Towards a more just and sustainable food system in the Twin Cities
Final project for Eco-Justice Education
What does a Just and Sustainable Food System look like?
I have used the concepts of agroecology, food sovereignty, and a multispecies perspective to envision a just and sustainable food system.
Agroecology is the integrative study of food systems that recognizes that the system encompasses not just ecological and agricultural dimensions, but also social, political and economic dimensions (Francis et al, 2002). Agroecology reminds us that a sustainable and just food system must include regenerative agricultural practices, social supports and access to food, support for small farmers and food producers, economic shifts away from subsidies for monocultural commodities, and cultural shifts away from food waste.
Food Sovereignty is another conception of just and sustainable food systems that centers people and their right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and their right to define their own food systems (Via Campesina, 1996). Food Sovereignty is guided by principles of local control, agrarian reform, ending the globalization of hunger, and protecting natural resources.
A multispecies perspective recognizes the agency of more-than-human species, as well as the importance of their interconnectedness and relationships with us (Celermajer et al, 2020). In recognizing that, we see how more-than-human species are commodified in our industrialize agricultural system. Moving to a space of multispecies justice requires that we rethink our agricultural systems to account for the well-being of and acknowledge the relationships with all species.
Taking agroecology, food sovereignty, and multispecies justice together, we can conceive of a food system that is locally focused, in which consumers are closely and actively connected to food producers. More-than-human species are viewed as an integral part of the ecology rather than a commodity to be exploited. Communities have access to sufficient healthy and culturally appropriate food. Farmers are supported and encouraged to use and share traditional, indigenous, and regenerative methods to grow food in a way that is neither extractive nor exploitive. Workers throughout the system (from farm, to processing, distributing, preparing and serving) have safe working conditions and a fair wage. Indigenous food ways and food producers are supported celebrated. People who want to farm or garden have access to land, water, and information. Communities are empowered make decisions for their food systems.
Achieving such a system would require a massive overhaul in our social, economic, agricultural systems, as well as cultural and behavioral shifts in how we shop for, prepare, and manage our food. In order to move towards a just and sustainable food system, we need to understand where we are now and where we can begin to make changes.
While we are all intimately connected to the food system, the complexity of the global food system can make it difficult to know where to begin to approach and engage with the issues. The food system map shown above from Nourish illustrates just how complex the system is. Keeping in mind the global nature of the system while focusing on local systems can help us understand actions that individuals can take to begin to shift our cultural attitudes and strengthen alternatives to our industrial food system.
A just and sustainable food system in the Twin Cities
This project focuses on the local Twin Cities system in the United States of America. It is intended for a local audience who is not expert in local food systems, but is interested in learning more and exploring ways to engage and move towards justice in the system.
I have chosen to organize this site into four sections that roughly follow the food cycle from inputs to outputs: 1) Growing food; 2) Access to food; 3) Eating food; and 4) Food loss and waste throughout the system. This is not meant to fully encompass our food system, even at the local level.
In each section, I have highlighted a Twin Cities story that illustrates some aspect of that part of the food system and offered a few actions that people can take that can help shift them and their community towards a more just and sustainable system. These actions are not exhaustive and are largely at the household and local community level, rather than at a systemic level. That’s not because the global or national level is unimportant, but because I believe that engaging at a personal and local level is an easier gateway for people to start working towards change.
To navigate through the sections, click on an image below to learn more about that topic:
You may also visit the project glossary, collected resources, and full bibliography.
- Allen, P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values, 25, 157–161. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-008-9120-6
- Celermajer, D., Schlosberg, D., Rickards, L., Stewart-Harawira, M., Thaler, M., Tschakert, P., Verlie, B., & Winter, C. (2020). Multispecies justice: theories, challenges, and a research agenda for environmental politics. Environmental Politics, 30(1–2), 119–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2020.1827608
- Elias, M., & Marsh, R. (2020). Innovations in agricultural and food systems sustainability in California. Case Studies in the Environment, 4(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1525/CSE.2019.002170
- Fernandez, M., Goodall, K., Olson, M., & Méndez, V. E. (2013). Agroecology and alternative agri-food movements in the United States: Toward a sustainable agri-food system. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37, 115–126. https://doi.org/10.1080/10440046.2012.735633
- Francis, C., Rickerl, D., Lieblein, G., Salvador, R., Gliessman, S., Wiedenhoeft, M., Breland, T. A., Simmons, S., Creamer, N., Allen, P., Harwood, R., Altieri, M., Salomonsson, L., Flora, C., Helenius, J., & Poincelot, R. (2002). Agroecology: The ecology of food systems. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 22(3), 99–118. https://doi.org/10.1300/J064v22n03_10
- Nourish. (2020). Food System Tools – Nourish: Food + Community. https://www.nourishlife.org/teach/food-system-tools/
- TEEB. (2018). Systems thinking: an approach for understanding ‘eco-agri-food systems.’ In TEEB for Agriculture & Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report (pp. 17–56). Geneva: UN Environment. http://teebweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Foundations_Report_Final_October.pdf
- Thompson, P. (2021). The vanishing ethics of husbandry. In B. Bovenkerk & J. Keulartz (Eds.), Animals in Our Midst: The Challenges of Co-existing with Animals in the Anthropocene (pp. 203–222). Springer. http://www.springer.com/series/6215
- Van Zanten, H. H. E., Van Ittersum, M. K., & De Boer, I. J. M. (2019). The role of farm animals in a circular food system. Global Food Security, 21, 18–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.GFS.2019.06.003
- Via Campesina. (1996). The Right to Produce and Access to Land. Via Campesina. https://viacampesina.org/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/11/1996-Rom-en.pdf