Who controls what we put in our bodies?
Listening to our speakers at our first 2011 New England Food Summit panel on building a regional vision and collaboration around food, I'm struck by a point made by panelist David Schwartz, campaign coordinator of the Real Food Challenge: who controls what we put in our body?
Say you live in New England and want to support local fishermen and women buy eating local seafood -- which, by the way, is healthy for your body and our local economy. According to Ken LaValley of NH Seagrant Extension and UNH, most seafood caught in New England LEAVES New England. Then we IMPORT seafood.
So even if you wanted to eat "local" or "regional" seafood, you have to look hard to find it.
And if you can't afford local seafood or produce, will food stamps or WIC cover it? Or are you forced to by whatever you can find cheaply at the fast food restaurant or convenience store you can walk to (not the farmer's market on Saturday where you might find local seafood, if they'll take your food stamps)?
Can we control this? Our panelists say yes.
In fact, we already have in some areas, but there's more we can do.
What I love about this first panel of our summit is that it shows how people are doing just that across New England: from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to the Real Food Challenge to the New England Farm to Institution project to the NH Fresh and Local Seafood Campaign. Leaders on this panel and many, many others are taking control. They are changing laws, forging regional distribution patterns, changing eating habits, reallocating where dollars are spent, all to make a difference in New England.
"There are lot of boots on the ground, a lot of energy. And it doesn't take much to stir it up," David Schwartz said during this panel. "We have the troops, and now we need to figure out how best to tactically deploy them."
The rallying to take more control of our food system in New England is beginning right here at this summit. Onward and upward.