“Agricultural sustainability doesn’t depend on agritechnology. To believe it does is to put the emphasis on the wrong bit of ‘agriculture.’ What sustainability depends on isn’t agri- so much as culture.” – Raj Patel, academic, journalist, activist and author of The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy
Food is powerful. The choices we make when we sit down for a meal shape our planet, our communities, and people. Think about your food choices throughout the week, especially if you were running late for class or up late studying for an exam. Did you reach for a cup of coffee and a bag of chips to keep you going? hmmmm…
But not all foods are created equal. Some foods are highly processed and laden with preservatives, pesticides, and sugars, while others are fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO (FLOSN for short). It is the food choices that we make daily that create and reinforce the current culture of food production and consumption in our world.
How we grow our food shapes the land by affecting the surrounding ecosystems. How we produce our food affects the wellbeing of farmers and animals. And how we eat our food affects our health and the health of our communities. Consider how different our approach to food would look if we took time to really appreciate it. The historical culture of food has taught us to treat food with reverence, cook as a ritual to celebrate our bountiful earth, and eat as a way to nourish our bodies and bring family and friends together.
Today a handful of multinational companies – known as “Big Ag” – are controlling our food systems – making food fast, easy, processed, and far from it’s natural state. The “modern food culture” that’s emerged prioritizes convenience over quality. Walk through the aisles of a conventional grocery store and it will be easy to spot packaged foods that are pre-cooked, overly processed, nutritionally void, and brimming with chemically-laden ingredients. A recent study found that more than 60% of Americans’ daily calories come from these “ultraprocessed” foods. Consider your 5 favorite foods – do any of them fall into this category? Despite their convenience, quick + easy foods have long-term adverse effects on our health and our environment. Some of these effects are air, water, and soil pollution, antibiotic resistance, pesticide toxicity, poor treatment of farm workers, and enormous public health risks.
When farming is managed with sustainability in mind, food production can improve soil health and water quality, restore habitats, and provide healthy, nourishing food for us to eat. But when agritechnology is the default, food production becomes one of the biggest threats to our environment and to our planet. (Check out this piece here from Civil Eats about organic farming and its ability to combat climate change.)
Although conventional agricultural practices present many challenges, food can also be the solution. Organizations like Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth are working tirelessly to protect our planet by fighting the industrial model and promoting ecologically sound and sustainable alternatives. Companies like Patagonia Provisions, are working to reinvent the culture of food by supporting regenerative and sustainable agriculture practices and farmers with integrity. Rather than defaulting to highly processed foods, ethical companies are prioritizing people and the planet by returning to the tenets of a true food culture.
The good news is that you get to choose what foods you buy and consume daily. Consumers (like you!) are demanding to know what’s in your food, who grew it, how it was grown, and where it came from. We are undoubtedly in the midst of a real food revolution. We’re remembering that food is at the core of our diverse cultures and has the power to shape our future. This power is at the tip of your fork and in your shopping basket. Become discerning about your food choices. Choose certified organic, non-GMO, pasture-raised, grass-fed, biodynamic, local, and sustainably grown food. It may not always feel like it, but your buying habits add up in massive ways.
Turning Green has put this practice to work with our Conscious Kitchen program. TG partners with schools to shift the paradigm around food service working to replace processed prepackaged school food with healthier, cooked-from-scratch meals for K-12 students based on five foundational terms — fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and non-GMO (FLOSN).
When did you first start considering where your food was coming from? It could easily be something you haven’t been thinking about at all! We are told a certain set of stories as consumers about our food supply to keep us disconnected from conventional agricultural practices. Add to those stories flashy marketing and smart packaging, and it becomes easy to feel removed from the food on your plate. But education and conversations are a critical antidote. The more you are educated about your food, the more informed you will want to be about who grew your food, where it was grown, and how it was grown.
Watch this video made by Chipotle here
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You might think that eating FLOSN (fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO) food is too expensive. But if you plan ahead, that might not be the case. For example, buying seasonally, in bulk, and from local organic farmers, are all great options to cut back on your costs while reducing your ecological footprint. And not to mention, making these choices are better for your health. Unprocessed foods are nutrient dense and filled with vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Due on 10/15 at 6am PT. We will award up to 50 bonus points based on quality of work.
Knowing what you know now about food, it’s time to put your cooking skills to the test. Using the Conscious Kitchen FLOSN criteria as your guide, we want you to prepare a delicious meal for you and 3 or more friends, keeping it under $4 per person and with the Better Burger as your entree.
What is a Better Burger? And why does it matter?
Better Burgers are an evolution of the iconic hamburger and the focus of a campaign created by Friends of the Earth and Turning Green. You can help transform the burger into a tool for a better food system by advocating for a better burger. Better for you, the environment, farmers and animals.
Americans eat at least 20 billion burgers a year. Most of those burgers come from animals raised on polluting factory-farms that are fed a diet of water-intensive GMO corn and soy. Raising vast monocultures of feed uses large amounts of toxic chemicals that pollute our water and our bodies. It also generates major greenhouse gas emissions and destroys precious biodiversity that support pollinators and other living creatures.
Better Burgers can be made in a couple of ways depending on your preference:
More on our criteria here.
Upload a PDF document with your report. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Due on 10/29 at 6am PT. We will award up to 150 bonus points based on quality of work.
It’s time to become an advocate. There are three levels to this Extra Credit: choose one or complete all 3!
Upload a PDF document with the documentation of a letter, meeting, and/or implementation of the Better Burger at your school. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.