Alternative food networks are drawing increasing numbers of people who are looking to connect with ethical food producers, and the result may be healthier eating for consumers, according to research by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Alternative food programs include items such as:
Although many consumers use alternative food networks along with supermarkets, many said they only shopped at supermarkets "out of necessity." Other key motivations for using alternative food networks included the desire to:
Meanwhile, alternative food networks may be challenged by supermarkets that are attempting to establish a sense of connection with customers by providing the names of farmers on packaging. Semi-national organic box delivery programs are also rapidly expanding, which could challenge smaller, more local alternative food networks.
Just by changing the way you buy your food, you can eat more fruits and veggies, become a better cook (which is essential for your long-term health), and learn more about your food!
The majority of people today have no idea where their food comes from, and this is because the United States as a whole has moved away from the traditional farming practices that our ancestors thrived on, and turned to mega-farming factories instead.
Today well over 50 percent of the food you eat is produced by factory-farming methods. Small, organic, local farms are quickly disappearing here in the United States.
The Problems With Modern-Day Agriculture
New York Times author Michael Pollan wrote an excellent article about Why Our Food Supply is Crumbling. I highly suggest you read it.
Folks, farming is a cyclical process that relies on the innate cycles of nature to thrive. When you attempt to industrialize this process, you end up with inferior food quality and outbreaks of disease.
For instance, animals were once fed on pasture, and their waste helped that pasture grow. Today we have animals feeding on feedlots, and there are problems with fertilizer (which are now chemicals) and what to do with all the waste.
Meanwhile, rather than returning to a more simple solution, modern-day agriculture turns to technological fixes, such as chemical fertilizers, rather than natural ones, and irradiating meat rather than cleaning up the farms. They also pump the animals full of antibiotics and hormones to keep them from becoming sick and to make them grow as fast as possible.
Disease outbreaks are also much more likely with an industrialized food system. One large factory farm may wash up to 26 million servings of salad each week. This means that a single contaminant could taint a huge portion of food, and quickly be spread across the United States.
With a decentralized, locally based food system, when things go wrong, fewer people are affected and the problem can be easily tracked to its source.
Great Alternatives to Your Supermarket
I would go so far as to say that the less you visit your local supermarket, the healthier you will tend to be. Whether you try out farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture programs, or a box delivery system, you will not be exposed to the aisle after aisle of chemically created, brightly colored, fake foods that your supermarket readily sells.
Of course, supermarkets make the majority of their profits from processed foods, which is why they promote them on aisle end-caps and other highly visible areas in the store -- because you are 30 percent more likely to buy items that are easily seen!
My suggestion to you and your family is to peruse this list of sustainable agriculture groups around the United States.
The good news is that increasing numbers of you are getting sick and tired (literally!) of paying a high cost for substandard, cheap, factory food.
As a result, alternative food networks are popping up all over the United States, from remote, rural areas to big cities. Please investigate the resources in your area, and avoid the supermarket as much as possible.
In case you’re wondering, local food IS preferable to organic. This is because your food will be much fresher if you buy it locally, and it will reduce the strain on the environment. Also, many small farmers actually use organic farming methods, but cannot afford the costly federal certification process to become certified “organic.” You’ll need to ask your individual farmer to be sure.
If you can’t find a local food resource from the link above, you can also track down sources by:
- Asking workers in your local health food store
- Searching online for local farms in your area
- Posting your request here on VitalVotes (many of our members are well-connected with local-food scenes around the world)