Oran Hesterman, author of the newly released book Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All, believes our food system is broken. Designed to bring us bountiful supplies at low-cost, it now feeds us at the expense of our environment, our health, and our future. The symptoms of this broken system include degraded waterways from chemical runoff, spiraling rates of obesity, and the number of food deserts where people cannot access healthy fresh food—where ketchup is available at corner stores, for example, but you can’t buy a fresh tomato. Eighty percent of all U.S. meat packing is concentrated into the hands of four companies, and more than 40 percent of food calories consumed worldwide come from just 3 crops: wheat, corn, and rice.
“But Fair Food… is not a book primarily about the problems of our broken food system,” says Hesterman. “It is a book primarily about the solutions.” It serves as a guide to changing not only what we eat, but also how our food is grown, packaged, delivered, marketed, and sold. The book starts by outlining the nuances of our food system, how it evolved the way it did, and why it is failing us. It then describes four key principles a future food system should embody:
- Fairness in the realm of farm jobs and access to land and water resources and equitable access to healthy food for all;
- Resilience through diversity on farms and in the market;
- Environmental sustainability of food production; and
- Integration into a vibrant green economy.
Finally, the book offers practical recommendations on how average consumers can participate in collective action to facilitate the changes that are needed—including questions to ask at farmers’ markets, tools for starting advocacy campaigns, advice for clubs that purchase food directly from farmers and fishermen, and legislation to support at the local, state, and federal levels.
Throughout the book, Hesterman introduces readers to people and organizations across the U.S. that are actively engaged in bringing fresh food to inner cities, fighting for farmers’ rights, and getting more cows out of factory farms and back on pastures. Hesterman—president and CEO of Fair Food Network and longtime advocate of sustainable agriculture and food systems—hopes his new book will inspire others to share his vision for a redesigned food system and take part in a fair food revolution.
Matt Styslinger is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.
To read more about shifting to a more sustainable food system see: Organic Agriculture’s Resilience Shows Untapped Potential, New UN Report Illustrates the Potential of Agroecology to Feed the Hungry, The Many Misconceptions About Genetic Engineering and Organic Agriculture, and Is Milk Milk? Evaluating a Dairy Farm’s Footprint.