Strengthening our Local Food Systems

Liz McMann
Mississippi Market Co-op

In a country where rivers of high fructose corn syrup flow through our food system and the food recalls never seem to stop, something really miraculous is happening. In the shadows of genetically modified corn fields and pre-made frozen peanut butter sandwiches, people are starting to see past the industrial food system that we’ve grown accustomed to these past 50 years. People are starting to take the American food system into their own hands and become personally invested in where and how their food is produced. People are starting to care about their food.

Each time we choose to find out the source of our food, we not only learn about our food supply, but we also have the opportunity to make a choice. Turning over a package of food or checking out those little stickers on our apples can open our eyes to the size and scope of the food supply. And we can choose an alternative. In fact, the alternatives are practically mainstream these days.

Gardening, farmer’s markets, food co-ops, and community-supported agriculture (CSA)—all of these food sources are growing stronger with every new gardener, shopper, member-owner and subscriber! Having a personal involvement and connection to our food is part of what has been missing in our convenience- and price-driven diets. And this connection to our food could be what changes our food system.

Think about it: When a child takes the time to plant a seed, water it, nurture it through its lifecycle and harvest its fruits, that child is more likely to eat that fruit or vegetable. We know that getting children involved in growing and preparing their food encourages them to eat healthy foods. The same holds true for any of us. One of the most radical and effective actions we can take to change our food system is to get involved in it!

You can start small with buying some locally-grown apples from a co-op, visiting the farmer’s market, or growing some herbs on a windowsill. Be careful, though. The freshness and flavor of real, sustainably produced food is addictive. You’ll want more! Before long, you’ll be digging up your yard to plant kale, joining a food co-op, harvesting onions at your CSA farm, canning peaches, and sharing recipes for home-cooked organic meals with your neighbors. And the outcome of all this? You’ll know what you are eating. You’ll know the people who worked so hard to grow your food. And you’ll strengthen the local food systems that are changing how America eats, one community at a time.

Read Up

Grace from the Garden: Changing the World One Garden at a Time, by Debra Landwehr Engle, Rodale, 2003.

The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food, by Ben Hewitt, Rodale, 2010.

Act Locally

Mississippi Market Co-op
St. Paul, MN

EggPlant Urban Farm Supply
St. Paul, MN

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