by Carissa Carson for SUST 350
Eating a healthy balanced diet is a vital component of any healthy life. Thanks to advances in science and agriculture over the years we now have the ability, just in the US alone, to grow millions of tons of food every year. However, with fossil fuel use on the rise, and the effects of climate change increasing, this may not be possible to continue forever due to several aspects of the agriculture industry. A big contributor to this is the loss of forests due to clearing, which has put the agriculture industry in a tough spot as it continues to grow. Fewer carbon sinks and increases in pollutants such as methane gas from cattle emissions and other GHG emissions from the transportation of produce will accelerate climate change.
Although the path to reducing climate change will be slow, there is another solution that anyone can help to accomplish: that solution is reducing food waste. In the US alone, it is estimated that around 60 million tons of food worth over $100 billion are wasted every year. If the demand for food were reduced to the amount actually consumed, not thrown away, farmers could adjust the quantity they produce, drastically cutting down on emissions and usage of resources.
A rapidly growing company called Imperfect Produce has decided to fight one big contributor to the staggering amount of food waste. As the name suggests, they supply people with the “imperfect produce” that farms normally would’ve just thrown away. These items of produce still taste fine, they generally just have minor surface imperfections or odd shapes that grocery stores usually wouldn’t want to sell.
Although this is not a new system, hopefully in the era of technology this easily accessible produce box delivery service will inspire both local farmers and people to join in. Small farmers have been offering this to locals for years; however, you often must purchase a yearly share rather than a box at your chosen frequency. Local farmers allowing citizens to purchase boxes similar to the Imperfect box, but locally, could allow a more direct connection to the market. Farmers can receive direct feedback from the consumers about how much of different types of produce is needed and ideally work towards producing around that amount.
The transition to locally grown produce with a stronger focus on community needs could help to address another problem as well: economic inequality and food deserts. Food deserts are referring to urban areas in which the citizens do not have ready access to affordable or quality healthy foods, and in today’s society we still face historic levels of economic inequality. Chicago is a prime example of the existence of food deserts throughout many of its South and West Side neighborhoods.
The city has taken notice of this and one solution it’s promoted is grocery stores such as a Whole Foods in Englewood and a Mariano’s in Bronzeville. While it would seem like an easy solution to the problem to provide a grocery store, this article takes a deeper look into why it isn’t that simple. Often food deserts exist in neighborhoods with mostly low-income households. When faced with the decision between cheap and easy fast food or “cheap” fresh produce that requires more preparation, often families are inclined to choose the fast food. With a focus on locally grown produce distributed to the communities, I think we could help remedy this. Often local produce can be sold to people cheaper due to the minimal transportation costs and no price increase for distributors such as grocery stores.
In conclusion, a push towards locally produced and waste conscious growing will help to solve a multitude of problems. Reduced amounts of produce grown will not only help to cut back on usage of land that was once natural habitat and forests, but it will also conserve our use of water resources. As more people engage with local farmers to purchase their produce, farmers will be able to listen to the communities’ needs and grow only what can feasibly be consumed, thus further reducing overall waste. When resources and waste are reduced, prices will ideally decline as well, allowing farmers and their produce to hopefully appeal to those living in low-income neighborhoods and food deserts.
Chandler, A. (2016, July 15). Why Americans Lead the World in Food Waste. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/american-food-waste/491513/
Imperfect: Ugly produce delivery for about 30% less! (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imperfectproduce.com/about-us
Richard Florida @Richard_Florida Feed Richard Florida, CityLab, & University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management. (2018, January 22). Stop Blaming Food Deserts for the Nutrition Gap. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/its-not-the-food-deserts-its-the-inequality/550793/
Trotter, G. (2018, August 25). As Imperfect Produce grows in Chicago, so do challenges for local farmers. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-imperfect-produce-farmers-impact-20180823-story.html#
Carissa Carson is a student in the Fall 2018 class SUST 350 Service & Sustainability at Roosevelt University. This fall, students in the course will be posting essays about a variety of topics relating to the course themes of urban sustainability and community resilience.