Last Tuesday, Chicago's "green food resolution," came even closer to beating out the likes of New York on the east coast and San Francisco on the west to officially resolve to help both the health of the planet and that of their citizens by encouraging more sustainable, healthier food options. The resolution was introduced to the Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Committee.*
Some might claim cities are engaging in one-upmanship with such resolutions, but they can have significant influence. Competition among large cities to be the first in a given green technology, green roofs or greenest overall city raises the bar for others to improve their relative sustainability. This resolution is a great example of thinking globally and acting locally: as Chicagoans make healthier, more sustainable food choices, the impact can be huge as other cities follow suit and the movement toward sustainable eating grows.
What does Chicago's Green Food Resolution say? Both its text and its very presence say a lot. The growth of the food movement is exemplified by the fact that local officials are not only discussing, but also have gone so far as to acknowledge in a resolution that the manner in which our food is produced affects both our health and the sustainability of the planet.
For members of Chicago's City Council to tie some of the big issues being discussed in Washington, such as ecological sustainability and health, into one resolution shows how these different debates converge on the subject of food policy. The resolution aims to improve our health and impact on the environment by encouraging people to grow, sell, buy and eat locally-grown, plant-based foods.
Check out this excerpt:
BE lT RESOLVED, that the Chicago City Council encourages individuals, civic associations, and community based organizations to grow local, organic gardens, and institutions and businesses to offer more plant based foods; and
BE lT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chicago City Council promotes the expansion of the number of Farmers' Markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, community gardens, and other venues which provide healthful plant based foods.
If you follow the food movement, you likely have heard Michael Pollan explain how if we scratch the surface on some of the major issues we face, especially sustainability, climate change and health care, we find that the manner in which our food is produced and what food is made available for consumption are essential considerations.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and monoculture farming of soy and corn have huge consequences to both the sustainability of our planet and our population's health. One way to combat the damage done by factory farms to our environment and improve our health is to change to a more plant-based, even organic diet. For example, consuming products from organic gardens and farms reduces pesticide residue in our water and soil, as well as our bodies. Buying such foods shows farmers and food manufacturers alike that there is a thriving market for foods grown using more sustainable methods.
How does the resolution help in these matters? Despite having a great many local farmers' markets, such as Green City Market in Lincoln Park, many Chicagoans still live in food deserts. We have not yet made healthy, plant-based foods affordable and readily accessible to all of our citizens.
Indeed, the resolution acknowledges, "...many communities in the City of Chicago are considered 'food deserts', with lack of readily affordable fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods." By opening farmers' markets in food deserts and making fresh produce more available in stores, we can improve the health of those communities and begin remaking our food production along more sustainable lines. The resolution aids the food movement by promoting greater availability of wholesome food options.
With Food, Inc. and Fresh in theaters this summer, the nation's awareness of the need for healthy, sustainable food is growing. Green-food resolution or not, Chicagoans and millions of other U.S. citizens have already begun transforming their diets to healthier, more sustainable ones; the food movement is hitting its stride and gaining speed.
Having read Kerry Trueman's post last week regarding New York City's Foodprint Resolution, it's clear that if Chicago's City Council is the first to pass theirs, others will likely follow. The fact that this movement is visibly sprouting up in cities across the U.S. as more citizens, including the Obamas, begin gardening once again, is a promising trend.
Passage of this resolution will advance Chicago toward sustainable food sources and up the ante for other cities. We still have much progress to make before all of Chicago's residents have access to healthy, fresh, plant-based foods. However, with the help of efforts by such non-profits as Growing Power and local farmers and gardeners using more sustainable practices, we can make Chicago a model for providing healthy, fair, accessible, clean and sustainable food.
*Correction: The original post indicated that the resolution passed the City Council. It has been changed to reflect that it has been introduced to committee.
Follow Wesley Epplin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wesleyepplin