Thursday, April 12, 2012
I learned recently that the food we eat travels an average of 1,500 miles before it arrives on our plate. The speaker who related this startling statistic suggested that, ideally, our purchases should include 25% or more food that comes from our region. But the reality is that we likely consume less than 2%. Our food system is broken, according to the speaker. Junk food is cheaper. There are food "deserts" where urban and rural people aren't able to find healthy, fresh food choices. The water tables are falling, which makes it more difficult to irrigate large industrial farms. An average of 775 farms was lost per year between 1975 and 2006. The good news, however, is that more and more small farms are being started by young people. The demand for fresh food is growing. And my state, Wisconsin, has been identified as a national leader in local food, ranking #2 in the number of organic farms. Farmer's markets and community shared agriculture (CSA) farms are flourishing. But because of that growing interest in fresh food, the demand is actually outpacing the supply. The old adage is true: We are what we eat. With some planning, conscious behavior and cooperative effort to increase accessibility to healthy food, "what we are" will look even better in the future.