Welcome to the UVM Food Feed, a blog that brings together the voices and expertise of the University of Vermont on a complicated and complex area of study, but one that affects us all – food.
We invite you here to gather knowledge about our food system and talk to us about your point-of-view, questions, and thoughts – all in order to improve our lives, and the lives of others. We want to bring together people who are passionate about re-creating our food system to make it more sustainable in its practice and more equitable in its access.
Knowledge is the vital ingredient we all need. It’s how we begin to understand not only where and how food gets to our plates, but also how it affects our health, our economy, our environment and our social world. I think you will quickly realize that everything is connected when it comes to food. It’s a mouthful!
Like other blogs out there, we’ll cover the tough topics: factory farms, obesity, loss of farms, migrant workers, food miles, scarcity, access, hunger, diet-related disease, loss of cooking knowledge, loss of diversity, GMOs, the Farm Bill, consolidation of supply chains – and on and on. I won’t lie — it will get depressing. We will delve into the scary, but we’ll also serve up solutions. I’m fortunate to work with some truly smart and inspiring people here at the University of Vermont and the State of Vermont, who care deeply about these issues and have compelling alternative plans.
My role as a blogger will be to make observations about aspects of our food system and its relation to our global food supply. I come at it from a unique perspective: I’m from the front lines of the food world. I owned my own restaurant and taught at a culinary school before coming to the University. I travel extensively for work and pleasure, and study food ways with a passion. This background, matched with my academic role, makes me an ideal conduit to access and present heady information in a digestible way (pun intended).
I alluded to our problems above. Let me provide clarity on just how serious it is and why my colleagues and I have urgency to blog: There are nearly 7 billion people who need to eat. We have a global system that degrades our land, our health, and our humanity through short-sighted practices and policies that benefit a few at the top. In order to change this, a regional approach is necessary – an approach that is from the ground up, literally and figuratively; a more distributed system that’s innovative and proven to be workable, sustainable and inclusive.
So how do we begin to make sense of all this?
Here’s how: We created a frame by dividing the entire food system into 4 elegant quadrants. I know it’s bold to reduce something so big into just 4 areas, but let me explain: The 4 areas are environmental, economic, health, and social. These categories are wide enough for many interpretations, but narrow enough to allow us to focus.
Our guest bloggers will write from one or two of the frames (they do overlap all the time). When we discuss a particularly difficult issue, using this frame will help us create common reference points to keep the conversation from drifting, or devolving into murkiness.
We have a problem. The current American food system is ecologically, economically, and energetically unsustainable. Vermont and the University of Vermont have some answers. Our people are positive deviators (see definition below) and ambitiously knowledgeable about how to create a healthy food system that can feed a hungry planet.
Read on. I’m excited to launch this blog for UVM and for you.
(Just in case you need some clues about vocabulary here is a quick glossary of terms for you to get up to speed.)
*Glossary of Terms:
(f)OOD SYSTEM Includes the whole ecosystem from the biological to socioeconomic processes and relationships involved in the production, distribution, marketing, preparation and consumption of food.
(r)EGIONAL FOOD SYSTEM Why? The current food system in economic terms is efficient and plentiful but there is increasing concern that this system is not working, in fact is seriously breaking down. The increasing consolidation of power within the food industry (from seed to plate) has contributed to persistent food recalls, environmental degradation, obesity and hunger, and food shortages, to the point where many people are now interested in finding ways to redistribute this power though a regional food system approach.
(s)USTAINABLE The capacity to endure; the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.
(r)ADICAL Thoroughgoing or extreme; especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms.
(p)OSITIVE DEVIANCE A behavioral and social change based on the observation that in any community, there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and circumstances.