Sharon Palmer, RDN Film Review: Food for Thought, Food for Life

Sharon Palmer, RDN Film Review: Food for Thought, Food for Life

I had the privilege of screening the short but profound film Food For Thought, Food for Life. Directed by Susan Rockefeller, the movie examines the global impact of current farming practices, future challenges facing agriculture, and inspiring grassroots movements that offer innovative solutions within various communities.

In order to help us understand the present situation, the film walks us through how farming practices have changed over the years. Gone are the days of cheap energy, surplus fresh water, inexpensive fertilizer, and a fairly stable climate. Within these constraints, farmers have been forced to focus on the energy-intensive specialized monoculture, or a field composed of single crops rather than multiple crop species. The evolution away from diversified farming operations has created the ability to produce mass amounts of food, but at the cost of decreased food quality and increased use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.

Food for Thought, Food for Life also highlights the financial inefficiencies that result from current food policies. Billions of dollars are spent on food subsidies, with the top ten percent of subsidy recipients receiving 74% of the subsidy money. Given that over $400 billion was spent from 2008-2012 on farm subsidies, its puzzling how 26 million people in the United States still live in a food desert, with no access to affordable or good quality fresh food.

The film shows us that impressive local efforts around the country are coming up with solutions to this nationwide problem. Fresh, local food is being produced in gardens in public spaces and even on school grounds. Regional food hubs are enabling people to consume the food that is being produced, reducing the commodity-type food that is usually transported far distances and heavily processed. These type of programs keep the money within the local communities, help keep kids off the street, and provide tools for education.

It hasn’t taken long for the gap between the farm and the table to widen such that the resulting disconnect has negatively affected the health of the earth, economy, communities, and individuals. The film strives to impart the necessity to become more aware of what we eat, where it comes from, and how there are many ways everyone help change the system. Getting to know local farmers, buying locally, talking to produce managers, chefs, and even restaurant owners can have a positive and substantial impact on community health. Reducing food waste, eating less meat, and limiting processed foods are simple and inexpensive ways that individuals can better the environment, support the community, and improve their own health.

The new face of agriculture must blend the best ideas of commercial agriculture, organic farming of local food, and ideas of environmental conservation. The next generation of farmers must combine traditional knowledge with new technology and include the new community players such as chefs and restaurateurs. Ron Finley, who runs a horticultural revolution in South Central Los Angeles and has a vision for community gardening and rejuvenation in areas underserved by fresh, affordable food, says in the film, “To change the community, we need to change the composition of the soil. We are the soil”.

Food for Thought Food for Life is an excellent movie that provides a glimpse into the American food and farming system, as well as its challenges and the promising community programs on the horizon aimed to counter the gaps. I highly recommend this film for anyone who is interested in learning more about the agricultural revolution and how one can get involved to be part of the solution.

Written by Heather Borders, Dietetic Intern, Wellness Workdays, Founder, Kailo Nutrition, with Sharon Palmer, RDN

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