Food Equity – rethinking how we define our food system

I have been on a journey during 2013. It started at the Georgia Organics Annual Conference last February entitled Farm Rx. The journey took me to the Ancestral Health Symposium, the conference for the Paleo movement and wrapping up with the Weston a Price foundation Wise Traditions conference in November 2013. Along the way I signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), found out how to purchase pastured eggs and unpasteurized milk from a local farmer and started to see some health concerns I had recede.

 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta at Georgia Organics conferenceWhen Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, stood up in front of 1200 Georgia Organics enthusiasts and said "I want to be a part of your movement." It was a defining moment. I joined the CSA offered through my church that Spring and the food journey began in the kitchen began.

 

Now in all fairness, there have been wonderful leaders that I have met along the way, like Robyn O'Brien, who was also at the Georgia Organics conference, who helped mold my thoughts about our industrial food system. Other usual suspects such as Michael Pollan and Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement, influenced me also. But, it was 2013 that really formed this idea of food equity in my brain.

A lot of us in the sustainability community, heard the term energy equity used in 2013. Energy equity, an environmental justice phrase, used to discuss how our consumption of energy in the US affects low-income neighborhoods. Energy equity is actually a broader issue than simply the role of energy in those most susceptible neighborhoods. Energy equity should be the broad conversation of how we supply and use energy throughout the entire community.

And that's where the birth of “food equity” became clear in my mind. I was speaking with a group of attendees at the Ancestral Health Symposium during a meal where another attendee who was a doctor said that to her food equity simply was fighting the phenomenon of food deserts. I countered that food equity was so much broader than access to whole foods in low-income neighborhoods.

Food equity is the right of everyone to really know the ingredients of the food they purchase. Food equity is combating food deserts but also re-educating everyone in cooking skills and the health benefits of eating a whole food lifestyle. Food equity is guaranteeing that our children understand the direct result of the choices they make about the food they eat and to make sure at school they have nutritionally dense meals available to them. Especially, if children who are low-income have very limited access to healthy food at home then in particular the food at school should be of quality. I am not hitting everything that I believe is part of the food equity conversation here. 

It’s a large subject with many moving parts. Thank goodness there are organizations like Georgia Organics, Florida Organic Growers, Environmental Working Group and many, many others.

If you aren’t thinking about your food, then make 2014 the year of controlling what you put in your body. Your choices will make things more equitable for everyone. There’s plenty of momentum already but so much more needs to be done and your simple individual choices will make a difference. 

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