"The Environmental Cost of Growing Food"
Dan Charles, NPR
The crops and environments experiencing intense degradation discussed in this article are characterized by a mismatch between crop requirements and environment. In both Florida and Colorado, the environment must be altered to fit sugar cane and sugar beets respectively. The result is a tragic degree of soil degradation and drought. These vignettes highlight the importance of CFFP’s research on rotational cropping. Rotational cropping requires and upholds the farmer’s deep knowledge of microclimates and land to choose crops that suit the land, and vise versa.
The author showcases two sugar-producing crops, Sugar Cane and Sugar Beets, to demonstrate the environmental costs of food. Most sugar cane in the United States is grown in Florida, which requires the draining of everglade marshes and swamps. Eventually, the living soil that has been preserved under swamp waters for generations is depleted through industrial sugar cane production. In Colorado where sugar beets are grown, dry grasslands are tilled and irrigated to prepare for planting. Irrigation especially diverts water from rivers like the Big Thompson away from natural ecosystems and reduces biodiversity in the region.
"Hawaii May Become The First State To Help Farms Go Organic"
Carla Herreria, Huffington Post
CFFP currently works in a region where local, organic, and sustainable production is generally praised. However, we exist in a larger national and global food system that is characterized by tension between industry and policy. Hawaii’s new organic certification assistance will help local farmers feed the community affordably.
Hawaii awaits the approval of a bill that provides farmers up to $50,000 in tax credits to offset the cost of USDA certification. Many farmers, while practicing organic, avoid USDA certification due to a long process and high costs. This means, beyond direct to consumer sales, non-certified organic farmers compete with conventional prices. The bill would ease this transition for local farmers across the state. In Hawaii, where 88 percent of food is imported and a huge proportion of available farmland serves as a testing ground for agricultural giants like Syngenta and Monsanto, the state’s move to support local organic agriculture addresses a crucial need. Given this environment, local organic food in Hawaii will have trickle down implications for maternal & infant health, farmworker health, biodiversity, land management, and food sovereignty.
"Taxing Sugar to Fund a City"
Mark Bittman, New York Times
CFFP has described itself as a group that is “driving as far as the headlights show us” which requires significant patience, flexibility, and innovation. Cities like Berkley, which precedes Philadelphia in enacting a sugar tax, have demonstrated the benefits of such innovation. Philadelphia attempts to blaze the trail a bit further, leveraging sugar & junk food taxes for anti-poverty efforts. Similar to “farmraising” above, this is an example of how innovation in food systems work can often address several challenges at once – in this case, high burdens of nutritional disease in low-income communities and lack of public services in those same communities.
Philadelphia is proposing a sugar tax that will be leveraged for anti-poverty initiatives. A tax as high as three cents per-ounce on soda, sweet teas, energy drinks, and sugar-added juices could provide substantial revenue for the city. These funds would be used to service low-income communities in Philadelphia, which is the nation’s poorest big city. Proposed services include universal preschool, recreation centers, libraries, and parks. Mayor Kennedy aims to address structural inequalities, saying “[major soda companies] sell more of their product in poor communities than elsewhere, and for generations none of that profit was passed on to those communities. There is no downside to this other than that the three major soda companies may make a little less money.”
"Bellingham Schools Go Local, Turn To 'Farmraising' To Fund Garden Program"
Monica Spain, KPLU
CFFP’s Market Research with Ecotrust has revealed several product categories for which alternative distribution strategies are a key recommendation. Farmraiser provides a real-time example of how creative marketing and distribution strategies can address both production and consumption needs in the community.
School fundraisers have increased healthy food access and nutritional education in several western Washington communities where schools have engaged in “farmraising”. Rather than sell cookie dough or other junk foods to raise money for school and extracurricular programs, students direct community members to their Farmraiser site. Farmraiser allows participants to purchase produce and other healthy food products from local farms within a 30-mile radius of the community, and a portion of proceeds contributes to the school fundraiser. While small farmers benefit from new customers, increased demand, and geographically concentrated markets, schools and their communities receive healthy, local foods and nutritional awareness is increased among both students and adults.
"Venture Philanthropists and Impact Investors"
As CFFP seeks to work with local entrepreneurs in the food system, issues like impact assurance, financial returns, and appropriate placement of capital have been recurring themes in our discussions. In this timely report, Toniic confronts these and other hesitancies head on and suggests realistic solutions to facilitate relationship between venture philanthropists and impact investors seeking change in their communities.
There are a growing number of entrepreneurs who are meeting needs in their communities through business, providing sustainable & regenerative transformation for a variety of socioeconomic and environmental issues. However, there is a significant “collaboration gap” between these entrepreneurs looking to scale and investors "due to a variety of economic return hurdles, risk tolerance, preferred investment structures, liquidity requirements and desired impact outcomes”. Toniic has partnered with The Shell Foundation to research relationships between venture philanthropists and impact investment, two sectors engaged in developing social enterprises but with different motivations. This report outlines a variety of actionable solutions to increase collaboration between philanthropists (impact first) and investors (finance first) in global entrepreneurship including blended funding, structural enhancement, impact accelerators, technical assistance, information & knowledge sharing, and innovation.
“A Burgeoning Effort to Restore Native Foods in an Unlikely Food Desert”
Alix Wall, Civil Eats
The Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project perfectly illustrates the aforementioned Nature article: health equity is deeply tied to sociocultural equity. In this instance, the Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath tribes reclaimed space to practice traditional food ways, which will translate to restoration of traditional (read: healthy) diets and improved health outcomes.
Article Summary: The Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath tribes have called the Klamath river basin in Northern California and Southern Oregon home for thousands of years. Colonization and subsequent mining, logging, and other forces have degraded the environment that sustains the tribe’s primary food source. Tribes shifted from their no longer reliable traditional diets to to widely available industrialized foods and as a result, the tribes experience disproportionate rates of nutritionally related diseases – type 2 diabetes rates are twice the national average.
The Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project is working to combat these trends by restoring traditional food ways through a revival of tribal knowledge in foraging, cultivating, stewarding, and processing. Thus far, some 4,000 tribe members have collaborated with UC Berkeley staff in a wide variety of projects including community garden workshops surveys, focus groups, policy discussions, food production workshops, native food camps, and after-school programs to pursue their goals.
“Origins of the obesity pandemic can be analysed”
Steven Parry Donald, Nature
The connection between food culture and obesity makes an argument for food systems investment that supports First Foods, traditional farming, and other cultural resilience efforts taking place in our communities.
Article Summary: Strong culinary identity and strong food culture may foster resilience against the obesity epidemic. While measurable causes of caloric intake and physical activity have long been cornerstones of obesity analyses, University of Toronto Public Health professor John Frank argues that these factors are secondary to history and culture.
By looking at obesity trends over time between countries, Frank identified countries in which the obesity epidemic began later, grew slower, and ultimately plateaued at lower levels than leading countries such as the United States and Australia. These countries include Italy, France, and South Korea among others. Their apparent resilience to the obesity epidemic, Frank argues, is a strong sense of traditional cuisines. Having developed over centuries to sustain societies, traditional cuisines are arguably healthier than modern ones. Societies such as the United States which had a rather shallow sense of culinary identity are more likely to transition to industrialized, processed foods that are so closely associated with increased obesity.
“Grain Traders Rejecting New Monsanto Soybeans”
Dow Jones Business News
GMO concerns have transcended environmental and health concerns and breached into the realm of product viability. As CFFP seeks to identify strategic investments within the differentiated production spectrum, for instance from no-till to organic no-till, this is something to consider.
Article Summary: Monsanto recently launched a new genetically modified soybean that has not yet been approved by EU regulations. Firms representing companies as influential as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland have rejected the product, mainly on the basis that there are not mechanisms in place to ensure the unapproved GMO will not contaminate countries with GMO laws. In the wake of China’s rejection of US corn shipments due to contamination with Syngenta GMO material, compliance with GMO laws
“New Tools Bring Lenders to the Table for Local, Regional Food Enterprises”
Lillian Salerno, USDA
The training program is a more technical, in-the-weeds complement to Ecotrust’s Intrepid piece which, in tandem, could provide a good introduction to food systems impact investment. Such resources from agencies long involved in the food and agriculture fields have the ability to help shape the space for impact investors.
Article Summary: While the USDA has long been investing in local food entrepreneurs and business to build rural development, increasing demand for local food has led venture capitalists in the same direction. In order to educate and guide investor efforts, USDA has created an online training program focused on (1) the Background on the Food Industry, (2) Assessing Regional Food Enterprises, and (3) Financing Regional Food Enterprises.
“Costco gets creative to meet shoppers’ huge appetite for organics”
Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times
This provides an example of how traditional market forces can be harnessed in innovative ways to support alternative production methods that improve social equity and environmental sustainability. As a group of investors looking to meet similar goals, CFFP can partner with and equip other local retailers and distributors to create similar programs.
Article Summary: “While organic food sales reached nearly 5 percent of total food sales last year, organic farmland makes up only about 1 percent of U.S. farm acreage.” Demand far exceeds production, and retailers are now playing an important role in bridging that gap. Companies including Costco, Whole Foods, and PCC are employing a number of creative mechanisms that help farmers acquire land, scale up, or transition to organic farming. Techniques include land and equipment loans as well as creation of farmland trusts.
As part of its own research, CFFP regularly illuminates educative research, media, and resources related to our work. This page contains public versions of our synopses.