Enlightenment in the Food System Lab

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

“Before I started at the Center for a Livable Future,” says Kenai McFadden, “I didn’t even know what a food system is.”

A Bloomberg School graduate student focusing on Health Education and Health Communication, Kenai’s full-time field placement at the Food System Lab has piqued new interests and expanded the way he thinks about community health.

The Food System Lab is an urban teaching farm in Baltimore City that operates on the grounds of Baltimore’s Cylburn Arboretum. Read More >

Soil v Dirt: A National Public Health and Policy Issue

Lacey Gaechter

Lacey Gaechter

CLF-Lerner Fellow

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the second in a series—Connecting Agriculture Policy to Your Health—by CLF-Lerner Fellow Lacey Gaechter.

In college, I rocked some Girls Love Dirt mountain biking socks, and the environmental club I founded was called Dirt First, a Simpsons reference for those of you who are fans. Let there be no mistake: this woman still loves dirt, but for growing food, dirt is not our best option. For that, we really want soil. Read More >

The Newly Passed FARM Act Makes Unreported Farm Pollutants Legal Again

Lacey Gaechter

Lacey Gaechter

CLF-Lerner Fellow

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the first in a series—Connecting Agriculture Policy to Your Health—by CLF-Lerner Fellow Lacey Gaechter.

Last year the US District Court of Appeals took a huge step forward to protect public health from pollutants released by industrial-scale livestock facilities. This March, however, Congress negated the Court’s ruling when it passed the FARM Act. It was easy to miss this undermining of the 2017 decision since Congress rolled the FARM Act into the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill as a rider.

What is the FARM Act?

The federal Fair Agriculture Reporting Method (FARM) Act is a formal, legislatively guaranteed exemption for industrial-scale livestock producers to the laws requiring other industries to report releases of hazardous materials. Read More >

Food Lost on the Farm: Empirical Data and Good Ideas

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Let’s imagine we’re at a vegetable farm in rural Vermont. The weather has been so perfect this year for growing carrots, spinach and squash that our farmer can’t harvest everything she’s grown. She won’t want to risk the expense of harvesting and transporting the veggies that retailers won’t buy because they look a little funny; she won’t be able to sell them if the markets are saturated; and she may not be able to find affordable farm labor to help her pick the crops and get them to their destinations. Some of those veggies bursting with nutrients and fiber will go uneaten, becoming part of what we call “on-farm food loss.”

Now let’s visit the home of a family suffering from food insecurity. Perhaps an elderly couple isn’t getting quite enough to eat. Or maybe an older teen is skipping meals so his younger sister can have more. Read More >

Going Further with Food

Jessi Silverman

Jessi Silverman

Research Assistant

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Happy Registered Dietitian Day! As a nutrition and dietetics student, I am thrilled that this year’s National Nutrition Month®, an initiative of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, has a sustainability message: “Go Further with Food.” The idea is to maximize the health benefits of your food choices while minimizing wasted food.

As you likely have heard, wasted food is an enormous problem—the US Department of Agriculture estimated that a stunning 31 percent of food is sent to landfills by retail outlets and consumers. Read More >

Who Will Run the Future Farms?

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Do a Google image search for the future of farming, and you’ll find designs for towering vertical farms, aquaponics greenhouses, crop-monitoring drones and harvesting robots. The images are a testament to human creativity. But what’s often missing from the discussion of the future of agriculture is an answer to the question of who will run these future farms.

In many developed countries, young people from farming families continue to leave the farm, and older farmers find themselves without a successor. In both the US.and the Netherlands, there is a shortage of young farmers. Read More >

Herenboeren: Gentlemen Farmers Changing the Dutch Food System

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the ninth in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

After years of working to support farmers at a Dutch agricultural organization, Geert van der Veer wanted to change the system. Dutch agricultural land prices are some of the highest in the world, and Geert met many farmers who found their businesses squeezed by low prices and increasing costs. He saw many farms disappear, and other farmers forced to take out a mortgage on their property just to survive. Read More >

The Nieuwe Ronde: Where your corner grocery is a field

Laura Genello

Laura Genello

Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

This post is the seventh in a series – Letters from the Low Country – about food and agriculture in the Netherlands, written by Laura Genello as she studies organic agriculture at Wageningen University.

When I first met Pieter Lammerts he told me something I have never heard a farmer say: he had a lot of free time. Most vegetable farmers I know who farm on a similar scale work long hours in the fields Read More >

Coffee Part 3: How Your Starbucks Cup Can Create Positive Change

Victoria Brown

Victoria Brown

Research Assistant

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

On any given day, more than 500 customers walk bleary-eyed into an average Starbucks store. With more than 24,000 stores globally, that’s 12 million people drinking Starbucks each day. With that many people visiting their stores each day, their coffee purchases account for 2 percent of all global coffee bean purchases. Starbucks has a lot of clout when it comes to the coffee-buying industry.

Starbucks’s role as a key player in the market makes its practices all the more important. Since 2009, when the company’s poor financial performance inspired CEO Howard Shultz to revolutionize their business practices, the company has focused on improving their impacts on the community and the environment. Read More >

Coffee Part 2: How Your Cup Affects Farmers and Laborers

Victoria Brown

Victoria Brown

Research Assistant

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

“You can’t assume that a high price means good working conditions, or that by paying a high price you’re paying for environmental sustainability,” advises Kim Elena Ionescu, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Specialty Coffee Association. I was speaking with her in an effort to explore some ethical dilemmas surrounding coffee and what we as consumers can do about them. Of the millions of cups of coffee sipped globally each day, only a small fraction of the final sale price reaches the farmers who grew the coffee, who often live in impoverished conditions. Read More >