In the United States, our food consumption and food production habits are a leading cause of environmental destruction. Whether we like it or not, environmental issues such as diminishing fresh water reserves, pesticide-resistant insects and weeds, toxic runoff from agrochemicals into rivers and oceans, massive honeybee die-offs (colony collapse disorder), and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), are issues we will need to confront in the years ahead if we want to preserve the health and well-being of our planet for the generations to come.
One solution to these problems is the utilization of sustainable food systems. Developing sustainable food systems is a fundamental shift in the way our food is produced, processed, transported and consumed and can help to alleviate, and even reverse, the environmental damage that has already occurred.
What exactly is a “sustainable food system”?
A healthy, sustainable food system includes the following attributes:
- Promotes the good health of all living things in the community throughout the entire cycle of food production, processing, packaging, labeling, distribution, marketing, consumption, and disposal.
- Places high importance on meeting food and nutrition needs without damaging or neglecting the conservation, protection, and regeneration of natural resources, biodiversity and landscapes throughout the community.
- Is able to confront challenges, such as climate, pest resistance, and declining water and energy supplies in sustainable, environmentally-friendly ways.
- Exhibits diversity in its range of food production and disposal practices and is able to consider the effectiveness of production and disposal practices that scale from local to global.
- Supports fair and economically balanced conditions for all members of the community including farmers, workers, and consumers, and works to provide the community with access to affordable food that is health-promoting and culturally appropriate.
- Provides farmers, workers, and consumers access to the knowledge of how their food is handled and empowers all members of the community to actively discuss and participate in all stages from food production through disposal.
In short, a healthy, sustainable food system strives to be health-promoting for all members of the community, environmentally and economically sustainable, resilient and diverse, economically transparent and balanced.
You can help create a sustainable food system.
While many consumers feel they don’t have a voice against destructive agri-business practices, in truth, their power comes through their purchasing choices and buying habits. You have a very strong influence on what food is made available to purchase, how it is packaged and transported, cooked, consumed and disposed of.
Here are five great suggestions that you and your family can try in order to support sustainable food systems in your local community and region:
1. Choose sustainable food.
The first thing you can try is to make an effort to purchase your food from local, sustainable farms and companies that promote sustainable practices. Shop at your local farmers’ market, join a regional CSA (community supported agriculture), or ask the produce manager at your local grocery store which fruits and vegetables are purchased from farms using sustainable practices. If shopping at a grocery store, choose frozen vegetables over fresh to reduce waste and ensure peak nutrition. Frozen vegetables are not just good for you, they are also a major part of eating sustainably. By choosing Tommy’s Superfoods, you can contribute to the creation of a sustainable food system. Does your local supermarket not carry Tommy’s? Let the store know that you prefer to spend your food dollars sustainably and ask the grocery store manager to stock Tommy’s Superfoods!
2. Be on the lookout for antibiotics.
80% of all antibiotics in the US are administered to livestock to increase their growth rates and prevent diseases caused by the crowded, unsanitary conditions most food producing animals are kept in. This practice threatens not only the health of the animals, but that of the people who consume antibiotic-laced meat and dairy, as well as the surrounding environment. Support bans on the use of antibiotics in animal except when medically necessary and avoid all dairy and meat that isn’t clearly designated at free of antibiotics.
3. Support the right to farm in your community and shop local.
Regardless of which state you live in, take an interest in local, county and state laws that concern farming, food production, and sustainable agriculture. From urban agriculture to the rights of small, independent farmers, find out what the issue are in your area and voice your support. When you’re shopping, buy fruits and vegetables that are grown in the United States, rather than flown in from another country. At Tommy’s Superfoods, we’re proud to partner with family-owned farms and to source all our delicious vegetables from right here in the USA. Not only does this mean that you’re getting veggies picked at peak ripeness, but also that when you buy Tommy’s Superfoods, you’re supporting local family farms.
4. Support Labeling of GMOs.
Despite the public support for GMO labeling on all foods, food producers are still not required to disclose genetically modified ingredients in their products across the United States. Support GMO labeling so that consumers can have the necessary information to make informed food choices. To learn more about GMO labeling campaigns, visit the websites for Just Label It and The Center for Food Safety.
5. Educate Yourself.
Take an interest in learning more about sustainable food systems. Whether it’s reading online blogs or news sources, subscribing to organic gardening magazines or joining a local advocacy and discussion group, the more you know about the issue, the better prepared you’ll be to make smart food choices for yourself and your family!