Food is everywhere! We celebrate food to celebrate special occasions, traditions, milestones, life, and death. We use food to celebrate anything. In the US alone, we celebrate over 300 different food holidays every year! Any day is a special food day. There is no official source for “national” days for celebrating food. You can make up a day to celebrate your favorite foods! Why are they so many food celebration days around the world? Is it food policy or food marketing?
Sustainability. Resilient agriculture. Social justice. Environmentalism. Do you know what these words mean? These are some of them describe our agricultural system. And they contribute to the complexities of food systems and food policy. Some words are jargon, politically correct, or used to widen the gap between small rural farmers and urban farmers. I discussed some of these concepts in my dissertation on urban farming and urban agriculture.
I wrote it for a very narrow audience of my colleagues. But in the real world, I rarely use these words. One reason is that each word has a different meaning to different people. It depends on what you do (small farm or agribusiness), where you live (rural or urban), and your farming practices (agrobiodiversity or monocropping). For example, I used to think that “sustainability” was the best way to describe good farming practices. That was until I learned that sustainability has over 100 definitions.
It’s hard to rely on a word with such flexibility. You have to keep explaining it in context: environmental sustainability, agricultural sustainability, social sustainability, or economic sustainability. I’ve moved on to more precise words, the topic of this week’s blog. Here’s an interesting word: regionalism. It’s an expression, custom or feature of a specific area. What’s the problem with regionalism? How does it translate in the world of food policy reform? What’s the best way to talk to stakeholders in rural and urban communities?
Asian cuisines, Indonesian sotoayam to Filipino pancit puso, and naked dinner parties. This week’s blog is about another side of food policy: foodie magazines. Foodies are people with a keen interest in food fads and trends. You might not think magazines have anything to do with food policy. But foodmagz (my original word??) like Naked Food Magazine, Ambrosia, Compound Butter, Jarry, Kitchen Toke, Peddler and Kitchen Work talk about more than just food. They explore:
- Plant-based dining
- Local food
- Local and regional dining
- Wine cellars
- Small kitchens
- Food business
- Immigrant-owned restaurants
But a new crop of foodmagz are created by “a wave of small, sophisticated print magazines, produced on a shoestring by young editors with strong points of view and a passion for their subjects.”
There’s even a yearly event for independent magazines, called Foodieodicals.
There are 3,142 counties in the US, with 2,323 counties are rural areas. About 60 million people (19.3% of the US population) live on 97% of the land. Many people in rural communities are food insecure – they don’t have enough food to eat. There is a myth that people in rural America have easy access to good food. What’s the most food insecure state? Mississippi, and Jefferson County, MS (pop. 7,297) has the highest food insecurity (38%) in the country in 2017: 2,870 people are hungry.
I started my column Tomorrow’s Food – Today’s Policies to stay engaged in food policy studies. My dissertation explored urban agriculture, but it’s time to look at food policy beyond the city: rural America. My Food Disparities in Rural Missouri blog peaked my interest to keep exploring. This year, I gathered a team for a presentation for a food conference. We’ll talk about food policy, food education and nutritional health in rural America. What are the food challenge in rural America? How are they different from urban food problems? What solutions can best service rural communities?
One of the biggest challenges in studying urban agriculture is to figure out its long-term value. Urban agriculture (UBA) is evolving and filled with uncertainties, inequities and hidden problems. For example, some people think UBA is the solution to feeding 9 billion people by 2050. But others think that UBA favors politics (votes from wealthy communities) and economic growth (job creation in impoverished areas). How can we understand the risks and rewards of UBA? Is urban agriculture a viable food source for the future?
Shoku-iku is the Japanese word for “eating education” or food education. Since 2005, the Basic Law of Shoku-iku has been Japan’s national food policy. It serves as a “blueprint for conscious eating.” Starting in kindergarten, students learn to connect health, nutrition, food, and the environment. More than 4,000 diet and nutrition teachers teach in public schools. The result: 3.7% of Japan’s adult population is obese (around 2.8M people out of the total adult population of 86M). This is striking because 38.2% of the US adult population is obese (around 73M people in the total adult population of 219M). We’re talking obese, not overweight. How is Japan reducing obesity in adults, while obesity continues to rise in the US? What can we learn from Shoku-iku?
Poverty is a worldwide problem. Urban and rural communities in every country struggle to survive. Poverty means food insecurity or economic and social conditions where people have little or uncertain access to enough food. Food insecurity hits people in urban, rural, and peri-urban areas (communities located around cities). While it’s easy to think that food insecurity is just an urban problem, clearly it is not. Hunger is not in a vacuum. Even if food is abundant, many people don’t have enough food on a regular basis. How can we feed more people? What are the connections between urban-rural agriculture?