By Richard Weinstein, President & COO, Ocean Reef Community Foundation

I had left my phone in my office and there I was, eating alone with food still on my plate when suddenly I ran out of things to read. This led me to reach out for the closest item with words on it… a food label. The ingredients seemed harmless enough until I got near the end and found that this food item had “natural and artificial flavors”. Looking at other labels I found that lots of food items seem to have natural and artificial flavors. Natural flavors I get, I think those are things like mint or coco or banana. So what in the world is an “artificial” flavor? And how would we know? Does that mean it is some made up flavor (like Tang, remember Tang? That stuff was terrible but we had to have it because the astronauts drank it.) Or does it mean that it tastes like banana, but no bananas were harmed in the making of this product? Still, banana is a real flavor, not artificial.

It turns out that banana flavor, for example, is a natural flavor but it is recreated using certain banana type chemicals (fake banana flavor is an ester called isoamyl acetate CH3COOC5H11) and it doesn’t attract any fruit flies! (By the way, did you ever wonder how those fruit flies manage to zero in on your fruit after a few days? Come on, you didn’t really think the fruit flies “find” your fruit, did you? The fruit fly eggs are already on the skin of the bananas and oranges when you bring them home. If you don’t wash them – yes, you should wash the banana skins – they hatch and “Voila!” fruit flies have found your fruit!)

I guess artificial flavor can be likened to a place like “New York New York” in Las Vegas. Maybe they need a label that warns of “natural and artificial experiences”. I guess this is the opposite where, considering it is clearly not New York, the experiences are all artificial. Unless they have actual New Yorkers working there. “So youse guys want anudda drink or what?” I wonder what happens if you order an artificially flavored drink in an artificial experience place? “I would like a banana daiquiri with extra CH3COOC5H11 and a 151 floater, please.”

These days it is hard to find any all-natural destinations outside of the ones that have a high probability of killing you.  Even then, once visited, destinations can lose their natural make up. T-shirt shops are usually not far behind. (Do you think the first of these in the arctic will be sweat shirt shops? Also on that subject if it’s cold and you wear it to keep warm is it still a sweat shirt?).

The Florida Keys are certainly a destination that is frequently visited by tourists. It seems that the real nature of the Florida Keys includes tourism as part of their origin. Even starting back as far as the early 1900’s Flagler’s idea to build a Railroad to Key West for access to that deep water port would likely have evolved into grand plans for luxurious hotels along the way as it had elsewhere in Florida. Unfortunately, a hurricane put a stop to all that. Back then they didn’t “name” hurricanes so it was just the 1927 hurricane or the 1935 hurricane. Today you can see the generations of families right alongside the newcomers living and working in the Florida Keys.

And with that comes specialized needs for some of those families. That also extends into Homestead and Florida City where many new workers in the Keys (including Ocean Reef Club) have settled as a more affordable option, as they commute to serve the Upper Keys community.

What does that mean for the Foundation and our giving programs? As we review the many applicants for grants, we see how our funding makes a meaningful difference for the work they do to improve the lives for these families. Your contributions through our All Charities Event last month are critical in support of these valuable charitable organizations and soon our Grants Committee will finalize the allocations for those funds to their select organizations. That will be a proud moment for all Ocean Reef Members knowing that all of the work leading up to our fundraising event and the tremendous support from all Members, often starting with a small check off amount on your annual dues statement, culminates in these significant charitable grants. With that, if we were going to create an artificial flavor, it would be to celebrate this success and it would taste like victory!