Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All

From founding farmer to champion of the fair food movement
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Today, Wednesday March 6th, ?Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All?

WordPress Shortcode. Published in: Education. Full Name Comment goes here. Are you sure you want to Yes No. Browse by Genre Available eBooks Be the first to like this. From our education system to our financial and health care systems, we are confronted with all manner of interconnected problems. In recent years, a spate of books and films has documented some of our largest food failures. Hesterman, founder and head of the nonprofit Fair Food Network and a former agronomy professor at Michigan State University. Hesterman says he wants to go beyond encouraging local and organic food and eliminating certain foods from our diets.

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He acknowledges that these are important strategies, but he has a bigger net to cast. He points out that many of the same forces that powered the Industrial Revolution in the s and early s — like the mechanized reaper and commercial fertilizers and pesticides — helped lay the foundation of our current system.

So, too, did the federal government, which enacted measures like subsidies to advance agriculture and assist farmers. By the midth century, government action and new technology led to the first industrial farms.

As the average farm expanded in size, farmers began to specialize. In , the average farm grew or raised five commodities; a century later, this number was down to about one. Agricultural mass production, of course, led to enormous increases in efficiency and productivity. It helped to create an abundant food supply at low cost to consumers.

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These include problems with food quality and safety, animal welfare, soil erosion and depletion, higher energy consumption and greenhouse gas production, and diet-related illnesses like diabetes and obesity, Mr. Hesterman writes. But those it offers can pack a wallop.

Hesterman lays out four principles of a redesigned food system more suited to the present than the past: equity, diversity, ecological integrity and economic viability. He devotes a chapter to each, presenting examples of individuals and groups that have begun to integrate the ideas.

In the chapter on equity, for example, he hammers home an important theme: that our food system is failing the poor — particularly the inner-city poor, who often lack access to fresh, healthy foods. He points out that in Detroit, major supermarket chains have moved out as the local economy has deteriorated. This means that many residents must rely instead on gas stations, liquor stores and convenience stores for their food.

Once development rights are purchased, the farmland can never be used for development purposes and remains in farming in perpetuity. In my own hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, we are using farmland that has been preserved through PDR for new farmers to establish farming operations. Even though residents of the city are supporting the PDR, the farmland being preserved is actually in the rural areas surrounding the city.

Oran Hesterman: Education plays a vital role in helping to catalyze change in the food system.

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Whether we think of education as increasing our own knowledge of how to participate in institutional or policy change, or in the more formal sense of schools and universities, there are many steps that we can take toward change. In addition to Nourish, some examples of programs that are catalyzing the fair food revolution in school settings are The Edible Schoolyard and Real Food Challenge. The Edible Schoolyard consists of a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom for urban public middle school students, where students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce.

The Real Food Challenge works to increase the procurement of real food on college and university campuses, with the national goal of 20 percent real food by The Challenge consists of both a campaign and an online network, and includes support, training, resources, and materials for students and their allies to make connections, learn from one another, and grow the movement. Oran Hesterman: Collective action needs to happen in our communities by means of buying clubs, community gardens, farmers markets, and CSAs.

But it goes further than that: Where are schools, universities, corporations, hospitals, government offices, and correctional facilities buying their food? How are federal food assistance benefits being spent? Citizen engagement in these questions will make the largest difference at the state, regional, and national level.

Planning for a Sustainable Local Food System