Patient Leader

I’m Megan—a 27-year-old writer, editor, and unprocessed eater. I’m urban, broke, and interested in change but unsure how to enact it. I’ve started with food. In January of 2012, I set myself a challenge. I would go an entire year without eating a processed food. Why? Well, there was the environment—I’d come of age in an era when global warming was all but assumed, and it was clear our food system was only exacerbating the problem. I stopped eating processed foods for economic reasons—as a protest against the global $1.25 trillion processed and packaged food industry; as an endorsement, literally, of my local food system, visible, accountable, and scalable. And, of course, there was weight. I wanted to find a way out of the boom-bust cycle of weight gain and loss than began when my 6”1’ frame hit 190 pounds and I joined Weight Watchers. Rather than thinking of food as a sum of component parts, I now want to view it as integral, intact. With mystery, a life of its own—a life that nourishes our bodies and communities. There are two ways to think about process. The first is the process of how food gets from source to stomach. Whether an ingredient comes from a mine or a farm, more often than not, this process is one that’s surpassed a human-sized ability to maneuver. It is one of machinery—of semi trucks and cold-storage warehouses, factories and chemical refineries. I’m interested in movement, in networks and transformation. Indeed, my work as a food journalist is dedicated to answering questions like: How does a melon get from soil in Sonora, Mexico to a Safeway supermarket on my street? Or, how does a small-scale rancher process his cows and certify his meat so he or she can sell it at the farmers’ market? These are no longer simple questions with simple answers and part of the reason to eat unprocessed is to untangle these networks, to situate your sustenance just a step closer to its source. The other reason to think about food in terms of process is to think about the process of what happens to food when it hits your body. Cooking is a process, as is dicing, heating, fermenting, and preserving; indeed, all foods are processed and often they are the better for it. All foods are processed, but if we understand the difference between corn on the cob and a bag of Chex Mix—and we do—and if the space between matters for our health—and it does—then the question of what makes a food too processed also matters. For the purposes of my year, a food was unprocessed if I could theoretically make it in my own kitchen. I ground wheat berries into flour but couldn’t sift out the endosperm—no refined flours. I helped a beekeeper gather honey and used my food processor to grind nuts into butter, but I didn’t refine sugar, stock up on chemicals, or mix emulsifiers. I live Tucson, Arizona, where I work as the managing editor of Edible Baja Arizona, a local foods magazine serving Tucson and the borderlands (and one of 80 Edible magazines published nationally). I’m a regular contributor to Los Angeles Times, and my articles and essays have appeared in High Country News, The Bellevue Literary Review, Sage Magazine, and Gulf Coast. I hold an MFA in Creative Writing nonfiction from the University of Arizona and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

Past Awards Participation

Third Annual Health Activist Awards


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