“The right role of government”, according to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is to be “a partner of the farmer”, so that “agriculture can continue to be a solid and sustainable basis for our economy”.
It basically sums up nearly 100 years of US food policy.
Since the Great Depression, the presidents of both parties have viewed the federal government as a “partner of the farmer,” mainly because they have (rightly) concluded that feeding people is fundamental to national security.
A century of food policy has resulted in an undeniably remarkable but also extremely problematic national food system. In the name of maximizing production at the lowest possible cost, America’s food system is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, fertilizers, pesticides and chemicals. single use plastic. Industry consolidation has has happened at all levels, from farmer to retailer, so every year there are fewer and fewer players that are part of a constantly growing national food system. Or, in other words: at no time in our history have so many of us been so dependent on so little.
The pandemic has sounded the alarm on the fragility of our food system. Giant meat and poultry processing facilities, which are an essential link in the chain, are of particular concern. If the virus forced many of these facilities to shut down, it could have had a catastrophic effect on the entire system, affecting everyone from farmers to consumers.
An important takeaway from the pandemic is that the country’s food system is indeed vulnerable, and it wouldn’t take much to take it offline. The good news for us is that an alternative system already exists, and we as food cooperatives have an important role to play.
READ MORE: This Philly grocery store was ‘the Mount Airy living room’. Then came the coronavirus. (from June 2020)
Many failed to notice that during the pandemic, food co-ops in the Philly area did not experience the same supply chain issues as large grocery chains. We’ve had a few issues, sure, but because we’re less reliant on the larger national food system, we have multiple vendors we can turn to when we run out, so often we’ve been more successful at keeping our shelves. well stocked compared to the national grocery store. Chains.
Food co-operatives are a vital part of the local food system, also known as the Philadelphia Food Shed. And strengthening the Philadelphia food shed should be a top priority in the post-pandemic world.
“I urge all Philadelphians to buy from their local co-op.”
Our local food shed isn’t what it used to be. Urban sprawl has swallowed up hundreds of square kilometers of farmland that for centuries served as the city’s breadbasket. We now rely on big companies for these products instead of our own backyard.
The Philadelphia area is surrounded by an impressive agricultural greenbelt, which stretches counterclockwise from Lancaster County to Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, and back to the surrounding north Bucks and Montgomery counties. The diversity of this green belt is extraordinary: farmers grow everything from sweet corn and green salads, apples and stone fruits, poultry and beef, milk and cheese.
In and around the city, there is also an ever-growing contingent of small-scale food producers, who make everything from bread to beef jerky.
At Weavers Way Co-op, local sales represent about a third of our total. There are limits to how much locally grown and produced food we can sell (people can’t easily grow bananas or citrus in Philly), but co-ops can play an even bigger role in supporting the shed. Philadelphia food.
We should consider it our patriotic duty to reduce our dependence on the nation’s fragile and morally problematic food system. To help co-ops take the pressure off our food shed – and stimulate local producers – we need to support them. Co-ops and other local grocers like Kimberton and Riverwards are easing pressure on the overburdened, unsustainable and morally problematic national food system by supporting the local food shed. I urge all Philadelphians to buy from their local co-op.
So consult your food co-op and help our local food system thrive.
Jon Roesser is the Managing Director of Weavers Way Co-op.