I picked up a bumper sticker this past Saturday at Greensgrow. While I was never one to adorn my school binder or plaster my car in declarations, I can appreciate a simple message that doesn’t offend anyone and actually provokes thoughtful discussion.
The “No Farms No Food” campaign belongs to the American Farmland Trust. According to their web site:
- Every hour we lose 125 acres of farm and ranch land — America is losing 1.2 million acres of farmland annually.
- Ninety-one percent of America’s fruit and seventy-eight percent of our vegetables are grown near metro regions.
- From 1992 to 1997 more than 11 million acres of rural land were converted to developed use—and more than half of that conversion was agricultural land.
What does this mean? My first thoughts are less farmland, less food that is grown from the ground up; more processed foods and more factories. High-calorie, nutrient-deficient food has become the dietary staple of American families who have lost the connection with local, seasonal foods. I recently attended a webinar sponsored by the American Dietetic Association titled “Healthy Land, Healthy Food, Healthy Eaters: Cultivating Sustainable Food Systems” and one of the statements that resonated with me most is, “food does not begin at the supermarket.” If you need food, where do you go?
I think about how I would counsel patients when I practiced and I often encouraged them to shop the perimeter of supermarkets to ensure consumption of the food groups to help meet nutrient requirements for a healthy diet. Yet it is becoming quite evident that we need to think beyond the plate and acquire “a system’s perspective of food.” With about one-third of adults obese in America today, a more thoughtful, worldly approach to the definition of a “healthy diet” is necessary. We should recognize that many environmental factors are at play to help shape our food decisions, including industrialization, urban sprawl and food policy. This article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is a welcomed primer about why government policy is a key factor in our food supply and the health of our farmlands. Coincidentally, I just found out that a year-round, weekly farmers market opened up 5 blocks from our condo for the first time last weekend. I know what I’m doing Saturday morning, do you?