, which urges people to eat food produced locally or with fair trade practices during the month of September.
GMO foods were the major topic, with talk of a current push in California to have such products labeled. Also discussed was hydrofracking and its possible risks to the environment and food system in New York.
Sturge, a Sea Cliff resident, explained that his group's interest in the event was in providing a platform for collaboration between cross-disciplines.
"This is a unique opportunity to bring together people who are passionate about the arts and the environment," he said. "These different areas all sort of intersect."
One attendee was Port Washington's Meagan Parker of Nassau Heritage Farms, a group looking to establish a dairy farm in Nassau County that would produce raw milk.
"I came to represent and spread the word of the holistic movement," Parker said.
Peters said she was pleased with the evening's turnout and saw "a lot of new faces," a step in moving toward a goal of raising awareness that it is possible to have a local food system, and to start change in local communities "until we can change the big picture."
Click here to watch a trailer for the documentary "Genetic Roulette," on GMO foods and their associated health risks, recommended by one of the potluck's attendees.
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