The following is an excerpt from Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All. Excerpted by arrangement with PublicAffairs, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) 2011.
Many of our country’s systems are in need of repair. We have an education system that is failing some of our youth and ultimately compromising our future. We have a health care system whose costs are spiraling out of control, leaving many without insurance coverage and depriving more and more low-income and working families of adequate medical care. We rely on an energy system that will not sustain us in the future. And we have a financial system that has come close to melting down.
But there is another system that gets much less attention than it deserves, even though we all rely on it to keep us alive — if we are lucky, three times a day: our food system. When a system we depend on to meet essential needs isn’t working, the consequences are enormous. The food system that evolved to bring us abundant food at low cost has grown out of control, nourishing us by destroying some of what we hold most precious: our environment, our health, and our future. The problems it has engendered — from agricultural chemical runoff in our rivers, streams, and oceans, to soaring rates of diet-related illness (such as diabetes) in our inner cities, to the loss of prime farmland due to urban and suburban sprawl, to corporate conglomeration that concentrates 80 percent of our meat supply in the hands of only four companies — are not isolated issues to be solved one by one. Rather, they are symptoms of a food system that is broken and needs to be redesigned.