food security and umbc’s micro-plan

Food Justice and Collective Food Relations really spoke to me and therefore I’d like to respond to that. In the article, food justice is discussed as a multi-dimensional problem. It isn’t just having access to nutritious, culturally acceptable and sustainable first foods, or real foods. Food justice also includes fair working conditions and pay for all of those working in the food system, from farmers to waiters. Lastly, part of food justice is including every group in our society participate in the social institutions that control and affect how and where all this food goes.

K.P. Whyte, the author, was wise to include these dimensions in the discussion of food justice. We have discussed and read of societies that get the help of big corporations and NGOs, but still have no food security. Why is that? It’s because these people are not controlling their food system. They are relying on the NGOs, rather than cheap, calorically dense, nutrient empty foods. Which is better, but as soon as the interests of the NGOs shift this group is no longer being attended to, and things go back to the way before they stepped in.

It seems that there are so many subcultures in food systems across the country and the world that I don’t think there is one generic solution that allows these cultures to co-exist and maintain their food security. Problems in the United States’ food systems are much different than those in India, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, etc. etc.

I am hopeful for change in each and every one of these places. The change will depend largely on the population within these food systems, and the actions that the people take to better their systems. I believe that True Greens is a perfect example of a solution to one of the United States’ biggest problems on a very micro-level. This project helps connect people to people. Firstly, through the work the students do in the greenhouse. Also we will connect through communication with Chartwells and the student body (consumer). True Greens will fill the producer role on a very small scale right now and help to address this countrywide problem. The problem we’re going to address is America’s obsession with quick and convenient, processed foods. I can’t enumerate how many fast food and convenient snack products I see in the hands of the student body, staff and people out in the workforce. Our society hardly knows what’s in our foods, let alone where they’re coming from. And because ramen noodles, pop-tarts and energy drinks are part of a “typical college kid’s” diet this is why True Greens will fit in so perfectly.

The immediate impact will be the production and sale of microgreens. These raw, nutritious foods are very versatile. The goal of the addition of “home grown” produce may turn more people on to real food. It is to my understanding that the long-term goal is to grow a larger variety of fruits and vegetables. This works ingeniously because the consumers on campus aren’t going to make an immediate switch from a processed to a 100% whole food diet. It will take some time for students and staff to realize the ease, affordability and benefits of eating first foods. I think their pallets will adapt to these small real food changes just as slowly as the fresh produce on campus will be grown and available. Who knows, maybe future colleges will have their own student-run grass fed meat and pastured poultry farms to support the dining halls too.


– Erik Schwarzenberg


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