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

Happy Mother’s Day! If you are concerned about the sort of world we are leaving our descendants (and what mother or nurturer is not?), today seems to be as good a day as any to commit to making sure that our children and our children’s children inherit a world that includes a healthy, sustainable food system to nurture them.

Where are YOU on your journey toward helping create a more sustainable, more equitable, fairer food system for our future generations: Just starting to think about buying more local food? Seriously into buying local, sustainable food? Involved in food systems change at the community level? Ready to influence the movement on a national scale?

For the past 18 months, I’ve had the privilege of working at Fair Food Network as executive assistant to the organization’s founder and president Oran Hesterman. I’ve done my share of the mundane executive assistant tasks, but I’ve also had the pleasure of helping Oran to edit his book, Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All, coming out from PublicAffairs in June.

Regardless of where you are on your food systems journey, I recommend this book as one that gives everyone practical steps to take to move us beyond what’s on our own plates and in our own refrigerators toward what we can do in our neighborhood, our greater community, and our country (and maybe even globally!) to make healthy, fresh food available to everyone now AND into the future.

Ready to get more involved?

Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Lots going on this holiday season – so much so that it’s been hard to keep up on the food news! I’ve been most interested in following the intersection of food and politics lately – this topic also made the Atlantic‘s “Top 10 Food Stories of 2010.”

While the Child Nutrition Act seems to be laid to rest for now (and happily so, for the most part), the debate about the Food Safety Modernization Act continues.

Amid all the hullabaloo that surrounds the definitions of “farms” and “facilities,” FDA oversight or exemption from it, I can’t help but think (or maybe that should be “hope”?) that any small farmer who is making a go of farming in this day and age is probably doing so because of two simple practices:

  • s/he already uses a system similar to HACCP (dare we call it good old common sense?) to ensure that the food provided to customers is safe;
  • s/he already does business with all the necessary certifications and licenses in place (aka honesty);

The FDA budget is stretched so thin, it’s highly unlikely that inspectors will be visiting each and every farm – but then again, I’m much more certain that those who feed my family are doing a better job policing themselves than the FDA would do – they’re in it to make a living, after all!

Local food in the news and on the ‘net!

Check out the beautiful video done by Phase 4 Media about Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks – this project has been taking up the bulk of my time at FFN since I started there almost a year ago: http://www.youtube.com/fairfoodnetwork#p/a/u/0/aoHM11PGPKg.

And “follow your food from farm to fork” with Real Time Farms new website. Here’s your chance to get involved: add your own local food finds, farms, farmers’ markets, and restaurants or just learn from your neighbors.

Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Depressing news on Americans’ consumption of vegetables: Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries. Are we seriously so twisted that putting baby carrots in junk food machines and creating an app that requires a crunch of a carrot to make it work are the only ways we’ll eat vegetables??? Somehow it reminds me of the change from restaurants claiming to make food “just like mom (or grandma)” to processed food companies claiming to make their frozen offerings taste just like the fast food chain versions….

Here’s a quick summary of the downsides of processed foods, “in just a few quick, convenient bites.”

But good news on the school lunch front: Portland schools ditch nuggets, serve up local food tells about the success Abernethy Elementary has had since 2005 in overcoming some of the obstacles to serving healthful, fresh, and local food to students.

And here’s a great young proponent of SOLE food: 11-year-old Birke Baehr on“What’s Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?” (Reminds me of a teacher who used to joke, “Get ’em young, and bring ’em up your own way!”)

Food in the News and on the ‘Net

Disturbing news on the scary food front:

Marion Nestle blogs on the egg recall: “Take home lesson: If you just have a few chickens, waste is not a problem. If you have millions of chickens in one place, you have a disaster in waiting.” One more reason to love your local pastured egg provider!

And here’s a rather unscientific project that should still give you pause: The Happy Meal Project documents in photographs how a Happy Meal looks after 137 days on the kitchen counter. Assuming all pictures are, in truth, documenting this lack of decomposition, I have to wonder how one could be sure that a Happy Meal is indeed “fresh” as is labeled on slide one. One more reason to avoid fast food and cook and eat from scratch at home using whole, close to the source ingredients, I’d say!

And some more positive links:

Change.org provides a good summary of food labeling terms: 8 Misleading Food Label Terms Every Eater Should Know

Food + Society Alliance posted a good intro to food issues: Food and You

Will the real free-range egg (yolk) please stand up?

I’m a firm believer in buying farm fresh local eggs (and other ingredients): true pastured eggs – from chickens who eat what what they can find while out scratching around in a pasture – come from happy hens, are likely to be better for us, for the environment, and for the local food economy, and they just plain taste better. For more details, see my post on eggs at Simply: Home Cooking.

For a quick, fun visual summary of some of the arguments for pastured eggs, visit Big Wheel Provision’s video, Egg Cage Match!

Food Wars

It seems like food and food systems are quickly becoming the battle ground for a new war in America and beyond – even more so when the very language used to describe news in this field comes from the military world!

However, this video is still worth a serious viewing: The Battle for the World Food System: An Interview with Raj Patel

And in the spirit of building yourself an air-raid shelter for the 21st century: 5 tips for surviving a raid on your food buying club. While I don’t buy our dairy products from a buying club, I have found and participated in buying clubs for our seafood, olive oil, and even salt. I highly recommend seeking out buying clubs in your area – they are often an affordable way of purchasing food items that meet your requirements for being sustainable, organic, local, and ethical or those that may not be local but still offer a fair price to the producer and exceptional quality to you. The best way to find these clubs, unfortunately, seems to be a matter of luck – I’ve joined one through work and found others through “foodie” friends. Your local farmers’ market, Slow Food chapter, and food co-op are great places to start asking questions about your options.