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From the Townsend Letter
August/September 2006


Web Page Potpourri:
The Food System, Food Security, and Food Justice
by Marjorie Roswell

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A Column Devoted to Informative Integrative Health Resources on the Internet

In 2007, the US Farm Bill will be debated and reauthorized. The bill is huge in both dollars and reach, but unfortunately mostly ignored by the public, even by those of us who care about healthful foods! In a future column, I will focus on Farm Bill concepts and details. This month, I introduce you to the food system and organizations working to improve it. I encourage all who have ever suggested a healthy diet to a patient or who have savored an organic apple to expand your frame of thinking beyond the plate and get to know the policies, programs, and people responsible for our food.

British Columbia Food Democracy Network
The BC Food Democracy Network offers a succinct pamphlet describing key concepts such as the food system, food security, and food justice. Briefly, a food system is "the deliberate organization of the production, processing, distribution, selection, and consumption of food."

Community Food Security Coalition
A Guide to Community Food Projects (748KB, you may want to right click and save to your hard drive before opening)
The Community Food Security Coalition works to ensure access by all to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. The organization offers a thriving listserv called "COMFOOD." Be prepared for a lot of well-informed email if you join, on subjects ranging from community gardens to agricultural subsidies in the Farm Bill. The Coalition's Guide to Community Food Projects features case studies of projects funded by the CSREES grants program, described below.

Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
CSREES offers Community Food Project grants to promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. Grants require a dollar-for-dollar match, and applications are due in April 2007.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Food Systems and Rural Development
Food Systems Framing Research
The Kellogg Foundation's food systems program goal is "to help meet the needs for a safe and nutritious diet, while ensuring that food production systems are environmentally sensitive, economically viable, sustainable over the long term, and socially responsible." The Kellogg-funded food systems framing research is particularly intriguing. Note the report, "Perceptions of the U.S. Food System: What and How Americans Think About Their Food."

Healthy Eating Active Living Convergence Project
Innovative Practices: Regional and Organizational Profiles (8/16/06: Link no longer active.)
1.28MB, you may want to right click and save to your hard drive before opening)
The "Convergence" refers to a big-picture combination of active living, healthy eating, active community environments, and healthy food systems/sustainable agriculture. This is an important collaborative project of Kaiser Permanente, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Organic Volunteers
Organic Volunteers is a super match-making service, linking volunteers to farm opportunities in the US and Latin America. Placement areas include gardening, alternative building, permaculture, and policy. One noteworthy type of opportunity is "WWOOFing." WWOOFers are "Willing Workers on Organic Farms" or, according to this site, "World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms."

Local Harvest
(Beautiful) Farm Photos
Info on Guillermo! (8/16/06: Link to the blog now forwards to
Small Farms: A Blog from the Heart
I have mentioned Local Harvest several times in this column over the years. It's the essential information source for farmers' markets, health food stores, food co-ops, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In April, Local Harvest founder Guillermo Payet was hit by a drunk driver. His injuries were serious, but his prognosis for a full recovery is good. The Small Farms Blog reports that "the doctors told him that a normal person would take a year to accomplish what he'd managed in less than a week." Now is a good time to support this site.

Michael Ableman: Farmer, Author, Photographer (8/16/06: Link no longer working.)
Writing/Photography (He has left his writing online, no images.)
Michael Ableman has written a number of beautiful books on farming. Be sure to view the compelling photographs on his Writing/Photography page.

The Food Project
The Food Project offers insightful manuals on urban and rural agriculture, along with tools for coordinating volunteers and facilitating dynamic youth programs.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers
And a Side Order of Human Rights
Immokalee: A story of Slavery and Freedom [Video] (45.5MB QuickTime movie. Will take 20-plus minutes to download with a high-speed connection.)
Ronaldo the Clown [Video] (12.6MB QuickTime movie)
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers waged a four-year boycott of Taco Bell, which ultimately resulted in improved working conditions for Florida tomato pickers. This year the Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrant workers have turned their organizing attention on other fast food companies including McDonald's (which also owns Chipotle). One demonstrator says: "This is a peaceful struggle, which will remain peaceful until we win." Worker conditions for produce pickers are generally worse than you might imagine. Human rights and worker rights are central to our food system needs.

Food for Thoughts
What do you support with your food purchase? Imagine a grocery where you could easily know each product's history and even its agenda. How much do the workers who produce the product earn? Does the product contain genetically modified ingredients? Who gets political campaign contributions from the company that made the product? Alison Cornyn, an artist and founder of Picture Projects, is developing a gallery installation called "Food For Thoughts: Scan Before you Buy" to address these questions. Her web site offers an intriguing two-minute animation demonstrating the concept. While you're on the web site, you may partner in developing the message, via the "Food4Thoughts" survey.

Focus on Change

Center for Informed Food Choices
Michele Simon, founder of the Center for Informed Food Choices, is the author of a new book called Appetite for Profit: Fighting Corporate Control and Spin in the Nutrition Wars. Consider supporting her book tour by hosting her in your community. The Center's newsletter archive is a treasure. Note in particular the November 2005 special report, "Food Marketing to Children and the Law." This issue has links to video from a Loyola Law School conference, including Michele Simon's presentation, "Can Food Companies Be Trusted to Self-Regulate?" As Simon explains: they can't, and we need stronger government policies to counter powerful industry influence.

Henry A. Wallace Center for Agricultural & Environmental Policy (1.79MB .pdf, you may want to right click and save to hard drive before viewing)
Making Changes: Turning Local Visions Into National Solutions (510KB .pdf)
The report, "Making Changes," describes 95 policy recommendations addressing agricultural and economic development and environmental and land-use issues. It is 86 pages, but a remarkably straightforward and informative read.

Roots of Change Fund
The Roots of Change Fund supported the Vivid Picture Project, which developed the report, "The New Mainstream: A Sustainable Food Agenda for California." This is an impressive project, including the development of indicators to measure progress toward sustainability goals.

Eat Grub
We can work to change the food system on the policy level, but in their new book, Bryant Terry and Anna Lappé offer an exciting approach: eat grub. Grub is food that's local, sustainable, healthful, and brand-free. One book reviewer, Ryan Zinn, writes, "Where else can you find a great read, cookbook, and party planner all rolled into one?" Use the web site to schedule a presentation by the authors or to post pictures of your Grub Party. Also, check out the downloadable shopping lists for themed parties such as Afrodiasporic Cookout, Cuban Comfort, and New Year's Eve. You will have a delightful time changing the system.

Wil Bullock (8/16/06: Link no longer available) (8/16/06: Once on this page, the link to the song doesn't work.)
Listen to the soulful music of Food and Society Fellow, Wil Bullock. The first link is an a capella piece that Bullock sang to thousands at last year's Bioneers' conference. The second is the fully produced, "It's Time for Change": We need solutions, not illusions, to fix a world full of sorrow and broken hearts... Who will they follow if we don't do our parts?

Common Thread (1.46MB mp3 file)
A lovely song by Pat Humphries: In a many-colored garden, we are growing side by side. With the sun and rain upon us, not a row shall be denied. We will rise altogether; we will rise.

Marjorie Roswell
3443 Guilford Terrace
Baltimore, Maryland 21218

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