Food Forager Thinks COVID-19 Will Teach People to ‘Provide for Themselves’

A professional forager in Chicago says the COVID-19 pandemic is shaking up how we obtain food and will perhaps force people to pick their own. 

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“We’re one little click away from our entire food system collapsing,” said Dave Odd, who gives foraging tours and sells produce to restaurants in the Chicago area. “It does your soul good to know that you can provide for yourself and I think that the way things are going, everyone’s gonna have to learn how to provide for themselves and cook for themselves.” 

The pandemic has led to an increase in demand at food pantries and nonprofits that are now scrambling to serve more people.

During a foraging tour of Lincoln Park one year ago, Odd told us, “The great thing about foraging is it’s really something you can fall back on during hard times.”

It seems those hard times are upon us. And so Odd gave us another tour of Gompers Park in the city’s North Park neighborhood, where he showed us the edible flowers of an eastern redbud tree, the culinary uses of violets and more.

Odd said the city’s shutdown has led to a drop in orders for his produce business, but he plans to soon host foraging tours that follow social distancing guidelines and offer other protective measures against the spread of COVID-19. 

Odd warns anyone flirting with the idea of foraging to get permission before they pick plants on someone else’s land.

"When I do tours in city parks, it’s mostly for identification, we’re not actually harvesting anything,” Odd said. “I’m sure there’s no harm in eating a berry off a bush or grabbing a leaf here and there, but obviously you don’t want to go into a city park with a shovel and start digging things up.” 

So, forage at your own risk. And take note: The practice is forbidden on Cook County Forest Preserve land and the Chicago Park District does not allow foraging in its parks.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia


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