Will 2017 be the year we get serious about sustainable food?
Ucilia Wang, The Guardian
This article covers the status of several trends towards food sustainability in the United States including organic conversion, eliminating antibiotic use, regulation of illegal fishing, and reducing meat consumption. Each area contains its own successes and challenges, but with an equal sense of urgency: John Reganold, soil science professor at WSU, states, “In a time of increasing population growth, climate change, and environmental degradation, we need agricultural systems that come with a more balanced portfolio of sustainability benefits”
Towards which of these four sustainability trends can CFFP contribute? How can we use our financial resources to leverage that “balanced portfolio of sustainability benefits” in our food system? Can we serve as a security buffer that eases local producer transitions to organic? Can we invest in antibiotic-free meat producers and sustainable seafood suppliers? Can we support consumer education and broaden skillsets around alternative proteins?
8 Rural and Small Town Trends for 2017
Becky McCray, Small Business Trends
A few trends for rural and small towns for 2017:
Three of CFFP’s core guiding principles are rural community resilience, social equity, and family wage job creation. Understanding business trends in the rural communities where we engage is crucial in realizing these goals and making sure that rural communities do not get left behind. The trends listed above point to an expansion of markets for local and differentiated foods, which is encouraging for the investments we’re pursuing.
50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
Camila Domonoske, NPR
The debate about sugars, fats, and human health has been long running, but NPR presents the information now at a public level. This article points to the immense sway that data and expertise have in policymaking – whether that data is truthful or not. As a research-based investment group, CFFP must clearly think through the implications of both approaches that surfaced from our research: enterprise success and systems change. As we see here, such implications can reach microscopic levels that determine human health outcomes.
As Americans, we have come to known fat as the enemy of good health. Overconsumption can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more – what many in academic circles refer to as the “slow death” of poor nutrition. However, evidence has surfaced that shows our understanding of nutrition has been shaped by corporations, who influenced the nutritional research publication in the 1960’s. While the original scientific results emphasized the potential links between sugar consumption and nutritional diseases, the industry-funded Sugar Research Institute shaped research to emphasize the harmful effects of fat in its place. Many scientists are now calling for a re-evaluation of sugar and its health effects.
"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.
“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.
"10 Things we should do to fix our broken food system"
Tamar Haspel, Washington Post
Encouraging is the fact that many of Haspel’s recommendations can be seen in action across communities represented by CFFP members today. Seattle Tilth’s Good Food Bag program, our statewide Fresh Bucks program, and Seattle and Portland’s Farmer-Fisher-Chef Connection are just a few examples of how our food system community works to build cross-sector solutions that bring producers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers together.
A pithy, succinct, and convicting call to action that includes the many diverse stakeholders in our food system – government, manufacturers, farmers, consumers, and more. Perhaps the most convicting commission is the charge for “Everyone” to “come to the table” for “more inclusive, constructive conversation”
"Mexican Soda Tax followed by Drop in Sugary Drink Sales"
Anahad O'Connor, New York TImes
Mexico’s health trends towards increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and other nutritionally-linked diseases is not uncommon in countries rapidly transitioning from agrarian peasantry to industrialized food systems – a transition that goes hand in hand with development and entry into global markets. This study provides a tool for low to middle income countries to potentially offset negative health trends through targeted sales tax, and a tool for communities like ours to reverse existing trends.
One year after implementing a 10% tax on sugary beverages in 2014, Mexico has seen a 12% drop in sugary drink sales and a 4% increase in bottled water purchases. This is the first empirical study suggesting that targeted sales tax may influence behavioral health, and it has gained attention from public health agencies across the globe. As a country with obesity rates as high as 70% and equally concerning rates of type 2 diabetes, this small measure has potential to make a big difference.
"Bread is Broken"
Ferris Jabr, New York Times
Jones’s work reveals the complex relationships between community, human, economic, and environmental health through food. Human manipulation of traditional grains to increase profit has, in the end, caused damage of biological diversity and individual nutrition on a massive scale.
A historical and personal take on the genetic modification of wheat to meet standards for industrially commodified bread. The legacy of industrialized American grain production has resulted in breads that are devoid of origin, story, taste, or nutrients. Simply put, “for the sake of profit and expediency, we forfeited pleasure and health”. Industrialized wheat varieties have attributed to increased rates of gluten intolerance, IBS, and other chronic health conditions. Stephen Jones of The Bread Lab in Mt. Vernon, Washington passionately seeks to revive the pleasure and health of bread by combining studies of advanced genetics and traditional grains.
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.