What are Just Food Systems?
Healthy food should be available for All, not dependent on location or socio-economic class.
- Farm workers have a right to living wages and to safe from poisons.
- Animals have a right to be raised humanely and treated with compassion and care. They deserve to be outside in their natural habitats, kept with family groups and be given opportunity to eat as they are designed to eat.
- We must protect our Earth for future generations and clean up negative impact that the food system of the last 70 years have wreaked up on the planet.
The True Cost Of Food.
Americans are addicted to cheap food. But that’s because the costs are hidden from us.
Food is cheap because we torture humans in the field and animals in their Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
Carlo Petrini, the person who started the Slow Food Movement, stated at the Slow Food Nations Conference in Denver Colorado, that Italy spends 17% of its GDP on food and 7% on healthcare, while the US spends 7% of its GDP on food and 17% on healthcare. (numbers are up to 8% and 18% now).
Between tax payer funded subsidies and tax breaks, chemical and poison cleanup, healthcare, topsoil loss, and other costs kicked down the road for our kids to clean up (called "externalities", we have no idea of the true cost of food. Read more here.
A deeper dive into why organic food is more expensive:
Farm Workers- The Heroes Who Grow Our Food:
Every time you buy a cheap bag of lettuce, think of the effort it took to grow, then pick, package and ship it to your local store. Most of this labor is performed by migrant workers who are treated like slaves. They are crowded into filthy, substandard housing,
We've talked to tons of farm workers during our travels. In California, we learned about first hand is that although the laws technically state that they should have water breaks, most folks don’t take them. Why? Because they are hired by the day. If others aren’t taking a water break, then they will pick more than someone who takes a break. That person who took care of their health, but picked less, then has less of a likelihood of being hired the next day because they didn’t have the numbers. It was reported to us that people die out in the fields in the San Joaquin Valley and bodies are just dumped in the canals. No one knows who they are, figuring they are just an “illegal Immigrant” so nothing is done. Our hearts bleed for them.
Even if they aren’t killed directly the work is backbreaking. They have to get up in the middle of the night to work in the early morning hours (2am) to make it to work. In addition, they work in fields with high pesticide exposure.
Farm workers need to be paid living wages and have benefits.
Restaurant Workers- The Heroes Who Prepare And Serve Our Food
When we sit down to a nice meal out, we don't see what's going on behind the scenes. Many restaurant workers do not speak English as a first language. Many don't understand they have rights. We've spoken to many women who are sexually harassed and don't report it for fear of losing their jobs. From this 2014 report:
Food Waste, Food Deserts, Food Swamps and Food Insecurity
Most of the hunger problems in this country aren't about lack of food, they are about how we distribute the food produced.
it is estimated that between 30 and 40% of all food produced in this country is thrown away.
From the website of a new film out called “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”
From its Tribeca Film Festival premier highlight: “Every year 80% of the world’s water, 40% of the world’s land, and 10% of the world’s energy is dedicated to growing the food we eat, yet in the same year 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown out. That’s a third of all food grown around the world being wasted before it even reaches a plate.”
So we waste the water, waste the fuel, waste energy of the workers all on a system that poisons the planet and then it ends up in a landfill. Food in landfills is the third highest contributor of methane on the planet. Methane is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. This has got to stop.
The good news is that many communities where tons of food is wasted are also places where the community goes hungry either in calories or nutrition.
How do food deserts happen?
In a busy world, people eat what’s easy for them to get. If you don’t own a car and you live more than a mile from a healthy grocery store, but a corner store with junk food is just down a block, you’ll tend to go for the junk. Even if you have public transportation, it’s nearly impossible to get good food on a regular basis. You will eat what’s closer.
Why don't they have access to good food? Simply, large grocery stores won’t often build a store in low income communities.
The USDA defines Food deserts as parts of the country that don't have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers' markets, and healthy food providers. If the store is more than one mile away if you live in a city and 10 miles if you live in a rural community, the government says you live in a food desert.
23.5 million people live in low-income areas more than one mile from a supermarket. Low-income census tracts have half as many supermarkets as wealthy tracts. 8 percent of African Americans live in a census tract with a supermarket, compared to 31 percent of whites.
“A food swamp is an area where there's an overabundance of high-energy, low nutrient foods (read: fast food) compared to healthy food options. Low-income communities are usually the swampiest, with nearly twice the number of fast foodrestaurants and convenience stores as wealthier neighborhoods.” From here.
Food Insecurity- 43.1 million people (13.5 percent) were in poverty, including 14.5 million (20 percent) children under the age of 18. 42.2 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including more than 13 million children. www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/
Find out if you live in or near one here -
Read more about the issues here: Can Urban America’s Food Deserts Bloom?
What you can do- We aren’t going to lie. Food deserts are complicated and must start and be led/controlled by communities themselves. They’ll take time to fix and will require creative thinking to overcome. But there are tons of folks taking their food sovereignty in hand around the country and creating amazing programs and opportunities for their communities to change.
Nearly 50% of Detroit was a food desert not long ago. Yet out of the ashes, they are creating a model for the world that we should all emulate for future food security. This started with local grassroots action and has grown to be a shining light of what’s possible in urban ag.
“In Detroit, Michigan, “the first sustainable urban agrihood” in the U.S. centers around an edible garden, with easily accessible, affordable produce offered to neighborhood residents and the community.
Each year, this urban farm provides fresh, free produce to 2,000 households within two square miles of the farm. They also supply food to local markets, restaurants, and food pantries." Read the full article here
Some things you can do:
- Some communities are creating food co-ops to open stores that are owned by them, instead of having to rely on large, inflexible corporations that will only build in higher income areas.
- Create a mobile fresh food business out of your car or van! Communities are successfully bringing the healthy food to eaters instead of eaters having to travel to stores.
- Set up a cooperative that gleans from stores and restaurants.
- Put up a table to sell healthy food at a bus stop.
- Start and maintain a community garden. Complicated, but so rewarding.
- Live in a rural food desert? Find some creative solutions that one town in Arizona started to alleviate the problem like bringing food to bingo games, planting backyard gardens for free tot those who promised to water and weed them.They’re now talking about opening a co-op.
- Tell a local grower about business solutions in Atlanta: A grocery store owner noticed that his customers weren’t buying vegetables or fruits. So instead of discontinuing them, he expanded the produce section, planted a community garden and held cooking classes. Sales skyrocketed and folks got healthy food!
CAFOs- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or Factory Farming
You think you're eating food raised like this:
But what you're really eating is food raised like this:
There is one place where the intersection of cruelty to humans and animals and environment intersect couldn't be more apparent: the CAFO.
CAFOs are cesspools of disease of body, mind and spirit of both the animals who are sent there to fatten up and be slaughtered, and the humans employed to torture and kill them. They wreak devastation on the land, the water and the air that surrounds them.
Read more about The Environmental Impact of Factory Farms here.
Read more in the CAFO Industry’s Impact on Environment and Public Health here.
How Growth in Dairy is Affecting The Environment https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/business/energy-environment/how-growth-in-dairy-is-affecting-the-environment.html
that cheap chicken nugget comes a a huge price to the rest of the world. Big Chicken- Pollution and Industrial Poultry Production in America
CAFO owners know that if the truth came out about how your meat is grown, you might not eat it. They are also extremely politically powerful. When you combine deceit and power you are able to make it illegal to take pictures, videos or fly drones over their operations. And that’s exactly what they’ve done over the past five years in state after state. If you are caught trying to save some animals from torture and extreme cruelty, you can go to jail. If you are really good at what you do, you can also end up on the FBI’s most wanted list as a terrorist.
We will not link to the torture videos available that document the unbelievable cruelty that some CAFOs engage in. You can google “torture, pigs, video” yourself. But be prepared for an upset stomach, and crying your eyes out... and be sure to keep kids nowhere near the videos. Really. They’re that disturbing.
But it’s not just the animals who are mistreated. So are the workers who raise and process them:
From this article: “Animal agriculture” employs approximately 700,000 full-time and part-time workers in the United States.The industry is largely defined by the factory farm model in which billions of animals are raised and slaughtered for human consumption each year. Factory farm workers are consistently exposed to a variety of harmful gases and particulate matter and also suffer from repetitive stress injuries. The resulting health effects are well documented and include chronic aches and pains, respiratory disorders, cardiovascular complications and premature death.Driven by rigid contracts set forth by their corporate partners, factory farms knowingly jeopardize workers’ health in order to maximize profits.”
And this article shines the light on how mistreatment of workers, ultimately leads to communities in crisis.
“A massive statistical analysis found that after controlling for many variables including poverty and immigration, counties with slaughterhouses have four times the national average of violent arrest, with significantly higher rates of alcoholism, domestic abuse, child abuse and suicide. To me, the data seems clear: We can no longer afford to treat this case as an isolated incident, but rather as part of a dangerous trend.”
The ONLY way to stop this torture (we simply cannot call it anything else) is to STOP buying the meats, eggs, dairy and any other animal products that come from CAFO raised animals. Buy only "fully pastured" meats as any other kind may be on pasture for 2 weeks, then sent to a CAFO. It's euphemistically called "Grain Finished" but they usually even leave that part out of their label.
In the name of humanity, compassion, and integrity, we MUST be the voices for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether they be animals, immigrant and farm workers, insects or the environment.