This month at Wello, our focus in on nutrition, which is one of the pillars that support physical well-being. However, instead of adding our voices to the plethora of pundits advocating this or that diet plan, we’re zooming out a bit to look at the common thread that connects all of these diet patterns. Despite whether we are eating keto, gluten free, tracking macros, snacking on fast food or vegetarian, each and every one of us participating in a food system.
What’s a food system you ask? Put simply, it’s all the processes and places required to feed a group of people, from growing crops or raising animals, to processing food, to food delivery and preparation, to the consumer who buys and eats food. Food systems can be viewed at a local, national and global level. In the medium-sized MSA (metropolitan statistical area) that makes up Greater Green Bay, for instance, we actually eat very little locally-grown food. One reason for this is that is the way food is produced in modern, developed countries. In order to create efficiency of scale and lower consumer costs, food producers tend to share some common practices: the specialization on a limited array of crops, production of those crops on an enormous scale and distribution of that product in disparate, often international, markets. While the upside of this modern, global food system results in low cost food, it also comes at a cost to people, places and the environment, often with the most vulnerable bearing the brunt of the downside.
Yet in every challenge there is an opportunity for growth. Having spent the last eight years supporting Farm to School efforts in Brown County school districts, our organization has witnessed a tremendous shift in priority within school food service towards buying local and growing their own food. This trend, which continues to grow, is creating new partnerships, a willingness to be creative in the use of food budget as well as innovation on the part of farmers to understand the needs and adapt practices to work with these larger institutional buyers. Beyond Heath, the community action wing of our local health systems’ Continuous Health Improvement Process work, has stated an intention to explore the purchase of local produce on a larger scale. Our local Farmers Markets are thriving. And, more and more restaurants in our area tout locally-grown menu items.
Because our overarching goal is to grow well-being for all in Greater Green Bay, Wello stands firm on the belief that nurturing a local food system will fuel our local economy. As part of a new collaborative of local organizations committed to the expansion of local food production, the New Food Forum convened by New Leaf Foods, we’re excited to promote some local food resolutions for 2019 with the goal of reaping the benefits in health and wellbeing:
- Turn passion into action. If you are passionate about nutrition, take time to understand how your nutritional choices impact the rest of the world. National thought-leader in the area of food justice and local food movements is coming to Green Bay for a Round Table Discussion. Register here!
- Help put local food on the map. The NEW Food Forum’s first task is to map the local food scene – from producers to large- and small-scale consumers. If you know anyone who is growing, processing or serving food in our area, help us get them on the map. This survey is a great place for people to dip their toe into our local food system, as well as get involved with the NEW Food Forum.
- Connect with folks who want to innovate and evolve the way food is grown and consumed in our area. Never before have we had the technological tools, and “sharing economy” paradigm fueled by innovative companies like Airbnb and Uber, to bring to bear on this puzzle. In addition, local resources like The Farmory, a 100 year old building in the heart of Green Bay that is being renovated to serve as a high-tech, vertical aquaponics farm, are leading the way towards a vision of equitable, sustainable food production.
Because Wello sits at the intersection of personal, organizational and community well-being, we encourage everyone to understand that their food choices matter not only to personal health but the health of the community. In our next installment, we’ll share some ways to make small changes to your personal nutrition that have a big impact on our local food system!
The purpose of this blog is to further Wello’s mission to innovate and rally our community to live its very best life and to create measurable results! If this topic or issue speaks to you, please join the conversation and share your thoughts with a comment below.