Tag Archives: farmers

Food Systems

Food does not come out of thin air — foodstuffs generally need dirt, water, sunlight, and some kind of seed. Food does not magically appear in supermarkets — food is generally processed, stored and transported. Much of the time, food doesn’t even appear on your plate without substantial further storage, processing and cooking at home or out and about. Food doesn’t become nutrition until your digestive system profoundly processes whatever food goes into your mouth. Food originates within systems both natural and man-made. Human agricultural, food processing, food marketing, and consumer practices deeply shape the nature of our food, the ultimate nutrition it may provide, local economies and the ecology of our planet.

Food Systems for health

PRINCIPLES OF A HEALTHY, SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEM

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Nurses Association, American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association initiated a collaborative process to develop a set of shared food system principles. The following principles are a result of this process and have been collectively endorsed by these organizations:

We support socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health – the current and future health of individuals, communities, and the natural environment.

A healthy, sustainable food system is:

HEALTH-PROMOTING

• Supports the physical and mental health of all farmers, workers and eaters
• Accounts for the public health impacts across the entire lifecycle of how food is produced, processed, packaged, labeled, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed

SUSTAINABLE

• Conserves, protects, and regenerates natural resources, landscapes and biodiversity
• Meets our current food and nutrition needs without compromising the ability of the system to meet the needs of future generations

RESILIENT

• Thrives in the face of challenges, such as unpredictable climate, increased pest resistance, and declining, increasingly expensive water and energy supplies

DIVERSE IN

• Size and scale—includes a diverse range of food production, transformation, distribution, marketing, consumption, and disposal practices, occurring at diverse scales, from local and regional, to national and global
• Geography—considers geographic differences in natural resources, climate, customs, and heritage
• Culture—appreciates and supports a diversity of cultures, socio-demographics, and lifestyles
• Choice—provides a variety of health-promoting food choices for all

FAIR

• Supports fair and just communities and conditions for all farmers, workers and eaters
• Provides equitable physical access to affordable food that is health promoting and culturally appropriate

ECONOMICALLY BALANCED

• Provides economic opportunities that are balanced across geographic regions of the country and at different scales of activity, from local to global, for a diverse range of food system stakeholders
• Affords farmers and workers in all sectors of the system a living wage

TRANSPARENT

• Provides opportunities for farmers, workers and eaters to gain the knowledge necessary to understand how food is produced, transformed, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed
• Empowers farmers, workers and eaters to actively participate in decision-making in all sectors of the system

A healthy, sustainable food system emphasizes, strengthens, and makes visible the interdependent and inseparable relationships between individual sectors (from production to waste disposal) and characteristics (health-promoting, sustainable, resilient, diverse, fair, economically balanced, and transparent)
of the system.

from: http://www.planning.org/nationalcenters/health/foodprinciples.htm

You can download a PDF version of these principles here: https://planning-org-uploaded-media.s3.amazonaws.com/legacy_resources/nationalcenters/health/pdf/HealthySustainableFoodSystemsPrinciples_2012May.pdf

World’s Largest Food Companies Called Out for Food Justice

Ready for a big shake-up of the world’s largest food and beverage companies?  Here it comes!  The international relief and development organization Oxfam America has launched a new global campaign called ‘Behind the Brands’. The campaign scores and ranks the agricultural policies, public commitments and supply chain oversight of Associated British Foods, Coca Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, Pepsico and Unilever.  The “Big 10” food and beverage companies together make $1 billion-a-day while failing millions of people in developing countries who supply land, labor, water and commodities needed to make their products.

Raymond C. Offenheiser, President,. Oxfam America, says, “It’s time these companies take more responsibility for their immense influence on poor people’s lives.  Eighty percent of the world’s hungry people work in food production and these companies employ millions of people in developing countries to grow their ingredients. They control hundreds of the world’s most popular brands and have the economic, social and political clout to make a real and lasting difference to the world’s poor and hungry.”

You can download the entire report, “BEHIND THE BRANDS: Food Justice and the ‘Big 10’ Food and Beverage Companies.”  Here is the report summary — powerful stuff:

“In Pakistan, rural communities say Nestlé is bottling and selling valuable groundwater near villages that can’t afford clean water. In 2009, Kraft was accused of purchasing beef from Brazilian suppliers linked to cutting down trees in the Amazon rainforest in order to graze cattle. And today, Coca-Cola is facing allegations of child labor in its supply chain in the Philippines.

Sadly, these charges are not anomalies. For more than 100 years, the world’s most powerful food and beverage companies have relied on cheap land and labor to produce inexpensive products and huge profits. But these profits have often come at the cost of the environment and local communities around the world, and have contributed to a food system in crisis.

Today, a third of the world’s population relies on small-scale farming for their livelihoods. And while agriculture today produces more than enough food to feed everyone on earth, a third of it is wasted; more than 1.4 billion people are overweight, and almost 900 million people go to bed hungry each night.

The vast majority of the hungry are the small-scale farmers and workers who supply nutritious food to 2–3 billion people worldwide,6 with up to 60 percent of farm laborers living in poverty. At the same time, changing weather patterns due to greenhouse gas emissions – a large percentage of which come from agricultural production – are making farming an increasingly unreliable occupation.

Adding to the vulnerability of poor farmers and farm workers, food prices continue to fluctuate wildly, and demand for soy, corn, and sugar to feed affluent diets is on the rise. And to top it off, the very building blocks of the global food system – fertile land, clean water, and reliable weather – are growing scarce.

These facts are not secrets; companies also realize that agriculture has grown risky and are taking steps to guarantee future commodity supplies and to reduce social and environmental risks along their supply chains.

Today, food and beverage companies speak out against biofuels, build schools for communities and cut back on water usage in company operations. New corporate social responsibility programs are proliferating and declarations of sustainability are now ubiquitous. The CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, in fact noted in 2011, ‘It is not enough to make things that taste good. PepsiCo must also be “the good company.” It must aspire to higher values than the day-to-day business of making and selling soft drinks and snacks.’

But such claims of better environmental and social behaviour have thus far been extremely difficult to assess, despite rapidly growing consumer demand to know the truth of these claims.

Now, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign evaluates where companies stand on policy in comparison with their peers and challenges them to begin a ‘race to the top’ to improve their social and environmental performance. By targeting specific areas for improvement along the supply chain, the campaign pinpoints policy weaknesses and will work with others to shine a spotlight on the practices of these companies

Behind the Brands is a part of the GROW campaign. Oxfam’s GROW campaign aims to build a better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population (estimated to reach nine billion people in 2050) and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families and thrive.

Oxfam’s campaign focuses on 10 of the world’s most powerful food and beverage companies – Associated British Foods (ABF), Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez International (previously Kraft Foods), Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever – and aims to increase the transparency and accountability of the ‘Big 10’ throughout the food supply chain.

At its core, the campaign features the Behind the Brands scorecard. The scorecard examines company policies in seven areas critical to sustainable agricultural production, yet historically neglected by the food and beverage industry: women, small-scale farmers, farm workers, water, land, climate change, and transparency.

According to the scorecard rankings, Nestlé and Unilever are currently performing better than the other companies, having developed and published more policies aimed at tackling social and environmental risks within their supply chains. At the other end of the spectrum, ABF and Kellogg have few policies addressing the impact of their operations on producers and communities.

Yet the scorecard also clearly shows that all of the Big 10 – including those which score the highest – have neglected to use their enormous power to help create a more just food system. In fact, in some cases these companies undermine food security and economic opportunity for the poorest people in the world, making hungry people even hungrier.

Behind the Brands reveals that the social responsibility and sustainability programs which companies have implemented to date are typically tightly focused projects to reduce water use or to train women farmers, for example. But these programs fail to address the root causes of hunger and poverty because companies lack adequate policies to guide their own supply chain operations.

Important policy gaps include:
• Companies are overly secretive about their agricultural supply chains, making claims of ‘sustainability’ and ‘social responsibility’ difficult to verify;
• None of the Big 10 have adequate policies to protect local communities from land and water grabs along their supply chains;
• Companies are not taking sufficient steps to curb massive agricultural greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate changes now affecting farmers;
• Most companies do not provide small-scale farmers with equal access to their supply chains and no company has made a commitment to ensure that small-scale producers are paid a fair price;
• Only a minority of the Big 10 are doing anything at all to address the exploitation of women small-scale farmers and workers in their supply chains.

Although the Big 10 food and beverage companies consider themselves limited by fiscal and consumer demands, they do in fact have the power to address hunger and poverty within their supply chains. Paying adequate wages to workers, a fair price to small-scale farmers, and assessing and eliminating the unfair exploitation of land, water and labor are all steps which clearly lie within the means of these hugely powerful companies.

Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign encourages companies to reassess ‘business as usual’ and instead begin a race to the top; a healthy competition among the Big 10 to ensure a more sustainable and just food system for all.”

Ten Commandments of Eating for Life

10 Commandments of Eating for Life

1. Eat whole, minimally processed foods whenever possible

Nature knows best. Eating foods in a form that resembles the state in which they were harvested is a good bet for optimizing a food’s nutritional value. “Whole” means that the food’s original nutritional potential is substantially present by the time they get in your mouth. “Whole” refers to the basic foodstuffs from nature. The nutritional value and quality of basic foodstuffs depends upon many things, including:

1) the genetics of the foodstuff (plant, animal, fungus, or variety thereof);
2) the inputs which make food grow, such as soil, water, air, sun, and fertilizer (and feed for animal foods); and
3) the larger ecology, including weather, symbiotic organisms, weeds, or pests.

“Minimally processed” means that the food is processed only as much as is necessary to:

1) enhance nutritional availability;
2) prevent the loss of nutritional value;
3) assure that the food is safe; and
4) make the food palatable.

Food processing generally encompasses:

1) removing, refining, altering food components;
2) food storage or preservation methods;
3) adding/combining ingredients; and
4) cooking methods.

2. Eat a wide variety of wholesome foods.

Your body requires a wide variety of nutrients. Meeting your body’s nutrient requirements is best achieved by eating a wide variety of wholesome foods. Mix it up! Many compounds in our diets interact with one another, often with great synergy. Mixing it up can make the sum greater than the parts. Be wary of fad diets that greatly restrict your food variety or focus on a small number of foods or nutrients. Your body is awesome at maintaining “homeostasis” — a fancy word for balance — it just needs a sensible input of wholesome foods.

3. Eat mostly plant foods.

Plant foods offer a wider variety and better mix of health-forming nutrients than animal foods. Much of this is due to a large number and quantity of positively bioactive phytonutrients present in plants. However, animal foods also contain substantial components which are disease-forming. Also, foods higher up the food chain, i.e., all animal foods, tend to bioaccumulate toxins such as heavy metals and fat-soluble chemicals. In modern, industrialized diets, higher animal food consumption is associated with poorer health.

4. Eat and drink in moderation.

Moderation is a close relative of variety. Moderation and variety are practices that support balance. For most people, balance means eating more good foods and less “bad” foods. If indulging in “bad” foods, do so in moderation. Eliminating your favorite foods may do more harm than good, if it does not allow you to make sustainable changes to your diet. Small changes over time add up! And, even with the best foods, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. As they say, “The dose makes the poison.”

5. Eat regular meals.

Your body functions better when your food intake is spread out across three meals a day. Breakfast is key to priming your metabolism and getting an energetic start to your day. Snacking between meals probably adds little additional benefit, and may be detrimental to oral health. Drinking water between meals may be a good habit to stay hydrated (unsweetened, plain coffee/tea can be a healthy source of antioxidants — though you may want to avoid caffeine 10 hours before bedtime).

6. Eat ecologically-sustainable foods.

All life is interdependent. What we eat not only affects our nutritional status, it affects our planet and all life that depends on it. Ecologically-sustainable foods are part of a healthy, sustainable food system. A healthy, sustainable food system emphasizes, strengthens, and makes visible the interdependent and inseparable relationships between individual sectors (from production to waste disposal) and system characteristics (health-promoting, sustainable, resilient, diverse, fair, economically balanced, and transparent). This benefits all farmers, workers and eaters involved, as well as the planet and its other inhabitants.  Explore more at Eating Ecologically.

7. Pay attention to what you eat.

Paying attention, or mindfulness, is key to actively participating as a just eater on an interdependent planet. Mindfulness is the foundation for accurately assessing what you actually eat. Once you know what you are eating, then you can properly evaluate what impact your food has on you and your planet.

8. Pay attention to your eating habits.

Just eating is way more than just knowing the nutritional value of what you are eating. Where does your food come from? How does it get to you? Where did you buy it? How much does it cost? Where do you eat it? How was it prepared? What are your regular eating habits? Why do you eat the way you do? Being mindful of your eating habits can give you important clues to what improvements may be made.

9. Pay attention to the feedback of your body (and mind).

Your body is amazing! Whether you are paying attention or not, your body is busy processing the food you eat and the nutrients it absorbs. Your body is orchestrating gazillions of chemical reactions every second to keep in you balance. Return the favor and pay attention to your body (and mind)! This can help you decipher signals and cues related to taste, hunger, thirst, alertness, fatigue, and emotional state that can impact your food choices. Teaming up with your body can be the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.

10. Enjoy your food!

Food is one of the great pleasures in life! If food and nutrition become a chore, then you may be missing the point. Health is for life. Life is for enjoying! Becoming enlightened about food and nutrition may “ruin” some eating habits for you. There is a certain amount effort and even distress involved in disciplines leading to enlightenment. Nonetheless, the payoff can be greater harmony within yourself and your environment. This is a cause for joy!