How our food system is failing us...and what we can do about it
March is National Nutrition month! Food is a multi-faceted topic that I'm passionate about, so I'll be dedicating the next three emails to covering this important topic.
To celebrate National Nutrition Month, I invite you to join me in a 21-day Eat Well Challenge. Get the calendar of activities here. If you'd like to improve your digestion, register for this month's workshop, Yoga and Nutrition for Digestive Health, here.
Today, I want to focus on the politics of food, the failures of our current system, and what we can do about it.
The negative impacts of our current food system are overwhelming: from our health (both physical and mental), to the environment (including soil erosion, declining bee populations, climate change, and water pollution), excessive antibiotic use that makes antibiotics less effective, and more.
I recently read the book The Real Food Revolution by Tim Ryan. Among other things, he discusses the U.S. Farm Bill, updated every five years, which includes programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), but also provides subsidies for processed food and low quality meat from big producers (making these foods cheap), while there's almost no support for growing fruits and vegetables or for small, family-owned operations.
The Farm Bill began with good intentions - to save our farmers and our food supply during the Great Depression, but it has strayed from the fundamentals. Ryan states "while 98 percent of farms are family-owned operations, only a small percentage receive agricultural subsidies." Ryan goes on to express how illogical it is that we spend billions on farm subsidies to plant more crops than we need, most of which help wealthy commercial operations.
You might be wondering, "what can I do about it?" Ryan provides some great examples of people in the U.S. who are taking matters into their own hands, with ideas that can be replicated. There's great work happening around the country with urban, community, rooftop, and school gardens, and educating kids about healthy eating.
You can support small farmers by purchasing produce from local farmers' markets (find one in your area using this directory), or join a CSA (community supported agriculture). Local Harvest is another great resource for locating small farms, farmers' markets and CSA programs.
Finally, one of the biggest powers we have in our democracy is to vote. The Environmental Working Group has resources to help you stay up to date on key issues and take action. Pay attention to how your elected officials vote on key legislation impacting our nation's food policy, and contact your local congressperson to let them know your position.
We do have the power to make a difference. Fight for a food system that supports health.