Social justice deficits in the local food movement: local food and low-income realities

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ALTERNATIVE FOOD MOVEMENTS have politicized food by drawing greater attention to the individual food choices that we, as consumers make, and by showing how those choices affect the environment in which we live. The increasingly popular hundred-mile diet is perhaps as far as you can get from Atkins or South Beach. Unconcerned with the number of calories, carbs or grams of fat, it instead focuses on where the food is grown. The local food movement has been described as “part fashion, part market niche, part social movement.” It argues that the current global food system is one that externalizes the costs of industrialized agriculture and places the environmental degradation and resulting social injustices squarely on the shoulders of the globe’s citizens. This burden has brought with it the realization that there is indeed a very high cost to cheap food.

The global food system

The global food system operates according to a model of industrialization. Industrial farming is highly dependent on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, requires large amounts of irrigation water, and necessitates major transportation systems. Critics observe that such a model is highly unsustainable from an environmental standpoint and has simultaneously created a world rife with hunger and obesity. Unequal access to government subsidies similarly characterizes the global food system. Subsidies take various forms, however, it is the disproportionate subsidization of the largest agriculture producers and food production firms that concerns proponents of the local food movement. These subsidies give the Lie to claims of greater efficiency for industrial farming.

Among the concerns driving the local food movement are food safety, the ecological impact of chemical use and genetically modified crops, the undemocratic nature of the global food system and the adverse impact on human health.

Local food systems

In opposition to the global food system, alternative food movements have proposed a “re-localization” of food production and consumption. Local alternatives include farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), food co-ops and other cooperative distribution and delivery programs. They combine one form or another of direct markets in which consumer and producer engage in face-to-face buying and selling, omitting the middleman. Direct marketing is seen as facilitating greater control over the food system by both farmer and consumer because farmers are involved in each stage of the production process and remain accountable to consumers who increasingly demand to know exactly how and where their food was grown. While direct marketing systems are credited with creating local jobs, reducing environmental degradation, protecting farmland from urbanization, fostering community relations and strengthening connections between farmers and consumers, we have to ask how accessible these alternative food systems are to the poor.


Class-based diet?

The goals of direct food systems are laudable, but a food system cannot be truly sustainable if everyone, particularly those who most desperately need healthy and nutritious foods, cannot access it. Nutrient-dense foods associated with better overall health cost more per kilocalorie (kcal) than highly processed foods linked to diet-related illness.

Research indicates that direct market consumers are predominantly affluent, educated individuals of European-American background. There have been efforts to increase low-income participation in community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) through financial subsidies, but in some cases this has attracted low-income educated professionals rather than working class people or the traditionally poor people towards whom such efforts were directed. Access to CSAs may prove particularly difficult for low-income individuals because CSAs require shareholders pay up front for a share of the harvest at the beginning of the season-something that is difficult to do if you are hying paycheque to paycheque. Additionally, sharing the risks that are undertaken by the farmer is a greater hardship for those who have no recourse should they lose their investment. The geographic location of farmers’ markets often raise issues of physical, accessibility and since not all household items are available at farmers’ markets additional shopping trips may be required. Equally central to a discussion of the equity of local food systems are the conditions of food system workers that are often ignored in a romanticized narrative of “the local.” The local production of food is frequently associated with adjectives like “safe,” “nutritious,” and “sustainable,” But “safe” and “sustainable” are not words that apply, in most instances, to the reality of many migrant farm labourers. Too narrow a focus on shifting food consumption to locally grown and produced goods can result in overlooking broader issues of social inequality which must be addressed by a more comprehensive solution than simply “going local.”

A way forward

Food Policy Councils (FPCs) are gaining greater attention as a means to creating more sustainable and accessible food systems. FPCs bring together stakeholders from various food-related sectors to make recommendations for improvements to the food system. They attempt to increase education and awareness of food system issues, shape public policy and improve coordination between existing programs. While FPCs are not necessarily dedicated to issues of low-income accessibility, they often encompass such concerns.

Toronto has had a FPC in place since 1991 and has made great strides in working towards the creation of an inclusive food system. The Toronto Food Policy Council has worked to make farmers’ markets more accessible and inclusive by recognizing the needs of people of low-income and diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds. Good Food Markets have been established in 18 areas of the city that cannot financially support farmers’ markets. These markets provide the community and sociability aspects of farmers’ markets yet also offer bulk food prices through a food box program.

Winnipeg’s North End Food Security Network (NEFSN) believes that their neighbourhood can and should be a place where there is “nutritious, safe and culturally appropriate food available for all members of the community, where there is access to local food production, adequate and appropriate knowledge of healthy food choices, and ongoing care and improvement of the environment.” The NEFSN takes a holistic approach to meeting the food needs of community members through efforts that include conducting outreach and information sharing, addressing issues of food accessibility, putting on workshops that teach food budgeting and nutritional education, teaching cooking skills and establishing food standards policy.

Neechi Foods, an Aboriginal owned and operated worker co-op in Winnipeg’s North End plays a central role in implementing this approach to accessibility. According to Russ Rothney, the management team coordinator at Neechi Foods: “Contrary to what a lot of agency people think, it is neither the supply nor the price of fruits and vegetables that is the greatest restraint on healthy eating. Rather, it is a lack of knowledge and familiarity with fruits and vegetable, and with nutritional and ecological issues associated with foods in general, which is the biggest challenge. The customer demand is simply very low for high nutrition foods that are not ‘comfort foods’ regardless of their availability and affordability.”

The STOP community food program in Toronto employs a community food centre model, which attempts to increase low-income access to healthy foods while maintaining the dignity of the participants, building community and challenging inequality. Their model incLudes enhanced access to emergency food services, using community kitchens and gardens to build skills and foster community, using food systems education to teach and guide behavioural change while encouraging civic engagement of community members to effect broader social changes. This successful model demonstrates that involvement of community members themselves is critical in effectively combating poverty and malnourishment.

The “cheapness” of junk food is artificially created by government subsidies that support commodity crops, “cheap” oil and underpaid labour-all of which make possible the low prices at the supermarket. Pressure must be brought to bear on government to shift subsidies away from the production of refined and processed foods towards healthier and more sustainable food production.

Shifting food production toward the local can be a source of positive change. However, neglecting the inequalities that exist at the local level cannot only fail to solve existing problems but engender new ones. The inclusion of all community members in any attempts to restructure our food system must be a priority.



AlbrittonR. 2009. Let Them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesity. Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Fruit Share Winnipeg, http://fruitsharewinnipeg.blogspot.eom/p/about-us.html

Monsivais, P., J. Mclain, and A. Drewnowski. 2010. The rising disparity in the price of healthful foods: 2004-2008. Fooo” Policy 35: 514-520.

Neechi Foods Website:

North End Community Renewal Corporation website:

North End Food Secu rity Network 2011-2012 annual operations work plan: (accessed May loth 2011).

The STOP community food program website:

Toronto Food Policy council website:

How does your diet rate?


Four typical diets of teenagers are found to be lacking in nutritional value. Recommendations include cutting down on sugar, starches and fats, adding fruits and vegetables and eating three meals a day. A nutritional analysis of each diet and recommended daily allowances are given.

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You’ve heard about it in school and you’ve read about it in Current Health 2. But when it comes to good nutrition, do you really practice what the experts preach? We decided to find out. We asked a group of students just like you to write down everything they ate for one day. We asked them to eat as they normally do, to be as exact as possible, and to be honest!

After sifting through piles of diet records, we picked the four that best represented the typical teen diets. We analyzed them with a computer software program and came up with some surprising results. Does your diet resemble any of these?

1 Georgia’s Diet: Even Twiggy Ate More

Breakfast               1 glass milk
Lunch                   1 can diet pop
                        sugarless gum

Snack                   2 slices bread
Dinner                  tuna salad

Snack                   1 can pop
Calories       722      Sodium           602 mg
Carbohydrate   122 gm   Vit A            2120 IU
Protein        25 gm    Vit C            21 mg
Fat            14 gm    Vit D            80 IU
Sugar          93 gm    Calcium          424 mg
Fiber          4 gm     Iron             4 mg
Cholesterol    41 mg


Even Twiggy, the bone-thin supermodel of the ’70s, probably ate more than 722 calories. This teen’s diet is low in everything–except sodium (salt) and sugar.


Eat. A low-calorie diet such as this one can lead to some serious nutritional problems, such as anemia (now) and osteoporosis (later in life). Georgia needs to boost her calories with nutrient-dense foods. Here are some eating-on-the-run ideas for Georgia:



* Drink a glass of fruit juice while getting dressed.

* Grab a bagel and eat it on the way to school.

* Tuck a low-fat granola bar in a school bag for later.


* Substitute 100 percent fruit juice and a glass of milk for the pop.

* Eat a sandwich, soup and crackers, baked potato with low-fat toppings, or 2 slices of veggie pizza.


* Eat some crackers, bread sticks, or bread with the tuna salad.

Snack Ideas

* Lite popcorn

* Snack-sized bag of pretzels

* Cinnamon raisin bagel

* Fig bars, graham crackers, or ginger snaps

* A frozen 100 percent fruit juice popsicle

* Frozen strawberries or grapes

* Low-fat frozen yogurt

* An apple

2 Mike’s Diet:…One Six-pack to Go

Breakfast               none
Snack                   2 cans pop
Lunch                   cheese fries

Snack                   3 cans pop
Dinner                  none
Snack                   potato chips
                        1 can pop

Calories       1749     Sodium         1111 mg
Carbohydrate   301 gm   Vit A          1265 IU
Protein        22 gm    Vit C          35 mg
Fat            49 gm    Vit D          80 IU
Sugar          242 gm   Calcium        568 mg
Fiber          0.8 gm   Iron           2 mg
Cholesterol    54 mg


…one six-pack of soda pop, that is. This teen consumed almost 1,000 calories of sugar in a can. Sugar is considered a source of “empty calories” because it contains few nutrients. And, unless Mike brushes after every can of pop, the sugar increases his risk for cavities.


Substitute 100 percent fruit juice for the pop. Or, drink bottled water flavored with fruit juice. Either way, the 1,000 plus calories can be better “spent” by choosing more nutrient-dense foods at mealtimes. Start by adding more fruits and vegetables at meals and snack times, and be sure to have at least three meals per day, even if you’re on the run.

Recommended Daily Allowances [RDAs]

                For Males   For Females   For Males    For Females

               Ages 11-14    Ages 11-14   Ages 15-18    Ages 15-18

Calories         2500           2200        3000          2200
Carbohydrate    313 gm         275 gm      375 gm        275 gm
Protein          45 gm          46 gm       59 gm         44 gm
Fat(+)           83 gm          73 gm      100 gm         73 gm
Sugar(+)(*)      60 gm          48 gm       72 gm         48 gm
Fiber            25 gm          22 gm       30 gm         22 gm
Cholesterol(+)  300 mg         300 mg      300 mg        300 mg
Sodium          500 mg         500 mg      500 mg        500 mg
Vit A           5000 IU        4000 IU     5000 IU       4000 IU
Vit C            50 mg          50 mg       60 mg         60 mg
Vit D            400 IU         400 IU      400 IU        400 IU
Calcium        1200 mg        1200 mg     1200 mg       1200 mg
Iron            12 mg          15 mg       12 mg         15 mg


(*)4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon

Sources: National Academy of Science and U.S. Department of Agriculture

3 Keith’s Diet: Fried in the Fast Lane

Breakfast               None
Lunch                   fast-food cheeseburger
                        chicken sandwich

                        large order of fries

                        medium pop

Snack                   cucumber slices
Dinner                  fast-food cheeseburgers (2)
                        large order of fries

                        large pop

Snack                   medium dipped ice-cream
                         cones (2)

Calories       3135     Sodium    3728 mg
Carbohydrate   379 gm   Vit A     2705 IU
Protein        95 gm    Vit C     46 mg
Fat            141 gm   Vit D     12 IU
Sugar          110 gm   Calcium   1074 mg
Fiber          1 gm     Iron      10 mg
Cholesterol    326 mg


“Fried” is what Keith’s arteries will look like if he continues with this kind of diet. Despite the high calorie count, this teen’s diet is still low in fiber, vitamins, and iron.


Cut the fat and cholesterol. Even though Keith is still in his teens, his body already can be collecting plaque along his arterial walls–the beginnings of heart disease. The extra fat in his diet also can set him up for a weight problem in his adult years. The next time Keith has a craving for fast food, here are some healthier alternatives:

* A 90-percent-lean hamburger with BBQ or picante sauce, instead of cheese, bacon, or creamy sauces

* Plain roast beef sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions

* Grilled chicken sandwich minus the creamy sauce

* Chicken-filled soft tacos

* Single cheese pizza topped with vegetables

* Baked potato topped with BBQ sauce or chili

* Corn-on-the-cob

* Low-fat frozen yogurt

* Fresh fruit

4 Stephanie’s Diet: Extra Starch, Please

Breakfast               none
Lunch                   pizza
                        candy bar

Snack                   sandwich
Dinner                  hot dog on a bun
                        macaroni and cheese

Calories       1173     Sodium    2650 mg
Carbohydrate   109 gm   Vit A     1525 IU
Protein        53 gm    Vit C     20 mg
Fat            58 gm    Vit D     24 IU
Sugar          15 gm    Calcium   555 mg
Fiber          7 gm     Iron      6 mg
Cholesterol    129 mg


Extra starch is great for a laundry–not for a teen. The lack of fruits and vegetables is reflected in Stephanie’s low levels of vitamins A and C and fiber.


Vitamins A and C are antioxidants, the new superheroes of nutrition. They help neutralize dangerous free radical molecules and help guard against cancer and heart disease. A high-fiber diet is also recognized by health professionals as a way to reduce certain kinds of cancers. To boost Stephanie’s intake of vitamins and fiber, she should try these suggestions:



* Drink a glass of 100 percent fruit juice.

* Eat a bowl of cereal with milk.


* Add vegetables to the pizza.

* Have a salad with the pizza.

* Drink 100 percent fruit juice.

* Choose a frozen 100 percent fruit juice popsicle for dessert.


* Add vegetable soup or a salad to the meal.

* Add a package of mixed vegetables to the macaroni and cheese.

* Top hot dogs with sauerkraut, onions, and tomatoes.

* Finish the meal with frozen strawberries or grapes.

For More Information

American Heart Association 7272 Greenville Ave.

Dallas, TX 75231-4599

Booklet: “Nutrition Nibbles: A Guide to Healthy Snacking” (write Box No. H-NN on envelope); single copy free with self-addressed, stamped #10 business-size envelope.

Consumer Information Center Dept. 119A

Pueblo, CO 81009

Booklet: “The Food Guide Pyramid”; single copy $1; make check payable to Superintendent of Documents.

Michigan State University Bulletin Office – Rm. 10B

Agriculture Hall

East Lansing, MI 48824-1039 Pamphlet: “Enjoy Fruits”; single copy free; request No. PA 1385.

>>> Click here: Great grains: eating whole-grain foods can help turbocharge your energy level

Great grains: eating whole-grain foods can help turbocharge your energy level

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Joe C., a 16-year-old from Belleville, Ill., knows his body needs a lot of energy. The sophomore at Belleville Township High School East is one of the school’s cross-country and track standouts. He regularly runs 5 to 9 miles during practices and competes in meets after school and on weekends. Some days, Joe says, when he gets home he’s so wiped out he “pretty much just fall[s] asleep” on the living room sofa.

Joe makes a point to eat enough pizza and pasta to fuel his runs. But like many teens, he admits a fondness for desserts such as “ice cream, cookies, brownies, and cake.” Sometimes Joe eats a sugar-heavy breakfast of cinnamon rolls and processed cereal.

If Joe wants to stay awake longer instead of crashing, he should consider making some changes in his diet. In fact, nutrition experts say that all teens, whether they’re active in sports and other physical activities or not, can keep their energy levels higher all day long. How? By eating whole-grain foods.


What Is a Whole Grain, Anyway?

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are the nutrients that give your body energy. There are a couple of different kinds.

Simple carbohydrates are absorbed quickly by the body and are good for quick bursts of energy–which Joe’s cross-country running requires. They can be found in foods such as fruit, milk, regular pasta, white bread, and other things made with white flour.

Complex carbohydrates, found in legumes and starchy vegetables as well as whole grains such as oatmeal, are broken down by the digestive system more slowly, providing a longer-term energy source, according to Suzanne Farrell, a registered dietitian in Denver and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. (See “Get Your Grains Here,” above, for a list of some common and not-so-common whole grains.)

The whole in whole grain means nothing has been removed from the grain kernel. (See “The Whole Works.”) In other words, it still includes the bran (the outer layer that’s rich in fiber); the endosperm, or middle part; and the germ (the nutrient-rich, innermost part of the grain). In contrast, refined grains contain only the endosperm. Because nothing has been removed from whole grains, they are more nutritious than processed grains. Whole grains are high in B vitamins and phytochemicals–nutrients linked to cancer prevention.

Farrell recommends getting at least half of your total daily grain intake as whole grains. “Look at the first ingredient on the label,” she says. “We want it to be a whole grain.”

Bet You Didn’t Know

Now you see how whole-grain foods can provide you with that “premium” type of energy. But there are a few more things you should know.

Whole grains’ high fiber content helps keep you full. That’s most likely why research shows that people who eat more whole grains are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.

Some people think whole grains have a “twigs and bark” taste, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Something you probably enjoy eating all the time is a whole grain: popcorn! Air-popped is best, but even movie theater popcorn can be enjoyed as a whole-grain snack, says Kara Berrini, program manager with the Whole Grains Council in Boston. Brown and wild rice are whole grains too.

Corn is a whole grain as well. That includes corn on the cob. Opt for baked tortilla chips instead of the fried kind. Serve them with hummus or bean dip for muscle-building protein. Polenta with marinara sauce is another good choice.

Beware of tricky labels. Many grocery store breads boast names such as “7-grain” or “11-grain,” but those words alone may not indicate whole grains. “Look for the word whole,” says Berrini, especially among the first few ingredients, to ensure what you’re eating counts as a full serving of whole grains. The black-and-gold Whole Grains Council stamp on packaging indicates that a regular serving of that food contains at least 8 grams of whole grain, she adds.

Certain people should be careful when choosing whole grail, s. For example, in people with celiac disease, the digestive system has trouble processing gluten, a protein that’s in spelt, barley, rye, and wheat. So people with that condition should avoid foods made with those grains.



Try a grain you’ve never had before, and you may discover a new and healthy favorite food. “Even the chefs on reality shows on TV are using delicious whole grains,” says Berrini. “You don’t have to choose between their [being] good tasting and good for you–whole grains can and do deliver both!”

!Think About It …

What can you do to add more whole grains Into your daily diet?


Foods with whole grains contain all the parts of the grain kernel.


Outer shell protects seed

Fiber, B vitamins, trace minerals


Provides energy

Carbohydrates, protein


Nourishes the seed

Antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins



According to the Whole Grains Council, the following are examples of whole grains.

Amaranth       Quinoa
Barley         Rice
Buckwheat      Rye
Bulgur         Sorghum/Milo
Corn           Spelt
Emmer/Farro    Teff
Grano          Wheat
Oats           Wild Rice

Grains On The Go?

Whole grains aren’t just a dinner thing. Look for opportunities to blend them into your meals and snacks all day long.

FOR BREAKFAST OR A SNACK, granola made from rolled oats, sprinkled over yogurt, is a sweet way to get your grains. You can also try keeping a container of granola in your backpack for after-school hunger pangs.

THE CEREAL AISLE is fuji of healthy choices. But if you feel that whole-grain cereal is bland, try a handful of it sprinkled over a sweetened variety. Dietitian Suzanne Farrell calls this a 50-50 bowl. Also, plain old-fashioned oats are a better choice than the sugary, individually packaged kinds of oatmeal; dress them up with berries, raisins, or a drizzle of maple syrup.

ON THE ROAD? Many sandwich shops offer whole-grain options. Nicole G., a 16-year-old from Larchmont, N.Y., likes to get whole-grain breads for her lunchtime sandwiches. Whole-wheat bagels, waffles, pretzels, and pizza crust all count toward your daily grain total. But watch out for cookies, quick breads, and muffins, which may be loaded with oil or butter and therefore are high in fat.

Key Points

1. Whole-grain foods contain all parts of a grain kernel.

2. The complex carbohydrates that whole grains provide are a good source of long-lasting energy.

3. Whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains.

4. Nutritionists recommend that half of a teen’s daily grain consumption be from whole grains.

5. Good sources of whole grains include commonly consumed foods such as popcorn and rice.

Critical Thinking

What can you do to add more whole grains into your daily diet?

Extension Activity

Bring in one item of whole-grain food, such as bread or cereal, and a non-whole-grain version of the same food. Have students compare the nutrients and ingredients in each. (This can also be done using information posted online, without bringing in examples.)


* Whole Grains Council

* MyPyramid.Gov: Inside the Pyramid–Tips to Help You Eat Whole Grains

How to plan great meals


Advice is provided to help teenagers eat a healthy diet. The specific advice provided differs depending on the teen’s attitudes toward food. For example, teens who are not interested in changing their food habits are advised to take small steps to improve their diets.

Full Text:

What’s your attitude toward healthy eating? Confused by media reports with conflicting information? Concerned but don’t want to give up favorite foods? Think healthful foods are boring? Or maybe you think you do eat a healthful diet. Whatever your nutrition attitude, you can make the Food Guide Pyramid work for you.

The “I’m With the Program” Group

You’re a member of this group if you try to eat as healthfully as possible. You study food labels and read nutrition articles. Here are some special tips for you:

* Plan meals from the base of the Pyramid up. Start with a grain–pasta or rice, for example–and add one or two vegetables. Next, choose a protein food such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, or eggs. Finish with a fruit or yogurt.

* Size up combination foods according to food groups. Your favorite pizza probably has ingredients from the bread group (crust), vegetable group (tomato sauce, onions, mushrooms), milk group (cheese), and maybe the meat group.

* When reading labels, check out the serving size. Different products in the same category can have very different portion sizes. For example, a serving of granola might be only 1/4 cup, while a serving of a puffed cereal may be as much as 2 cups.

* Look for more than just fat and calories on food labels. Choose “extra value” foods that contribute to your daily needs for calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and fiber.


The “l Know I Should, But…” Group

If you feel healthful eating takes too much time and means giving up favorite foods, this is your group. You know nutrition is important, but you don’t do all you can when it comes to eating healthfully. Your special tips include:

* Use the Food Guide Pyramid as a time saver to plan balanced meals. Make sure that each meal contains foods from at least three of the food groups.

* Keep track of what you eat. Compare your daily diet to the Pyramid guidelines (see “How Do You Measure Up?” on page 26).

* Add variety to your favorite foods by changing just one food group ingredient. Try stir-fried chicken and vegetables with pasta. Use romaine or leaf lettuce in place of iceberg in a tossed salad. Substitute beans for ground beef to make a vegetarian chili.

* Favorite foods can be part of a Pyramid eating plan. A cheeseburger is a meat option. Cookies belong in the bread group, and ice cream fits in with milk, yogurt, and cheese. Just remember to balance higher-fat choices with lower-fat foods.

The “Don’t Bother Me” Group

Nutrition seems too complicated, and you’re not interested in changing the way you eat. Here are easy tips for your group:

* Take small steps to slowly improve the way you eat. Start by concentrating on just the bread group. Your goal should be to have six or more servings a day from this group. Then move on to the fruit group and work your way up the Pyramid.

* Keep healthy snack foods handy. A fruit, veggie, or yogurt snack can fill in the nutritional gaps in your meals.

* If you eat out often, think about how your meal fits into the Food Guide Pyramid.

It’s Not Boring!

Healthful eating doesn’t mean boring food! Put these simple tips to work for you, and your meals will be the healthiest and tastiest yet.

* Plan meals ahead of time using the Food Guide Pyramid. Go for variety in all the food groups. Be creative! Use a bagel, tortilla, or pita in place of bread. Explore the taste of new fruits and vegetables. Experiment with different types of cheeses.

* Select foods that complement each other in taste and texture. For example, a baked potato with spicy salsa, crispy stir-fried vegetables with rice, or crunchy apple slices with a peanut butter sandwich.

* Color can make a meal bright and interesting or plain and boring. Simple changes in a one-color meal can make a real difference in its visual appeal. A meal of macaroni and cheese, corn, applesauce, and bread goes from boring to interesting when it becomes macaroni and cheese, peas, fresh apple, and whole-wheat roll.

* Ethnic dishes add variety and new taste sensations to meals. Look for ethnic recipes in cookbooks and magazines. Try seasoning combinations such as basil and garlic, oregano and lemon, or ginger and garlic to liven up plain chicken, pasta, or fish.

* Make healthful menu planning easier by stocking up on nutrient-rich foods.

Remember: Go for variety and balance–and you won’t have to give up your favorites to have great meals that are great for you.


RELATED ARTICLE: How Do You Measure Up?

Use this easy method to keep track of your food choices. Mark an X in the appropriate box for each serving of food from the Food Guide Pyramid. If, by dinner time, you are still lacking two vegetables, a meat, two grains, and a milk, you’ll know what to eat to complete the day.

If you checked all the boxes, you would get about 2200 calories, the average requirement for teen girls. Teenage boys and very active girls need one or two additional servings in each group to meet their calorie needs.

Grains: Serving size = a slice of bread, 1/2 bun or bagel, 1 ounce cereal, 1/2 cup pasta or rice

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Vegetables: Serving size = 1/2 cup cooked or diced vegetables, 1 cup leafy greens, or 1/2 cup juice

[] [] []

Fruit: Serving size = 1 medium piece of fruit, 3/4 cup juice, or 1/2 cup canned fruit

[] []

Meat and Meat Alternates: Serving size = 2 to 3 ounces lean meat. One ounce lean meat substitutes = 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 egg, 1/2 cup beans or tofu

Milk, Yogurt, Cheese: Serving size = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 1/2 ounces cheese

[] [] []

RELATED ARTICLE: For more information

The Food Guide Pyramid International Food Information Council

Foundation P.O. Box 65708 Washington, DC 20035 Web Site–

Brochure: “The Food Guide

Pyramid…Your Personal Guide to

Healthful Eating,” single copy free with

self-addressed, stamped business-size


Center for Nutrition

Policy and Promotion Suite 200 North Lobby 1120 20th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036

Booklets: “Dietary Guidelines and Your

Diet,” “Preparing Foods and Planning

Menus Using the Dietary Guidelines,”

“Shopping for Food and Making Meals in

Minutes Using the Dietary Guidelines,”

single copy of each free.

>>> View more: The urban-rural food movement

The urban-rural food movement

Full Text:

Just a few blocks from The Progressive’s offices, the Dane County Farmers’ Market-the biggest direct, local farmers’ market in the country-attracts thousands of shoppers every Saturday morning from April to November.

People flock to the Capitol Square to enjoy the sheer abundance of beautiful vegetables, flowers, meats, and cheeses, grab a cup of coffee, catch up with neighbors, stop by tables set up by various nonprofit groups, and chat with more than 160 area farmers who sell the highest quality produce grown on some of the richest farmland in the world.

This is the agricultural hub of an agricultural region. It is no coincidence that it is also the cradle of progressivism, a century-old vision of local democracy, stewardship of the land, and a way of life that treasures community.

Under a bright blue awning at the market you can stop and talk with the Carr family, of Pecatonica Valley Farm.

John and Mary Lee Carr, who worked the land in Iowa County, Wisconsin, for most of their adult lives, have passed down their farm to the next generation: their sons Wade and Todd and daughter-in-law Amy and their three grandchildren, who gather eggs, feed the pigs, and take care of the small operation themselves.

Over the years, the Carrs watched the rise of industrial-scale agriculture wipe out small farms and beautiful little towns all over the region.


“By banding together and fighting, we can just make it,” John Carr says. But the outlook is not good. The reason, he says, is simple: “We’ve been steamrolled by the twenty-four-row corn planter.”

Carr embraces the farmers’ market, the slow food movement and the urbanites who support local farms. “But you get away from the university town and you’re in the jaws of corporate marketing and corporate farming,” he says.

The destruction of small farms by corporate agriculture is a much more serious problem than just nostalgia for a quaint, old-fashioned way of life. It is a crisis of historic proportions, for urban and rural people alike.

“I see us becoming basically a landless society, much like the Middle Ages in Europe,” says Carr.

Rural Wisconsin is looking more and more like the feudal societies the Carrs’ immigrant ancestors fled when they came to the United States. Modern corporate farming has led to what Carr calls “the violent restructuring of local culture.”

It goes like this: “Folks are forced to go to Madison to work, and it’s handy for them to stop at the big box store on their way home. The community is just dead.”

Gone are the little stores and local gathering places in post-card pretty towns like Hollandale, where the Carrs lived for years.

And the problem is bigger than that. “Agriculture is the largest threat to biodiversity and ecosystem function of any single human activity,” according to the U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Land Institute points out on its website. The institute points to a recent study by the Environmental Working Group in six Iowa townships that showed “disastrous average erosion rates exceeding too tons per acre annually.”

“As it can take from 500 to 1,000 years to build an inch of new topsoil, these losses simply cannot be allowed to continue,” the institute concludes.

Or, as Carr puts it, “It’s just a crime to observe the erosion taking place on our Iowa County soils.” Watching all that fertile topsoil wash downhill is “just a sin,” he says.

At seventy-five, Carr is old enough to have been involved in the great reconditioning of the land after the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, he adds. “We planted pine trees and wind breaks. That’s all been destroyed by the twenty-four-row corn planter.”

Wes Jackson, the visionary geneticist and environmental scientist, founded the nonprofit Land Institute in Kansas in the 1970s after he made the shocking discovery that the pace of topsoil erosion in the United States is as bad as it was during the Dust Bowl.

“Soil is more important than oil,” Jackson pointed out in a recent TED talk. Without oil, we can’t drive. But without soil, we can’t eat.

The Land Institute’s great innovation is a remedy for erosion in the form of perennial polyculture–a mixture of perennial plants that nourish the soil–unlike com and other massive monoculture crops that must be replanted every season, plowing up the land, burning up fossil fuels and dousing our waterways with toxic chemicals.

Perennials not only reduce erosion, they nourish the soil, sequester carbon, and, with their deep roots, can withstand the flooding and drought that accompany climate change.

Jackson and his colleagues are breeding a whole new type of plant–nutrient-rich grains they can grow perennially–that could become part of that urban diet Carr hopes might help save the small farm.

“As I see it, we rural people could stand a tremendous upgrade in our education on food,” says Carr. Urbanites who are interested in local food and sustainable agriculture could form a powerful bond with farmers.

“We are just controlled by the major processors for our raw materials,” he says. “We have no connection to the doughnuts at Kwik Trip. That’s all left out of our hands.”

It’s up to urban people to reach out, Carr says, so farmers can produce what they want. Rural people, too, are swept up in “zero-effort dinners picked up at the convenience store,” he says. “We need to rise above that.”

There is another key human value at stake in this conversation about food and the land: beauty.

Carr has helped support the idea that beautiful outdoor space is for everyone, by resisting the enormous pressure to sell to developers.

When he and Mary Lee graduated from college, they found a piece of farmland for sale in Sauk County. A breath-taking part of the state’s Driftless Area–untouched by glaciers in the last ice age-it had an enormous natural sandstone bridge. They bought the land, with the help of Mary’s parents, for $100 an acre. People visited from around the country, and the Carrs charged them twenty-five cents to admire the view.

Then one day, “a fellow from Milwaukee popped by,” says Carr. “He had plans to build a restaurant with a big rotating table or something right at the natural bridge.”

The Carrs were appalled. They refused to sell. This was during the height of the farm crisis, and family farms were going belly-up all around them. The rolling hills of Wisconsin were fast overtaken by a plague of beige ticky-tacky houses in new developments. The Carrs worked for years with the state’s Department of Natural Resources to help create the 530-acre Natural Bridge State Park.


“It’s there for everyone to enjoy,” Carr says. “And it hasn’t gotten a black eye with a restaurant with a rotating table.” University of Wisconsin scientists discovered a cave under the bridge used by native people 11,000 years ago.

Carr was also a founding member of the Wisconsin Rural Development Center with the late Tom Lamm.

During the farm crisis, Lamm asked Carr to travel the state delivering a speech drawing on Fighting Bob La Follette’s progressive vision for farmers and workers and small communities.

Since the demise of the Rural Development Center, “I don’t think there exists an organization to bring us all together anymore,” Carr says, “where urban and rural people could come together and create the world we’d like to see.” But the seeds are there.

Wes Jackson, in his TED talk, contrasts his “intellectual pessimism” with what he terms his “glandular optimism.” In the face of looming planetary disaster, he and his team of researchers at the Land Institute continue to do optimistic and innovative work.

In defense of optimism, he quotes the great poet, essayist, and author Wendell Berry: “A hard-headed realist is someone who uses a lot less information than what’s available.”

There is tremendous information available–not to mention beauty, community, and food–for the glandular optimists among us. Dig in!

Conniff, Ruth

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