The season of learning has begun now that the gardens are near buttoned up. Reading, attending lectures, conferences, meeting with other folks with good ideas are thankfully re-appearing on the calendar.
This week, a Panel Discussion about Hunger and the Food System was put on by Hamline University's SPROUTS. The conversation was meaty and the panelists from IATP, Gardening Matters, HECUA, and MN Food & Justice did a fine job of connecting climate change, cultural barriers, poor quality food, wasted food, hunger and the need for community based change.
The delivery person spotted my hens and he asked, "Are the worth it?". He meant are the costs of hens and their upkeep really less than store bought eggs? I shared with him that backyard chickens are not just about getting eggs. Just as valuable is their ability to consume most of the food waste our 4-person household creates, and then make significant nutrient contributions to our urban soils via composting. All very true, however, what I did not bring up was that my homegrown eggs do not have any of the hidden costs which industrial food prices ignore. In the case of factory farmed eggs, the hidden costs include environmental, public health and societal hidden costs which never appear into their retail price. For example, how much of the price of factory farmed eggs does the farmer see? The SPROUT panel discussed that in the case of our population in hunger, calories-for-the-sake-of-calories may fill empty stomachs, but the long term chronic disease encouraged by America's cheap diet is certainly wrought with further hidden costs.
SPROUT-ites also heard that food waste reduction is a goal worth obtaining in the efforts to reduce hunger. As Addie Broyles of the Austin American-Statesman reveals, 25-50% of the food produced in this country goes to waste! Food that is produced, transported, and gotten to a market, home refrigerator or restaurant and then wastefully allowed to go bad or tossed because it doesn't meet some standard. There are known interventions to change this. It does not require sophisticated knowledge to implement smart purchasing, gleaning, or local foods initiatives. When the food waste percentage is seriously attacked, our hunger concerns will lessen, and so will greenhouse gases emitted from food buried landfills.
Frances Moore Lappé hit this message well on the Friday evening session of the Wisdom Ways Soul Conference, It's all tied together-- the choices we make in our dinner table ripple into the our food system and directly influence those around us.