America’s food is in a state of crisis. Although we pay less to feed ourselves than in most other countries, the dollars we save are often spent for medical expenses. We are reaping the harvest of our own creation–the big ag business machine. The system served us well for many years, rising to the call to supply cheap, mass-produced food for the U.S. and the rest of the world. But this same system has resulted in decreased food quality, diminished flavor and nutrition—and super-sized health issues.
For the first time in history, our children are expected to have a shorter lifespan than the previous generation.
Our environment is in jeopardy as well.
Food production in the U.S. consumes 17 percent of the fossil fuel we use, and that doesn’t include the fuel it takes to get products to market. Food today travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to market. The average U.S. meal comes from five different nations, and uses up to 17 times more petroleum products and increases carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount compared to an entirely local meal.
But changes in agricultural practices could reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by one-fifth, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Buying locally grown food reduces the mile-per-calorie ratio, decreasing the climate-changing impacts of transportation. Local food is also fresher, tastier, more nutritious and supports small local growers, enabling them get more for their produce by not having to spend hard-earned dollars on packing, processing, refrigeration, marketing and shipping.
Embracing a return to a Maui-produced diet could strengthen the island’s economy, improve our health and preserve cultural traditions. Buying local farm and ranch products could reinvigorate and revitalize the connection between consumers and the source of their food and create a truly sustainable food system.
We have lost sight of our food sources, and in the process we’ve lost a vital connection to our local community. A movement to put good food back on the table is emerging, but Maui’s small farmers face many challenges, including governmental encumbrances.
In a seven-part “Spotlight on Local Agriculture” series beginning next week, the Maui Weekly will explore and examine the potential for a major local food movement to take root and thrive on Maui.
Increasing focus on local food production comes at a time when the failings of our current industrialized food system are becoming all too clear, revealing the need to bring good food back to the table and health back to our communities.