Good food, food security, food insecure homes, and farm to consumer – What’s going on?

Asking to be supplied with locally-grown, fresh foods at markets and restaurants can help to provide food security in your community.

After the economic downturn of the last decade in the U.S., many homes were recognized as not having enough good food or stores of food to sustain their families in a healthy way. Looking beyond our borders, we recognize that as our global populations continue to raise, so does the concern of how we will feed the people of the planet in the future. Almost daily there is some reference to food security or food insecurity which gave rise to the local foods movement and local food systems. Even so, many of us still are wondering what it all means. What does food insecure mean and why does it matter?

Michigan’s Good Food Charter points out the irony that “Michigan has the second most diverse agricultural production in the country, yet 59 percent of our residents live in a place that has inadequate access to the food they need for a healthy daily diet.” Food security is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “existing when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” WHO goes on to say that this is supported in three ways: through availability, access and use. This becomes important when we apply the concept to our own country.

In the U.S. – and Michigan specifically – we have growing obesity and Type II diabetes rates among our population and yet at the same time recognize that more than half of our citizens do not have adequate access to good food or are “food insecure.” How can this be? Well let’s consider what’s going on.

  • Most of the food grown is production food, destined for a processor or wholesale distributor. This takes food away from local places to be reintroduced at premium prices. Enter any grocery store or convenience store and look for foods considered fresh or that does not contain added sugars, starches or salts.
  • If you are unfortunate to live in an area where there is no grocery store within 5 miles (walking distance), then you are left with the offerings at convenience stores only.
  • Finally we must consider that the people in our nation tend to eat commerciallyprepared foods for at least 4.2 meals per week. From the lunchroom cafeteria to fast food on the run, Americans are letting someone else choose and cook their foods for them.

When we add up the eating and food circumstances, and factor in the limited good food choices and availability issues, it is easy to see how we have become food unbalanced.  

We have plenty of good food out there, we just need to support a good food system that gets it from the farmer to the institution and to your plate. We have to learn that while a snack food is nice to eat sometimes, what we need to eat are those vegetables and fruits that keep us healthy. We need to demand that our schools and other institutions make these options available to our children and we need to request them from the restaurants we patronize. Store owners want to please their customers; ask them to stock healthier foods, especially if they are filling the role of your local market.

Gardening and participating in community gardens can also provide your family with fresh vegetables. If you are a family that uses aBridge Card, seeds and bedding plants can be purchased for your garden with the card. Small changes can help to change your community and home from food insecure to food secure.

If you are interested in Farm to School efforts and want to learn more or more about local foods contact the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University.

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