With great difficulty - Wayne is a wealth of information about all things food. But I'll try to relay the highlights of last week's FoodShare event that also featured speakers and inspiration from food movement leaders and thinkers Debbie Field of FoodShare, Jeff Westman of California Farmlink, and Tony Winson from the University of Guelph. The panel was moderated by Donna Tranquada of the inspiring Food and Water First Initiative.
Some food for thought to take away:
Industrial Food - It’s in our fields...and also in our heads
Since World War II, our food system has seen significant shifts toward industrialization - from planting to processing to the time it reaches our plates, the food we eat is significantly mechanized and relies heavily on machinery. We’re not just eating this type of food though, we’re thinking and living this food culture. As Wayne Robert’s explains, the mechanization of food has stretched beyond our fields and plates. We’ve adopted an industrial food mentality and culture too. The way society is relating to food is increasingly instrumental, looking for a quick fix for nutrition, or fast fuel for the day. Eating a granola bar on the run might be a quick fix for hunger, but it’s really treating food as an afterthought; a means to an end.
The more we can relate to food as it provides holistic nourishment (mental and physical), builds community, and connects us to place, the more we can benefit from what whole food has to offer. As Tony Winson assures us, there is an alternative - food can be slow, whole, and not only draw from our environment, but also nourish the land and communities from which it grows.
What’s more, while bad food is connected to mental health issues, good food can offer support for positive mental health.
Our disconnected and nutrient-poor food system is connected to more than poor nutrition and bad eating habits; it’s also been linked to mental health issues. While mental health effects are less obviously visible, they are as profound as the physical health problems that result from bad food. Our minds and bodies alike require nourishment from whole, connected foods. Centred on values of empowerment and connection, the alternative food movement presents eaters with healthy, nutritious foods as well as opportunities to create relationship-rich food systems that reflect personal values and connect people to surrounding places, cultures, and environments.
Hopeful models for change are making their mark
Despite the deep rooted complications and the vast reach of the mainstream food system, alternatives and solutions-oriented approaches to healthier food systems are growing up all around us. Cuba and Brazil are exemplary models that are effectively addressing hunger by working with their communities and providing services that offer healthy and accessible foods. FoodShare’s Debbie Field assures us that within the “belly of the beast” an alternative food system is being built that is bridging new relationships and equitable exchanges between producers and consumers. Programs that are intervening from early ages, like school nutrition programs and farm visits, are reconnecting the next generation to sources of food, nutritional values, and community-based food systems at a critical age.
Overall, it was a great event that left everyone with a lot to think about. There are a lot of exciting things happening in the food movement, and it's important to remember that although change is slow, even small actions, choices, and dialogues can positively impact our food system.
If you’re looking for a deeper dive into these types of questions and solutions, pick up a copy of Wayne Roberts’ No Nonsense Guide to World Food.