Posts Tagged ‘food system’

Jun14

Eating Planet: An Interview with Ellen Gustafson

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By Marlena White

On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his views on how to fix the broken food system. If you live in NYC, you can register to attend for FREE by clicking HERE, or tune in on the 28th via livestream. We will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.

Gustafson discusses the twin burdens of global hunger and obesity. (Photo credit: www.TED.com)

Ellen Gustafson is a social entrepreneur working for food system change to address issues like global hunger and obesity. She co-founded FEED Projects in 2007, which created a popular line of bags sold in department stores whose overall price includes a set-aside donation to the United Nations World Food Program to fund school lunch programs. In 2010, Gustafson launched The 30 Project in an effort to bring together key stakeholders to chart a healthier and more sustainable path for the food system. In an interview for the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s new book, Eating Planet: Nutrition Today—A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet, Gustafson discusses how global hunger and the obesity epidemic are two symptoms of the broken global food system, and how consumers have the power to change things for the better.

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Jun11

Food for All: How to Respond to Market Excesses

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On Thursday, June 28, the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition will release Eating Planet–Nutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet in New York City. Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights a contributing author of Eating Planet, and shares his or her views on how to fix the broken food system. If you live in NYC, you can register to attend for FREE by clicking HERE, or tune in on the 28th via livestream. We will be taking questions in real time from the audience, from the livestream, and from Twitter and Facebook.

Raj Patel argues that climate change, financial speculation, and other factors have disrupted the food system. (Photo Credit: Rajpatel.org)

In his introduction to a chapter in the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s new book, Eating PlanetNutrition Today: A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet, award-winning writer, activist, and academic Raj Patel describes five reasons for the multiple failures of today’s modern food system and suggests important policy responses.

More than 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight and another 1 billion are hungry. Both problems are signs that while the current food system has worked to produce calories and profit, it has failed to nourish the world. According to Patel, there are five reasons why the food system has come up short:

1. Climate Change. Global weather has been unpredictable, with storms, floods, and droughts occurring with greater intensity and frequency than in the past. These weather patterns have reduced global wheat harvests by 5 percent over the past 30 years.

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May01

Will Allen Speaks On the Future of Food

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By Marlena White

Will Allen is best known as the founder and mastermind of Growing Power, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee, WI working to support community food systems through training, outreach, and technical assistance. The son of a sharecropper and former professional basketball player, Allen started Growing Power in 1993 after driving past a derelict plant nursery in northern Milwaukee. He decided to buy the nursery and start an urban farm to provide locally grown food for the community and a place to work for local teens. Since then, Growing Power has flourished as a center of agricultural innovation, making Allen the recipient of multiple awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship. Allen recently co-authored, with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, an afterword for The Prince’s Speech: On the Future of Food, the published text of Prince Charles’ speech on the importance of a sustainable food system. Allen recently  spoke at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health as a guest of the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Will Allen speaks to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. (Photo credit: JHSPH)

“We have a serious problem with our food system. Not just in the US, but around the world,” according to Allen. He cites issues like the low quality of food available to youth at school, food-related illnesses, and the negative impact that food production has had on our environment. “Our food system should be good medicine for us,” he claims, “Some of us eat good medicine, and some of us eat bad medicine.” To achieve healthy communities, Allen asserts, we must have a food supply that is safe, healthy, and affordable.

Growing Power has projects primarily in Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. These operations include year-round fruit and vegetable production, aquaponics, livestock, and bees. One of their most ambitious projects is Growing Power’s construction of a multilevel greenhouse in Milwaukee for vertical farming. Growing Power is also supporting training, outreach, and technical assistance for local food projects across the United States and abroad. And the organization stresses multicultural and multigenerational diversity. Allen strongly believes that people from both urban and rural settings and of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities must be involved in creating a better food system.

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Feb11

Olivier De Schutter Discusses the Right to Food and the Need to Unite Food Movements

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By Jameson Spivack

In a video addressing the importance of uniting food movements, UN Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter emphasizes the “right to food.” According to De Schutter, the idea of a “right to food” is essential in transforming our broken food system into a sustainable, ethical institution.

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur, advocates reforming the current global food system. (Photo credit: Die Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung)

Acknowledging the right to food will help bridge the gap between the many food movements calling for a change in our broken system. De Schutter highlights four main objectives shared by all food movements—returning to localized food production, addressing imbalances in the food chain, transitioning to more sustainable and agro-ecological practices, and creating a stronger role for citizens in shaping and controlling the food they eat.

Re-localizing food systems, includes linking local producers to local consumers, which fosters a relationship between farmer and buyer. When local food ties are strengthened, the transportation of food becomes much simpler and resource strain is minimized. In poor areas that depend heavily on expensive food imports, a return to local production and consumption means not only more employment opportunities, but also cheaper food prices and greater availability.

Currently, agricultural production is controlled mainly by large agri-business corporations that have the leverage to bully local farmers into selling at lower prices. By prioritizing local markets, says De Schutter, and empowering farmers to organize cooperatives, a higher value is placed on producers, and a more ethical food system can be established.

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Oct25

Droughts and decision making: satellite imagery may help predict famines

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By Isaac Hopkins

Dr. Molly E. Brown, a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, has been providing information and expertise for the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) since 2000. FEWS NET provides agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which funds the network, with information that attempts to forecast where famines and food insecurity are likely to occur. Traditionally, this data is gathered largely on-the-ground, but such feedback can be unreliable, contradictory, and politically motivated. Satellite imagery may be a key to improving predictions and directing food where it is most needed.

A recent map of the Horn of Africa from FEWS NET, used to evaluate and predict food insecurity. Satellite imagery helps shape these maps. (Photo credit: fews.net)

“Global observations are going to become increasingly important,” Dr. Brown says, in order to continue reducing food insecurity, especially as global markets become ever more volatile and powerful. The use of satellite data, most often looking for indicators of vegetation health or rainfall patterns, may increasingly provide decision makers with those planet-wide observations.

Satellite imagery’s greatest strength is its objectivity. “We don’t know who’s producing what where,” says Dr. Brown, but we don’t need to with this system. Satellite imagery can tell us where long-term conditions are most conducive to a food system collapse, and the power of a clear, fact-based map can convince decision makers to send food aid to the right places.

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Sep29

De Schutter calls for local agroecology and accountability in food systems

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By Isaac Hopkins

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future hosted the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Professor Olivier de Schutter.

Olivier de Schutter has been the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food since 2008 (Photo Credit: Penn State University)

De Schutter linked our current food system problems to the “green revolution” of the 1960’s, during which the focus of agriculture in countries like Mexico, China, and India was on sheer production and providing inexpensive food for urban areas. This had a catastrophic impact on the viability of small-holder farmers, dietary diversity, and the environmental conditions of the land. During the 1980s, governments began to pull away from agriculture, investing in industry, and leaving small-scale farmers to cope with market problems on their own.

Developing countries in particular are now suffering under a “triple burden,” says De Schutter, of under-fed people—malnourished people who get enough, but empty, calories; and over-fed individuals who suffer from weight-related diseases, such as diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. In Mexico, for example, 18 percent of people are food insecure and 70 percent of adults are overweight. De Schutter says that “we have no food crisis. We have a poverty crisis, we have an environmental crisis, and we have a nutrition crisis.”

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Sep15

IFPRI’s seminar on “Leveraging Agriculture to Tackle Non-communicable Diseases” anticipates UN high level meeting

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By Isaac Hopkins

On September 7th, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) hosted a seminar and panel discussion about the role that food and agriculture research can, and should, play in the high level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on September 19-20. It was a continuation of their large “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health 2020 Conference,” held in New Delhi, India, this past February.

IFPRI's seminar last week is a continuation of their conference in New Delhi this past February, focusing on leveraging agriculture to improve global health. (Image Credit: IFPRI)

Last week’s seminar addressed the alarming escalation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing nations. Once perceived as threats only to developed countries, conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, and cancer actually afflict a higher proportion of people in poorer areas of the world. As many as 80 percent of NCD deaths occur in developing countries.

“We’ve got a gap between evidence and policy,” explained Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University in London during his presentation. He discussed how the seeds of today’s problems were sown 70 years ago, when policy makers established the concept that the best way to fight malnutrition and increase health would be to produce more grain. The developed world certainly did increase raw production, but “this doesn’t fit the 21st century,” said Dr. Lang. We now know that a focus on overproducing a select few grains has many drawbacks for the health of consumers, especially those in poverty.

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Sep09

Environmental Working Group recommends less meat and cheese

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By Kamaria Greenfield

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released their findings on the climate impacts of eating twenty different proteins, ranging from lentils to lambs. The data took into account all of the resources put into producing these common foods, a method known as life cycle assessment. One resource that sometimes goes without notice is the production of animal feed, which uses vast amounts of land, water, pesticides, and chemical fertilizer, each of which have their own environmental impact. The study even takes into account the disposal of unused foods post-production.

With this chart, EWG shows how different foods have a different impact on the environment. (Photo credit: EWG)

Lamb, beef, and pork were the three meats with the highest carbon footprint, but cheese ranked third worst overall.  Two percent milk, by contrast, ranked third best. This discrepancy is caused by the intensive production of cheese. “It takes about ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese,” said Kari Hamerschlag, author of the report. To give the data more real-world impact, a colorful chart shows the footprint of each food in terms of car miles driven per four ounces consumed. Lamb, the highest, is more than seven miles for each portion eaten.

Lentils, tomatoes, milk, and beans were the four best proteins, each contributing a fraction of one mile per four ounce serving. Chicken, the most environmentally-friendly land animal on the list, comes in at about 1.75 miles. Tuna is much better than chicken, but salmon, especially farmed salmon, is slightly worse. Smaller, plant-eating fish like tilapia, not listed, have a smaller impact because they are lower on the food chain.

Rather than promoting strict vegetarianism or veganism, the EWG instead points out the American over-consumption of meat and suggests a reduction in portion sizes. In 2009, the United States produced 208 pounds of meat per person for domestic consumption alone, almost 60 percent more than Europe. Additionally, the study states that eliminating meat and cheese from one meal a week for a year would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

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Aug08

30 Project Dinner kicks-off in San Francisco

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Check out this video from the 30 Project’s dinner in San Francisco.

Ellen Gustafson and her colleagues brought together food advocates from a variety of organizations, including California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), CoFed, and the Jamie Oliver Foundation, to eat and talk about the best ways to change the global food system.

Click here to learn more about the 30 Project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Jul25

Food Systems: An Academic Discipline at UVM

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By Jesse Chang

Obesity, global hunger, climate change, food-borne illness, pollution, and environmental degradation are all unwanted symptoms of a broken food system—and it will be up to the next generation to fix it.

 

UVM’s Farmer Apprentice Program prepares new farmers with the knowledge and skills to pursue a career in agriculture. (Photo Credit: The University of Vermont)

University of Vermont (UVM) Dean of Continuing Education Dr. Cynthia Belliveau has some ideas for initiating change. “Small yet broad” is her motto for approaching the big problems of modern agriculture, and she believes the answer starts with transdisciplinary education that emphasizes regionally-scaled food systems.

Dr. Belliveau is well-positioned to help make this transition a reality. As founder of the “Sustainable Business: Practices in Support of People, Profit, and Principles” program and a faculty member at UVM’s Department of Nutrition and Food Science, she teaches her students developments in sustainability and economics through the lens of food systems. According to Dr. Belliveau, the focus at UVM is on four topics–food, culture, and health; energy and food; policy, ecology, and land use; and regional food chains.

“We’ve started the problem-solving by placing our academic knowledge on the table,” says Belliveau. “I welcome other academic institutions to the challenge. We can lead in the study of how humans in their environment obtain nourishment with a holistic approach that considers everything from microbes found in compost facilities to global trade agreements.”

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