Food System Transformation

Food System TransformationNutrient Dense Food Food Justice, Equity, and SovereigntyRedesigned Local/Regional Food Systems

Regenerative food systems can transform the well-being of individuals, communities, farmers, workers, and the land on which food is grown.

Commercial food systems harm the global climate when greenhouse gases are emitted by growing and transporting food, by wasting food, by depleting the soil and through deforestation.

Food can be grown degeneratively (losing soil carbon, causing soil erosion, reducing biodiversity, and polluting groundwater), sustainably (holding soil organic matters stable in the soil and not contributing to biodiversity loss or watershed pollution) or regeneratively (sequestering soil carbon in the form of soil organic matter, enhancing water storing and cleaning capacity, and enhancing biodiversity). The difference between degenerative and regenerative farming is how well the farmers care for the complexity of the living things in the soil—the fungi, the bacteria, the insects and other life forms.
Caro Roszell, NOFA/Mass Education Director, “The Real Climate Change Mitigating Diet.” NOFA/Mass Newsletter Feb. 2020

Efforts to redesign the food system

The fledgling Western Mass. Regenerative Food System intends to link together existing projects and bring financial resources to raise 30% of food regeneratively by 2030. Read the ambitious outline.

Ways to define and achieve Food Justice/Equity and Sovereignty

Food Justice

Source: FoodPrint

Food justice is a holistic and structural view of the food system that sees healthy food as a human right and addresses structural barriers to that right. The movement draws in part on environmental justice, which emerged in the 1980s as a critique of how environmentalism became more mainstream as it became more elite, more white, and more focused on wilderness and scenery than on human communities vulnerable to pollution (the effects of which are at once disparate and racialized).

Environmental justice is a movement primarily led by the people most impacted by environmental problems, connecting environmental health and preservation with the health of vulnerable communities. Food justice efforts (which are generally led by indigenous peoples and people of color) work not only for access to healthy food, but for an end to the structural inequities that lead to unequal health outcomes.
In some cases, environmental and food justice intersect. For example, many factory farms and meatpacking plants, which pollute neighboring communities’ water and air through excess manure runoff, noxious dust and noisome smells, are situated in communities that are predominantly inhabited by people of color.

Food Sovereignty

“the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, DECLARATION OF NYÉLÉNI Mali, 2007


2001: The farmers from Vía Campesina and ROPPA* reassert:

  • The RIGHT of the populations and their States to define their agricultural and food policies, at national level, next at regional level, in favour of family farms, provided these policies exclude dumping towards third countries: that’s [what] we call food sovereignty;
  • The right to have access to resources (land, water, seeds, …) to be able to produce and live in dignity. It is the very problem of Southern farmers to whom these rights are currently denied; 
  • The right for countries/groups of countries from the South and the North to protect their agriculture and market to be able to fairly remunerate labour and products from family farms; 
  • The world market should not be a surplus market anymore but a market based on fair exchanges of regional products at fair prices. The international markets have to be regulated to put an end to the deterioration of exchange terms, particularly for Southern farmers who export tropical products.

*Network of farmers organisations and agricultural producers from Western Africa

Establish access to nutrient-rich food

  • Dan Kittredge is doing important work on soil and human health through Bionutrient Food Association (BFA).

The website explains the paradigm shift of its focus on the nutrient value of food. Dan Kittredge and his team have created a tool to detect nutrient density . Their project: “The dominant incentive in farming currently is yield. Farmers are paid based on the number of bushels and pounds produced, and so treat their soil accordingly. Doing what is necessary to harvest a crop even if it is in many cases destructive to the soil. We have gotten to a place where the soils on many farms simply will not produce under conventional fertility programs, and it seems our populace is also in a similar position. So worn out and tired that degenerative disease and underlying health issues are extraordinarily prevalent.” 

  • View the video on the Real Food Campaign, sister project of Dan Kittredge’s BFA 
  • Organic Consumers Association (OCA) “educates and advocates on behalf of organic consumers, engages consumers in marketplace pressure campaigns, and works to advance sound food and farming policy through grassroots lobbying.” Issues include: food safety, pesticide use, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, Fair Trade, & environmental sustainability.
  • The Good Food Purchasing Program transforms the way public institutions purchase food by creating a transparent and equitable food system designed to do for the food system what LEED certification did for energy efficiency in buildings. The Program provides a metric based, flexible framework that encourages large institutions to direct their buying power toward five core values: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare and nutrition. The Good Food Purchasing Program is the first procurement model to support these food system values in equal measure.
  • The Sustainable Food Trust amplifies and connects organizations involved in this work. Read their suggestions about eating sustainably and follow their podcasts on how to transition towards food and farming systems, capable of nourishing both people and the planet.
  • Land to Market is a project of Savory Global: A community working to advance Holistic Management. It’s Ecological Outcome Verification is a standard scientists and researchers around the world developed. It is an empirical and scalable soil and landscape assessment methodology used to track outcomes in soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function.
Click to download the pdf
From the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations: an infographic on the relationship between soil biology and the human biome: Soil, the foundation of nutrition

Sacred Cow (2020) “The case for better meat.”

Eat Sustainable Diets

Video made by Climate Lab

Support farming that works with nature

  • Innovative farmer Ernst Gotsch in Brazil developed a philosophy and practice called Syntropic agriculture. Syntropic agriculture translates natural processes into farming interventions, putting regeneration behind a system that is independent of inputs and irrigation.The resulting ecosystem services form soil, regulate microclimates and promote water cycles. View the 2-minute introduction video or the 15-minute ‘Life in Syntropy’ on their website or on youtube

Know the farmer

  • Farm and food locator from CISA–Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture

“…it is not what you eat or where it was grown, it is how it was grown.Caro Roszell, NOFA/Mass Education Director, “The Real Climate Change Mitigating Diet.” NOFA/Mass Newsletter Feb. 2020

“The most powerful aspect of the local food movement is not that it cuts down on food miles (which the Our World in Data article correctly points out is not as significant as the GHG emissions of production practices), but the fact that when food is local, you almost always have the ability to find out more about how that food was produced. Some farms are open to visitors and many have public trails and roads along their fields where you can get some fresh air and also get to know the farm’s practices season-by-season. CSA farms are often especially welcoming to customer interest in practices, due to their deeper commitment to a direct customer relationship with the farm. But even with non-CSA farms it is usually possible for you to talk to the farmer or the crew and explore their commitment to soil stewardship.”

  • Local Harvest’s locator lists stores, farmer’s markets, and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) sites

“While we argue over who has the more sustainable diet, agriculture continues to turn fertile earth to desert.” Source: Rick Perillo, “Why The Fight Over The Most Sustainable Diet Is Missing The Point” Kiss the Ground.

Gabe Brown began farming in North Dakota almost 30 years ago. His land, having been conventionally farmed, was low in fertility, had poor water retention and native grasslands were in poor health. He implemented no-till farming, holistic grazing, and other regenerative practices. Now, his soil organic matter has increased from 2% to 8%, the soil infiltration rate has increased 16 times, and his corn yield is 20% higher than the county average.

“Farms can create wildlife habitats and restore water cycles. Nutrient dense food can pull carbon out of the air and sequester it in the earth. Our money can support farmers who are treated fairly and work to build healthy soil. And yes, it can be done while feeding the world. But first, we need to change the discussion.”

Fantastic Fungi : how mushrooms can heal, shift consciousness & save the planet (2019) based on the Paul Stamets book.