This week we will be discussing food systems, sustainability, and food policy. There are two major bills I would like to share with you all and a local “teach-in” hosted by the Hawai`i Food Policy Council.
First, a sustainable food system is one that:
1) Meets the food needs of low income communities, reducing hunger and improving individual health
2) Addresses a broad range of problems affecting the food system, community development, and the environment such as increasing poverty and hunger, disappearing farmland and family farms, inner city supermarket redlining, rural community disintegration, rampant suburban sprawl, and air and water pollution from unsustainable food production and distribution patterns
3) Has a stable local agricultural base and strong ties between farmers and consumers
4) Promotes and supports community food security, self-reliance, and empowerment to provide for their food needs
5) Has opportunities for a build up a community's food resources including supermarkets, farmers' markets, gardens, transportation, community-based food processing ventures, and urban farms to name a few
6) Is systems-oriented and crosses many boundaries to incorporate collaborations with multiple agencies.
To learn more about and help promote and produce sustainable food systems, the Hawai`i Food Policy Council, with support from Kaiser Permanente and the Small Planet Fund, will be hosting a statewide food policy “teach-in” style conference this Thursday, July 28th 2011. This teach-in will feature nationally renowned author and Food Policy Council guru Mark Winne and Pam Roy. The focus will be on harnessing the power and potential of local food policy councils to transform Hawai`i’s food system and serve local stakeholders. Stakeholders of food policy include farmers and consumers - each and every citizen of Hawai`i! The public is invited to join the movement to create a healthy sustainable food system, and build a network to bridge the gaps between Hawai`i’s various food system sectors including production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste management. Participants can help to “address systemic problems in our food system and imagine innovative and collaborative solutions (http://www.hawaiifoodpolicycouncil.org/index.html).”
Where? St. Anthony's Retreat Center 3351 Kalihi Street - Honolulu, Hawai`i 96819
When? July 28th 2011, 8:30am – 4:30pm
Registration Fee is $25 and includes healthy locally sourced lunch and break time snacks. Students with a valid student ID are free. According to the Hawai`i Food Policy website, “No one will be turned away for lack of funds.” ***If you cannot attend, there will be a live stream on their website thanks to the support of Kanu Hawai`i!
Next, we will talk about the 2012 Federal Farm Bill. Every five years or so, the US adopts a new Farm Bill. This massive piece of legislation sets the framework for what we eat, whether our food is nourishing and affordable, what assistance our society provides to feed hungry people, what crops farmers grow under what conditions, global grain and fiber markets, and how rural land is used. This cycle is underway again, as the 2008 version of the law is running its course. This round of debate over food and farm policy comes at a time of intense and growing public interest in food issues. It also comes at a time of economic uncertainty for our families, communities and nation—when the concept of public investment in our future is under attack.
According to the Honolulu Weekly, “Unfortunately, very little in the Farm Bill supports local food systems: Between 1 percent to 3 percent of the bill’s subsidies are dedicated to community food projects (http://honoluluweekly.com/diary/2011/03/local-kine-farm-bill/).” To keep tabs on this issue and efforts to affect the outcome, visit http://www.hawaiifoodpolicycouncil.org/ for links to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees’ websites.
The last issue I would like to share with you is about the status of the Hawai`i Food Safety Bill/HB667. At first glance, this bill makes sense. Who would object to greater food “security” and “safety”? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), food security is built upon three pillars: food availability, food access, and food use; while, food safety pertains to the prevention of foodborne illnesses, through education, legislation, and preventative practice (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs237/en/). In Hawaii, these things – food security and food safety – are part of an important controversial conversation that affects our farmers, our local food sources, and our health.
Last week, Governor Abercrombie vetoed HB 667, a measure that called for the creation of a “food safety program” within the state’s Department of Agriculture. While the governor acknowledges the need for appropriate food safety practices, he expressed concern that HB 667 did not provide funding or authority by which to implement such a program. In his press release, Abercrombie also noted that federal measures – such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – are, in fact, already working to ensure food safety across the country. For these reasons and for the divisive effect the bill has already had, the governor chose to veto it, but assured the public that the administration will aim to create a new bill that addresses food safety more comprehensively. Now both sides – those in favor of the bill and those against it – will have more time to argue their case, rally support, and perhaps, even find a way to meet in the middle.
According to the Conservation Hawai`i website:
Those against HB 667…
Believe it would have had a significant negative impact on small, local farmers. In an effort to reduce our dependency on imported foods, Hawai`i is working toward food security through the support and growth of the local food movement. Some argue that this movement will be hindered by bills like HB 667 that place increased certification expenses on farmers. Increased expenses and certification (as prescribed in HB 667) that can only be provided by companies on the mainland may force some local farms out of business, directly countering the effort to move Hawaii toward food security.
Local farmers are not suggesting they are against food safety. Rather, they are asking that exceptions be made for smaller farmers, as is the case with the FSMA. A small farm owner and operator in Waimanalo explained in an interview with Honolulu Weekly, “The federal Food Safety Modernization Act exempts farmers under $500,000 in business, but HB 667 offers no exemptions for Hawaii’s small farmers. In fact, HB 667 targets the farmer as the problem in food safety, despite all evidence that it’s after the food leaves the farm that the problems occur”.
Those in favor of HB 667…
Believe stricter regulations are needed to prevent foodborne illnesses, particularly as Hawaii’s tropical climate is conducive to harmful parasites. They cite rat lungworm disease, an illness contracted by the ingestion of parasitic worm larvae that may find its way into the folds of peppers, lettuce and other produce. Supporters of HB 667, which included the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF), believe that although the new federal regulations may be burdensome to small farmers, HB 667 was meant to assist Hawaii farmers in adjusting to and complying with the new regulations. (http://www.conservationhawaii.org)
The bottom line, the new bill should be one that supports local farmers without putting the consumers’ health at risk.
We can all get informed and get involved! We can all gain a greater knowledge, appreciation, and a sense of control over our food sources to create a more healthy, equitable, sustainable food system.
(Taken from : http://www.examiner.com/sustainable-living-in-honolulu/sustainable-local-food-policy-get-involved)
MA`O Organic Farms - Waianae, HIMA`O Organic Farms - Waianae, HI
honolulumagazine.com (courtesy of Mao Farms)
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