The True Cost of Food:
We, the consumers, through our food choices, can stop the practices that harm our health, our planet, and our quality of life.
A campaign to promote sustainable food choices.
from the Sierra Club National Sustainable Consumption Committee.
The True Cost of Food is a 15 minute educational and entertaining video about sustainable food. Email email@example.com to get a copy of the video (DVD or VHS) and discussion guide.
This two-sided single page can be used as a handout at meetings, street fairs, and other gatherings.
We vote three times a day.
With every meal we can choose to help the environment or to harm it.
- If you care about global warming, don't buy food that has traveled
hundreds or thousands of miles by plane and truck to get to you.
- If you care about open spaces, buy food that is grown on small local farms,
which help keep open spaces from being paved over.
- If you care about stopping sprawl, buy from local producers rather
than from big chain stores.
- If you care about biodiversity and endangered species, don't buy food
that is produced with toxic pesticides, which kill all sorts of creatures.
- If you care about global warming, don't buy food that is grown with
- If you care about clean air, water and soil, look for food that is
grown on farms where farmers don't use chemical pesticides that are
sprayed from the air and leach into the water and soil.
EAT more vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and seeds
- If you care about forests, wild places, biodiversity, and endangered
species, you should know that a leading cause of deforestation in the
Americas and elsewhere is the raising of cattle and their feed.
- If you care about clean water and soil, don't buy meat from factory farms
where animals are raised in confined operations so that their wastes poison the
air, soil and water around them.
"Sustainability means living in such a way that there are enough resources to live well, in an alive,
— Jon Jeavons, author of How to Grow More Vegetables.
A sustainable system is one that can be maintained with minimal use of scarce resources from outside the
system; with minimal negative impact on the planet; and with maximum benefit for the producer.
Substitute sustainable agriculture for the industrial model based on pesticides, herbicides and poorly tested
genetically engineered foods.
"Getting rid of outrageous subsidies and restoring family farms is only a first,
relatively easy step. Next comes making serious public investment in agricultural research, to put the
world's cumulative, sophisticated knowledge of plant ecology to work."
Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly
Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress, by Carl Pope
WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Most of the world's problems can't be fixed by individual
action: disease, war, and poverty require concentrated
efforts by policy makers and governments. But ONLY
consumers can affect the way food is grown and
transported; this is an area where our actions make a
difference. If we buy food that's grown sustainably supply
will follow demand and it will become more available.
When it becomes obvious that small farmers can make a
decent living, more young people will be able to start
Here's what you can do:
- Find out where the food you eat comes from and how it's
grown, raised, and processed. Get to know the farmers
who grow your food and support them.
- Buy food that is grown locally. Fresh food from local
farmers is more nutritious and avoids pollution caused by
- Eat seasonally; you might find blueberries and peaches in
Northern supermarkets in February, but they've been
shipped from far away—and they're probably tasteless,
anyway. Wait for the delicious produce that's grown in
your area and you'll enjoy the pleasure of anticipation and
learning the rhythm of the seasons.
- Eat the greatest variety of the least processed food and eat
less of it.
- Buy organic whenever you can. Organic farmers don't
use the chemicals that are polluting our water, air, and
- Start your own organic garden—you can never get
fresher food than by growing it yourself!
- Eat less meat. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and seeds
are healthier and more sustainable
- Eat with family and friends; learn to cook; share recipes
and your knowledge of sustainability.
- Buy grass-fed, free-range, or pasture-raised meat and
- Try "Sustainable Tuesdays: Learn more about this at
- Shop at farmers' markets and farmstands; find one at
www.localharvest.org or sustainabletable.org.
- Join a CSA, a food co-op that supports a local farm.
- If you choose fish, eat fish that is raised sustainably.
Learn more at www.seafood.audubon.org.
- Ask restaurants, stores, and schools where they get their
food. Support those that buy locally. See
- See the Sustainable Consumption Committee's Activist Toolkit.
Young children can't fully comprehend the science behind
the decisions to eat safe food—but that doesn't mean it's
too soon to involve them.
- Plant seeds and watch them grow. You can grow lettuce
or herbs in 3-inch pots on a sunny windowsill. If you have
room, try squash or tomatoes in the ground or in 5-gallon
pots. No yard? Look for a community garden.
- Make composting a family activity. Here's a way to
ensure that your kids will get involved: add worms to your
pile—kids can't resist them, and they make explaining the
composting process fun.
- Start a worm box; they're available through most garden
centers and worms teach kids about sustainability—as
well as being great fun.
- Organize family outings to farmers' markets and to
farms, for apple and strawberry-picking or helping with
weeding and harvesting. Introduce your kids to the
farmers and to farmers' kids. Joining a CSA—a
Community-Supported Agriculture program in which
consumers buy shares in a farm's harvest—make this
especially easy to do.
- Whenever possible, bring your kids' friends, and their
parents, along. Peer pressure is so important to kids;
getting your child's class involved will help enormously.
- Get involved in your school's PTA and advocate nutrition
education. Try to get local food brought to the school
breakfast or lunch program and start a school garden.
KIDS AND VEGETABLES
We're not going to say that it's easy to get kids to eat
vegetables, certainly not when their friends are all eating
sugar- and fat-filled foods. But here are some ideas for
veggies that many kids are happy to try:
- Dips and dunks; it's more fun to eat a broccoli spear or a
carrot stick if you've dunked it yourself. Try different
vegetables--not every kid will like every one--and try
some dips with special kid ingredients, like sweet fruit or
- Make your own pizza: Ask your kids to decorate with
vegetables and they're more likely to find them palatable.
- Most important: do it together. Involve your kids in
preparing meals—even a two-year-old can tear up
greens—and eating as a family.
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