TEDxManhattan: Lessons for Creating a More Sustainable Food System

Photo by TEDxManhattan

On January 21, FPOP hosted a viewing party in support of the second annual TEDxManhattan: Changing the Way We Eat. Students heard from distinguished food and farming experts as they explained the current state of our food system, the impact on our bodies and our future, and what is being done to fight back.

Birke Baehr, the first speaker and one very impressive young boy, set the tone for the day by giving us as Americans and consumers a choice: “We can pay the farmer or we can pay the hospital.” Baehr’s plea considers the fact that the market forces driving up the use of pesticides and antibiotics in our food supply will not simply disappear despite the immense financial and public health burden to society. Attesting to the power of industry, Wenonah Hauter shed light on the fact that farmers are stuck in non-negotiable contracts making just enough to stay afloat as the profits of Monsanto and other factory farming giants soar. 

Dr. David Wallinga spoke of the toxic substances in our food supply. The effect has been disastrous: a growing threat of antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella, e. coli, and MRSA.  But factory farms aren’t the only ones to blame here. Disturbingly, NHANES data show that meat consumption in the U.S. is more than three times the global average. Its no surprise that the U.S. consumer demands more meat at increasingly lower costs perpetuates this cycle of unfair and unsustainable farming practice.

Bob Lawrence encouraged us as consumers  to “vote with our fork” in the absence of political support for changing this food system – for eradicating the use of pesticides and CAFO’s. Essentially, we need to purchase from farmers who raise their animals sustainably, ethically, and free of antibiotics.

Urvashi Rangan reminded us that labels on food products also have a great impact on what people choose to consume, but “value-added” labels can be misleading. Take a look at the new movement by the corn refiners to rename high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar”. While misleading labels are only piece of this problem, Urvashi urges the public and Congress to stop the government’s arcane labeling and use consumer demand to drive progress in transparent and accurate labeling.

Jamie Oliver delivered his award-winning speech on the impact of mass-marketing campaigns for calorie-dense and sugary foods on our children’s health. His talk is better viewed in full, so please watch it here!

Photo by Andrea Popovech

Stephen Ritz gave a riveting talk moving many of our TedX audience members to cheer during and after. Ritz is a teacher in the South Bronx where 25% of residents are unemployed, 40% are living in poverty, and the median income is $20,000. He began using Indoor Edible Walls as a learning-based project to not only teach his students about healthy eating habits and plant biology, but to provide a learning opportunity about entrepreneurship and business. Proving the efficacy of empowerment, attendance in Ritz’s class has increased from 40% to 93% and all of his students  of this first cohort have gone on to attend college.

Fred Kirschenmann spoke to the necessity of nurturing our soil back to health if we really want to change the way we eat. Unfortunately conventional methods of farming have destroyed more than 50% of topsoil and degraded more than 25% of the remaining topsoil. However, innovative agricultural researchers and soil scientists are coming up with eco-friendly ways to renew soil, such as switching from a two-year corn, soybean rotation to a three-year corn, soybean, oat/red clover crop rotation. Doing so can reduce pesticide use by 97% and reduce synthetic fertilizer use by over 90%.

Send us an email if you would like to get involved in FPOP’s mission to raise campus awareness about these and other pressing food policy issues!

Posted by: Jaclyn Clenney

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