The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

Local foodie and global activist: A statement of belief from a food worshiper

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I am a foodie. I love to shop for food, and I spend most of my Sunday afternoons preparing food for the following week.

I am a foodie. I love to shop for food, and I spend most of my Sunday afternoons preparing food for the following week. Spirituality for me has never been in a house of worship but rather on a farm. I’ve written before about Land’s Sake farm in Weston, MA. I belong to their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and enjoy every moment I am there. The braided onions hanging from the vegetable stand, the heirloom tomatoes in various shapes and colors with all their imperfections, the bouquets of sunflowers and nasturtiums—it is bursting with life.

Land’s Sake is not the only CSA I belong to; in the winter, I also belong to Enterprise Farm, which sources locally for as long as it can, then slowly sources down the Eastern Coast as necessary. For my milk, eggs, dairy, and meat I participate in Farmers to You, a delivery service that sources from small farms in Vermont. This year I joined a grain CSA at WheatBerry Farm. I pick up my share once a year in Amherst, MA and receive about 50 pounds of local grain. When I can, I buy local—because I like investing in my local economy and getting food soon after it has been picked or produced.

But, while my buying practices are predominantly local, I know they never can be entirely. Let’s face it; I am not giving up my coffee, or tea, or daily banana—and we don’t grow any of these crops in the North. That’s why it is important for all of us to understand that while we can and should support local and regional food systems, we are also part of a global food system—and that that food system needs major reforms.

Hoang Thi Lien at her system of rice intensification (SRI) farm in Vietnam. Photo by Chau Doan/Oxfam America.
Hoang Thi Lien at her system of rice intensification (SRI) farm in Vietnam. Photo by Chau Doan/Oxfam America.

Oxfam has been working on hunger issues for decades, and our recent international GROW campaign is all about building a better food system—one that will meet the needs of a growing population while empowering poor people to earn a living and feed their families. To name just a few of our initiatives: we’ve been working to reform food aid, change corporate practice in its sourcing policies, invest in small holder producers, and ensure that companies and growers use good labor practices (1.4 million farmworkers in the US!) in food supply chains.

Whether you’re a local hero or not, we all have to realize that we live in a global food system. While we can and should support our local farmers and farmworkers, we are also intricately connected to the rice farmer in Vietnam, the tea plantation worker in Malaysia or the coffee bean producer in South America. And, with nearly one billion people—or one in seven—estimated as being undernourished, our food system is not making the cut.

Governments, food and beverage companies, retailers, farmers, and consumers all have a role to play in reforming our food system. Oxfam has been engaging at all these levels. If we’re ever going to feed nine billion people by 2050, we’ll have to start making some big changes right away.

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  1. myrna@goodeggmarketing.com'Myrna Greenfield

    So well said! It’s about being a thoughtful consumer using your dollars for economic and social justice – local is just one part of the picture.

    Reply

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