In the United States, health is often defined by deficiency and lack rather than vigor and abundance — and rightfully so. The World Cancer Research Fund found that, in 2018, the United States had the fifth highest rates of cancer worldwide. Additionally, a report in the International Journal of Cardiology found that the U.S. has the highest rates of heart disease among “High Income Countries”. It is likely that you know at least one person with cancer, heart disease, and/or other chronic illnesses. Suffice it to say that Americans are not the healthiest bunch.
While we may not be able to immediately control several of the factors that contribute to the ubiquity of chronic illness — genetics, medical racism, environmental hazards, etc — there are many factors that we can, and therefore ought to, control. And for some, the food they purchase is something they can control. One responsible way to boost personal health is to maintain (safe) participation in farmers’ markets, CSAs, urban agriculture projects, and other alternative foodways. In doing so, you also support local agricultural systems, farmers, and overall community health.
It is important to acknowledge that the ability to choose the source and quality of one’s food is a privilege. Due to historic and structural systems of oppression, including wealth inequity, racism, and the heteronormative patriarchy, access to environmentally, socially, and culturally sustainable food systems is not equally afforded to every person and community. Therefore, those who have the ability to participate in holistically sustainable and just food systems have the responsibility to do so.
- By Dylan Fishbein