“The food system is broken,” is a familiar refrain among US food activists. They cite the industrialization of our food supply as evidence of its unsustainability, and the nation’s stubbornly high rates of food insecurity and obesity as evidence of its injustice. The data tends to support the claims of disrepair and depreciation of what is touted as the most advanced food machine on earth. From dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and sprawling CAFOs, to 42 million Americans who are hungry or food insecure, to the nearly two-thirds of us who are obese or overweight, it’s easy to see why many regard our food system as a basket case rather than a bread basket.
Yet those of us who have labored long and hard to correct the food system’s litany of failures would do well to confront our own culpability. It’s not enough to simply be the avenging archangel of doom wielding our righteous sword in angry disapproval without also holding the mirror up to ourselves. Read More >
Underserved neighborhoods in Madrid were captured in a photovoice project.
The Photovoice medium, which some refer to as a form of “citizen science,” is an emerging tool being put to good use by food policy councils, government agencies and, most importantly, citizens around the globe. By using the power of photography, community members observe and document the specific food system dynamics in their own neighborhoods. Discussion groups review and reflect upon the photograph, and sometimes the previously unheard “voices” that are channeled through the photographs direct and inspire new policies and goals.
In the Spanish communities of Los Rosales and San Cristobal in Madrid, Photovoice Villaverde worked with the European initiative Heart Healthy Hoods to bring together 24 residents to take photos of their food environments. Read More >
There are many organizational types of food policy councils (FPCs), but for my masters thesis I explored the significance of those differences—and similarities. In particular, I investigated whether those differences were associated with differences in FPC outcomes, objectives or orientations.
What did I want to know? As a research topic, this question of how best to structure an FPC is relatively new and has not been addressed, let alone answered, in the literature. So, in partnership with CLF’s Food Policy Networks (FPN) project, I dug deeper into the question: Is there an association between organizational type and differences in institutional and organizational characteristics, discourse (how FPCs conceptualize and communicate about food systems issues as well as their role in improving them) and strategies (approach to food system issues)? Read More >
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 >
Food unites even the most unconventional of bedfellows. And connecting ideas and people across sectors to resolve problems is sometimes the best, and only, answer.
Like so much of the nation, Maryland has a serious hunger crisis. We are thankful to all of the emergency food providers, many of whom who bring much needed resources to our hunger community, mostly in the form of non-perishable food. This food—canned or dry goods, often— is calorie-laden, but it may not be nutrient-dense.
At the same time, while we are fortunate to have many farms, there are times when our farmers have a surplus of products or perishable goods that do not make it to market; Read More >
A failing dairy industry. Streams polluted by animal manure. Consolidated food retail, inadequate slaughter facilities for small- and medium-size producers, the list goes on. Where am I? New Zealand. Yep. Before I stepped foot on the soil, I was cautioned that I should not believe the “cleaner, greener” moniker. I’m not sure if it was heartening to blow up the myth and realize we are all suffering from industrialization of the food system, or just depressing that problems in the food system are dispersed so far and wide. Read More >
“We don’t say the word ‘environment,’” says Mark Winne about his food systems work in rural regions. “If we have to bring it up, we talk about ‘clean air’ and ‘clean water.’”
The cultural schisms in the U.S.— rural versus urban, liberal versus conservative—are hardly new. So what’s the best way to make positive, progressive food system change in rural, politically right-leaning communities? The people who have been negotiating this divide through food policy councils (FPCs), task forces or other multi-stakeholder initiatives have advice. Read More >
A better title for this post might be “More Bubbles, Less PowerPoint,” because that was my greatest takeaway from the conference I attended in Minneapolis and Red Wing, Minnesota, in late November/early December. To that point—
Bing! As I hurried to catch the elevator, Melvin held the door and greeted me with an electric smile. His bright yellow African-print shirt was a welcome contrast to the rain in Minneapolis. I didn’t know we were both headed to the Convening of Food Network leaders’ meeting on the second floor. He was blessing colorful packages of blowing bubbles, the kind I used to buy for my sons’ birthday parties, to use at the start of the event. Read More >
Have you ever considered getting up before dawn to stand in line for a new grocery store? Residents in East Baltimore did just that on November 3, 2016, to welcome the Save a Lot opening at 2509 East Monument Street. The line to enter the store extended down the block and around the corner well before the store was scheduled to open at 7am.
This area of East Baltimore was one of the most entrenched food deserts in the city before the Save a Lot opened. It had been years Read More >
Peri-urban areas are an inherently difficult concept to define: they are neither totally rural, nor are they fully urban. They are associated with sprawl and with suburban development. While definitions and theories vary, most agree that peri-urban areas are dynamic transition zones between the city and countryside, display diverse land uses and uneven development, and operate under many different jurisdictions. Indeed, scholars and researchers have recognized that the urban-rural binary is not helpful and that peri-urban areas are part of a continuous spectrum from urban core to rural periphery. Using these characteristics as a starting point, we worked to outline these understudied areas as part of a USDA–funded project in order to increase the understanding of what role peri-urban areas play in the food system. Read More >