Page 1

between farm & table creating a sustainable food system


The average grocery store’s produce travels

1500 miles between farm and table.

1


Switching to just

25 percent of our diet from long distance to locally grown reduces our carbon footprint by more than all recyclables combined.

—Leda Meredith, Locavore


table of contents

introduction current state

1

chapter 1 basic initiatives

8

chapter 2 education

18

chapter 3 food waste

24

chapter 4 sense of community

34

chapter 5 our food system

42

chapter 6 local & state

52

conclusion peas in a pod

60

end notes bibliography


introduction current state

The United States food system has changed substantially over the last fifty years due to a variety of circumstances including the globalization and centralization of the food industry as well as the concentration of the food supply onto fewer, larger suppliers. In his essay “Food Democracy,� Brian Halweil states that half of the food items in a typical supermarket are produced by no more than 10 multinational food and beverage companies. The majority of food consumed today passes through a complex, indirect network of a few large, centralized producers, processors, transporters and distributors before reaching the consumer. An additional change in the food system is the ever increasing trend of these multinational firms sourcing food from outside national boundaries in order to provide consistent products at very low prices. The development of global food transport systems has resulted in higher consumer expectations. Consumers now have the ability to choose from a wide variety of food items, regardless of the season or their location, all at a low price. The ability to enjoy consistent produce and exotic ingredients at all times of the year is a luxury that has its price. The farther food travels, the more freshness declines and the more nutrients are lost. Many fruits and vegetables are engineered for a long shelf life, sacrificing taste and nutrition for its long-term preservation. As large multinational companies gain control over the food industry, small local farmers suffer. Since 1979, 300,000 farmers have gone out of business and those remaining are receiving 13 percent less for every consumer dollar for farm goods.

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Changes in the food system have resulted in a broad range of social, economic and environmental implications. There are those that strive for change ("locavores") and do what they can to live more sustainably, there are those that simply do not care, and there are those that simply do not have a choice due to geographical and/or financial restrictions.


Local Food Phenomenon Local food or the local food movement is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based and self-reliant food economies—one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place” and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores.3 Locavores are given the stereotype of being “rich, white folk” due to the misconception of local produce costing more money than the average grocery store produce, an issue that is addressed later on in this book.

Locavores A Locavore is someone who exclusively eats foods from their local or regional food shed or a determined radius from their home (commonly either 100 or 250 miles, depending on location). By eating locally, most locavores hope to create a greater connection between themselves and their food sources, resist industrialized and processed foods, and support their local economy. The majority of locavores do not give themselves a strict radius from which to eat, but instead buy as much of their food as they can from farmers, growers, and sellers with whom they have a relationship or whose producing practices they want to support. Many locavores give themselves several exceptions to their local diet. Commonly excluded items include coffee, chocolate, salt, and/or spices—although locavores tend to try and find local coffee roasters, chocolate producers, and spice importers when they can.4 To the right are tips on how to lead a more locavorous lifestyle.

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between farm & table: current state


Go Out Many restaurants now emphasize local foods in their dishes. Ask around, you might be surprised how many options you find that serve up local flavor.

Feed The Freezer Can’t cook every night? Worried about your fresh produce going bad? It’s easy. Make lasagna with local tomatoes or a soup packed with fresh veggies and freeze it! You can also make personal size meals for a brown bag lunch.

Branch Out Maybe your usual food repertoire could use some fresh ideas. The farmers’ market provides a perfect chance to try a new ingredient when it’s in season, and lets you talk to its grower to find out the best way to prepare your new food. Flirt with your food producer! Get some new recipes. 5


Food Deserts At the other end of the spectrum, there exists what are called ‘food deserts.’ A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants. These are areas where fresh, healthy food is not accessible. The concept of ‘access’ may be interpreted in one of three ways. PHYSICAL ACCESS to shops can be difficult if the shops are distant, the shopper is elderly or infirm, the area has many hills, public transport links are poor, and the consumer has no car. Also, the shop may be across a busy road, difficult to cross with children or with underpasses that some fear to use because of a crime risk. For some, such as disabled people, the inside of the shop may be hard to access physically if there are steps up or the interior is cramped with no room for walking aids. Carrying fresh food home may also be hard for some. FINANCIAL ACCESS is difficult if the consumer lacks the money to buy healthful foods (generally more expensive, calorie for calorie, than less healthful, sugary, and fatty ‘junk foods’) or if the shopper cannot afford the bus fare to remote shops selling fresh foods and instead uses local fast food outlets. Other forms of financial access barriers may be the inability to afford storage space for food, or for low-income families, living in temporary housing that does not offer good cooking facilities. MENTAL ATTITUDE or food knowledge of the consumer may prevent them from accessing fresh vegetables. They may lack cooking knowledge or have the idea that eating a healthful diet isn’t important. In some urban areas, grocery stores have withdrawn alongside residents that have fled to the suburbs. Low income earners and senior citizens who remain find healthy foods either unavailable or inaccessible as a result of high prices and/or unreachable locations.6

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between farm & table: current state


Health and Income As result of the current food system and the presence of food deserts, America’s overall health has suffered greatly. The number of overweight people in the USA had ...a second study found that in rural areas, convenience stores far outnumber supermarkets and grocery stores even though the latter carry a much wider

increased by 60 percent in the last twenty years. Also, the number of obese children had tripled in the last thirty years. But just what is obesity? Well, when a man’s body fat is over 25 percent he is obese and when a woman’s body fat reaches over 30 percent she is obese. The fact is that America is the fattest country in the world because the percentage of overweight people in the USA has steadily increased since the 1960’s.

choice of affordable, The surveys from the CDC are showing that only 33 healthy foods. percent of adults eat the recommended amount of fruit

while only 27 percent eat the recommended amount of vegetables. But wait, the statistics get worse for high school students, only 32 percent eat the recommended amount of fruit and a measly 13 percent meet the goal for vegetables. Low-income Americans now would have to spend up to 70 percent of their food budget on fruits and vegetables to meet new national dietary guidelines for healthy eating and a second study found that in rural areas, convenience stores far outnumber supermarkets and grocery stores even though the latter carry a much wider choice of affordable, healthy foods.7 As a country, we are only failing ourselves by filling our bodies with all of this overly processed junk food that lacks any nutritional value. Our government is also failing us but not providing us with the right resources so that everyone can have to option to eat fresh, nutritional food. Fresh food is a right, not a privilege.

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between farm & table: current state


So what? All of these varying factors are issues that exist within today’s society. From the ‘haves’ to the ‘have-not’s we are a country with a very big food problem. This is not an ‘elitists’ problem to solve, nor is it correct to believe that just because people are unable to afford fresh, local produce, that they don’t care. In fact, they do. There are so many factors that people are faced with today, especially those living off of low-income salaries that are forced to penny-pinch every food-related decision. Who would have ever thought that in the land of plenty, we would one day have to be concerned about where our food is actually coming from. Similarly to everything else we do as humans, we have taken things too far. The Industrial Revolution is a definite thing of the past, and while it brought great change and endless possibilities, it’s repercussions are overwhelming. For some reason we must always strive for bigger and better, which is what we have done to our food system. We are now in way over our heads and it is now up to us to figure out what to do about it. The subject of this book is not to just talk about the joys of spending a Saturday afternoon at the farmers' market or preaching the 100-mile diet. The purpose of this book is to take a step back and see the big picture. How can the ‘eat local’ phenomenon touch all social classes and communities within our country? What can we do as a unit to make changes that will in fact make a difference, a big difference that will be noticed by generations to come. It’s time to get our hands dirty, to educate ourselves on what it means to be self-sufficient and to realize the true meaning of a green thumb.


chapter 1 basic initiatives

Living in a deep recession with environmental problems that threaten our continued comfort on this planet, “voting with our dollars� is simply not enough. In order to truly transform our food system from a water and gas-guzzling industrial monoculture into a more sustainable and humane polyculture, it is necessary to leverage the full range and force of private and public activity. We are currently witnessing a tipping point. Our economy, our health and our environment cannot sustain continued topsoil loss, diminishing fresh water reserves, antibiotic resistant superbugs, toxic runoff (from the use of pesticides and fertilizers) into our waterways, rain-forests being destroyed to make way for food production, and the massive amounts of fossil fuels being used in large-scale farming. In fact, with an estimated 50 short years of oil left, and demand only growing, we must change our ways now.8 So what does that mean? What can we do?


Communal Support Food grown close to home requires less fuel and other resources to get to your grocery store. Eating local is also a good way to support your local economy because you buy products produced by farmers who live in your area. COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE (CSA) is a great way to make supporting nearby growers easier through home delivery options.9 Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables. Interested consumers purchase a share, which is considered a “membership” or a “subscription,” and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. It’s a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it. To find your nearest CSA, go to LOCALHARVEST.COM which has the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, with over 2,500 listed in their grassroots database.10

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CSA Advantages Advantages For Farmer Farmers get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16-hour days in the field begin. Farmers receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s overall cash flow. Farmers have the opportunity to get to know their consumers first-hand.

Advantages For Consumer Consumers get to eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits. Consumers are exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking. Visitation access to the farm at least once a season is granted. Consumers are able to develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how the food is treated.


American Farmers on average receive only

20 cents

of each dollar spent on produce by customers. The rest is spent on processing, packaging, and transportation. —John Ikerd, Eating Local: A Matter of Integrity


Farmers’ Markets Farmers’ markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers. From the traditional “mercados” in the Peruvian Andes to the street markets in Asia, growers all over the world gather weekly to sell their produce directly to the public. In the last decade they have become a favorite marketing method for farmers throughout the United States, and a weekly ritual for many local shoppers. In a farmers’ market, a group of farmers sell their products once or twice a week at a designated public place like a parking lot or large warehouse. Farmers’ markets often feature produce grown NATURALLY or ORGANIShopping at a farmers’ market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, f lavorful produce at its seasonal peak

CALLY, meats that are raised humanely on pasture, handmade farmstead cheeses, eggs and poultry from free-range fowl, as well as heirloom produce and heritage breeds of meat and fowl. In many countries with strict food safety laws, farmers’ markets can be one of the few places beyond the farm gate to purchase raw food, such as raw milk. Some farmers’ markets even provide live entertainment. Shopping at a local farmers’ market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful produce at its seasonal peak.11

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between farm & table: basic initiatives


Urban Agriculture Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around a village, town or city. Urban agriculture in addition can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture and horticulture. These activities also occur in peri-urban areas as well. Urban agriculture contributes to food security and food safety in two ways: first, it increases the amount of food available to people living in cities, and, second, it allows fresh vegetables and fruits and meat products to be made available to urban consumers. A common and efficient form of urban agriculture is the biointensive method. Because urban agriculture promotes energysaving local food production, urban and peri-urban agriculture are generally seen as sustainable practices.12 The mission of urban farming and agriculture is to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, educating youth, adults and seniors and providing an environmentally sustainable system to uplift communities. Urban farms are a great way for communities to join together and learn how to grow their own food, which is a great option for lower-income families. Urban farms are popping up all over the place. To find an urban farm near you, simply go to urbanfarmonline. com. Below are several existing urban farms worth taking a look at.

CITY SLICKER FARMS www.littlecitygardens.com GROWING POWER www.growingpower.org LITTLE CITY GARDENS www.littlecitygardens.com

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crustless pumpkin pie 15 oz. pure pumpkin 2 large eggs 1 large egg yolk 1 cup heavy cream 1 tbsp brandy 3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper pinch of freshly ground cloves cream: 1 cup heavy cream 2 tbsps packed light brown sugar 1 tsp ground ginger (freshly grated is good) 1 tsp brandy

recipe collection: fall

1/2 tsp table salt


chapter 2 education

Urgent change is desperately needed within agricultural education. Some change is already happening, but there is need for action in particular directions. The change needed today is a re-focusing on the curriculum and student experience so the farmers of tomorrow will have the skills as well as the expertise to meet the needs of a changing and sustainable world. Students of the 21st century differ from those of the last century in many ways, including a demographic change: fewer come from farm or rural backgrounds. Today, well under 5 percent of the U.S. population live on farms and barely 20 percent come from rural communities. The increasingly urban and suburban population poses a particular challenge for agriculture in that students often lack even basic awareness of agricultural sciences. Public understanding of agriculture is poor, and many people are barely aware of where their food comes from. Their lack of awareness of agricultural products is coupled with an outdated view of agriculture. One challenge for attracting young people to agricultural sciences is to overcome the public perception that agriculture strictly means farming because agriculture incorporates a wide array of approaches.13


agricultural illiteracy In early America, settlers were totally dependent upon their food source. If they produced their own food, they knew how to grow it, where to sell it, and how to process and preserve it so that it remained safe for consumption. If they did not produce their own food, they knew where to find the most reliable source, both in quality and quantity. They knew because their lives depended upon this knowledge. Although most agriculturalists would argue that little has changed in our dependency upon a reliable source of quality food, most would also agree that the vast majority of Americans know very little about today’s food system. Simply put, the majority of Americans seem to be agriculturally illiterate. Simply put, the majority of Americans seem to be agriculturally illiterate.

Webster defines literacy as being knowledgeable in a particular subject or field, in this case, agriculture. Webster defines education as the process of developing that knowledge. If we accept those definitions, what we do in agricultural education at the middle and secondary levels is to develop students into agriculturally literate citizens. If so, agricultural education equals agricultural literacy. However, the agricultural education profession has been slow to embrace agricultural education as an agricultural literacy program. Research indicates conflicting results in the level of agricultural literacy. Rural students, despite their backgrounds, lack understanding of agricultural concepts concerning food products. The REINVENTING AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION program for the Year 2020 clearly indicates that not only should agricultural literacy be part of every student’s education from kindergarten through high school, and beyond, but also that agricultural education must serve as the torchbearer in that effort. However, many would argue that we fall far short of accomplishing that goal— at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.14

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between farm & table: our food system


There are several potential opportunities in this area, schools could first of all begin incorporating agricultural studies into student’s mandatory curriculum as well as after- school programs and clubs. Schools and community centers could also provide outside classes for adults, especially if they have access to a garden or nearby farm. GAME PLAN One way to accomplish this is by creating toolkits for the students, especially in the elementary years. These kits can be used both at school and at home, where students can share with their families, information on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Toolkits would include: • How-To Books for Gardening and Composting • Top Ten Ways To Be More Green • Variety of Seed Packages and Starter “Soil” • Lists of Local Businesses and Farmers’ Markets


chapter 3 food waste

Let me guess. You’re concerned about the environment. You recycle, buy the right light bulbs, drink from a re-usable water bottle, preferably one made of metal, and wish you could afford a hybrid. You always try to remember your re-usable shopping bags when you go to the market and feel guilty when you don’t. Sound about right? One of the things that we are not doing is minimizing our food waste. If you buy it and bring it home, eat it. That alone is one of the easiest ways to aid the environment. About 40 percent of the food produced in the United States isn’t consumed. Every day Americans waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. And our national food waste habit is on the upswing: We waste 50 percent more food today than we did in 1974. Squandering so much of what we grow doesn’t just waste food; it also wastes the fossil fuel that went into growing, processing, transporting and refrigerating it. A recent study estimated conservatively that 2 percent of all U.S. energy consumption went to producing food that was never eaten. To give you a sense of perspective, every year, through uneaten food, we waste 70 times the amount of oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico during the three months of the Deepwater Horizon spill. That waste of resources continues even after we throw away food. There is the energy required to haul the discarded food to the landfill. And once there, food decomposes and creates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent a heat trapper than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the second-largest human-related source of methane emissions, and rotting food causes the majority of methane there. It’s climate change coming directly from your kitchen.15


12.7% FOOD SCRAPS

what gets wasted in the USA?

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20% PRODUCTION

60% CONSUMERS

who wastes it?

Source: Next Generation of Food (NGF)

20% DISTRIBUTION


Biggest Culprits It’s tough to really point the finger at anyone about this issue since it seems like everybody is taking part in making this a huge issue, but the commercial and retail food industry are massive producers of food waste. This includes restaurants, conveniences/grocery stores and food suppliers. Some of the main ways that food can be lost prior to even getting to our homes include discarding of imperfect foods, transportation and strange unwritten rules. WHO EVER SAID THAT ALL THE EXTRA FOOD A RESTAURANT MAKES OR NEARLY EXPIRED FOOD AT GROCERY STORE HAS TO BE TOSSED IN THE TRASH? This goes back to strange “rules” that many food businesses follow that force them to throw these items away. It's an absurd practice and with all of the starving people that exist in this country, it simply cannot continue in this manner.

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14-day sweet pickles 3 1/2 qts pickling cucumbers (about 4 lbs) 1 c. coarse flake pickling salt 2 qts boiling water 1/2 tsp powdered alum 5 c. vinegar 3 c. sugar 1 1/2 tsp celery seeds 4 2� cinnamon sticks 1 1/2 c. sugar

recipe collection: summer

(serves 6)


40 percent

of the food produced in the United States is not consumed. We waste 50 percent more food today than we did in 1974.

—Jonathan Bloom, Stop Wasting Food


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Food rescue does not involve superheroes in capes. Also called food recovery, it is the practice of retrieving edible food that would otherwise go to waste and distributing it to those in need. In most cases, the recovered food is perfectly edible, but not saleable. For example, it’s day old bread or bagged lettuce past its “sell-by” date. Often, it’s in great condition and to throw it away would be a waste. GAME PLAN In order to get the word out to the public as well as local businesses, a lot of promotional work needs to be created to get our message out there such as: • a website www.dontwastefood.com • Food/Promo Truck for Pick-ups • Insert in Sunday Newspapers • Refrigerator Magnet • Social Media Promo


chapter 4 community

A community may be defined as a group of people who share a common vision for their preferred future. Without some shared vision or sense of common purpose, there is no common commitment to keep people working or living together. Communities may be either virtual communities of interests or physical communities of place. To sustain communities of place, people with common interests must also have a purpose for choosing to live and work in a particular place. Otherwise, the people who share common interests will simply move to places better suited to their purpose, and then the sense of community is never found within those left behind.16


People & Place Perhaps no sustainable community development initiative is more important than is the development of local, community-based food systems. For many American communities, land is the still most important natural resource linking people to place, and agricultural land provides both a purpose for and possibility of sustaining people in a particular place. Sustainability does not suggest a return to natural resource based economies or societies. However, by linking economic and sociocultural development to geographically fixed resources, sustainable connections are established among people, purpose, and place. Location-specific resources of economic value also include topography, landscapes, and climate, as well as land that can support community based food systems. Sustainable, community based food systems have the unique advantage of providing dependable access to the nourishment necessary to sustain the physical health of a community while at the same time nurturing social relationships, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and anchoring the local economy. Sustainable communities must be built on a different conceptual foundation than the natural resource communities of the past and industrial communities of the For many American communities, land is still the most important natural resource linking people to place.

present. Sooner or later, we must confront the fact that development driven solely by the economic bottom line, quite simply, is not sustainable. This lack of sustainability is a matter of science and reason, as it is derived from the most fundamental laws of science. Sustainability ultimately is a question of energy use. Everything that is of use to humanity—our houses, clothes, food— requires energy. And equally important, the usefulness of human energy is a product of society. We are not born as productive individuals but as helpless babies. We have to be nurtured, socialized, and educated by society before we are capable of being of economic use to society.16

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stone soup 1 stone, big enough that it won’t get lost in the soup (quartz is a good choice because it won’t break down in cooking) 1 tbsp. butter or vegetable oil 1 medium onion, chopped 2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped fine 3 medium red-skinned potatoes (unpeeled, and cut into halves) 1/2 sweet red pepper, chopped 1 large garlic clove, pressed 6 cups chicken broth 1 medium zucchini, diced large 1 medium yellow squash, diced large 1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen 2 cups cooked tubettini or ditalini, or other pasta Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

recipe collection: winter

1 large carrot, cut into coins


Without community, none of us feel

accountable to anybody else.

—Colin Beavan ‘No Impact Man’


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between farm&&table: table:our ourfood food system between farm system


Most people are in the dark about how to get involved in this 'local' food phenomenon. The concept of community festivals needs to take place. Unlike Farmers' Markets, the community festivals would be held once during each of the four seasons, in various neighborhoods throughout the city. It would help to advertise local farms as well as local businesses and organizations that truly need the support of the local community. GAME PLAN The community festival is a communication venue for local farmers/businesses to come together to get their names out to the community. Materials needed: • Promotional Ads (web) • Tote Bags (re-usable) • Information packets (listings of local businesses, farmers and organizations • Demonstrations (cooking, composting, DIY gardening)


chapter 5 our food system

Today’s monthly visit to Costco scarcely resembles our grandmother’s daily trip to the butcher, baker or corner shop. During the second half of the last century, a so-called Green Revolution has been underway. This revolution has changed the way our food is produced, distributed and marketed, and, in most cases, not for the better. This new ‘revolution’ has greatly increased the prevalence of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, genetically-modified organisms, industrial agriculture, and global food distribution which has created a pretty dysfunctional system that cannot provide for future generations. And then there are economic and access issues. Processed, junk food is so cheap that healthy, farm-fresh food has become a luxury item. Many people have been raised on basic, commoditized foods (think broccoli, carrots, baked potatoes...) that they don’t even know how to shop for or cook diverse fruits and vegetables. Others may want to buy local, organic foods but don’t have geographic or financial access. Wholesalers share this access problem where they lack the simple tools to track availability and place orders.17 SOUNDS PRETTY DISMAL, DOESN’T IT? Well it is.


food deserts in the US According to the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, food “deserts are areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has a map, or atlas, depicting food choices and demographics of the u.s. by county.18

23.5 MILLION

AMERICANS INCLUDING

6.5 MILLION

CHILDREN CURRENTLY LIVE IN FOOD DESERTS

Source: Your Food Environment Atlas

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Facts About Food Deserts 5.7 percent of households in the U.S. do not have access to fresh, nutritional food. Food prices are 10 percent lower at supermarkets than at smaller convenience stores. Food eaten at restaurants is less affordable due to its higher per unit cost relative to foodstores. Supermarkets are more accessible to ethnic and racial minorities than they are for whites. Between 2.3-5.5 percent of all households may be outside of a walking distance to a supermarket and lack access to a vehicle. Overall, 0.9 million households do not have access to a vehicle and live in lowincome areas more than a mile from a supermarket. This represents 3.6 percent of all households in low-income areas.


If you design for food & food systems, you will inevitably address all considerations that are needed to create

sustainable

workable communities. —Carolyn Steel, Hungry City


Rural Grocery Stores Grocery stores play a crucial role in our rural communities, providing vital sources of nutrition, jobs and tax revenue that support the community. Moreover, rural grocery stores are also economic drivers, community builders and meeting places for locals. They are, however, slowly disappearing—forcing Across rural America, 803 counties are classified as Food Deserts..

residents to leave their communities to purchase food, often at great expense and over great distance. Across rural America, 803 counties are classified as “food deserts� where all the county residents are at least 10 miles from a full-service grocery store. The Great Plains has the highest concentration of food desert counties, with 418. SO WHY DO THEY LEAVE? Many reasons conspire to leave a community without a grocery store. Declining populations mean that a number of rural communities are without an adequate customer base for a local store. A certain population is needed to maintain a grocery store. In 2000, the average population needed to maintain a grocery store was 2,843. By 2005 the necessary population had risen to 3,252. While the minimum needed population is increasing, most rural communities and counties are decreasing in population. Rural grocery stores, therefore, are fighting larger rural demographic trends. Over time, large corporate hypermarkets, such as Walmart and Target, have began to take notice of these food deserts, and have recently begun to take initiative on contributing to the depletion of them. These are the same superstores that have been reamed in the past for bad practices. However, this new initiative is definitely cause for us to take a new look. If we can get these superstores to collaborate with our small number of existing rural grocery stores, great things could happen.19

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Currently, Michelle Obama is campaigning to get rid of food deserts all together within a seven year time-span. Establishing large superstore chains into these food deserts isn't enough, it is vital that these locations create a relationship with the local city producers/ businesses so that the city’s community may prosper rather than just adding more dollar bills into the corporate pocket. GAME PLAN: To develop a nationwide organization that represents local farmers within corporate grocery stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets. This organization will be responsible for: • Branding Local Produce • Providing high-quality SEASONAL produce with discounts • Providing customers with recipe cards/ inspiration for best methods of prep


chapter 6 local & state

With all of this talk about eating locally and agriculture as whole, one of the greatest mysteries of today's food system is the U.S. Farm Bill. So many people are unaware of this policy's role and overwhelming control over the decisions that are made with regard to our current food system. The Farm Bill defines the federal government’s role in the agricultural market, provides different types of government subsidies (or funding) to farmers, and has been widely criticized for benefiting mostly large industrial farms while doing little to help small family farms. Several government subsidies help factory farms profit by allowing them to keep costs and, therefore, prices low. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides payments and technical assistance for improving environmental quality and conservation practices on agricultural lands, currently lists the reduction of industrial farm contamination as one of their top priorities. More than 50 percent ($9 billion) of the Farm Bill’s conservation fund is spent on EQIP. In other words, your tax money is being used to help clean up massive amounts of pollution that large industrial farms create, holding corporations unaccountable which allows them to spend their profits elsewhere. 20 There are numerous issues with regard to the Farm Bill, issues that are the cause for corruption in our current food system. While we cannot change these policies tomorrow, we can take a stand to help change these policies in the future.


Local Control By having local control of food allows communities to participate in making decisions about their food supply. Urban and rural communities have a better ability to make sure that food production, distribution, and marketing are carried out in ways that are healthy for the local economy and the environment. Strong local influence over food and agriculture ensures that relevant policies are determined by public interest, not corporate profits. To meet the unique needs of a community, local jurisdictions should have unique standards differing from state or federal laws. The local control of our food supply helps secure the health and welfare of communities. Local authority strengthens democracy and gives citizens a more direct stake in a healthy future. LOCAL CONTROL OF OUR FOOD IMPROVES: HEALTH With greater local control, we are able to build food systems that improve community health. We can select foods and ingredients based on the qualities of flavor, freshness, and nourishment instead of factors favoring short -term shareholder profits. FOOD SECURITY When communities manage their food systems, they are better able to create a healthy, affordable, and stable food supply. In this way, the needs of marginalized segments of the community are met. Conversely, large food manufacturers and retailers inadvertently yet systemically compromise community food security. For example, they encourage (A) global-scale food distribution systems that are subject to disruption; (B) large-scale, chemical-intensive, monocultural production; and (C) store closures in low income communities where profits are not as high.

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LOCAL ECONOMIES Local control makes it easier to create an economic environment that fosters locally owned and operated food and agricultural businesses. This keeps more money cycling in the local economy. When stores source food and other products locally, even more money is returned to the local community. ENVIRONMENT Food that is locally produced and sold typically comes from small and mid-scale, sustainable farms. Creating stronger ties between communities and their local food systems fosters a connection to the land and better protects nature. One of the biggest benefits is a significant reduction in long-distance transport, a leading consumer of fossil fuels and contributor to climate change. COMMUNITY AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT Local food systems build community as well as develop regional identity and character. They provide much more meaningful livelihoods for food and agriculture workers, encourage community interaction, and build respectful relationships amongst patrons.21


Right now the price we pay for conventionally grown food is unbelievably low, and does not take into account the real cost of producing that food. That’s why organically grown food seems expensive. It’s not expensive actually; it’s that it’s not being subsidized.

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between farm & table: local & state


So that’s the first thing we can do on a larger scale —

influence

what’s going on with the Farm Bill and get some equity there. blueberry muffin skillet cake 2 2/3 cup of flour (I use half whole wheat flour)

—Willow Rosenthal, City Slicker Farms

1 tblsp baking powder 1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup of sugar (double this for sweeter muffins) zest and juice from 1 lemon 2 tsp of vanilla extract 1 cup + 2 tlsp of room temperature buttermilk (or regular milk or cream) 3/4 cup melted coconut oil, unsalted butter 1 1/2 – 2 cups berries (fresh or frozen)

recipe collection: spring

2 eggs, room temperature


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between farm & table: our food system


Food Policy Councils convene citizens and government officials for the purpose of providing a comprehensive examination of a state or local food system. This unique, non-partisan form of civic engagement brings together a diverse array of food system stakeholders to develop a sustainable solution to food and ag policy. GAME PLAN: To establish forums within local communities where residents can discuss the current issues with regard to sustainability and local farms/gardens/food. • Weekly Newsletter • Website • Place of Establishment for forums


conclusion peas in a pod

At its roots sustainable agriculture benefits the local community and local economy while supporting the environment by enriching the soil, protecting air and water quality, and minimizing energy consumption. Industrial food production is entirely too dependent on fossil fuels, which, when refined and burned, create greenhouse gases that are significant contributors to climate change. By adding transportation, processing and packaging to the food system equation, the fossil fuel and energy use of our current food system puts tremendous stress on the environment. Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep fresh food from spoiling as it is transported and stored for long periods of time. This packaging is difficult or impossible to reuse or recycle. In addition, industrial farms are a major source of air and water pollution. Small, local farms run by environmentally-conscious farmers live on their land and work hard to preserve it. They protect open spaces by keeping land in agricultural use and preserve natural habitats by maintaining forest and wetlands. By being good stewards of the land, seeking out local markets, minimizing packaging, and harvesting food only when it is ready to consume, farmers significantly reduce their environmental impact. In fact, studies show that sustainable agricultural practices can actually increase food production by up to 79 percent while at the same time actively reducing the effects of farming on climate change through carbon sequestration.22 With this knowledge, it is now our job, as both citizens and consumers, to promote this sustainable way of life to make other's aware of the realities that we face today. Despite income levels and our geographical location, it is our job to make our voices heard. It is our job to speak loud and clear to our local councilmen and representatives about the changes that need to be made rather than sit back and assume someone else is going to do it for you. Get involved in your communities, initiate local organizations, take part in community gardens and volunteer at urban farms. We're all peas in this giant pod of a nation so we need to learn how to work together so that we may continue to enjoy the natural resources we have access to today.


end notes

1 CUESA Sustainable Agriculture Issues How Far Does Your Food Travel to Get to Your Plate? CUESA. 2 Holly Hill, Food Miles: Background and Marketing. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. 3 Local Food. Wikipedia. 4 Molly Watson, Locavore. Local Foods. 5 Easy Ways to Eat Local. Vanguard’s Buy Local Challenge. Vanguard Communications. 6 Food Desert. Wikipedia. 7 Tyler Woods, Americans Eat Unhealthy. Emax Health. 8 Dawn Gifford, 13 Ways to Create a Sustainable Food Tipping Point. Farm to Table. 9 Shereen Jegtvig, Green Tips for Your Diet. Choosing Foods for Sustainable Living. About.com. 10 CSA. LocalHarvest. 11 Farmers’ Markets. LocalHarvest. 12 M. Bailkey, From Brownfields to Greenfields: Producing Food in North American Cities. Community Food Security News. 13 The Context For Change. Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World. The National Academies Press. 14 Kimberly Bellah, Agricultural Education=Agricultural Literacy. AllBusiness. 15 Jonathan Bloom, Stop Wasting Food: It’s not that hard, and it could save the planet. Post-Gazette. 16 John Ikerd, The Arts and Sciences of Sustainable Community-based Food Systems. 17 Our Current Food System. Greenpeace. 18 Food Deserts: Areas Without Access to Proper Foods. Truthful Politics. 19 John Crabtree, The Importance of Rural Grocery Stores. Center for Rural Affairs. 20 Policy & Legislation. The Issues. Sustainable Table. 21 Shaping Our Local Food Systems. Environmental Commons. 22 What is Local? Eat Local Buy Local Be Local. Sustainable Table.


Designed, written and edited by Emily Shields 312.450.5581 • shields.emily@gmail.com Photography by Chiot's Run: chiotsrun.com Rockwell • Univers InDesign • Photoshop Epson 5-Star 50 lb Matte Double-Sided Paper Epson 3880 Stylus Pro Perfect Binding Soft Cover with Applied Canvas-Cover


bibliography

Bailkey, M. From Brownfields to Greenfields: Producing Food in North American Cities. Food Security News. Fall 1999. 13 Nov. 2010. Bellah, Kimberly . Agricultural Education=Agricultural Literacy. All Business. 1 Jul. 2004. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. Bloom, Jonathan. Stop Wasting Food: It’s not that hard, and it could save the planet. Post-Gazette. 21 Nov. 2010. Web. 25 Nov. 2010. Crabtree, John. The Importance of Rural Grocery Stores. Center for Rural Affairs. 8 Nov. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. CSA. LocalHarvest. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. CUESA Sustainable Agriculture Issues How Far Does Your Food Travel to Get to Your Plate? CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Web. 4 Sept. 2010. Easy Ways to Eat Local. Vanguard’s Buy Local Challenge. Vanguard Communications. 4 Jul. 2008. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. Farmers’ Markets. LocalHarvest. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. Food Desert. Wikipedia. 29 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. Food Deserts: Areas Without Access to Proper Foods. Truthful Politics. 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. Gabbert, Laura. No Impact Man: The Documentary. 2009. Gifford, Dawn. 13 Ways to Create a Sustainable Food Tipping Point. Farm to Table. 9 Sept. 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. Hill, Holly. Food Miles: Background and Marketing. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. Ikerd, John. The Arts and Sciences of Sustainable Community-based Food Systems. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. Jegtvig, Shereen. Green Tips for Your Diet. Choosing Foods for Sustainable Living. About.com. 19 April. 2010. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. Local Food. Wikipedia. 14 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. Our Current Food System. Greenpeace. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. Policy & Legislation. The Issues. Sustainable Table. Web. 4 Sept. 2010. Shaping Our Local Food Systems. Environmental Commons. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. The Context For Change. Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World. The National Academies Press. 2009. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. Watson, Molly. Locavore. Local Foods. About.com. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. What is Local? Eat Local Buy Local Be Local. Sustainable Table. Web. 4 Sept. 2010. Woods, Tyler. Americans Eat Unhealthy. Emax Health. Web. Dec. 2010.


Farm To Table  

A closer look at the distance that our food travels from farm to table and the negative affects this is having on our economy and our enviro...