Thursday, December 27, 2012

Food justice in 2012

It's been an busy, exciting past couple of months in the world of nutrition, food justice, and food system advocacy. The Hunger & Environmental Nutrition (HEN) Dietetic Practice Group of the newly re-named Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) finalized a new set of Corporate Sponsorship Guidelines to guide the sponsorship activities not only of HEN, but also to serve as an example of what many Academy members, Registered Dietitians, and other nutritionists would like to see as the guidelines adopted by the Academy at large.

The Environmental Working Group launched the "Good Food on a Tight Budget" shopping guide, and HEN held a webinar to give an overview.  (Info from this webinar, as well as other HEN webinars on GMOs and "Healthy Institutions: Strategies for Farm to Tray," are on the HEN website).

The HEN delegation at the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics 2012 FNCE conference held in Philadelphia, organized several exciting events, including a Spotlight session entitled "Systems Approach to Ending Hunger: Exposing the Origin, Uncovering Solutions," which included a talk by Dr. Hans Herren, co-chair of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) study, the world's premiere study of agriculture in relation to hunger, poverty, nutrition, human health, and environmental and social sustainability (here's a similar talk to the one he gave at FNCE).

In honor of CSPI's second annual Food Day, Anna Lappe launched "Food Mythbusters" ("Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?"):

Oxfam continued spreading awareness about its GROW Food Justice Campaign "to build a better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population (estimated to reach nine billion by 2050) and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive." To do this, they launched this video (also embedded below), launched the Future of Agriculture video and had an online discussion, and spearheaded the consumer-friendly "GROW Method" of eating in such a way that promotes environmental sustainability, supports small-scale farmers, reduces hunger and food waste, and promotes health. They even launched a Facebook app and have tons of GROW Method-friendly recipes on Pinterest.  Here's a nice infographic from Oxfam about what's wrong with our food system.

Another great video, along the same lines of describing the global food crisis & how to fix it, is "Feeding Nine Billion":

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy shared their Draft Principles of Food Justice, created after the Food + Justice = Democracy conference in September.

Ellen Gustafson and Danielle Nierenberg are launching "Food Tank: The Food Think Tank" in early 2013, which with their combined experience in navigating the food system should be an exciting initiative. Here's an article by Danielle in the Huffington Post, "13 Resolutions to Change the Food System in 2013."

Christina Schiavoni, food sovereignty advocate and moderator of Oxfam Action Corps NYC's International Women's Day event in March, moved on from her position at WHY Hunger to focus more intensively on food sovereignty from abroad, but not before imparting the wisdom about the film "Growing Change" about food sovereignty in Venezuela, which I am hoping we can organize a screening of in the coming year.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, Occupy Faith NYC made the connections between those hardest hit in Rockaway and Cuba:  climate change inevitably has a greater impact on the poor.

Locally:  The NYC Nutrition Education Network held a "Sustainability in the Food System" event in March (here's a resource list from the event).  Bronx Health REACH held a Bronx School Health & Wellness Conference in May, and published a newsletter documenting this and much of our other nutrition and fitness work.  The "Just in the Bronx: Our Voice, Our Choice" Summit was in September, where Professor Mark Naison from Fordham University gave the keynote address (which you can read on the Bronx Health REACH blog).  At the Summit, there was a Call to Action for both community members and elected officials, in regards to how we can improve the health of the Bronx.  Bronx Health REACH also became the borough-lead for the Community Transformation Grant in NYC - focused on improving healthy eating, active living, and reducing alcohol and tobacco - which is being overseen by the Partnership for a Healthier NYC.

I learned about the Ironwill Foundation, a great organization that does nutrition education classes for parents at the Mercy Center in the Bronx, and numerous middle schools throughout NYC and Newark, NJ with the Ironwill Kids PowerUp! curriculum. (video!).  I also got to see the premiere of the film "Soul Food Junkies" at Lincoln Center, which will be broadcast nationally on PBS on January 14, 2013 at 10pm.

Since seeing the film Forks Over Knives over a year ago (which does a good job promoting a plant-based diet), I heard some critiques about its subjectivity and even had doubts about a few things myself. Then I read some of this critique of The China Study, which delves deep into the scientific literature and should keep any scientist, doctor, or dietitian busy for a while.  Suffice it to say, I still believe the Oxfam GROW Method is the ideal way to eat to support health and environmental sustainability.

If you learn nothing else from reading this post, you should know that the food system is broken.  There are many contributing factors to this, but a considerable portion can be traced back to the actions of a few multinational food conglomerates and governments which support these corporations.  This happened with NAFTA, which favors the US in trade agreements and basically dumps overly subsidized grain products onto other countries, driving the price of these commodities down so low that many farmers in the developing countries receiving the grains can't make a living farming anymore, thereby becoming economic refugees, fleeing to the US (how ironic) as immigrants, trying to make a new life for themselves. This is what The Other Side of Immigration looks like and is the irony of the Harvest of Empire.  The impact of corporations and their ability to undermine communities (and even governments) has the potential to become exponentially worse if we don't pay attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new free trade agreement that has been questioned — if not outright opposed — by environmental, consumer, indigenous, family  farm, labor and other social justice groups on four continents.  We must plead that governments don't blindly sign on to this, especially without the text being made public.

As food justice advocates, we can spread the messages about the food system and those working to change it for the better (documented here and on the Food for Thought and Action Facebook page!).  We can choose food that's healthier and better for the environment, abiding by Oxfam's GROW Method. We can teach kids about nutrition, growing food, and environmental sustainability - which Leave It Better does quite well. We can demand that companies uphold the principles of promoting health and sustainability, as outlined in HEN's Guidelines. We can also organize together with faith communities, such as the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies Jeremiah Leadership Council / NY Faith & Justice's Food Justice Working Group in NYC, to make changes personally and organizationally, and advocate for changes to the food system at large.  (twitter: @foodfaithhealth)

It would not be possible to make this post completely comprehensive of all the great work of food justice advocates or even all of the initiatives I've learned about this year, but hopefully this provides you with some good food for thought and action :)  And just for kicks, here's some more good info not mentioned above.  Happy 2013!

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