The food system is global in its reach and complicated to untangle. Within the global economy, food processors and producers have consolidated into a few centralized corporations. Values of profit and mass production are often prioritized over non-market values of equity, sustainability and nutrition. However, this paradigm has lead to an imbalance in the system. The production and distribution of food is not equitable. Because of this imbalance, non-market values need to be included in the food system.
The first important value is equity. It needs to be applied across all areas of the food system: for the farm workers, consumers without access to safe, healthy food and farms of all sizes to survive economically (Hesterman 2011). Equally important is the value of ecological integrity (Hesterman 2011). In order to include this value, the biodiversity and sustainability of food production as well as human health need to be taken into account.
What has largely been ignored in the current food system is the nutrition level of the food. The value of nutrition has been sacrificed for greater production. Rather than focusing solely on maximizing amount of production, the food system should also focus on increasing the nutrient value of the food grown (Weis 2013). In doing so, more consumers will have access to healthier food.
These values can be incorporated everyday through the choices we make about what to eat and where to purchase it. By understanding that we are actively participating in the food system, we can begin to change the values that drive it. The equity and sustainability of the food system are critical for future generations. Changing the food system is not a simple task, but it is critical to improving the health of our communities and future generations.
What values would you include in the food system? What steps would need to be taken to include these values in the food system?
Hesterman, O. 2011: Fair Food: Growing A Healthy Sustainable Food System. Public Affairs. New York.
Weis, T. 2013: The Ecological Hoofprint: The Global Burden of Industrial Livestock. Zed Books. London.