Democratize Your Food System: Things You Can Do
from The Urban Ecologist

Eat Regionally and Seasonally

1. Buy from local sources. Learn what grows in your region. Then look for ways to buy locally. Rural Vermont, a non-profit organization supporting family farms in the Northeast, asks that folks spend 10 percent of their food dollar on locally grown food. Get to know your local growers by visiting them at farmers’ markets, by purchasing from CSAs, and by shopping at roadside stands or U-pick farms. Ask them how their farms are doing. Many don’t publicize it when they lose their lease because the land is being developed. If you find out, go to your local farmland preservation organization and help start a campaign to stop paving over the land!

2. Join a CSA farm. With community supported agriculture, a group of consumers agree to support a local farmer for a year in exchange for a box of produce from the farm every week for the entire growing season.

3. Buy from Fair Trade Producers. The Fair Trade movement seeks to provide fair compensation to farmers in the Third World. For products which are not produced locally (such as coffee and bananas), buy products that come from Fair Trade companies (such as Del Cabo, Cafe Mam, or Equal Exchange).

4. Support organics. Buy organically grown food whenever possible. Show support for local growers who practice organic or low input cultivation techniques with your consumer dollars.

5. Get your grocer involved. Ask your grocer to stock organic foods and to stock and label locally produced foods.

6. Grow your own. There is no better way to reconnect yourself with your food source than to grow your own food. Start a backyard garden. Join a community garden. Better yet, start a community garden. Work with your neighbors to identify a vacant piece of land and to build a garden.

7. Start a dinner exchange group to alleviate the burden of preparing fresh foods every day.

Feed the Hungry

8. Donate time and/or money. As welfare reform hits the streets, there will be increased demand on food pantries and food banks to feed the hungry. Local food provision programs can educate you about the issues that contribute to food insecurity in your community. You can have a positive impact by volunteering at or donating food or money to a local soup kitchen or food pantry.

Policy and Education

9. Become more informed about the food system. There are many books, magazines, and newsletters that can help you gain more knowledge about the food system.

10. Understand the global context of food insecurity by reading about and visiting communities overseas that are heavily impacted by the global production and movement of food.

11. Join a local organization working on food system issues. For a list of organizations in your area, contact the Community Food Security Coalition (310) 822-5410.

12. Write letters to your political representatives and to the editorial pages of newspapers about the social issues that contribute to food insecurity locally and globally.

13. Start a food policy council in your area. Food policy councils oversee city or county policy related to food. They can be instrumental in employing municipal resources to promote food security. The Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative, Urban Habitat and the California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group are sponsoring an on-going “Community Food Security Roundtable” to bring together organizations that are actively working in the area of community food security. If your organization is interested in attending the Roundtable or would like further information, contact Kendall Dunnigan at (510) 883-9096.

From Urban Ecologist, The Journal of Urban Ecology

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