“Food justice is communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food.”
— Just Food NYC
Food is related to absolutely everything. We must eat to survive, and an estimated 40% of global land is used for agriculture. How we produce, transport, use, consume and dispose of food has a staggering impact on people and planet, both positive and negative.
Our food choices directly affect our health and communities the world over, yet most people don’t know where food actually comes from or at what cost. In much of the world today, it is easy to go to a market and buy what’s available without second thought or order any product online for rapid delivery. Flashy and deceptive marketing, packaging, engineering and over-processing disconnect us from the food itself.
Industrial agriculture is a highly concentrated and mechanized process that relies on chemical inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics, damaging precious resources including soil, water, air and climate as a whole at an unprecedented scale (as defined by Foodprint). The way we grow and consume food has changed drastically and rapidly, yielding a current system dominated by large-scale monoculture, fields of only one crop with no biodiversity, coupled with heavy use of toxic chemicals. Such practices harm the environment by causing loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and water pollution, among other detrimental impacts. Not only does industrial agriculture negatively affect water sources, it also leads to a multitude of health problems, including antibiotic resistance, and exposes farm workers, families, and even unborn children to dangerously high levels of toxins at alarming proximity.
In contrast, sustainable agriculture uses methods that protect the environment, public health, local communities and animal welfare. Though many factors can make agriculture “sustainable,” one of the most important is organic. When something is certified organic, it means the item was grown and produced without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or genetic modification. Buying certified organic directly supports ecological and public health.
Organic options are endless, as you can see on Thrive Market, where you can sort by certification to find thousands of organic products in categories ranging from food and supplements to bath, body and beauty to kids, pets and home. “Everyone should have access to healthy products, reliable information, and affordable prices,” a founding principle driving our partner Thrive Market.
Not all food is created equal. Let’s take one example, milk. In an Organic Center study, samples of conventional retail milk tested positive for residues of antibiotics — two of which are illegal in the United States and banned from dairy production altogether — and commonly-used controversial pesticides. Organic milk showed no such contaminants, and residues of growth hormones in conventional milk were up to 20 times higher than in organic. These chemicals have lasting negative impacts on bodies, soil, and the environment.
One way our organization, Turning Green, takes a proactive stand for food justice is through our Conscious Kitchen program. Conscious Kitchen is committed to food equity, access and education — serving fresh, local, organic, chef-prepared, scratch-cooked school meals to students since 2013. Conscious Kitchen met the rising need across the community in the face of COVID-19 by cooking and delivering hot, nutritious meals daily with the ethics, values and deep commitment to the health and wellbeing of people and planet. By partnering with schools to shift the paradigm around food service, replacing pre-packaged overly processed food with fresh ingredients for real meals, Conscious Kitchen is able to support local organic farmers, benefiting the climate and economy, which makes the CK relief program especially important amid compounding current challenges.
Guiding terms for Conscious Kitchen are represented by the acronym FLOSN:
Fresh. Food tastes best and has the highest nutritional value when it goes straight from farm to fork. Consuming fresh organic produce means not ingesting harmful chemicals and preservatives.
Local. The average American meal travels an estimated 1500 miles before consumption. Prioritizing purchasing from local farmers supports regional economies with consistent demand and decreases emissions from food transportation. Additionally, buying from local farms lowers carbon footprints, as food need not travel as far. CSA boxes are simple and effective ways to support local farms; learn more about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) here.
Organic. To be certified organic, farmers must avoid using substances that might harm air, water or soil, including synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic food prioritizes human and ecological health, as does supporting those farmers and businesses.
Seasonal. Purchasing in season means buying, cooking and eating produce that is better-tasting, harvested at its peak and grown closer to home, while appreciating year round variety and unique seasonal flavors.
Nutritious. Food is fuel. Young bodies and minds need proper nutrition to grow, develop and achieve. The health, wellbeing and futures of youth and greater society depend upon ingredients, recipes and menus designed to set students and communities up for success.
With greater numbers, frequency, resolve and power, we, the people, are demanding to know what’s actually in food, who grew it, how it was produced, and where it came from. Individual buying habits, institutional purchasing, and consumer pressure add up in massive ways. Vote with your fork every single day!
Eating FLOSN (fresh, local, organic, seasonal, nutritious) food is often thought to be more expensive and thus out of reach for students and much of the general population, but that is not always the case. For example, buying seasonally, in bulk, and at farmers markets are great ways to protect farm worker health, support local economies, mitigate climate impact, reduce ecological footprints, and save money.
Get informed with these resources for ECO-nomical shopping:
Take note of practical ways to incorporate more FLOSN foods into your diet and budget! As an example, consider the fruits and vegetables you commonly buy. Where do they fall on the EWG guide? How would you decide which to buy organic?
Using these questions as a foundation, make your own list of tips for shopping organic or a simple action plan for students to successfully buy organic. Then share it with us and on Instagram or Twitter, tagging @TurningGreenOrg and @ThriveMarket with #PGC2020.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses and a screenshot of your social media post. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Don’t forget to post about the challenge and your learnings/doings on social media and tag us on Facebook @TurningGreen, on Twitter @TurningGreenOrg, and on Instagram @TurningGreenOrg and use #PGC2020.
It is especially important to support organic farmers and a robust future for organic agriculture in the face of devastation caused by COVID, atop the climate crisis. One way to do so is with your dollars! The more people who buy organic, the more powerful the positive impact on people and planet.
We believe organic is better for human health and the environment. These resources share more about those benefits:
Then, research nearby farms and farmers markets in your community that support organic agriculture. Find two examples and gather the following about each:
Based on the information you learned from these resources, create a great visual (infographic, drawing, painting, word web, poem, etc.) about the benefits of organic and highlight the local farm(s) in your community. Share on Instagram and don’t forget to tag @TurningGreenOrg and the farm you featured (if you can find a handle), plus #PGC2020. If you cross-post on Twitter, tag @TurningGreenOrg and @FOE_US as well.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Building on your food knowledge, it’s now time to test your culinary skills! Using the FLOSN criteria as a guide (which you can reference above), prepare a meal for you and your family or housemates, following all health and safety protocol, of course! Our Conscious Kitchen Cookbook has some great inspiration.
Upload a PDF Document with your responses, photo or link to your video and a screenshot of your social media post. You must include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.