Posts By AJ Hughes
Despite Current Dysfunction in the Food System, Renowned Agroecology Expert Holds Out Hope for FutureMay 10, 2016 | AJ Hughes
What is the state of the nation’s food system? Is it fundamentally broken and beyond repair? Does it need to be changed, and if so, how? What is it doing right?
To address these questions, we reached out to Stephen R. Gliessman, an internationally recognized leader in the field of agroecology, and the Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology in UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Studies Department, where he has taught since 1981. He was the founding director of the UCSC Agroecology Program (now the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems) and is the author of the renowned and pioneering textbook Agroecology: The Ecology of Sustainable Food Systems. In 2008, Gliessman became the chief editor of the internationally known Journal of Sustainable Agriculture.
Here is what we learned:
What is the state of the food system?
The current state of the food system is unhealthy. There is too much emphasis put on the business of growing food rather than long-term stewardship, care for the earth, and the people who grow food. That, I think, is a more important part of what’s going on. It’s amazing what the current food system is able to produce in terms of calories, but it’s also amazing in terms of what it doesn’t produce in terms of healthy nutritious food.
“We’re trying to take farming practices back 100 years, but put the business model 10 years ahead,” says farmer Paul Greive of Murrieta, CA-based Primal Pastures.
Greive and three of his in-laws founded Primal Pastures in 2012, starting with pastured free-range chickens. The small family farm has since expanded its offering and, in addition to poultry, now sells pasture raised pork, lamb, beef, honey, and wild seafood to its customers.
Primal Pastures is not an organic farm, but Greive takes pride in the fact that he and his fellow farmers employ regenerative and environmentally responsible farming practices that “go beyond sustainability.”This includes letting animals carry out their natural behaviors on pasture through rotational grazing to help restore equilibrium to soil.
Who better to put in charge of creating healthy school lunch menu options than the students themselves? It might sound crazy to some, but eager high school students in Orange County, California are taking on this challenge by participating in Cooking Up Change, an annual national culinary competition in which teams of student chefs strive to concoct healthy and delicious school meals.
The program is part of the Healthy Schools Campaign and winning high school teams qualify for the national contest in Washington, D.C.
In Orange County, the program is managed by Kid Healthy, an organization that focuses on reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy diets.
School meals consumed by the 732,833 students enrolled at 1,274 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District will soon include chicken that is free of hormones and antibiotics.
In a vote on March 8, LAUSD became the nation’s first school district of its size to require hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken. Full changes will take effect in fall 2017.
This change was born from the District’s Good Food Procurement resolution, spearheaded by school board president Steve Zimmer. The resolution states that LAUSD put into practice Good Food Purchasing Guidelines as defined by the LA Food Policy Council. These guidelines stress the values of local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition.
LA Food Policy Council’s environmental sustainability standard specifically calls for the avoidance of hormones and antibiotics in meat.
Due to LAUSD’s size and influence, it expects this new approach to have national implications. Indeed, the resolution reads: “Thoughtful purchasing practices throughout the District can nationally impact the creation and availability of a local, sustainable good food system.”
Western Michigan is incredibly rich in the agricultural products it provides, but matching this great food with local wholesale buyers can still pose a challenge.
So food aficionado Jerry Adams came up with West Michigan FarmLink, an online marketplace in Grand Rapids that connects growers to chefs and other institutional end-users of foodstuffs.
It was during a trip to a farmers’ market that Adams first got the idea for an organization that links farmers to restaurants and other foodservice institutions. Despite his affinity for farmers’ markets, he saw areas in which they were lacking.