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Local Foods: Working Toward a Sustainable Food System PowerPoint Presentation
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Local Foods: Working Toward a Sustainable Food System

Local Foods: Working Toward a Sustainable Food System

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Local Foods: Working Toward a Sustainable Food System

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  1. Local Foods: Working Toward a Sustainable Food System Introduction Definitions Molly TurnquistConcordia College The dangerous state of our environment, the economic status of the United States, and the declining health status caused by an unhealthy diet are issues that have gained attention and concern in recent years. Solutions to these problems will be complex and require time, but an intervention that has gained much attention in recent years and shown potential in contributing to a solution is the purchasing of local foods, which addresses each of these issues. The loss of small farms throughout the country in the last several decades due to the centralization of the food system has created a plunge in economic stability of rural communities throughout the nation. The same centralization causes degradation of arable land and the disappearance of crop varieties, which both have negative long-term effects on our economy and environment. A diet consisting of local foods is generally healthier than the typical American diet, which could lead to a lower instance of diet-related disease. By practicing and promoting the sourcing of local foods, individuals, institutions, and food and health professionals have the potential to create a more sustainable food system that promotes the conservation of natural resources, improves rural economies, and encourages a healthy diet. • What are local foods? • A local food “was grown, raised, or produced within a relatively short distance from the place where the food was purchased by the consumer” (Rose, et al., 2008, p. 271). The definition of ‘short distance’ has not been determined, and could include a distance from anywhere within a region, state, or country. • What is does a food system consist of and what makes it sustainable or not? • A food system has five components: • Production • Transformation (includes processing, packaging, and labeling) • Distribution (includes wholesaling, storage, and transport) • Access (includes retailing, institutional foodservice, and food programs) • Consumption (includes preparation and health outcomes) • A sustainable food system is one that does not degrade or deplete the natural resources that it uses. – biodiversity, soil, land, energy, water, and air which are affected by technology, policy, economics, socio-cultural trends, research, and education (Harmon & Gerald, 2007). Economic Impact Nutritional Impact Environmental Impact Food Miles: the distance a food product travels from the producer to the consumer. Studies calculate the average distance a processed food item travels in the United States is between 1,300 and 1,500 miles. The movement centered around ‘food miles’ aims to reduce our carbon footprint by sourcing local foods. According to G. Edwards-Jones, “the carbon footprint of a food item is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted during its production, processing, and retailing” (Edwards-Jones et al., 2008, p. 266). According to Weber and Matthews, “the average (American) household’s climate impact related to food Sustainable Food System Model (Harmon & Gerald, 2007) (is) 8.1 tons of CO₂ equivalents per year,” with a small proportion coming from final delivery, or ‘food miles’(2008, p. 3511). A more effective way of reducing GHG in the food system would be a shift in dietary protein sources: “buying local could achieve, at maximum, around a 4-5% reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions associated with food consumption. Shifting less than 1 day per week’s consumption of red meat and/or dairy to other protein sources or a vegetable-based diet could have the same climate impact as buying all household food from local providers” (Weber & Matthews, 2008, p. 3512). Wholesaling and Retailing 5% Conclusion Issues like the deterioration of the environment, economic instability, and declining health status will not be solved with just one change, and certainly not over night. A shift to complete localization of food is not easy or realistic as growing seasons and socioeconomic barriers are present. As Hamm suggests, the creation of a sustainable food system is a process with ever-changing variables, with “continually improving strategies: more/less, not either/or” (2008, p. 174). These improvements come with more localized food, more environmentally sound agriculture, more knowledge among consumers and professionals, and more support of these efforts through legislative policies. If these improvements continue, a sustainable food system can and will be achieved. Centralization of the Food System The disappearance of small farms across the United States contributes to the declining economic status of rural communities and the country as a whole. As stated by Joshi, Azuma, and Feenstra, “small farms are experiencing hardships due to inaccessible markets, cheap imports, and high packing and distribution costs per unit of small volumes” (2008, p. 231). As global competition forces the centralization of agriculture to large, commercial producers, the agricultural labor personnel are replaced by “technology, machinery, and synthetic chemicals,” causing the loss of 4.7 million U.S. farms since 1935 (Farm and Food Policy Project, 2007). A study by the National Farmers Union shows that four companies control the majority of the beef (83.5%) and pork-packing (66%), and soy crushing (80%) industries, while two control 58% of U.S. seed corn sales (National Farmers Union, 2007). If small farms are able to continue in the current food system, they generally must “export their crop as a raw commodity or replace regional crops with something more profitable,” causing a 13% decrease in returns from consumer money spent on their products (ATTRA, 2008). Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA):accounts for the energy input and output involved with producing, processing, packaging, transporting, and consuming a food product. The high emissions of meat and dairy production are due to the energy-intensive production methods used. According to Eshel and Martin, the “percentage of fossil fuel input energy that is retrieved as edible energy” is 9.3% for meat and poultry, 11.2% for eggs, and 20.6% for dairy as opposed to well over 100% for oranges, potatoes and oats and other plant foods (2006, p. 6). (Weber & Matthews, 2008, p. 3511) Potential Economy Boost A study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture reports that $20.8 million is generated by Iowa farmers’ markets and provides over 325 jobs, which added $12.2 million in local economic activities and another 146 full-time jobs as a secondary effect (2008). Another study found that, of the $30 million spent on food in Wright County annually, $7 million goes toward items that can be sourced locally (meat, poultry, fruits, and vegetables). Nationally, a decrease in importing crops already grown in the U.S. would have a similar effect on the economy, as a study shows, we currently import over twice as many vegetables as we export (Hamm, 2008). Increasing the presence of farmers markets, cooperatives, and community-supported agriculture will allow a more community-based food system to create more economic stability as part of a sustainable food system. References ‘Greener’ Farming Practices 1. Edwards-Jones, G., Canals, L.M., Hounsome, N., Truninger, M., Koerber, G., Hounsome, B., Cross, P., York, E.H., Hospido, A., Plassman, K., Harris, I.M., Edwards, R.T., Day, G.A.S., Tomos, A.D., Cowell, S.J., and Jones, D.L., (2008). Testing the assertion that ‘ local food is best’: the challenges of an evidence-based approach. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 19, 265-274. 2. Eshel, Gidon, and Martin, Pamela A., (2006). Diet, Energy, and Global Warming. Earth Interactions, 10, 1-17 3. Farm and Food Policy Project, (2007). The Case For Local and Regional Food Marketing. 4. Goland, Carol and Bauer, Sarah, (2004). When the apple falls close to the tree: local food systems and the preservation of diversity. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 19, 228-236. 5. Hamm, Michael W. (2008). Linking Sustainable Agriculture and Public Health: Opportunities for Realizing Multiple Goals. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 3, 169-185. 6. Harmon, Alison H. and Gerald, Bonnie L., (2007). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Professionals Can Implement Practices to Conserve Natural Resources and Support Ecological Sustainability. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107, 1033-1043. 7. Joshi, A., Azuma, A. M., Feenstra, G., (2008). Do Farm-to-School Programs Make a Difference? Findings and Future Research Needs. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 3, 229-246. 8. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, (2008). Food Facts: Results from Marketing and Food Systems Research. Ames, IA 9. National Farmers Union (2007). Conservation of Agricultural Markets. Columbia, MO: Hendrickson, Mary, and Hefferman, William. 10. National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA), (2008). Food Miles: Background and Marketing. Fayetteville, AR. 11. Rose, N., Serrano, E., Hosig, K., Haas, C., Reaves, D., Nickols-Richardson, S., (2008). The 100-Mile Diet: A Community Approach to Promote Sustainable Food Systems Impacts Dietary Quality. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 3, 270-285. 12. Weber, Christopher L., and Matthews, H. Scott, (2008). Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 42, 3508-3513. • Environmentally friendly farming practices associated with local farming: • Crop rotation and multi-cropping: maintain nutrients (Food and Farm Policy, 2008) • Fertilizer Recycling: less chemical use, efficient waste disposal (Food and Farm Policy, 2008) • Conserving Biodiversity: less risk of crop disease/damage, less chemical use (Goland & Bauer, 2004) • Pasture Feeding: reduce energy cost (Harmon & Gerald, 2007), reduce land use, reduce pesticide use (Hamm, 2008) • All of these practices aid in reducing air and water pollution, waste generation, and depletion of fossil fuels (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service [ATTRA], 2008). As three of the top six leading causes of death in the U.S. are related to diet, eating habits are in need of revisal (Farm and Food Policy Project, 2007). There are limited studies on the nutritional benefits of locally grown foods compared to those produced commercially, due to the complexity of defining boundaries and the different environmental factors across geographic areas, lending to different nutritional composition of food. Despite this, there is evidence that sourcing local foods encourages a shift to a healthier diet, as the nature of most locally sourced food is fruits and vegetables. Research indicates that on average, a person eating a 2,000 calorie diet needs to increase fruit intake by 132% and non-starchy vegetables by 175-183% (Hamm, 2008). A study of individuals restricted to a completely ‘local’ diet for four weeks during peak harvest, found an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables by an average of 1.5 cups per day (Rose, et al., 2008). Total GHG Emissions of the Food System Other Transport 7% Final delivery 4% Production 84%