Third Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium
New Alliances That Shape a Food Movement
Yale University, October 30 – 31, 2015
People in food movements around the world envision a future where our food systems restore degraded ecosystems, mitigate and adapt to climate change, improve community health, and facilitate more equitable economic exchange. To realize this ambitious vision we must encourage and support novel, collaborative, and holistic problem-solving approaches. We want to bring a diverse group of people and approaches together at this Food Symposium such as those in the public health community who seek to increase access to fresh vegetables in urban centers; land conservationists who wish to preserve farmland; legal scholars who identify avenues of policy change; and immigration reformers who advocate for farm workers.
This year’s conference seeks to foster new alliances that will encourage crosscutting conversations, innovative thinking, and actionable strategies. Eaters across the nation struggle to find wholesome food choices that nourish their bodies without endangering important environmental and social resources. A true coalition will bring expertise across disciplines to creatively solve the otherwise intractable problems of food security and access, social justice, public health, environmental stewardship, and safety. These alliances and the common goal of an improved food system will serve as the guiding focus for the 2015 Yale Food Systems Symposium.
Olivier De Schutter
Olivier De Schutter (LL.M., Harvard University ; Ph.D., University of Louvain (UCL)), the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food since May 2008, is a Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain and at the College of Europe (Natolin). He is also a Member of the Global Law School Faculty at New York University and is Visiting Professor at Columbia University.
In 2002-2006, he chaired the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, a high-level group of experts which advised the European Union institutions on fundamental rights issues. He has acted on a number of occasions as expert for the Council of Europe and for the European Union.
Since 2004, and until his appointment as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, he has been the General Secretary of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) on the issue of globalization and human rights.
His publications are in the area of international human rights and fundamental rights in the EU, with a particular emphasis on economic and social rights and on the relationship between human rights and governance. His most recent book is International Human Rights Law (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).
Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Ph.D
Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health and Director of the Global Health Concentration and of the Office of Public Health Practice, Yale School of Public Health
Dr. Rafael Pérez-Escamilla is Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health and Director of the Global Health Concentration and of the Office of Public Health Practice at the Yale School of Public Health. His research program focuses on maternal-child nutrition and household food insecurity globally. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board and served as a member of the 2010 and 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. He is currently a senior scientific advisor to UNICEF, The World Health Organization, the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of Agriculture.
Ricardo Salvador, Ph.D
Director, Food & Environment, Union of Concerned Scientists
Ricardo Salvador works with citizens, scientists, economists, and politicians to transition our current food system into one that grows healthy foods while employing sustainable and socially equitable practices.
He has served as a program officer for food, health, and well-being with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this capacity, he was responsible for conceptualizing and managing the Foundation’s food systems programming. He partnered with colleagues to create programs that addressed the connections between food and health, environment, economic development, sovereignty, and social justice.
Prior to that, he was an associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, and an extension agent with Texas A&M University. Dr. Salvador was named a 2013 NBC Latino Innovator and received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2014. He was also an author of a pair of op-eds in The Washington Post, along with Olivier De Schutter, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman, calling for a national food policy, which seeks to frame the U.S. food and farm policy debate.
Dorceta Taylor, Ph.D
James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice and Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resource
Dr. Dorceta Taylor’s research focuses on urban agriculture, food access, and food insecurity; institutional diversity; analysis of the composition of the environmental workforce; social movement analysis; environmental justice; leisure and natural resource use; poverty; and race, gender, and ethnic relations. Her current research includes an assessment of food access in Michigan and other parts of the country. Other recent research activities include the 2014 national report analyzing racial and gender diversity in the environmental field — The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations, and Government Agencies. She has published a number of books including The Environment and the People in American Cities (Duke University Press) an award-winning urban environmental history book, Environment and Social Justice: An International Perspective (Emerald Press), and Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility (NYU Press). Her newest book, Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection: Social Inequality and the Rise of the American Conservation Movement (Duke University Press) is slated for publication in 2015.
Friday, October 30th
Panel Session 1: 2:10 – 3:25 pm
Our Shared Shopping Cart: Purchasing Policies and How the Food that Government Buys Can Change the Food System
Kim Kessler, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Paula Daniels, Los Angeles Food Policy Council
Mark Izeman, Natural Resources Defense Council
Mary M. Lee, PolicyLink
Government procurement plays a massive role in our food system, from shaping our diets to driving changes in supply chains. This panel will focus on strategies for harnessing government’s purchasing power for a better, fairer food system. The panel will address using a holistic approach and core values to craft a purchasing policy as represented by the Good Food Purchasing Policy, advancing equity through procurement by expanding jobs and small business opportunities and implementation and mechanisms for accountability. The discussion will address best practices, limitations and legal considerations, and provide guidance on advocating for and implementing healthy food procurement policies.
The Role of the Market
Joshua Galperin, Clinical Director and Lecturer in Law, Environmental Protection Clinic, Yale Law School – Moderator
Joshua Ulan Galperin is Director of the Environmental Protection Clinic and Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. Josh is also the Environmental Law and Policy Program Director at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. In addition to directing and teaching the Environmental Protection Clinic, Josh directs the dual law-environment degree program between F&ES and Pace, Vermont, and Yale law schools. He is also a lead collaborator in the Land Use Collaborative.
Before coming to Yale, Josh worked for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and, before that, as legislative counsel for the Vermont General Assembly where he primarily staffed the House and Senate committees on agriculture. In that role he was involved with a number of bills that eventually became law including Vermont’s farm-to-plate investment program, dairy price stabilization, and creation of the Vermont Grape and Wine Council.
Amy Singer, Franklin & Marshall College
Foods That Tell a Good Story: Communicating about ethical consumption while profit-seeking
In the US and throughout its history, consumers have used their purchasing power to be ethical, politically responsible citizens. Some consumer activists have pursued government regulation; others have mobilized boycotts, “buycotts,” and other forms of consumer-driven citizen action on behalf of social justice movements. More recently, emerging forms of “ethical capitalism” and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs have become increasingly prominent within such political consumerist projects. Given this social and economic trend, one vital question is how we should theorize political consumption when when the political consumerist actor is a business, rather than an individual or non-commercial activist group. Furthermore, exploring why a profit-seeking business might become, or want to become, a political consumerist actor is especially interesting when such businesses produce and sell food. For the past four years, I have been doing research on two businesses which both work with Indonesian farming communities to create markets for their food products in the US. Both businesses hope to support new forms of sustainable agriculture alongside innovative CSR and fair trade programs. Both of these businesses are negotiating with the notion that profit-seeking companies, alongside specific kinds of politically motivated consumers, can “do good work.” How they negotiate the tension between profit and social value—and how they communicate their goals to potential customers through their packaging materials and social media projects—will be the focus of my presentation.
Kristy Athens, Marylhurst University
Voting Rights: How the Fetishization of Organic Compromises Food Justice
The organic industry has grown exponentially since the distinction was established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1990. While organic has become a household name and driven food sales for both corporations and small farmers, its popularity inspires consumers to buy organic food without questioning whence it came, or how or by whom it was grown. This establishes a fetish, which is prevalent in contemporary popular discourse and which is played out via a belief that one can improve the food system with one’s shopping habits, known as voting with your fork. As people in the United States refine their food choices, the term “”organic”” has come to mean, simply, “”good.”” Further, the notion of “”voting with your fork”” has been added to the U.S. imaginary as a mechanism of advocacy and even social justice, when it simply supports an unjust neoliberal system. These developments have created a food system that ignores important realities within agriculture (most significantly, the contributions of farm workers) and compromises food justice. This presentation explores the idea of contemporary popular discourse revealing a fetishization of organic food, which compromises food justice, particularly for the food-insecure and farm workers. I approach the problem as a pragmatist, using a food-justice framework explore the unintended consequences of fetishizing organic and then suggest meaningful ways of affecting change via policy and activism, rather than commerce.
Geoffrey Pleyers, Université Catholique de Louvain
Local Food Networks in Belgium: From micro-local initiatives to institutional alliances
In the first decade of the century, disparate local movements have spread all over Belgium, in the wave of the alter-globalization movements, critical consumerism and a claim for prefigurative and concrete actions. Local food networks are now numerous and well established in Belgium. While the local food movement has followed institutionalization patterns in Flanders since 2005, Walloon local consumers groups remained reluctant to regional coordination and cooperation with institutions until recently. The article provides a series of examples of collaborations between local food activists with actors of the solidarity economy sector, local authorities and institutions and analyses the challenges faced by these actors in a new stage of the movement development. Beyond the case of French-speaking Belgium, the combination with tensions and complementarity of these two dynamics has become the source of insightful social innovation (de Schutter, 2014) and of a wide dynamics that animate the food movements in different region of the world. The final part of the text will briefly illustrate how an analysis based on these two logics of action, their tensions and combinations, help us to understand concrete successes, tensions and challenges of local food consumers’ movements in the Brooklyn Food Coalition (based on empirical research in 2010 and 2011) and emerging movements in Rio de Janeiro and in Mexico City.
Rosie Gallant and Martha Page, Hartford Food System, Inc
Good Food is Good Business: Creating a Community Food Center that Builds Health and the Urban Economy in Hartford
Good Food Is Good Business offers a replicable approach for communities seeking to leverage their assets to create jobs for current city residents, grow business, and strengthen civic ties to build a vibrant city. The approach centers on strengthening businesses and workers’ skills throughout the food value chain: growing and distributing food on urban farms, processing value-added products, supporting and growing established and start- up businesses, and training residents for culinary jobs. Our economic development strategy focuses on food entrepreneurship as the driver that will create jobs, grow businesses, and anchor innovation in Hartford. Good Food Is Good Business will support entrepreneurs in the food sector, prepare a workforce for jobs in this growing field, and invest in Hartford’s existing strengths and resources. Hartford’s challenges are to overcome the capital city’s poverty and create living-wage jobs that are attainable for our local workforce. Tens of thousands of people commute into the city every day for work, yet Hartford has a 12% unemployment rate. In conversations with residents and community stakeholders three priorities emerged: more jobs, safety, and more youth engagement opportunities. A stronger food economy creates jobs, helps businesses grow, and attracts people to the city. Good Food Is Good Business is a game changer for Hartford, and will demonstrate how investment in the food value chain can spur economic development.
Food and Labor
Cristina Cruz-Uribe, UNITE HERE! Local 217
Jasanea Hernandez, New Haven Public School Cafeterias, UNITE HERE! Local 217
Labor Organizing and School Food Reform in New Haven
In March of 2012, members of Local 217 of UNITE HERE!, the largest organization of foodservice workers in North America, launched a campaign for “Real Food, Real Jobs” in New Haven Public Schools. They finalized a contract with the Board of Education in December 2013 that provided a binding commitment to: (1) protect and improve economic standards for workers, (2) fill 40 vacant positions, (3) promote and train cooks in every school, and (4) collaborate with the workers on ways to serve more vegetables to students. This presentation features a dialogue between a cafeteria worker leader and a union organizer who are committed to fighting for excellent food and labor standards in New Haven Public Schools. Jasanea will offer introductory comments about the work of preparing and serving school meals, including the changes she has seen over the years, and why school food reform is needed. Cristina will provide additional context and engage with Jasanea in a candid conversation about why she decided to step forward as a leader within her union and what she and her co-workers seek to achieve in their next round of negotiations in 2016. We seek begin a dialogue with the audience about these questions: What elements, or new alliances, must be in place in order to achieve lasting school food reform that benefits children’s health, the livelihood of workers across the food chain, and the ecological impact of the school food? How can efforts like UNITE HERE!’s “Real Food, Real Jobs” campaign scale up and spread to more communities? What role do workers, organizers, academics, and other activists have to play in these efforts?
Nadia Lambek, Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish LLP
Labour and Food Movements
Within the various alternative food movements and the academic literature on building more sustainable, equitable and just food systems, the topic of labour is often absent from the discussion. Recent efforts have been made by both activists and academics to include agricultural workers in discussions on food systems. Similarly, campaigns by US fast food workers have brought the plight of their working conditions and terms of employment to the public’s attention. However, the vast majority of the labour force that allows our current food systems to function – from employees in food processing plants, to grocery store clerks and truck drivers – are not considered or included in conversations about food systems or the right to food and food sovereignty more broadly. Current food systems provide a significant source of employment. Many of these jobs are underpaid, unsafe and exploitative, while others provide steady good employment. In Canada, for example, jobs in the food system are often unionized, offering employees job security, benefits, a pension and a say in the terms and conditions of their employment. In this context, this presentation will argue that engaging labour and in particular, organized labour, is crucial for making positive changes in our food systems. The presentation will begin by exploring the important role of labour in the current food system, in contrast to how labour is understood in the dominant alternative models currently advanced. The presentation will then explore what lessons labour and the labour movement can provide to current collective efforts for improved food systems.
Food: A Lens for Climate Awareness and Action
Ben Chou, Natural Resources Defense Council
Climate-Ready Soil: How Cover Crops Can Make Farms More Resilient to Extreme Weather Risks
In recent years, severe drought and damaging floods have affected many agricultural areas in the U.S. These extreme weather events are likely to become more intense and more frequent in many places due to climate change, increasing economic risks to farmers. Farmers in the top ten states in agricultural production (California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Indiana), which combined annually produce greater than half of the entire U.S. total, are particularly vulnerable to economic harm. In the past five years, farmers in these states lost more than $25 billion worth of crops due to drought, heat, extreme rainfall, flooding, and other related impacts. Although farmers are on the front lines of this new era of challenging weather, they also can be a part of the solution. Our new report finds that farmers in these ten states can help capture more than 19 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and store over a trillion gallons of water in the soil by using cover crops on just half of their total corn and soybean acreage. In addition to these benefits, cover crops also can increase crop yields, suppress weeds, increase soil fertility, reduce erosion, provide habitat for beneficial organisms, and reduce nutrient runoff. To support greater adoption of cover crops, NRDC is pursuing a proposal that would offer farmers an actuarially-sound crop insurance premium rate discount for planting cover crops just like safe drivers can get discounts on their car insurance rates.
Abigail Cheskis, Yale College
Food and Climate Change Communication
Agriculture accounts for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gases (GHGs), and animal agriculture is a much greater contributor to global emissions than plant-based food production. As both the intensity of agriculture and the demand for animal products continue to grow, decreasing the demand for animal-based foods presents an important opportunity to reduce GHG emissions. But asking people to change their food choices is often seen as critical and overbearing. Nevertheless, it is my belief that food is a powerful lens through which we should approach mitigation to climate change: food bridges topics ranging from culture and social justice to health and community. Effective communication techniques are essential to begin a transition to more sustainable food production and consumption. Humanistic communication, a values-based framework, offers important insights into communicating the food and climate connection. Viewing audience groups through the lens of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs allows us to more easily segment populations and to target communication more effectively. Many people understand, for example, that arguments to policy-makers must greatly differ from campaigns that try to convince college students to decrease consumption of animal-based food, but looking at these groups through the hierarchy opens new communication pathways. The further application of social psychology theories and principles will also ease behavioral transitions and ideally allow for less resistance towards a changed diet. The study, exploration, and application of these concepts provide hope for a smooth dietary transition.
Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director of the NYC Community Garden Coalition
Community Gardens, Climate Change & Food Security
In Manhattan, the combination of high tide, a full moon, and Superstorm Sandy’s size and wind dynamics created a massive surge of salt water. Flooding and sewer backup primarily affected the areas with lowest elevation adjacent to the shoreline, with water overtopping the bulkheads and infiltrating areas inland. When the flooding receded, it became apparent that community gardens provided many environmental benefits such as stormwater absorption, which mitigated flooding impacts on interior land. As neighborhood protectors, community gardens were suddenly elevated as models of community green infrastructure and climate change protection. In urban areas, community gardens play a significant role as part of an integrated food system, increasing food security by providing a source of fresh, healthy food largely unavailable in these areas. Managed and maintained by neighborhood volunteers, community gardens continue a legacy of cooperation and perseverance that reflects the diversity of their communities. We will examine how community gardens provide elements that can handle heavy rains and prevent flooding; protect against storm damage; and capture and store rainwater using rainwater tanks. Other green infrastructure techniques like permeable paving, rain gardens, and bioswales can slow flooding and prevent erosion and plant damage. Community gardens are places of transformation. Over decades, they have brought together multiple areas of our lives: food, friendships and health. Today, community gardens can be in the vanguard of monitoring, adapting and mitigating climate change.
Sarah Hill, Boston University
Waste Not, Want Not – Reducing Livestock’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Livestock is responsible for between 14.5 and 32 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The scale of its contribution means that emissions from the livestock sector must be addressed if the average global temperature rise is to be limited to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial times. In industrialized countries, half of all of the food sector’s GHG emissions result from post-farm gate activities, and this paper focuses specifically on the waste and consumption of livestock products, which are important because they represent GHGs that have been accumulated throughout the supply chain. The paper examines some of the policies and initiatives implemented by government, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties for tackling these issues in the UK. It then makes recommendations for future action. Although it considers the UK as a case study, the lessons learned are equally applicable to the US and other industrialized countries where rates of waste and consumption of meat, dairy and eggs are high.
Panel Session 2: 3:30 – 4:45 pm
Food Rights in an Uncertain World
Moderated by Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
As our world faces rising social and environmental challenges, does public law adequately address the core components of the right to food–food accessibility, food adequacy, food availability, and food system sustainability? How do public lawyers conceptualize food rights both domestically and internationally? Convening a diverse range of legal scholars in the fields of food law, comparative constitutional law, environmental law, and administrative law, this panel will address the fact that food appears to be both over and under-regulated. Advocates contend that food is over-regulated inasmuch as an array of domestic and international rules govern the production, transportation, packaging, labeling, pricing, etc., of food products, leading to the disappearance of certain foods or to their prohibition (e.g., raw milk dairy products). These advocates argue that overregulation both undermines individual freedom of choice and threatens food security by driving up food prices. Yet, from a sustainability and food justice perspective, much of what we consume remains under-regulated, and its production, processing, and distribution continues to generate substantial negative externalities.
The goal of the panel will be to show that far from being anecdotal or peripheral to public law and its theory, food issues are quite central to the relationships between individuals and their governments. In an increasingly unstable world characterized by rising global food demand and climate change, the importance of food and its legal conceptualization is likely to become a central theme for the public law community.
Amy Cohen, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
The Legal Architecture of Economic Democracy: A Study in Food Activism
This paper uses contemporary food activism to argue that economic democracy—that is, collective local control over economic decisions—has largely disappeared from a progressive legal agenda. It offers two examples of actors who are revitalizing democratic forms of capitalist production and exchange—artisanal raw-milk cheesemakers and fair trade activists—but who mostly express their commitments in the language of mutual aid, voluntary exchange, and movement-based politics rather than law. Their extralegal activism challenges us to rethink the public (and private) law architecture of democracy—applied to the institutions of market as much as to those of the state.
Mathilde Cohen, University of Connecticut Law School
Of Cows and the Constitution
The U.S. Constitution lacks any mention of food rights, yet constitutional adjudication is replete with cases involving crops, cattle, milk, and other dairy products, such as the Slaughter-House Cases, Carolene Products, or Wickard v. Filburn. These iconic cases have been recognized as instrumental in articulating key constitutional concepts such as Congress’ commerce powers, equal protection, due process, private property, etc. I argue, however, that they also express an underlying ideology of nutrition. By protecting the interests of the dairy industry more often than not, the Supreme Court may have advanced a specieist, classist, and racist conception of the American diet.
Margot Pollans, Pace University School of Law
Water as Food: Realizing the Right to Safe Drinking Water
Access to safe drinking water is nearly ubiquitous in the US. Although the Constitution offers no affirmative right to potable water, the Safe Drinking Water Act guarantees that tap water meet baseline federal safety standards. Looking at this statutory right against the backdrop of the Clean Water Act, which regulates water polluters, this Article argues that the two statutes together undermine capacity to fulfill the right by inefficiently allocating pollution mitigation costs and by pitting rural against urban interests. Further, conceptualizing water as food provides a way forward by inviting a more systemic approach to water regulation.
Stephen Lee, Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine
The Food We Eat and the People Who Feed Us
This paper focuses on the ways in which labor officials and advocates have enlisted consumers to help enforce labor laws. Although enforcement agencies, like the Department of Labor, have long relied on workers to screen potentially incompliant businesses like restaurants, this recent shift in strategy marks a delegation of a different sort. Specifically, it empowers consumers, not to screen potentially incompliant restaurants at the front-end of the inspection process, but rather to penalize restaurants at the back-end through boycotts and “buycotts” once a penalty has already been assessed. While amplifying existing penalties through market forces offers attractive benefits, one significant set of costs that tends to get overlooked is the loss in agency oversight. As I explain, whereas screening errors at the front-end can be corrected by agency officials downstream, penalizing errors at the back-end offers no similar assurance given that consumer interventions take place post-inspection.
Measuring & Understanding the Food Environment
Debbie Humphries, Ph.D, MPH, Clinical Instructor in Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health – Discussant
Dr. Humphries’ research addresses interactions between nutrition and infectious disease, as well as programmatic approaches to improving public health and nutrition. This work has taken her to Asia and Africa where she has studied environmental factors and intestinal helminth infections and their relationship to anemia as well as effectiveness of intervention programs. She is working with New Haven Farms’ Farm-based Wellness Program to evaluate the health and other impacts of a wellness program delivered in conjunction with participation in farm activities and receipt of CSA shares. She is also collaborating on a longitudinal study to characterize parasite and host factors affecting response to deworming in Ghana.
Cara Donovan, Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Investigating Barriers and Facilitators to the Use of Native and Traditional Crops in Child and Infant Feeding in Peri-Urban Cochabamba, Bolivia
Known as a global hotspot for agrobiodiversity, the Bolivian Andes are home to thousands of varieties of potatoes, as well as other minor tubers, legumes, fruits, and grains. Although these crops are nutritionally important, they are underutilized in contemporary and rapidly urbanizing Bolivian food systems. This under-use is particularly concerning given that the country’s population increasingly experiences a “double burden” of malnutrition: a high prevalence of undernutrition coupled with a rise in obesity, and its concomitant health impacts. This paper will report preliminary results of ongoing research to explore factors that either inhibit or facilitate access to and use of native and traditional crops (NTCs) in the diets of children under 5 in the peri-urban southern zone of Cochabamba. Qualitative data collection was undertaken May-July 2015 via semi-structured interviews with mothers of children under 5 (N = 25), as well as food preparers at local schools and daycares which target this age group (N = 12). This paper will review: 1) economic constraints to the household and institutional purchase of NTC’s; 2) logistical or technical complexities in the preparation of NTC-based foods; 3) issues of comparative palatability of NTC-based foods; and 4) local beliefs or practices about infant and young-child feeding, which may influence food preparers’ tendencies to incorporate NTC’s into young children’s diets. Finally, the paper will reflect on potential avenues and incentives for the incorporation of NTC’s into diverse, nutrient-dense diets for Bolivian children. Co-authored by Dr. Debbie Humphries and Alder Keleman Saxena
Diana Caley, Department of Nutrition & Food Studies, New York University
Measuring Food Insecurity in Urban Slums: a Mixed Methods Comparison of Indicators in Kampala, Uganda
Given dramatic differences in how the urban versus rural poor cope with being food insecure, it is unclear to what extent commonly used food security indicators— which are primarily derived from and validated by research conducted in rural areas—adequately reflect the lived experiences of the urban poor. New interest in urban poverty and food insecurity necessitates further inquiry into the most accurate, rapid, and consistent indicators that can be used to assess the efficacy of policy and program interventions. Drawing from a mixed methods study of urban food insecurity in Kampala, Uganda, this paper explores how commonly used food security indicators portray the food security situation among 500 urban slum dwellers. Correlations between these indicators are generally strong, particularly among indicators that measure similar dimensions of food insecurity such as food access. This paper highlights findings from 20 in-depth cognitive interviews that explored how respondents understood key concepts included in food security survey questions, how respondents’ perceptions converged or diverged with the intended question meanings, and how consistently respondents understood question meanings. This paper identifies key learning points that will help to inform the development of accurate, sensitive, and reliable food security instruments in urban settings; it also presents important considerations for post hoc analysis of existing survey data.
Anna Herforth, Ph.D., SPRING; Adjunct Associate Research Scientist, Columbia University
Selena Ahmed, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Montana State University
The Food Environment, Its Effects on Dietary Consumption, and Potential for Mea- surement Globally
The purpose of this paper is to define the food environment in practical terms, review evidence of how it is related to diets, and review existing measures of the food environment for potential application to global monitoring and intervention design. The food environment in markets constraints and signals consumers what to purchase. It encompasses availability, affordability, convenience, and desirability of various foods. Evidence shows these factors are related to dietary consumption. Despite the emerging efforts to measure the food environment at the community level, and increased recognition of the influence of the food environment on dietary quality and chronic disease, the science of measuring the food environment is in its early stages. Some existing measures are relevant to apply internationally in rural areas, but none are immediately feasible and scalable. Given its importance to diets, the aspect of the food environment that most urgently needs to be measured and monitored is affordability of diverse, nutritious foods. Other non-market parts of the food environment also need to be understood, such as on-farm and natural/wild food environments. Ultimately, metrics are needed to inform strategies for improving food environments. In places where norms and habits support traditional food culture, reducing cost of a healthy traditional diet may be a relatively effective way to improve diets. In places where diets have transitioned to high intakes of ultra-processed foods, more emphasis on convenience and desirability may be needed.
Karina Lundahl, International Agricultural Development, UC Davis
Finding Resilience: Women’s Work, Bean Crop Management, and Climate Change in Jumla, Nepal
The negative impacts of climate change disproportionately affect rural communities in developing countries who rely on agriculture and other natural resources for their sustenance and livelihoods. Climate change impacts are also projected to slow economic growth, hindering current poverty alleviation efforts and creating new poverty traps for the most economically disadvantaged. Understanding climate change resilience for these communities requires assessment of their environmental and social resources as well as the social institutions that support them. This paper will discuss the preliminary results of a thesis project conducted in the high-hills of the Himalayas in Jumla, Nepal. Recognizing the knowledge that traditional communities have about local impacts of climate change, farmers in Jumla were asked about their observations of shifting temperature and precipitation patterns. Aspects of ecological and social adaptive capacity were also assessed. Farmers were surveyed about the number of bean crop varieties grown and their current crop management strategies. Also, through closer ethnographic observation with one community, findings on social context emerged. Importantly, though not generally socially recognized as the head-of-household, women are making primary agricultural decisions in Jumla. Men are increasingly working in urban centers within the country and abroad. Women are deciding which crops to grow, how to maintain them, and whether to experiment.Understanding more about social factors such as those in Jumla informs how climate change adaptive capacity building and participatory approaches are designed and executed. This research highlights the importance of fine.
Food Justice & Food Democracy
Lisa Kissing Kucek, Cornell University
Participatory Plant Breeding: Engaging Farmers and Gardeners to Build Resilient Food Systems
Crops, domesticated animals, and humans have co-evolved. For many thousands of years, each generation has changed agricultural genetics, often to better adapt to the changing needs of society. In a time threatened by the impacts of climate change, uncertain fossil fuel supplies, and resource degradation, genetic adaptation is key to feeding humankind. However, urbanization and industry consolidation increasingly distant populations from direct involvement in food production, seed saving, and animal breeding. To sustain a resilient food system, I propose re-training and engaging more people (farmers, gardeners, cooks, teachers, etc.) in plant breeding. I will guide a discussion on diverse methods and worldviews for germplasm conservation and improvement, in addition to considering the distribution of knowledge and power in such systems.
Holly Rippon-Butler, National Young Farmers Coalition
Farming is Public Service: How a Grassroots Campaign to Change Education Policy will Help the Next Generation of Farmers Succeed
In June 2015, the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) worked with Representatives Chris Gibson, R-NY, and Joe Courtney, D-CT, to introduce the Young Farmers Success Act, House Bill 2590. If passed, this bill would add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, meaning that after ten years of income-based repayments on student loans, full-time farmers would have the balance of their loans forgiven. Student loan debt has become one of the most significant challenges our nation’s young farmers and ranchers face. Farmers who responded to a 2014 survey by NYFC carried an average of $35,000 in student loan debt. More than half are currently farming but struggling to make their student loan payments and nearly a third didn’t pursue farming, or are waiting to start because their student loan debt is more than a farming salary would support. Just as we’ve provided incentives for Americans to enter medicine, education, and other public service careers, we need to encourage young people to choose careers in agriculture. With over 100 organizations signing on in support of our bill, and a growing list of legislative co-sponsors, we have successfully garnered bipartisan support for an issue that has the potential to impact how all Americans live, through the food we eat. In this panel, we will discuss why NYFC and our partners looked beyond traditional agricultural policy to address the needs of the next generation of farmers. We will also discuss our grassroots campaign strategy and the importance of letting farmers be the voice for their own needs.
Katie Martin, University of Saint Joseph
Food Pantry Justice: A shift from the “right to food,” to the “right to healthy and nutritious food.”
Recent estimates show that 46 million Americans rely on charitable food through food pantries. Food pantry clients often receive food that is high in sodium, fat, and sugar, thus contributing to the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease in the United States. Of food pantry clients, 49% are obese, which is 14% higher than the national prevalence. Even though millions of Americans rely on charitable food programs on a chronic basis, these programs are often overlooked in food system work.Innovative food banks and food pantries have started creating new approaches to provide healthy food in client choice environments, where clients can shop for their own food with dignity, and also providing wrap-around services to improve diet quality and self-sufficiency. These new ways of structuring food pantries empower people, build skills, and provide the tools necessary to become food secure and self-sufficient on a long- term basis. This is a paradigm shift from measuring success through “pounds of food” to empowering vulnerable families to make healthy behavior changes. Researchers at the University of Saint Joseph are working with three traditional food pantries in Hartford, CT to convert their pantries to healthy client choice, with case management and nutrition education. We are conducting a process evaluation and outcome evaluation to measure impact on clients’ food security, diet quality and self-sufficiency. The panel discussion will highlight ways to improve upon traditional food pantry models to tackle both food insecurity and chronic disease, and to focus on long-term solutions to hunger.
Yashar Saghai, Johns Hopkins University
Seeking Global Food Justice: The “7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security: 7 Projects to Make Progress on Ethics and Food Security in 5 Years”
Over the last three years, the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, along with the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, launched the Global Food Ethics Initiative to take on the challenge of working through conflicting visions of what it means to produce, distribute, market, sell, and consume food ethically and find a concrete path forward even in the absence of consensus about ethical commitments and values surrounding food. To do this, we undertook what has not previously been done—to have a diverse, international, and influential Working Group of experts construct a research agenda for global food ethics that would make an important, practical contribution to global food security. The outcome of our collective deliberation is featured in a recently released report: “7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security: 7 Projects to Make Progress on Ethics and Food Security in 5 Years.” In this presentation, I will first discuss the innovative process we used to build this agenda. I will next introduce and seek feedback from symposium participants on two priority projects with a distinctive global food justice dimension: “Ethical Challenges in Projections of Food Demand, Supply, and Prices” and “Ethics of Meat Consumption in High-Income and Middle-Income Countries.”
Saturday, October 31st
Panel Session 3: 9:00 – 10:30 am
Is There a Food Movement?
Gerald Torres, Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
Susan Stokes, Executive Director of Farmers’ Legal Action Group Susan Schneider, Director of the University of Arkansas School of Law’s Agricultural & Food Law LL.M. Program
Moderated by Ona Balkus, Senior Clinical Fellow in the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic
In his 2010 article Food Movement, Rising, Michael Pollan posited that “Where many social movements tend to splinter as time goes on, breaking into various factions representing divergent concerns or tactics, the food movement starts out splintered…but there are indications that these various voices may be coming together in something that looks more and more like a coherent movement.” As people around the world advocate to improve the production, sourcing, and health of the foods they eat, many have called this activism around food “The Food Movement.” However, these activists may disagree over their goals and the means of achieving these goals, and often face tensions over thorny issues such as the cost of food, the extent of regulation and barriers to entry, freedom of choice, and freedom of speech. How will this movement reconcile conflicting goals? Who should be at the table for this to be considered a Food Movement, and where are stakeholders currently included or left out? Is this indeed “The Food Movement,” or are there many movements that can be allied, but never really unified? Is that a problem or is that the path forward? What should be the end goals for food activists? These and other topics will be debated among the panelists and through dynamic conversation with audience members.
Health, Access, and Quality
Michelle McCabe, Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport Community Collaboration for Optimal Collective Impact in Greater Bridgeport
Know Your Numbers is a campaign adopted nationwide to perform health screenings in the community; the purpose being to encourage people to be familiar with their key markers for health and see a physician if their numbers are out of range. In Bridgeport, the Cardiovascular and Diabetes Task Force, comprised primarily of medical professionals from two local hospitals and the health department, ran its first campaign in February of 2014. They determined their reach could be broadened with key community partners. The 2015 effort included a new partner, The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, who represents 39 soup kitchens and food pantries in the area. The Council provided not only access to host programs that serve the most vulnerable of the City’s population but an educational outreach component that connected making healthy food choices at the pantries and kitchens with the health information the clients were receiving. The data collected in this year’s screenings are serving as the baseline for a more rigorous effort for 2016, one which will include greater integration with both the foods served and the opportunities presented by community gardens and urban agriculture to access more fresh produce. The project represents a partnership of organizations and agencies working in close concert with one another to the benefit of the communities served. This panel will detail how these groups came together and the means each provide to have a measurable impact on Bridgeport’s low-income residents.
Carrie A. Scrufari, Vermont Law School
Generally Recognized as Safe – Until They’re Not: Why the FDA Never Subtracts Food Additives from GRAS
Since the 1960’s, scientists have questioned the safety of carrageenan – a substance derived from red algae and used as a binder in many processed foods. Carrageenan appears in many conventional and organic food items, including nut milks, vegan cheeses, and dairy products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has considered carrageenan a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) substance since the 1950’s. However, several studies question whether carrageenan contributes to a host of inflammatory diseases, including Crohn’s, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and colon cancer. In 2008, the FDA denied a citizen petition requesting carrageenan’s removal from GRAS. Nevertheless, many food companies such as Stonyfield Farm, WhiteWave Foods, Horizon Organics, and Silk committed to removing carrageenan from their products by 2016 due to consumer demand. This article examines how the FDA has regulated GRAS substances, noting that there is little to no post- market regulation. Specifically, the article points to a gap in FDA regulations that prohibit the use of carcinogenic food additives. These regulations do not address the possibility that a food substance – such as carrageenan – may become carcinogenic during the digestive process as a result of exposure to hydrochloric acid in the stomach. This article proposes novel regulatory reforms to address this gap. The Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit public interest group promoting sustainable and organic agriculture, intends to petition the FDA for carrageenan’s removal from GRAS. This article recommends that FDA take advantage of this second chance and seize the opportunity to begin post-market regulation of GRAS substances.
Georgina Cullman, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History
Foodways, Nutrition, and Biocultural Resilience in Western Province, Solomon Islands
We present preliminary lessons from a participatory research project on community resilience and changing diets and foodways in the Solomon Islands. Pacific island communities have weathered diverse disturbances through time, and have developed adaptive strategies such as such as garden reserves or traditions of sharing. However, the combination of climate impacts, population growth, and market pressures such as commercial harvesting of marine and forest resources represent an unprecedented threat to these traditional strategies. In Western Province, Solomon Islands, as in much of the Pacific, individuals are choosing to supplement or substitute local foods such as fresh fish and root crops with high calorie store-bought foods. Changing diets mean changes in how people spend time in local land- and seascapes, and in local knowledge of food procurement, production, and processing. Western Province also suffers from a “double burden” of malnutrition – in a recent survey, 32.6% of children under five were characterized as chronically undernourished and a high percentage of adults (47.6% of women and 31.9% of men) were overweight or obese, and thus at heightened risk for noncommunicable diseases. We are exploring the causes and consequences of changing diets and foodways. We take an explicitly biocultural approach that reflects the dynamic interplay between human communities and environments. Ultimately, we aim to co-produce knowledge with our community partners to ensure a tight connection between the research and subsequent action to secure valued aspects of foodways in the broader context of community resource management. Co-authored by Eleanor Sterling, Erin Betley, Joe McCarter, Stacy Jupiter, Chris Filardi
A Systems Approaches to Sustainable Seafood
Amanda Beal, Maine Farmland Trust
A Watershed-scale Approach to Building a Resilient Regional Food System
Many people believe that New England is well-positioned and poised to dramatically increase food production and enhance access to regionally grown food in the coming decades. With this opportunity also comes the need to think carefully about how to foster growth of agriculture and fisheries related businesses, while also protecting ecosystem health. In many cases, a misfit exists between the business side of food production and the reality of our finite natural resources. Land and sea production can be ecologically sustainable, yet the demands of market-level production often results in environmental impacts that reduce overall system productivity. Maine is a pioneer in sustainable agriculture and community-based fisheries restoration and co-management.
Yet, institutionally, the agricultural and fisheries sectors of the food system are treated as separate, disconnected entities, despite many similarities and connections existing between them. Two of the state’s key organizations, Penobscot East Resource Center (PERC) and Maine Farmland Trust (MFT), are leading the way to re-think what it means to farm or fish profitably within the bounds of a shared ecosystem, for the long term. Through collaboration, PERC and MFT have identified key action steps that are needed to develop physical and social infrastructure to sustain a watershed-scale model, including advancing supporting policies and aligning viability of regional food production with ecological principles, and to establish access to farmland and fishing privileges using tools that reinforce regenerative stewardship.
Stephanie Webb, Fish Locally Collaborative
Decentralized Networks: Connecting Land- and Sea-Based Food Producers, Consumers, Advocates and Academics to Implement Food Sovereignty
The globalization of our food system currently results in diminished profitability for independent, family fishers and farmers and enhances profitability for brokers and processors. The current economic emphasis in food production perpetuates a disconnect between consumers, producers and our ecosystem by externalizing social and ecological impacts in the overall system. To counter this system, decentralized networks such as the Fish Locally Collaborative (FLC), Localcatch.org, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) and the partnership of Slow Food and Slow Fish are using non-hierarchical, system-based approaches that rely on relationship building and knowledge sharing to further the understanding and actualization of food sovereignty. Fishers, farmers, and allies are getting more connected, aligning around shared values, and taking action to promote a new vision forward that also address the complex social, economic, and environmental problems posed by our current food system.
This presentation will highlight issues surrounding fishing and farming “in the red” where the price fishers and farmers are paid does not reflect their true cost of operations. Compounding non-fair prices are policies that force fishers, farmers, and community-based processors to “get big or get out” leading to increased producer debt, pressure on the ecosystem, and loss of farms, boats, homes, and livelihoods. Together, these various networks are working towards building new models of acquisition and distribution, while promoting awareness through collaboration and partnerships. This presentation will provide examples of integrated, research-based approaches to revitalizing the seafood system focusing on economic resilience, political democracy and ecological justice. By influencing markets and by shifting the dominant narrative of fisheries, decentralized networks provide an effective model to promote alternative values and develop a new vision, while harnessing the political power necessary to rival the dominant paradigm. We will also discuss opportunities for the general public and academia to engage both for research opportunities and solidarity in action.
Valerie Nelson, Water Alliance Massachusetts
Seafood: A Systems Approach
As part of the 2015-16 Massachusetts Food System Plan project, listening sessions were held on the seafood value chain. The internationalized market between the supply side from boat landings and shellfish harvesting and the demand or consumption side is impressively adaptive and efficient on a day-to-day basis, but it also imposes negative externalities on the ecosystem, local economies, and the health and well-being of citizens. It narrows choices and commodifies product and drives down both prices for local harvesters and wages for local processing workers. It is also increasingly vulnerable to capture by foreign consumers, and by larger U.S. and international companies and investors. A promising new approach is to support and finance initiatives that deliver substantial multiple benefits or positive externalities, as a matter of course and an integral part of the business model. Early examples of these are CSFs, certification programs, and institutional purchasing of locally-landed seafood, by hospitals, colleges, and schools. Other multiple-benefit, system recommendations in the MA Food Plan include: expansion of the value chain for under-utilized species; value- added product development and waste recovery; community-based aquaculture blended with no-take reserves; information technologies; and invasive species as food. Each of these not only diverts locally-landed fish out of the global and commodity-based market, but also helps restore coastal and ocean ecosystems, such as by diversifying fishing effort and rebuilding coastal habitat, stabilizes the income of fishermen and rebuilds processing and shore-side capacity and economic multipliers in port communities, and enhances access to affordable, fresh seafood.
Jessie Johnson, The Sustainable Seafood Blog Project
Food Justice Marketing & The Case of Sustainable Seafood
It can be difficult to successfully “brand” sustainable food systems, particularly when nonprofits and food justice groups are competing with big-budget brands. By using nontraditional marketing techniques, harnessing the power of online influencers, and utilizing the best available marketing software and management tools, food justice advocates can affect real change. One successful case study is The Sustainable Seafood Blog Project (SSBP), a nonprofit that works with food bloggers, influencers, businesses, and nonprofits to pioneer innovative food justice marketing strategies. The SSBP is the first organization to harness the power of online influencers for sustainable food systems marketing: together, SSBP blog partners reach more than 1 million readers every month. Sustainable food systems experts – even those with limited time and budgets – can utilize social media and an existing blogging infrastructure to promote advocacy and social change issues. With a few key tricks, advocates can harness the power of storytelling to draw people to their cause, improve fundraising and visibility efforts, and make a greater impact on our food system.
Margaret Brown, Staff Attorney, National Resources Defense Councils – Moderator
Margaret Brown is a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council where she works on food law and policy—with a focus on regional food systems and school food. Margaret does policy work at the city and state level in New York on a range food issues from local procurement to composting to pollinators. She also works closely with the Urban School Food Alliance to bring healthier and more environmentally friendly food to the nearly three million children in six of the nation’s largest cities. Margaret is a graduate of New York University School of Law and University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Amy Rosenthal, School Food FOCUS
Institutional Food Purchasing Metrics: Challenges and Opportunities
As the food movement has evolved, institutions have been increasingly targeted as a potential lever for large-scale food systems reform. Flourishing farm to school programs are just one part of a growing effort to shift food service operations in public schools, colleges, hospitals, jails and other institutions towards more healthful, regional and sustainable purchasing and practices. School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that works with the country’s largest school districts to help them shift their food purchases towards more healthful, regional and sustainable options. In its signature Learning Lab projects, FOCUS brings together districts to determine priorities for procurement change and supports them as they find ways to purchase the items they desire, whether regional sweet potatoes, turkey deli meat with fewer additives, or chicken products produced without the use of antibiotics. As these schools make improvements to what they buy, measuring their progress has emerged as a difficult but essential element of the process. FOCUS has developed a data collection protocol to collect information on exactly what these districts are buying, as well as track the values-based criteria important to them, such as healthful and regional. This presentation will feature an overview of the FOCUS process and initial findings based on data from fourteen school districts over three years. The presentation will also highlight some of the critical questions for those tracking purchasing in any institutional type, such as defining terms like “regional,” getting information from distributors, and understanding opaque supply chains.
Andrew Shensky, California State University, Fullerton
Introducing Food Systems Education through School Gardens and Technology
Food systems are a topic not often taught during early childhood education. However, the presence of school gardens provides an ideal setting for food systems education to take place. In order to enhance the educational value of school gardens and provided connections between science, math, and culinary arts, the introduction of technology into school gardens can play a critical role. Digital technology has been shown to be an effective educational tool, however, research has focused little on the role digital technology plays in experiential learning, especially within school gardens. I have developed an interactive school garden web-app for Ladera Vista Junior High in Fullerton, California. This app allows students to access content such as plant characteristics, growth requirements, and recipes for each plant in the garden. Students can also create content by collecting spatial data, for example, plant growth, soil moisture, pH, and nutrient levels. The inclusion of these types of data and the connections they promote between culinary arts and STEM-related classes helps to foster a complete understanding of sustainable food systems among junior high students. In this study, students were divided into three groups, each with differing exposure to the school garden and the app. Following a four-week treatment period, each of the groups were given an assessment test to reveal how exposure to the garden and the app influenced their understanding of material taught during garden lessons. The results reveal a significant improvement in students understanding of sustainable food systems when exposed to technology in the garden.
Catherine D’Amato, The Greater Boston Food Bank
Louisa Kasdon, Lets Talk About Food
Energizing a Community Conversation to Improve School Food in Boston
We started a simple relationship between a celebrity chef, Jody Adams, and a journalist. We thought that if we couldn’t accomplish anything else in the food world, we “ought to be able to do something” about the quality of the food served in the Boston Public Schools.”” Over 85% of Boston school children are food insecure and most get over half of their daily calories through the school meal program. We thought it would be easy. It wasn’t. Five years later we have energized an entire community around school food in Boston. Leveraging relationships and creating partnerships with major local food and hunger organizations, Boston parents, city councilors, the mayor, the state house, food vendors, foundations, construction companies, concerned citizens, and with sophisticated academics in Public Health and Nutrition — and most importantly, developing positive relationships with the officials at the Boston school department.
We have a unique but replicable story that has slowly but surely has created 26 buy-in in all communal segments of a very entrenched, almost tribal municipal bureaucracy. By staying focused, constantly inviting in more partners, using media channels, nurturing parents’ networks, testifying at public hearings and arranging private meetings, there is an excellent chance that Boston is on a path to enviable school food. We think our model for how to use collaboration to elevate a community conversation about school food is one that others can learn from, and we are happy to share our missteps, our strategy, and our process.
Amit Sharma, Pennsylvania State University
Can Farm To School Programs be Economically Sustainable?: Farmer and School Foodservice Director Perspectives
Farm to school (F2S) programs have become one of the pillars of promoting healthy eating in schools through increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and could develop as viable economic marketing option for small and medium sized farms. However, the question is how can these farm to school linkages be strengthened to increase the sourcing of fruits and vegetables? In this study we investigate the economic viability of farm to school programs from the perspective of transaction costs and benefits. Our approach is novel in that we incorporate benefits within the traditional transaction view that has primarily focused on costs. This study magnifies the F2S transaction between the farmers/ producers and schools through the lens of the theory of planned behavior. Our research questions were as follows: What are the perceived costs and benefits for small and medium sized farms and schools associated with F2S programs’ sourcing of fruits and vegetables? How can the knowledge of these perceived costs and benefits be leveraged to reduce obstacles to strengthen F2S linkages? The research questions for this study were investigated through a mixed- methods research design. A qualitative study of farmers/producers was followed up with an online survey. Similarly, a qualitative study of school foodservice directors was followed up with an online survey. Results of analyzing these primary data indicate several areas potential intervention to strengthen F2S linkages. Our presentation will highlight the study design, research questions, and the implications of aligning student and parent perspectives with farmers/ producers and school foodservice directors.
Panel Session 4: 1:30 – 2:45 pm
Food Systems Thinking – An Applied Approach
Hugh Joseph, Ph.D., Tufts University Interactive Workshop
Despite the rapid evolution of (sustainable) food systems as an applied field, system thinking (ST) is just beginning to make headway in related research and practice.
Except for quantitative modeling methods (e.g., GIS, LCA), many other analytic tools struggle to find a place within food systems work. More qualitative (soft systems) social and cultural dimensions get less attention despite their relevance to addressing the complexities of food systems and sustainability.
A fundamental challenge is how to integrate systems theories and practice in an applied sense; in other words, as ‘food systems thinking’. Integrated food systems frameworks invoke particular challenges because they strive to incorporate the complexities of adaptive systems across social, environmental, economic, political, cultural and other dimensions. Key challenges are familiarity with ST itself, and subsequently how to apply it to food systems analysis.
The purpose of this workshop is to introduce an applied systems thinking strategy for food systems analysis. The content builds on methods described in other fields and incorporates specific food systems dynamics. It begins with an overview of an applied ST framework, and procedures for analyzing food systems and sustainability, including systems knowledge, systems thinking tools, and multi-disciplinary and multi-component integration. Subsequently, the audience will engage in table exercises to apply this approach to a selected topic (sustainable diets) or to another subject they choose themselves. Finally, to report back, participants will reflect on this experience and suggest how this methodology could be useful to them going forward.
Healthy Food in Healthcare
Robert Cole, Chief Operating Officer, Connecticut Mental Health Center Francine Blinten, Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Jacqueline Maisonpierre, Farm Manager, New Haven Farms
“OUR TOWN”: Unexpected Alliances in Unlikely Places? Connecticut Mental Health Center’s Food Transformation Initiative
Connecticut Mental Health Center is a State of Connecticut/Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services facility for the seriously mentally ill that is managed by Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. Its clients are, with few exceptions, indigent, with chronic mental illness and many comorbid conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease: practically all suffer severe food insecurity. Built in 1966 without a full commercial kitchen, inpatients have received their meals from the hospital across the street, after being plated then transported through an underground through a tunnel. Patients endure significant weight gain and morale was low due to the poor quality of food. A very small sandwich shop served a limited menu for employees and visitors. The physician and senior administrative leadership, invoking the Hippocratic Oath, “First Do No Harm,” decided to launch a full scale change in how food and nutrition was regarded in the health care paradigm. A multi-step transformation process was begun in 2012 and on June 1, 2015 an entirely new food service operation, managed by the very same food service management company that serves the United Nations was launched. The presenters will provide a case study of how CMHC physicians, clients, nurses, a lawyer, senior administrators, social workers, nutritionists, chefs, local urban farmers (New Haven Farms), CitySeed (farmers markets) and community gardeners (New Haven Land Trust) and local residents came together and implemented a multi-faceted, organization wide change process. Ample time will be allowed for questions, answers and discussion of how this formidable change was brought about despite the existence of significant barriers.
Food Policy Councils and Economic Development
Crystal Weber, University of Missouri Extension
The Fostering Local Foods-Based Economic Development Strategies: Developing New Resources and Networks
The recent surge of interest in local foods and shared food processing facilities has motivated extension educators and community leaders to expand their skills, knowledge and resources to support this growing economic sector. However, progress has been hindered by a lack of common language, by unclear pathways to useful and trustworthy resources, and deficiencies in regional networks to foster collaboration in local food systems economic development. An additional, specific concern is that many Missouri communities are expressing interest regarding shared processing facilities, and yet some who have tried, failed – likely the result of a lack of collaboration and an incomplete understanding of needs. Extension educators and other resource personnel need to be better equipped to provide information on how communities can, develop shared food processing facilities as well as potential pitfalls. The Fostering Local Foods-Based Economic Development Strategies: Developing New Resources and Networks project utilized a strategy of multiple face-to-face professional development workshops; conducted a statewide survey to identify additional topics to explore; developed a series of short publications to provide basic resource information; and worked with field faculty to organize relevant resources for public audiences with the object of: (1) Developing a shared knowledge of the concepts, benefits and challenges of developing local foods as an economic development strategy; (2) Increasing skills and knowledge of resource providers to assist communities in assessing and developing sustainable shared food processing facilities; (3) Fostering skills and knowledge to help farm and food entrepreneurs develop successful local food businesses.
Brian Estabrook, The Ohio State University
From Field to Fork to Statehouse – The Role of Gatekeeping in the Policy Process
Interest in food democracy is on the rise and has been trumpeted as a means toward more equitable and sustainable food systems. Food democracy is understood as public and representative participation and decision-making by engaged citizens to actively shape the food system, ensuring greater sustainability, access, and collective benefit for all. Food policy councils are often cited as a form of food democracy because of what appears to be diverse local community and food sector representation. However, the existing literature has not sufficiently examined whether the purported diversity within food policy councils embodies the aims of food democracy. Further, the literature has overlooked the process by which food policy councils form and to what extent the process is democratic. We contend that the embodiment of food democracy in food policy councils is restricted by a gatekeeping process, both passive and active, imbued with positionality and privilege, that heavily influences both who is at the table representing the community and what the priorities and policy agenda will look like. Drawing from the fields of political science, sociology, and urban planning, this paper will address this gap through an extensive literature review that will examine the role of gatekeeping in coalition formation, particularly through the lens of power, positionality, and privilege, while offering a conceptual framework for understanding the process of food democracy.
Mark Firla, New Haven Food Policy Council
A quarter of New Haven residents and 33% of our children live in poverty. New Haven is also a city with a thriving organized labor movement, strong community organizations, and a vocal activist immigrant population. When school ends, the Board of Education provides meals for children through the federal Summer Food Service Program and has plans to introduce the federal Afterschool Meal Program “Suppers”. By focusing on hunger, and identifying the Summers Meals Program as a powerful cornerstone, we plan to increase the effectiveness of the Food Policy Council by reaching past its current base and creating a local food movement more focused on grassroots organizing principles and power. In 2014, the New Haven Food Policy Council, working with End Hunger Connecticut!, started a project to increase participation in and expand the Summer Meals program using community-organizing methods. Working with labor, community and political groups coordinated through the NHFPC, we started by creating partnerships for outreach with local agencies and community organizations, including organizing a citywide summer kick-off event, a “Blitz Day”, with 75+ volunteers canvassing neighborhoods. The 2014 result was a 23% increase in meals served, over 46,000. I will discuss the food- labor-community alliance, and use the campaign to highlight the successes and challenges faced by this program. We will discuss 2015 goals and preliminary results, which include additional summer meals mobile units and expansion of meals served, building neighborhood food committees and strengthening partnerships with multiple city departments and agencies.
Josh Stoffel, New London County Food Policy Council
Cross-sectional Community Collaborations: The Pursuit of Sustainable Food Systems
The New London County Food Policy Council (NLCFPC) is a collaborative initiative comprised of community leaders that represent organizations striving to change the regional food system in order to improve community health and support the local economy. The intersection of higher education, non-profit organizations, and health, agriculture, and economic development related community organizations allows for a unique opportunity to work toward the systematic change of our regional food system. The NLCFPC receives fiduciary and administrative support from United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and the Connecticut College Office of Sustainability respectively. The NLCFPC was established to foster positive changes to our local food system. This commitment has been recently demonstrated by a USDA grant that was awarded to the NLCFPC to conduct a Food Hub Feasibility Study. A regional food hub is an entity that helps producers expand their sales by connecting them to wholesale buyers, such as restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hospitals and other institutions. The goals that the NLCFPC are pursuing through the consideration of a regional food hub includes reducing the pressure on producers to find wholesale outlets and increasing the amount of local food that stays within the region, which in turn will strengthen the local economy. With our study now complete, the NLCFPC has determined that a non-traditional, virtual food hub will be best for New London County, with a specific focus on providing necessary support services to local farmers and buyers that will allow for the increased production and consumption of local food.
Cultural Barriers to Access
Sarah Huang, Purdue University
Food, Place and Identity: Conceptualizing Food Security with Migrants and Immi- grants in Anchorage, Alaska
Proponents of the local food movement typically frame foodscapes through spatial considerations between food and consumer. This movement serves to localize agricultural and food economies while supporting livelihoods through better availability of socially and politically deemed healthy foods. Increased access to local foods also aim to combat food insecurity, especially in urban areas by providing urbanites with a close proximity to healthy foods. This access to local foods as a means for health appeals to normative narratives of what is ‘local’ and ‘healthy’. These narratives highlight food security and local food as goals within local food movements, but these goals are often framed in ways that marginalize groups of people that do not eat within these narrow discourses of ‘local’ or ‘healthy’ food. Local food movements in Anchorage, Alaska attempt to address the geographical seclusion from the contiguous U.S. by increasing food grown in Alaska and thus food security through access to these locally grown foods. I focus on the local food movement in Anchorage, because it has been recently noted that Anchorage holds some of the nation’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. The foodscapes of immigrants and migrants challenge normative discourses of local food movements through individually and communally embodied experiences and notions of food that transect time, boundaries, and landscapes. Through an understanding of transnational foodscapes and notions of food security and local foods, communities in Anchorage may better be able to facilitate and assist ethnically diverse peoples toward culturally relevant challenges of food security. The specific relationships between individuals and their community networks of food sharing can provide insight into a nuanced ‘local’ food movement generated through transnational identities and adaptations of transnational foodscapes onto Anchorage’s landscapes.
Colleen Hammelman, Temple University
Migrant Women Resist the Corporate Food Regime Through Everyday Survival Strategies
Food insecure migrant women worldwide utilize a creative combination of survival strategies to procure food for themselves and their families. Relying on in-depth interviews and qualitative GIS research methods with 72 migrant women and 14 key informants in Medellín, Colombia, and Washington, DC, this paper argues that in low-income communities these strategies act as a form of resistance against unjust global political economic processes. Building from a feminist geography theorization of their insurgent citizenship, this research explores how migrant women living in poverty rely on informal networks for growing and sharing food, seek out healthy, organic, natural food, and work for food. Through these problem-solving efforts, migrant women resist a food system they view as unhealthy, identities others impose on them, and global (and local) structures that discourage their survival. Important in all of their strategies is a significant knowledge of sources of ‘healthy’ food (both emergency and non-emergency) and of inequality in the global food system. This knowledge is derived from their food experiences in origin communities and survival strategies adopted in new communities. This research contributes a more nuanced understanding of the food insecurity experiences of migrants in urban environments enabling more effective scholarship as well as improved policy making and service provision.
Maclovia Quintana, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
Cultivating Querencia: Agriculture, Culture, and the Production of Meaning in Northern New Mexico
Northern New Mexico has been the site of small-scale agriculture for hundreds of years. As is the case in many rural areas in the Unites States, small farms have been declining in number over the past century. I found that the farmers who remain actively involved in agriculture are not driven primarily by a desire for profit. Rather, they continue to farm because of a strong sense of connectedness to the agrarian history of the area. I argue that in northern New Mexico, farming is a self-constitutive process, in which people derive meaning from agriculture and in turn imbue it with meaning, and are therefore motivated to continue farming. This meaning is best understood through the concept of querencia. Querencia, a Spanish word, means literally “beloved place.” In northern New Mexico, querencia refers specifically to the connection to place and love of the land that is produced through agricultural practice. I argue that understandings of tradition and heritage as produced through agriculture are vital to the reproduction of community and individual identity in northern New Mexico. In conclusion, I suggest that nonprofit agricultural organizations in the area can better support small-scale agriculture by accounting for the historical and sociocultural complexity inherent in northern New Mexico’s food system, and by paying closer attention to farmers’ needs as articulated by farmers. Stemming from this, I will speak about future research specifically examining what is at stake when people lack access to culturally relevant foods, taking a critical look at the very real health and economic impacts of an a-cultural food system. At the heart of this latter research is the question of who—literally—has “skin in the game” in issues of food access, health, and culture, and how we fully honor their voices.
Food and Environmental Justice Praxis: Linking Social Movements through Theory and Practice
Kristin Reynolds, Ph.D.,Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Olivia Pearman, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Movements for social justice in the food system have gathered strength over the past 30 years. Community-based activists, journalists, policy makers, funders, and academics have advocated for – and helped realize— changes in how food systems are organized and perceived. Working beyond initiatives for fresh, local food that even five years ago dominated mainstream understandings of the contemporary movement, coalitions linking social justice and sustainability- and have long been – driving deeper food systems change. While ideas about leadership of, and participation in food movements tend to focus on activists beyond academic settings, students, faculty, and staff in institutions of higher education also play important roles. Academics have produced many studies documenting inequity in foods systems; Student activism has led to the creation of student farms and food courses at institutions throughout the US. Interest in scholar-activism for food and environmental justice joins these legacies, presenting opportunities to examine and act upon the intersections of theory and practice – often referred to as “praxis.” This workshop provides a venue for students, faculty, staff, and community-based leaders to learn from each other’s experiences. Session organizers, including Yale students, open with a discussion about how social justice issues apply to food systems at multiple scales. This is followed by a participatory discussion about intersections of, and possibilities for food and environmental justice praxis that includes both scholarly and community-based initiatives. Participants will gain deepened understandings of these issues and new perspectives on how scholarship and action can intersect to create more socially just systems.
Panel Session 5, ‘Gastro-Panels’: 3:00 – 4:15 pm
These panels are meant to expose attendees to food in a new way and give you an opportunity to try something delicious. Enjoy!
The New Bread Basket
Amy Halloran, Author, The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf (Chelsea Green, 2015)
Growing and using grains outside of the grain belts is a great challenge and opportunity. Farmers across the nation are working to meet consumer demand for regionally produced staple crops, exploring ways to make a more nutritious, ecologically sound food supply. Author Amy Halloran will lead a discussion of the pioneering work the following presenters and others are doing in this field. June Russell directs the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project, part of Grow NYC’s efforts to build regional agriculture. The organization’s work is an example of the structural change, such as policy legislating Greenmarket bakers use a percentage of regionally produced flour, necessary to revive the production and use of a staple crop.
Randy George runs Red Hen Baking Company in central Vermont, which is sourcing nearly all its flour for 18,000 pounds of bread a week from a radius of 150 miles. This is a tall order in a climate ill-suited to growing bread wheat, and the achievement is a model of the relationship building necessary for rebuilding regional grain systems.
Dr. Richard Scheuerman is in the School of Education at Seattle Pacific University. He has been working with Washington State University to reintroduce heritage grains to American growers using natural growing systems, and exploring how the foods of the past can meet current agricultural needs.
Fermented Foods & the Microbiome
Paul Jacques, PhD., USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University
Yogurt and Cardiometabolic Health
The fact that diet plays a critical role in cardiometabolic health is undeniable based on years of evidence but the role of specific foods in maintenance of cardiometabolic health is less certain. There is growing evidence that yogurt and other fermented dairy products may impart cardiometabolic benefits by lessening age-related increases in weight and blood pressure and lowering risk of impaired glucose metabolism and incidence of type 2 diabetes. These potential cardiometabolic benefits of yogurt will be examined and considered along with possible benefits of other dairy foods to determine if the effects of yogurt are unique to yogurt or consistent with health benefits of other dairy foods.
Benjamin Wolfe, PhD., Tufts University, Department of Biology
Dissecting the Microbial Diversity of Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are living microbial ecosystems, packed full of diverse bacteria, fungi, and viruses that may interact with the human microbiome. Despite the long history of consuming these food microbiomes, we are just beginning to understand the the diversity of microbes in fermented foods, the design principles that determine the composition of fermented food microbiomes, and potential interactions between fermented food microbiomes and human microbiomes. Using cheese microbiomes as a model, I’ll explain the genomic approaches that microbiologists are using to dissect the diversity and function of fermented food microbiomes. From fungal superhighways on Saint-Nectaire to rapidly evolving mutant molds in Camembert, we are quickly learning that cheese microbiomes are predictable and reproducible across large geographic regions, yet also dynamic and surprisingly diverse. Some cheeses contain substantial amounts of microbes that are consumed by humans, but we know almost nothing about how these microbes affect cheese quality or how they interact with the human body. Fermented food producers are playing key roles in our research not only by providing samples, but also by making key observations of microbial natural history in their production facilities. Studies of how fermented food microbiomes may positively or negatively impact the human microbiome are just beginning, but suggest that these traditional foods may provide tools to manage our own microbial landscapes.
David McKeon, The American Microbiome Institute
The Food We Eat and the Human Microboime
The human microbiome refers to the assemblage of microbes that live in the human body. While these microbes inhabit all parts of our body that are exposed to the environment, such as the skin, mouth, and vagina, most reside in the gut where they have a constant supply of nutrients. Taken collectively, these organisms outnumber our own human cells 10 to 1, making up 5 pounds of our body weight. We have evolved with these bacteria for hundreds of millions of years, and scientists are now uncovering the significant role they play in human health. Studies are finding that our bacteria (or lack thereof ) can be linked to or associated with: obesity, malnutrition, heart disease, diabetes, celiac disease, among many others. Our gut bacteria are responsible for breaking down many of the complex molecules found in foods such as meats and vegetables. Other research has shown a direct relationship between diet and the abundance of certain gut microbial communities. During bacterial metabolism of these complex molecules chemical signals are released that end up in our brains and can affect behavior. This has led some scientists to speculate that the gut microbiome may cause cravings for certain foods and influence dietary choices. This talk will introduce the emerging field of the microbiome and the impact it is having on human health.
Alex Ingalls, Pilot Kombucha
Kombucha is an ancient probiotic drink thought to have originated in Russia, though there are many varying creation myths regarding its origin. It is having a renaissance moment in the health & wellness world and the industry is seeing unprecedented growth. The brewing process is easy, though time- consuming, and the result is a beverage touted by many as a restorative elixir with numerous health benefits. I will explain how brewed tea turns into a probiotic tonic and discuss some of the challenges of brewing commercially, including the question of whether or not to pasteurize, alcohol content, consumer safety, and healthy skepticism.
The Last Link: Connecting Consumers to Sustainable Meat
Sam Garwin, Fleishers Craft Butchery
Tom Truelove, Truelove Farms
Dina Brewster, The Hickories
Jason Sobocinski, Caseus/Ordinary/Mystic Cheese/Black Hog Brewing
Grow it and they will come? Hardly. Despite burgeoning demand for local, socially- and environmentally- responsible meat, the last step in the supply chain – getting good meat onto tables – is still fraught with difficulties. In this session you’ll hear from two farmers, a restaurateur and a butcher about their logistical, financial, and growth challenges, and leave with a better understanding of what you can do to support the sustainable meat movement.