Our food system, like any complex system, is made up of many multifaceted parts. At CFAC, when we think about our food system, we take a systemic approach, meaning we look at all of the factors - from the farm to the processor to the table to the landfill. Beyond those stages that the food goes through, we also look at all of the diverse elements that impact, and are impacted by those stages - policy making, workforce development, financing, food security, environmental health, and many others.That's why our committees work on projects covering a wide range of issues! With a small staff, we may only work on two to three distinct projects at a time, but over the history of our work, we've worked on many different areas of the food system. We focus our work on what the food system needs at any point in time!
To explain the food system's elements in a little greater detail, here are a couple of great infographics from Nourish, an initiative focused on food system education. While local and industrial food systems don't always follow the patterns below, these infographics are useful for considering some of the differences we see in how food gets to our plate (and to the landfill).
Here's another great infographic, produced during a conference held by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. This one shows just a couple of the additional layers we try to think about when we think systemically about the food system. When you start to dig in, you realize how many diverse elements influence our food system - and how many things are influenced by the food we choose to eat!
Things get more complex from here! Local isn't always better (take, for example, a local producer who doesn't take good care of the land or treats his/her employees poorly) and global doesn't always mean bad (such as examples of great, fair trade, environmentally friendly coffee cooperatives), which illustrates the importance of knowing your farmer and getting to know where your food comes from.
We don't expect anyone to be a perfect food citizen (thank goodness - we give ourselves some flexibility too!), but the more we can know about what we're eating, the better decisions we can make - for ourselves, for our communities, for our environment, and for our future.