Red Flags and Bright Spots: Our Modern Food System

“What does it mean to you when you experience a system that’s broken?”

Dr. Oran Hesterman, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fair Food Network, an organization that works to improve access to healthy foods through public policy, funding strategies, and expanding education, looked out into the group of food and social justice activists, environmentalists, farmers, and concerned area residents who had gathered at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor.

While many institutions face challenges, issues with our food system are rarely talked about, despite their immense impact, he noted.  When other systems in our lives are broken, we strive to fix them, or at least deliberate on possible solutions like the educational system, the health care system, or transportation.

With a typical American meal including ingredients from more than five different countries, and the average ingredient travelling 1500 miles before it ends up on a plate, Dr. Hesterman acknowledged that it can be challenging to prepare meals from local ingredients, even when we make concerted efforts to do so.

However, he also highlighted several “bright spots” in our local food scene that make access to local ingredients increasingly accessible.

Dr. Hesterman tipped his hat to Tantré Farm and the MSU Student Organic Farm as being exemplary providers of sustainably-raised local food. He also gave a nod to the Ann Arbor city government, which is one of only two cities in the country that has a city-owned property for its farmers market, and employs the Market Manager as a member of the government’s staff.

With more than one acre of American farmland lost every minute, due to the fact that much of our crops are grown near metropolitan areas where pressure for development is highest, Dr. Hesterman emphasized the importance of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt Project, in which 2000 acres of open space, agricultural land, and natural habitats have been protected.

Richard Andres, co-owner of Tantré Farm and founder of the Washtenaw Food Hub, located in the Ann Arbor Greenbelt, cited the staggering statistic that, for every one calorie of lettuce we consume that was grown in California’s Central Valley, a staggering 5700 calories were expended to produce it and get it to us.

“We have the opportunity to lead ourselves into a fair food system,” Dr. Hesterman emphasized.

At such a critical time in our nation’s food history, Locavorious is grateful to be part of a community where the potential for changing the system is great. Through buying produce from farms like Tantré and the MSU Student Organic Farm, to having booths at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, to looking ahead to working at the Washtenaw Food Hub, we are able to bring you delicious frozen fruits and vegetables; just a small piece of the larger food justice puzzle. With your support by purchasing our products, we can work to rebuild our food system into something that, like our food, is sustainable, fresh, and delicious.

Maggie Cease, Local food system solutionary, Fulbright Scholar, and Locavorious writer

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