Next up in our Guide to Sustainable Living we are going to talk about what probably is my favorite topic food. Just in case you missed the previous posts though make sure to check out: Part One: Guide To Sustainable Healthy Living // Getting Started and Part Two: Guide To Sustainable Living // My Favorite Resources.
Now let's talk all about food! Since food is something that absolutely every single person needs in order to survive, it is arguably one of the best ways that we can help improve the health of people living all over the world, and the health of our environment.
let's talk about our current food system
When we think about our food system, it is really important to think about it as just that...a system. We do not live in an isolated bubble where all of our food is produced locally within our own communities, or even within our own country. Instead the food that we consume is part of a much greater food system that incorporates global trade, food policy, transportation, import/export regulations, food trends, labor rights, environmental health, and so much more.
There is a giant system at play that brings the food we eat to the shelves of the grocery stores we buy from. The question however, is whether or not this system is serving the people that it is meant to support, and how can we ensure that the health and wellbeing of ALL people benefit from the way our food is produced?
our relationship with our food and our food sytem today
Our ability to have pretty much any food we could possibly imagine at the moment we decide we want it has been a large part of our disconnection from our food. As much as the grocery store may try to trick your body into thinking that it can get the same nourishment from a peach grown thousands of miles away in the winter than it can from a local peach grown in the summer...your body is smarter, and it's just not buying it.
It really is not that complicated...our food contains the most nourishment in the form of vitamins, and minerals when it is grown in fertile, healthy soil. Our bodies absorb and utilize these nutrients best when they are consumed as close to being picked from that healthy soil, and our bodies naturally know to crave various foods during different seasons based on our long-standing ecological and ancestral background.
50 years of highly processed and modernized food systems has not made our bodies forget how they want to best utilize the food we give them, instead it has only made our bodies confused, sick, and yearning for something different. So how do we get these amazing benefits from our food, and help support a healthy, happy body? We get back to how we were supposed to eat in the first place, as locally and seasonally as possible.
You still following me? Basically our bodies have photographic memories centuries old, and no amount of technology is going to change that.
Our bodies are smarter than our conventional food system. Period.
getting re-acquainted with where our food comes from
So let's break it down and start by getting re-acquainted with where our food is coming from in the first place, because today in America very few people have any connection to where their food comes from, and on some level probably like to believe that their is a beautiful farm with big red barn, and lots of happy animals, and vegetables all growing in harmony.
It's a lovely picture...too bad it's very rarely the one that actually exists today.
Today our food comes from all over the world, and in many cases is part of a very conventionalized agriculture system that depends on mono-culture "cash" crops, that are artificially being subsidized by the government to appear to be "cheap".
The government has a long standing history of providing subsidies to cash crops, which would not be able to turn a profit if it weren't for the government's help. These crops include conventional wheat, corn, soy, rice, and cotton. These cash crops are then part of the foundation of our processed food, fuel, clothing, and energy, which enables this artificial affordability that wouldn't exist if the subsidies didn't.
While roughly one million farmers receive federal subsidies these payments are mostly tilted toward the largest producers, which means that smaller farmers are pushed out.
Cash crops are also one of the most detrimental ways to farm and produce food, because they are always found in a mono culture, which means that they are large, single crop farms that are all clones of one another. This means that no crop rotation occurs, and farmers need to rely on pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to support the health of the plants.
Outside of domestic crops, a large majority of our food today also comes internationally from many countries all over the world. While in many ways it is wonderful the access we have to global trade, at the same time there is very little regulation in regards to labor rights (include child labor rights), pesticide use, environmental safety standards, and occupational safety standards. Add these issues to the cost the shipping of food thousands of miles has on our environment and we have a pretty messed up picture.
So when people say that it is too expensive to eat non-conventionally, I usually ask what expense are we talking about. Are we talking about the expense to our environment, the expense to our bodies, the expense to our exploited land, or the people being exploited in developing countries? Our current conventional food system is artificially cheap in regards to what is seen on the register in the check-out line. But what if we turned those subsidies towards regenerative agriculture small-farms, or increased the demand for fair-trade certified imported goods?
Remember how we said in the beginning that "The question however, is whether or not this system is serving the people that it is meant to support, and how can we ensure that the health and wellbeing of ALL people benefit from the way our food is produced?"
Our current food system is not doing that, but we can change it.
how can you make small changes to support a more sustainable food system?
Supporting a more sustainable, regenerative food system is entirely possible on any budget, and luckily it can be done right within your own community.
- First, I would recommend starting with what you can find local. Look up your local farmers markets, and coops that run year round.
- Consider joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and get to know the farmers in your local area that are growing your food. It is an amazing thing that they do for you and your family, and they are worth getting to know.
- When you are at the local grocery store start to pay attention to where your food is coming from. For instance, if you can purchase tomatoes from Mexico, or tomatoes from Maine and you live on the East Coast, opt for the tomatoes from Maine. Usually the difference will be between a few cents, to a few dollars. If you feel that you cant afford very much when it comes to your food, try swapping out just one conventional item, for one more sustainable item.
- For instance: Fair trade bananas are roughly 20 cents more expensive (depending on what grocery store you are at) than conventional bananas.
- Remember that organic is not always the best choice.
- For instance, at my local Whole Foods regionally grown apples from New York are less expensive than the apples grown organically in Mexico. The apples from New York are still grown in an eco conscious fashion, they just haven't been certified organic (which is an expensive certification that many small farms cannot afford). The best option in my mind would be to purchase the more local, eco-grown apple, than the organic one from Mexico.
Resources to get your started learning more about sustainability and a regenerative food system
If you are interested in getting started learning more about sustainability and a regenerative food system I would highly recommend the following resources. They have all taught me so much over the years, and are valuable resources that I continue to turn back to today.