In Food

Healthy Food Manifesto, Part 2

Posted by: on Apr 30, 2012 | One Comment

“Let food be they medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” -Hippocrates

A community food system (CFS) is defined as an integrated food production, processing, distribution, and consumption system that enhances a place’s environmental, economic, social, and nutritional health (Cornell, n.d.). I believe a sustainable community food system begins with personal, social, and environmental health. A healthy environment produces healthy food, creating healthy people, who create a healthy society and a healthy environment through stewardship of communities, personal relationships, and natural resources.

Personal/individual health

What we eat directly impacts our bodies as well as the world around. Along with water and shelter, food is our most basic need. However, not all food is created equal. And Americans are beginning to recognize that we do not have the safe and healthy food system we believed.

The current industrial food system relies heavily on chemical inputs including pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. As demonstrated by Rachel Carson (1962) in Silent Spring, these chemical inputs leech into our food, air, and water supply, poisoning us and our environment. We have a war on cancer and our country is experiencing an obesity epidemic (Conner & Levine, 2006). I believe both of these as well as other chronic and diet-related diseases can be combated with a new, sustainable community food system.

Furthermore, the prevailing food system handles and produces animals as if they were simple non-living commodities. Cows, hogs, and chickens are crammed into concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). They are overfed on an unnatural diet of corn, wheat, soy, and nontherapeutic antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistant bacteria, further endangering human health (HCWH, n.d.). Our lack of respect for fellow living beings damages our integrity as a society and hampers our progress.

Social health

Britt Boucher, Chinkapin Hill Forest Farms

Social health extends from our immediate to the global community, including producers, workers, and consumers. Communities are socially healthy when all citizens have access to fresh, healthy food; producers receive a fair economic return on their investment; and workers are treated with respect. Access to fresh, healthy food is not universal. Even in America, one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world, there are food deserts. A sustainable community food system would ensure food sovereignty for all, i.e. “the right of all people to healthy, culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods” (U.S. Social Forum, 2010). Farmers only receive $0.20 for each dollar spent on food (Bosserman, 2009). By spending locally, not only do farmers receive more of each dollar, but more of each dollar remains locally further boosting the economy and benefiting the community (“The Local Multiplier Effect,” 2006). Social health also extends to workers and ensuring they receive fair pay and work conditions.

Environmental health

“…food is a touchstone of the inter-connectedness of human health with the environment” (Lang et. al., 2009).

The current food system generates pollution, depletes natural resources, relies excessively on energy, and produces massive wastes from production to consumption (Land et. al., 2009). Environmental health means careful, sustainable land stewardship and humane treatment of livestock. Organic practices reduce pollution from pesticides and fossil fuel based fertilizers. Additionally, proper stewardship focuses on replenishing soil and ecological resources.

Community food system vision

I envision a new community food system based on:

  1. Low-energy, low-impact, sustainable, and organic production of fresh fruits and vegetables
  2. Humane treatment of animals
  3. Access to fresh, healthy foods for all
  4. Support for small and medium-sized farms that feed their immediate communities
  5. Urban farming and gardening supported by famers’ markets and local procurement policies by government agencies, hospitals, and universities
  6. Nutrition education
  7. Support and education for entrepreneurial farmers

Policy

The 2012 Farm Bill along with USDA Organic Certification can further support low-energy, low-impact, sustainable, and organic production on small and medium-sized farms. Partnerships, like that of United Egg Producers and the Humane Society, can further legislation that improves the living conditions for livestock (Charles, 2012). Support for urban farms and gardens through zoning regulations, government procurement policies, and the creation of food policy councils will help nourish food deserts.

If we eat fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables grown locally with limited chemical inputs and limited transportation, we care for our bodies, promote a healthy environment, a strong and vibrant local economy, and a resilient community. Eating a healthy diet supports a healthy planet.

*For a PDF and printable version, click here.

Citations

Bosserman, S. (2009, Aug. 5). Economics of a local food system. Retrieved from: http://www.localfoodsystems.org/greeneracres/economics-local-food-system

Carson, R. (1962). Silent Spring. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Charles, D. (2012, Jan. 26). Coop d’etat: Farmers, Humane Society partner on chicken-cage revolution. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/01/26/145900751/ex-foes-stage-coop-detat-for-egg-laying-chickens

Conner, D. & Levine, R. (2006). Circles of association: The connections of community-based food systems. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutritions, 1(3), 5-25.

Cornell. (n.d.) A primer on community food systems: Linking food, nutrition, and agriculture. Discovering the food system. Retrieved from: http://www.discoverfoodsys.cornell.edu/primer.html

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH). (n.d.) Healthy food in health care: A pledge for fresh, local, sustainable food. Retrieved from: www.hcwh.org/us/food/issue.

Hopp, S. (2007). Loosing the bug arms race. Animal, vegetable, miracle: A year of food life. HarperCollins: New York, NY. (164-165).

Lang, T., Barling, D., & Caraher, M. (2009). Food policy: Integrating health, environment, & society. Oxford University Press: New York, NY.

The local multiplier effect. (2006). Yes! Retrieved from: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/go-local/the-local-multiplier-effect

U.S. Social Forum. (2010). People’s movement assembly on food sovereignty. Retrieved from: Class presentation, April 6, 2012.

1 Comment

  1. Hali
    April 30, 2012

    This was a class assignment.

    Reply

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