Posts by:

Raychel Santo

Raychel Santo

Sr. Research Program Coordinator

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Food and Climate: What Food Policy Councils Can Do

Despite the US’s recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, governors and mayors around the country continue working to mitigate and build resilience to climate change. As both policymakers and the public increasingly recognize the role of food and agriculture in intensifying climate change, many parties seek to address the food-climate connection. Fortunately, local and state policies and practices can do exactly that. Here’s what’s already happening, and what to strive for. Read More >

When Replacing Meat, Some Foods Do Less Harm than Others

If you care about environmental, health, social justice and animal welfare issues, it can be exasperating to navigate the complexities of what to eat. (Assuming that you have that privilege, of course.) Is almond milk actually a better alternative than cows’ milk? Almonds require lots of water to produce, after all, but cows use a lot, too. Plus, there are all those debates about the health effects of dairy. What about a processed bean burger versus a burger made from local grass-fed beef? The beans are shipped from far away Read More >

Our Beef With the Climate Negotiations

years-living-dangerously-raychelThis post was also published in Years of Living Dangerously.

Without drastic reductions in global meat and dairy consumption, the most severe and irreversible climate change scenarios will be unavoidable.

This was the message my colleagues and I at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future presented last December at the COP21 climate change conference in Paris. Despite its urgency, dietary change was essentially off the radar at the event. Out of the hundreds of sessions at COP21, ours — part of a panel hosted by the Meatless Monday campaign — was one of only two that Read More >

The New Office of Urban Ag: Thoughts on the Proposed Act

scope-of-urban-agAfter hearing rumors of its existence for months, I eagerly sat down to read the text of the new Urban Agriculture Act proposed by Senator Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow, a member of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, has introduced legislation that would establish an Office of Urban Agriculture (akin to its Office of the Chief Economist, Office of Advocacy and Outreach, and New and Beginning Farmer Office) at USDA. After reading the text, I’m enthusiastic but I have some concerns, mainly in that too much emphasis has been placed on the (dubious) potential economic and production wins offered by urban ag, while giving short shrift to the sociocultural and ecosystem benefits. Before I get to that, though, here is an overview of the plan.

This office would coordinate policies related to urban agriculture across the Department. The legislation—expected to cost $460 million Read More >

Edible Insects: Ethics, Efficiency, and the Vegan Dilemma

Edible insects at Grub Kitchen, UK.

Edible insects at Grub Kitchen, UK.

I cringed a bit as Andy Holcroft, head chef at Grub Kitchen (the UK’s first edible insect restaurant), described his first attempt at preparing food with insects. He had tried to make a dip out of mealworms, but ended up with a blender full of unpalatable gray slime. He realized at that moment that cooking with insects would be far different than the foods he’d prepared in his many years as a chef. A few years later, you’d never know it from looking at his menu – comprising an assortment of delicious insect-based and non-insect-based dishes, including toasted cumin mealworm hummus, dry-roasted seasoned insects, bug bhajis with cucumber raita, bug burgers, cricket and chickpea falafel, smoked chipotle cricket and black bean chilli, and cricket flour cookies. Read More >

A View from the COP21 Sidelines

cop21-peace_climate_justiceLast week, I attended the United Nations Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris with my colleague Roni Neff. Roni wrote about our experiences getting out the word about the meat consumption to climate change, and she also wrote about how COP21 addressed public health issues. After Roni left Paris, I stuck around to participate in more COP21-related activities and protests, and these are my impressions from that week. Read More >

Food Chain$ Screening Brings Farmworker Injustices to Light

Screening of Food Chain$ at Red Emma's, Baltimore.

Screening of Food Chain$ at Red Emma’s, Baltimore.

“Anyone can give charity but to give justice to someone who demands it is harder to do.” —quotation from the film Food Chain$

On Thursday, February 12, more than 125 people came out to Red Emma’s Bookstore and Café for a screening and discussion of the new documentary film Food Chain$. The event, co-sponsored by The Baltimore Food & Faith Project and The Marc Steiner Show, revealed how the historical injustices of farm labor persist even today in our food supply chain, and how large produce buyers like fast food and supermarkets are complicit Read More >

New Database of Food Policy Resources

The FPN database helps users locate policies, guides, reports and more.

The FPN database helps users locate policies, guides, reports and more.

Across the U.S., Canada, and Tribal/First Nations, at many levels of government, food policy work is happening—and making progress.

The Food Policy Networks Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) has been keeping tabs on some of the great work being done and can now make all those documents, websites, studies, and contact information available for all. The two new features include a database of policies, how-to guides, case studies and more, as well as a directory of food policy councils (FPCs) in the U.S., Canada, and First Nations. Read More >

Igniting the Flame to Fight for Food Justice


Raychel at Maryland Leadership Workshops, 2014.

I distinctly remember the first time I was introduced to the concept of a food system and all of its incredible complexities. It was overwhelming to realize that such an everyday component of our lives was connected to nearly every major social and environmental issue of today. It was equally invigorating to realize that by effecting positive change in this realm, we could potentially tackle so many problems at once.

My exposure to such thinking came about the summer before college, when, Read More >

Fostering Meaningful Inclusion and Empowerment on Food Policy Councils

A meeting of the Baltimore Food Policy Task Force, 2009

A meeting of the Baltimore Food Policy Task Force, 2009

Over the past four years, the number of food policy councils (FPCs) throughout North America has tripled. FPCs bring together food system stakeholders at local, county, tribal, state, or regional levels to work on policy and programming aimed at increasing community food security, or the accessibility, consumption, and affordability of healthy (and often sustainably raised) food. By providing a more direct opportunity for local actors to influence food policy decisions than those at the national or international level, FPCs have become a tangible example of the emerging movement towards “food democracy” and a more just food system. Read More >