Food is a thing that we eat, it keeps us alive and allows us to function throughout the day. However, food is much more than nutrients; food is a tool, food is a weapon, and food is many other things that have nothing to do with nutrition. For example, a non-profit called Dig Deep Farms & Produce, uses food as a tool for creating jobs and preventing adolescents from making trouble within the community. Overeating is often the result of physiological compulsions rather than hunger and may be fostered by frustration, depression, or insecurity, showing that food can also be a comforting mechanism. Food is a social gathering tool and when you can’t eat the same foods as the people you would like to be social with, you are excluded. The many roles that food plays in our daily lives means that food and it's contents, availability, and distribution not only have physical health implications, but environmental and social implications as well.
The transport, processing, packaging, marketing, preparation, and storage of our food is manipulated through legislation and large transnational corporations. With the few providing food for the many and those few having a large say in the policy and regulations imposed upon their own industry cause some pretty crazy contradictions to occur within our food system. *1/3 of food is thrown away by retailers and consumers in the United States(1), yet 13% of households were food insecure in 2015(2), meaning that they had limited access to enough or healthy food. *1% of farms receive over 25% of the farm subsidies and 75% of subsidies go to only 10% of farms(3). In other words, large corporate farms are getting a majority of governmental aid while small and medium sized farms are the ones going out of business5. * The USDA's recommendation for fruits and vegetables is half of your plate, yet only 4.7% of agricultural subsidies are used to subsidize fruits and vegetables and 75% of agricultural subsidies go to corn and soybeans to make high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil for our sugary, fatty, fast food(4).
So what can we do on the local level to foster a just and healthy community food system? The two easiest things you can do include personal behavior changes and then educating people on why you have enacted those behavior changes. Personal Behavior Changes – In order to implement this strategy, you must first determine what is important to you regarding the food system (ex. landfill waste reduction, fair wages for workers, or unethical treatment of animals in CAFOs), and then change your behavior to reflect those values (ex. composting, buying local, or cutting out meat products). Educating Others on Issues – This strategy is tied to the first strategy. When you create a behavior change, it opens up a widow for dialogue about why you have implemented that behavior change in your personal life. Support your reasons without being overbearing or provide information on a service that you believe in by handing out brochures. 1. USDA. (2015). Food waste challenge: Facts and questions. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm 2. Feeding America. (2015). Hunger and poverty facts and statistics. http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/ 3. Stiglitz, J. (2013, November 16). The insanity of our food policy. The New York Times. 4. Fields, S. (2004). The Fat of the Land: Do Agricultural Subsidies Foster Poor Health? Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(14), A820–A823. 5.USDA. (2014). Preliminary report highlights: US farms and farmers. National Agricultural Statistics Service. https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Preliminary_Report/Highlights.pdf