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Thirteen Resolutions to Change the Food System in 2013

We have the tools, let's use them well this new year

As we start 2013, many people will be thinking about plans and promises to improve their diets and health. We think a broader collection of farmers, policy-makers, and eaters need new, bigger resolutions for fixing the food system — real changes with long-term impacts in fields, boardrooms, and on plates all over the world. These are resolutions that the world can’t afford to break with nearly one billion still hungry and more than one billion suffering from the effects of being overweight and obese. We have the tools — let’s use them in 2013!

Here are our 13 resolutions to change the food system in 2013:

fresh veggie Photo by John PozadzidesTry eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods without preservatives and other additives.

1. Growing the Cities:  Food production doesn’t only happen in fields or factories. Nearly one billion people worldwide produce food in cities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, farmers are growing seeds of indigenous vegetables and selling them to rural farmers. At Bell Book & Candle restaurant in New York, customers are served rosemary, cherry tomatoes, romaine, and other produce grown from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
2. Creating Better Access:  People’s Grocery in Oakland and Fresh Moves in Chicago bring mobile grocery stores to food deserts giving low-income consumers opportunities to make healthy food choices. Instead of chips and soda, they provide customers with affordable organic produce, not typically available in their communities.
3. Eaters Demanding Healthier Food: Food writer Michael Pollan advises not to eat anything that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods without preservatives and other additives.
4. Cooking More: Home economics classes have declined in schools in the United Kingdom and the US and young people lack basic cooking skills.  Top Chefs Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Bill Telepan are working with schools to teach kids how to cook healthy, nutritious foods.
5. Creating Conviviality: According to the Hartman Group, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. eat meals alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends can foster community and conversation. Recent studies suggest that children who eat meals with their families are typically happier and more stable than those who do not.
6. Focus on Vegetables: Nearly two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies worldwide, leading to poor development. The World Vegetable Center, however, is helping farmers grow high-value, nutrient rich vegetables in Africa and Asia, improving health and increasing incomes.
7. Preventing Waste:  Roughly one-third of all food is wasted — in fields, during transport, in storage, and in homes. But there are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent waste. Initiatives like Love Food, Hate Waste offer consumers tips about portion control and recipes for leftovers, while farmers in Bolivia are using solar-powered driers to preserve foods.

photoname Photo by Mic DbernardoIn the US, Food Corps is teaching students how to grow and cook food, preparing them for a
lifetime of healthy eating

8. Engaging Youth: Making farming both intellectually and economically stimulating will help make the food system an attractive career option for youth. Across sub-Saharan Africa, cell phones and the internet are connecting farmers to information about weather and markets; in the US, Food Corps is teaching students how to grow and cook food, preparing them for a lifetime of healthy eating.
9. Protecting Workers: Farm and food workers across the world are fighting for better pay and working conditions. In Zimbabwe, the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), protects laborers from abuse. In the U.S., the Coalition of Immokalee Workers successfully persuaded Trader Joe’s and Chipotle to pay the premium of a penny-per-pound to Florida tomato pickers.
10. Acknowledging the Importance of Farmers: Farmers aren’t just farmers, they’re business-women and men, stewards of the land, and educators, sharing knowledge in their communities. Slow Food International works with farmers all over the world, helping recognize their importance to preserve biodiversity and culture.
11. Recognizing the Role of Governments:  Nations must implement policies that give everyone access to safe, affordable, healthy food. In Ghana and Brazil, government action, including national school feeding programs and increased support for sustainable agricultural production, greatly reduced the number of hungry people.
12. Changing the Metrics: Governments, NGOs, and funders have focused on increasing production and improving yields, rather than improving nutrition and protecting the environment. Changing the metrics, and focusing more on quality, will improve public and environmental health, and livelihoods.
13. Fixing the Broken Food System: Agriculture can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges — including unemployment, obesity, and climate change. These innovations simply need more research, more investment, and ultimately more funding.

We can do it — together!


P.S: We have been working tirelessly as we prepare to launch Food Tank: The Food Think Tank on January 10th. Click HERE to watch the trailer.

Danielle Nierenberg
Danielle Nierenberg is co-founder of Food Tank. She is an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She recently spent two years traveling to more than 35 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia looking at environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger and poverty. Her knowledge of global agriculture issues has been cited widely in more than 3,000 major publications including The New York Times, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, BBC, The Guardian(UK), the Mail and Guardian (South Africa), the East African (Kenya), TIME magazine, Reuters, Agence France Presse, Voice of America, the Times of India, and other major publications. Danielle worked for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

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While there are many important and useful suggestions in this piece, I am surprised and disappointed that there is not one mention of adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet. Even eating vegan or vegetarian for a few days a week would have an enormous positive impact—especially when multiied by millions or billions of practitioners.

A vegan diet is cruelty free—and the factory farms that slaughter and produce the large majority of meat and dairy in the U.S. are some of the most cruel places on the planet. Factory farming is harmful for all involved, including: consumers (producing sub-standard meat and meat “products”—sometimes with ecoli—which contribute to obesity and heart disease); workers (some of the most dangerous and hazardous jobs on the planet, often staffed by undocumented immigrants who are further subjected to abuse); the environment (thousands of tons of manure and animal offal left to seep into water tables and water ways); and, of course, the animals themselves who are subjected to such unspeakable cruelty that the industry has successfully lobbied for “ag gag” laws which prosecute anyone who speaks of or exposes the savage methods of mass-production slaughter which claims the lives of 10 billion sentient creatures each year in the U.S. alone.

Clearly, with the stakes this high and the moral implications (for people, the planet, and the animals who suffer) this strong, the article should have included Resolution #14: Become a vegan or vegetarian for 2013 and improve your health as well as the health and well-being of the planet and factory-farmed animals.

P.S. For a simple education that substantiates these claims, start with the excellent overview of the American factory food system, the documentary FOOD, INC.

By Penny Perkins on Sat, January 05, 2013 at 6:50 am

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