Written by Tatiana Gnuva
The food system is influenced by a multitude of factors, including agricultural policies, the corporatization of the US food industry by companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, and the spread of mass media, which has resulted in more advertisements for unhealthy foods. The fresh market is disappearing as the source of supply for food in the United States. It is being replaced by supermarkets that are usually part of larger chains, and supermarkets are large providers of processed high-fat energy-dense foods. As unhealthy foods have become more and more accessible, the prevalence of obesity and the risk of cardiovascular diseases has risen significantly in all states. The rise in obesity in the United States is related to changes in the food system. Due to these changes (ie in the production, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food), obesity and degenerative diseases are becoming more pervasive. A poor diet and high consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with a higher risk of cerebrovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and different types of cancer, such as cancer of the breast or colon.
In response to the obesity epidemic and the increasing hegemony of big food
corporations across the world, certain groups were formed to develop strategies and a conception of food that could resist these large corporations. Slow Food, for instance, is one of these groups. The international movement was founded by Carlos Petrini and promotes goals such as “gaining and spreading knowledge about material culture; preserving our agricultural and alimentary heritage from environmental degradation; protecting the consumer and the honest producer; and researching and promoting the pleasures of gastronomy and conviviality.” The Slow Food movement wants to be an international cultural force that resists fast-food corporations such as McDonald’s, which increasingly control the food supply and push out smaller local food producers. The Slow Food group and other similar collectives wish to shorten the food chain by
reimagining the food production system and prioritizing purchasing high-quality ingredients
from small local establishments over large retailers. The new food production system is not
sustainable for the environment. All the processed foods produced require increasing industrial transformation, which requires energy and the use of planetary resources. Additionally, the mass agriculture techniques of big farming corporations lead to the release of methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. As such, these collectives want to promote small-scale agriculture and the growing of local food.
Around the world, new programs and initiatives were developed to help local agricultural
producers compete with large food corporations. CSA (Community-supported agriculture)
allows community members to access locally grown agricultural products. A CSA Customer
buys “a share,” which is similar to a subscription or membership, and in return receives a basket of fresh farm products like fruits and vegetables or animal products like milk or eggs. The CSA model supports local farmers while also giving community members access to healthy natural and locally grown food. This model was particularly helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic as the restaurants that would normally purchase the produce from farmers were closed, and local agricultural operations lost their main source of income. CSA allowed farmers to gain a new revenue source while waiting for restaurants to reopen. The concept of CSA also creates a sense of togetherness and community. Often, customers pay for their seasonal CSA membership upfront. If the farmer’s produce for the season is not abundant, the customer is not typically reimbursed as there is a sense of connecting with the farmer and helping them no matter what.
Long Island has 15 CSAs where Long Islanders can pick up fresh produce.
Lucky To Have Farmers Markets & Farm Stands on Long Island! (luckytolivehererealty.com) Some farms even offer delivery. Americans can find their local CSA at this CSA
finder: https://www.localharvest.org/ Some farmers have also adapted the CSA concept.
Instead of providing each subscription holder with an identical standardized basket, they have requested that members of their program remove the products they do not care for from the basket (https://www.localharvest.org/csa/). This allows the farmers to donate unwanted food to food banks while minimizing food waste. Farmers markets
and farm stands have also started accepting food assistance programs like Food stamps, SNAP, SNAP to Market.