There May Be Hope For the Transformation of America’s Food System

There may be hope for the agricultural food movement after all. There have been more raised concerns with the way America eats aside from all the independent documentaries such as Food Inc, Michael Pollan books, “Slow Food” advocates, local food cooperatives, local farmers, and Whole Foods markets combined.

Our first lady, Michelle Obama is a strong advocate for providing fresh, unprocessed, and locally grown food to families in the underserved communities. Even in her first few weeks in the White House, Michelle Obama emerged as a supporter for healthy food and healthy living. It is evident that fresh, organic food as a right for all is a significant item on Michelle Obama’s agenda, especially due to the growing obesity epidemic across the nation. In a speech at the Department of Agriculture in February, Michelle Obama described herself as “a big believer” in community gardens that provide “fresh fruits and vegetables for so many communities across this nation and the world,” which sounds like something one of the Slow Food members would say. Although it’s Michelle Obama who is getting all the press for good health advocacy, it was Mayor Michael Bloomberg who banned trans fats and forced fast-food chains to post clear and visible calorie counts.

America’s industrial food system has posed itself as a primary concern not only for advocates, but also for general parents who send their children to public school. The government spends millions of dollars each year to buy food for students and finally people are starting to wake up and they realize that this food should at least be healthy. The Slow Food movement is concerned with beginning with children first because there is a high rate of children developing obesity. Six or seven years ago the Department of Education began to get serious about transforming the school’s food system into a more healthy food system with the introduction of whole-grain pasta, salad bars, fresh fruit, and low-fat and low-sodium recipes.

But the argument I keep reading and hearing from opposing view points is that organic agriculture will not be able to feed the world’s citizens, however members of the global Slow Food movement truly believe that it is a possibly to change America’s current industrial food system. An Increasing number of scientists, policy panels and experts have suggested that agricultural practices pretty close to organic or “sustainable” will be able to feed more poor people sooner and repair the destruction caused by industrial production.

From just exploring my beat, I’ve discovered that a sustainable food system is the ideal food system. When I talk to Slow Food advocates, local farmers, and food purveyors, a sustainable food system seems so easy – eating locally and purchasing food from your local farmer seems so easy, so how come everyone doesn’t do it? For one it’s the cost factor. Eating organic and locally is just more expensive than eating processed foods with ingredients that are unknown and unpronounceable, but why? When did America’s food system get to the point that eating healthy just isn’t applicable to poor and lower middle class citizens?

From browsing through the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket and speaking with the New York City Greenmarket manager, I’ve come to learn that most of these farmers selling their good around New York City are coming from 2nd to 3rd generation family farms. My concern is what is going to happen when these farmers retire? Are there young people learning the skills of a farmer? Carol Dacey, the New York City Slow Food co-chair said, “Without the farmers you don’t have food,” and that statement raised some personal concerns for me. Before attempting this beat, I’ve never even thought about food the way I do now. I never focused or thought about what it means to eat locally, sustainably, and organically. I never thought about the fact that when you eat locally and purchase your foods from your local farmer you are actually helping in order to better your local economy.

In regards to what I feel I am missing, it is the government policies having to do with all these food factors I have previously mentioned. I know what Michelle Obama’s position is on healthy living, but I don’t know the actual policies that are set up, if any. I also think it is important to find out how younger people are getting involved in the business of farming if they weren’t raised in it. I don’t know exact numbers, but just from what I’ve read and seen there is definitely a decline in the number of farmers.

 

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