skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

How Does Our Food System Contribute To Global Warming?

Audio

Aired 11/10/09

How is our food and agriculture system contributing to global warming? What kind of changes need to be made in our food system to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? We discuss the importance of sustainable food systems.

Ellee Igoe and Heather Fenney will hold a lecture on "Cultivating Justice through Sustainable Food Systems" tonight at 6:30 at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Guests

Heather Fenney, former director of the California Food and Justice Coalition, and Associate Directory of Development with Community Services Unlimited, Inc in Los Angeles.

Ellee Igoe, Food Security and Community Health Program Manager at the International Rescue Committee regional resettlement office in San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. When you think of the culprits behind big greenhouse gas emissions, you probably think about the energy industry or the auto industry. So it may surprise you that scientists say nearly one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions result from agriculture and food production. Many people in the sustainable food movement say our ways of growing food have to change, and the new ways have to be more like the much older ways of doing things. There are several sustainable food projects underway in San Diego, and here to tell us about them are my guests. Heather Fenney is the former Director of the California Food and Justice Coalition, and Associate Directory of Development – Director, that is, of Development with Community Services Unlimited, Incorporated in Los Angeles. Heather, welcome to These Days.

HEATHER FENNEY (Associate Director of Development, Community Services Unlimited, Inc.): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: And Ellee Igoe is Food Security and Community Health Program Manager at the International Rescue Committee regional resettlement office here in San Diego. Ellee, welcome.

ELLEE IGOE (Food Security and Community Health Program Manager, International Rescue Committee Regional Resettlement Office): Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And we invite our listeners to join the conversation. Do you grow some of your own food? Or would you like to get involved in a food growing project? Give us a call with your questions and your comments. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Heather, you know, as I said in the opening, a lot of us don’t think of agriculture and food when we think about what contributes to global climate change. So can you tell us how the food and agriculture system does contribute to our changing climate?

FENNEY: Sure, and like you said, it’s a huge contributor, about a third of climate change emissions are coming from agriculture and from the food system. Most of that is coming from on the farm. We use a huge amount of carbon in producing food, that’s pesticides that are produced, the operation of farm machinery, and then a huge amount also from the livestock on farms. Part of agriculture’s big contribution is because of its emissions not only of carbon but also because of methane and nitrous oxide, which have a much greater warming effect than carbon. Nitrous oxide actually has a warming effect that’s nearly 300 times greater than CO2 and that’s largely coming from the chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, that are applied to crops. And then methane, which is largely coming from animals and their waste is a 23 times greater global warming potential. So just on farm practices are a third of emissions and then a huge warming effect for the planet overall.

CAVANAUGH: That is amazing. I’m going to ask you more about those specific things that you listed but I’m wondering if you have a rundown of some of the fixes that you would like to put in to change this. I mean, I’m thinking of what are you going to do to change the methane that comes from livestock? I mean, that seems a rather natural by product, so to speak, about – of just farming animals.

FENNEY: Well, actually it’s part of the reason we’re releasing so much methane is because of the livestock production methods that we use. So animals, particularly cows, this is coming from ruminant animals like cows, sheep, goats, their systems are made to digest grass. They’re grazing animals and they’re meant to graze and eat grass. But when we put them into factory feeding operations or CAFOs, Confined Animal Feeding Operations and factory farms and we feed them a grain of – diet of primarily grain that doesn’t match their systems, they release nearly twice as much methane as they would if they were eating, you know, diets that are consistent with their system: grazing and eating grass. So part of it, we need to change the way we’re raising our food, and the emissions are not only coming – I mean, the problem is not only the animals but all the damage and emissions that are caused from raising the grain that goes to feed these animals. About 50% of the grain that’s raised in this country goes to feed animals and uses about 30 billion—that’s with a ‘b’—pounds of fertilizers and 340 million pounds of pesticides each year. And, you know, half of the pesticides that we spray on our crops actually dissipate into the air and put nitrous oxide and carbon, you know, back into the atmosphere before they can even go onto our plants. So, you know, it’s a change in the way we raise the animals, it’s changing we raise (sic) the feed that goes to the animals and then, you know, ultimately, in the west we’re going to have to eat less meat because, you know, our climate can’t support the whole world developing meat consumption patterns that match us here in the U.S.

CAVANAUGH: That’s very interesting. You know, we have been doing a KPBS – a “Food” series about the food we eat and where it comes from and frequent listeners are very aware of the kinds of things that you’ve been talking about. Feeding – how this happenstance of feeding corn to cows developed and what we have as a result of that. And I’m wondering, what are other things that happened in this – in our food system, this life cycle of food, in our food production, what are the other things that are perhaps out of balance and that we didn’t intend but are just part of the system now? Heather?

FENNEY: Yeah, sorry. Yeah, I mean, I think definitely looking at how we’re growing other crops, not just meat but fruits and vegetables, row crops, grain, that we’re using huge amounts of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals to do that and that those are running off into our waterways, onto our land and creating – you know, we’ve heard – people have probably heard about dead zones in the Gulf and we have here in California many rivers and streams that are now considered dead zones as well where fish and plant and animal life can’t live because of the runoff from agriculture that’s happening in those places. And then, excuse me, and then there’s the passed on health affects to people and, increasingly, we’re showing that the chemicals and – that people are exposed to in their food is having an impact on the health of humans.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Heather Fenney and she is the former director of the California Food and Justice Coalition, and now Associate Director of Development with Community Services Unlimited. And my other guest is Ellee Igoe. She’s Food Security and Community Health Program Manager at the International Rescue Committee regional resettlement office right here in San Diego. We’re taking you calls at 1-888-895-5727. Before I get Ellee into the conversation, I do want to take this one call from Tim in Ramona. Good morning, Tim, and welcome to These Days.

TIM (Caller, Ramona): Thank you very much. And unless something has changed just recently, sustainable is a term that is in flux. If we had this conversation two years ago, it would have been about organic agriculture. Last year it would’ve been about local and organic. This year, it seems to be about sustainable. It’s my understanding that sustainable is a yet-to-be-defined term and could mean many things. The one thing that the large growers in this state agree that it means is viability and really doesn’t have any usable definition for this conversation.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay. All right. Well, let’s find out how my guests define sustainability. Let me go to you first, Heather. What is the definition of sustainability that you’re working with?

FENNEY: Yeah, you know, I think your caller raises a really good issue because oftentimes when we think about sustainability we might just focus on, say, the environment and sustainability in that way. And, really, we have to look at it across the full system for people, planet, the environment, our economy, and farmers, like he mentioned, as well. And, you know, something – practices that are going to be sustainable for the environment are going to be good for people and likewise, agriculture and food system practices that are going to be sustainable for communities and for people and healthy are going to be sustainable for the environment. And so I think when we’re talking about sustainable, we’re, for me, when I’m talking about sustainable it’s practices that share benefits across communities, that don’t try to externalize the negative impacts of a system, that build health and wellbeing for everybody involved and that, you know, protect our resources. You know, use resource responsibility now but ensure that there’s resources for others to use in the future.

CAVANAUGH: That’s one big definition for a very small world – word. I wonder, Ellee, is there anything that you would like to add to that? What do you mean when you talk about a sustainable food project, what are you talking about?

IGOE: Yeah, I think I also agree that the caller brings up a really good point. I think that sustainability is a vision and people are talking about kind of what is their vision of a different way of living on this planet, and I think it really starts to break down or get more clear when we get practical – when we start to get practical about how and where we grow our own food. And both Heather and I talk a lot about how do we kind of look at sustainability through the lens of social justice and how are we practicing this kind of – this vision in our low-income communities and among people who can’t necessarily take advantage of the price, you know, the higher price tag that comes along with living a sustainable lifestyle. And kind of to follow on what Heather said, how do we build a sustain – you know, a solution that doesn’t involve everybody is not a sustainable solution, so I think we need to broaden our idea of what we’re looking at and include social justice.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Ellee, you work with the International Rescue Committee here in San Diego. The International Rescue Committee, from my understanding, usually works overseas in areas of emergencies and other countries that are deeply troubled often. And I’m wondering, why is the IRC here? What is the project here in San Diego?

IGOE: Umm-hmm. A very small fraction of refugees are cleared for domestic resettlement through the U.N. and so the IRC operates a domestic resettlement office here in San Diego that was started in 1975. We’ve actually helped facilitate the resettlement of more than 20,000 people into our county. And one – and the reason that we got kind of involved in food issues and food production is that a large number of folks who come here are from agrarian backgrounds and they are resettled into dense urban neighborhoods that lack park space, that lack green space, and they’re eager to get back to the land and grow their own food. And so we’ve been working with them to kind of create pathways back towards farming for them.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Tell us a little bit about the project called the New Roots Community Farm. It’s in City Heights. What’s the concept behind this community farm?

IGOE: Sure. The New Roots Community Farm is San Diego – is a 2.3 acre community garden. It serves 80 families from, I think, 8 different countries. And the idea is that we need to create kind of venues for folks to get back into the dirt and grow their own food. A study in 1991 said that you can produce $500.00 per season of produce on a 600 square foot garden plot, which is the size of New Roots. And that was in 1991. So if you look at kind of multiplying the food effect of what can we grow locally, you know, that’s – and then you account for inflation, I mean, in 1991 that was $160,000 worth of produce. So that’s a real increase in not only, you know, the healthier food that folks have to – have access to but also, you know, these are, you know, City Heights in particular, is 140 acres park deficient. It is not a green space. And so it’s really mobilizing the skills and the talents of the folks that live there to sequester carbon and to address climate change in a small way in their own community.

CAVANAUGH: And even though this started out as a project to help recent immigrants to this country resettle, I would imagine that there are other people involved in this project as well.

IGOE: Oh, absolutely. There’s – it really is a community garden in the sense of the word. The neighbors across the street are involved. There’s many, many, many different folks that are there. And, you know, the real exciting thing, I think, about the New Roots Community Farm is that it’s an opportunity to learn about global farming practices, to look at, you know, how is food grown in places where it doesn’t rain and how – what can we learn from that? And how can we incorporate that into the way we do agriculture here in San Diego?

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we return, we’ll continue to talk about the New Roots Community Farm and other projects around San Diego and the concept of sustainable food projects, if I can use that word, underway here and around the state. And we’ll be taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We’re talking about environmentally friendly farming techniques developed now to try to stop global warming and combing that with the idea that they should be available to everyone, and the products of such farming techniques should also be available to everyone no matter what their income level. My guests are Heather Fenney, she is Associate Directory of Development with Community Services Unlimited in Los Angeles, and Ellee Igoe. She is Food and Security Community Health Program Manager at the International Rescue Committee regional resettlement office right here in San Diego, and she and her group have established the New Roots Community Farm right in City Heights. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. I want to finish up our discussion a little bit about the New Roots Community Farm, Ellee. What do you grow?

IGOE: Oh, wow. That’s a – There’s things that I don’t – I don’t know. You know, one of the most fascinating things, I think, about the New Roots Community Farm is the number of varieties that folks have already been able to kind of gain access to even though they may not have their traditional seeds. But there’s also a lot of overlap between certain crops. You know, you see corn in almost everyone’s crops. You see amaranth and things that you wouldn’t necessarily view as crossover kind of grown between, you know, among all the different cultures. And so there’s been a real exchange that’s begun, kind of looking at, oh, hey, your tomatoes are doing really well. What are you doing? And how can I do that? And reaching across language barriers in order to have that conversation. So in just a really short amount of time, I think we’ve already learned a lot about how to do food production in a more effective way in San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: As I say, we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s go to the phones right now and take a call from Holly in Oceanside. Good morning, Holly. Welcome to These Days.

HOLLY (Caller, Oceanside): Good morning. Yeah, my question would be what, if someone wanted to start a community garden in their neighborhood, what is the general process that one would actually start to take to be able to develop something like that?

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call, Holly, and, Ellee.

IGOE: Well, you know, unfortunately, it actually depends on the neighborhood and the community in which you live. There’s a reason why we’ve kind of been – we’ve lost our connection to the land and that’s because in San Diego it’s quite expensive and there’s very strict rules about how we use land. And so I’m not so sure in your district but it’s actually a huge barrier in the city of San Diego. Our community garden permitting process is very laborious, very expensive. It actually for the New Roots Community Farm, it cost us more than $46,000 to navigate the process, and took more than two years.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

IGOE: It’s be – Part of the reason is because we are adjacent to environmentally sensitive lands. But the deposit for a community garden is $2500 just for the City to look at and review our – your application and that can climb quickly if there’s multiple people that have to look at it. To their credit, the City is very interested in changing that and I work with an organization called the “One in Ten Coalition” who is engaged in a advocacy effort to change that policy here in the City of San Diego. If you happen to live in a neighborhood where there aren’t a lot of barriers to creating community gardens, I mean, the most important thing to do is talk to your neighbors, talk to the people, and look for land that might be available. You know, lots of people find – I know Community Services Unlimited, a lot of folks are doing community gardening in people’s backyards. There’s very – there’s a lot of ways to get creative in using space. So I wish I could be a little bit more specific and say you just have to do A-B-C and you’re there but there are – There are a lot of resources in San Diego and we can maybe – I think there’s some links actually on the These Days site that can help point you in the right direction.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. And, Heather, I want to get your perspective on this, too, in a more regional way. Is it difficult to start community gardens?

FENNEY: Well, I think the land issue that Ellee talked about is a serious one in probably every community, especially urban areas where it’s very densely populated and it’s hard to find open space. And if you can find it, you know, the prospect of purchasing it for the use as a community garden is pretty challenging. In Los Angeles, we’ve been successful with Community Services Unlimited with partnering with public agencies to use land that they’re under-utilizing. So, for example, we partner with schools and we have urban farm sites on their campuses and then there’s a lot of negotiations that have to happen between the school and how you can make that space accessible, not only to the students but to the community surrounding the school. We also use land at a public Park & Rec facility and at a senior center. These are, you know, city facilities that have a little bit of space that are really challenged by budget cuts. They love to cut back on the cost of landscaping and maintaining their lots…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

FENNEY: …and so we’re able to come in and say that, you know, we’d want to grow food there and use that as a space for the community.

CAVANAUGH: I know that there are several schools in San Diego, in the larger San Diego County, who are actually gardening and growing food and selling some of it in farmers markets and they’ve been guests on the program. They’re very excited about it. Ellee, you helped establish a new farmers market in City Heights. Tell us a little bit about that project.

IGOE: Sure. The City Heights Farmers Market was the first food stamp accessible farmers market in San Diego. And a group of organizations, with the support of residents of City Heights, decided to launch the project about a year and a half ago now. The IRC developed a partnership with the San Diego County Farm Bureau and we’ve been able to kind of foster a really vibrant farmers market in a low income neighborhood. Kind of what we talked about at the beginning, this definition of sustainability and who has access to it, I think, really plays out when we talk about farmers markets because locally grown food that’s not subsidized by this larger kind of industrial food system, has a higher price tag. And so in the meantime, while we’re kind of working to increase the production of local food, which would, in turn, kind of lower the cost of locally grown food, we need to think about how we can make that food affordable in venues that are accessible to people. So if we only have farmers markets in high income neighborhoods, it doesn’t really matter if they’re food stamp accessible because people can’t get there. So how do we bring these local foods into our communities and then how do we increase the buying power of folks so that they can frequent the markets and take advantage of health benefits of locally grown food? We have a program called the Fresh Fund, which we top up the sales when people use their food stamp cards. So if they use $5.00 of food stamps, we match it with $5.00 of Fresh Fund money and then so their buying power at the City Heights Farmers Market is then $10.00.

CAVANAUGH: Oh.

IGOE: And that’s a real boost not only – You know, it’s kind of a backdoor subsidy, if you will, because first it goes into the pocket of a low income family and ends up in the pocket of a small farmer.

CAVANAUGH: I want you to tell us exactly where this farmers market is and also when it’s open.

IGOE: Yeah, absolutely. It’s 9:00 to 1:00 every Saturday in City Heights. It’s just a block south of University between 43rd Street and Wightman. And everyone is welcome.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Let’s take a call. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And Star is calling from Spring Valley. Good morning, Star. Welcome to These Days.

STAR (Caller, Spring Valley): Good morning. Thanks so much for this topic. You know, Ellee’s been a tremendous activist for social justice in San Diego for so many years. Thanks for your leadership, Ellee.

IGOE: Oh, thanks, Star.

STAR: I love the image of refugees in a local garden growing some of their indigenous fruits and vegetables like, let’s say, Palestinians replanting some olive trees and the like. Have you learned from their – from them in terms of what they’re growing and has there been any difficulty in them growing their indigenous fruits and vegetables?

IGOE: That’s a really interesting question. We’ve been talking a lot about Kundai, this – the last couple of weeks, which is we know it as cowpeas. The seed, when it was grown back in east Africa, it was produced for the leaves and people would eat the leaves as greens. Well, here it’s produced for the pods and so when folks are planting these, you know, cowpeas or black-eyed peas they’re getting hardly any leaves. And so they’re trying to figure out how do we kind of move these seeds back in a direction that’s producing, you know, what we want them for. And so, yeah, I mean, access to seeds is a huge issue for folks and, you know, we’re also trying – I mean, the New Roots is kind of we see it as a pathway back to farming for folks. Recently, we started a project with Tierra Miguel Farm & Foundation and we have 19 Somali Bantu growers who are now farming on five acres in rural San Diego County. And so they’ll be able to kind of bring their produce to market, hopefully, back at the City Heights Farmers Market but also selling into CSAs and reintroducing kind of east African specialty crops into what is available in our community.

CAVANAUGH: What is CSAs?

IGOE: I’m sorry, Community Supported Agriculture so it’s a subscription kind of like a magazine but to a local farm so you get a box of really fabulous produce.

CAVANAUGH: Right. I’ve heard of that.

IGOE: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Heather, what is the ultimate goal of projects like this? The specific goal, Ellee is telling us quite well. Is the ultimate goal the hope that these projects will influence the way we actually grow food on a larger scale?

FENNEY: Yeah, I think definitely. I mean, we’re – we – Ellee talked about how much food can be grown at these urban farms and it is a very large amount. There’s a huge potential for growing food in our cities and in the areas surrounding our cities. But we’re going to have to depend on farmers in the rural areas to grow food to feed our cities. But when people are involved in agriculture, not only, you know, in cities and suburban areas, not only do they get the benefits, like Ellee was talking about healthy food and the economic benefits of that, but they become more informed and more experienced in what does it actually take to grow food. And, you know, with the – I think one of the things that we hope for is that as people are more involved and they see what the challenges are, where the opportunities are, how food can be grown in a sustainable way not just for the environment but for communities, the economy and for our health, that will help influence state, national and international policy of how we subsidize and support food production worldwide. Ellee was talking about the subsidy that they offer at the farmers market for the Fresh Fund, you know, matching food stamp dollars and, you know, that’s a great model of how subsidies can be used in a local way that really have a positive impact. When you were talking earlier about unintended consequences, if we look at the way agriculture subsidies are used – are doled out today, there are a lot of unintended consequences. So we spend, in this country, about $6 billion a year to support the production of commodities like corn, wheat, soybeans which largely goes, like I said, half of it is going to feed animals and then a large portion of it is being exported all over the world. Because our crops here are subsidized, we’re pushing down the market price of those foods because farmers are able to sell it for a lower cost because they’re getting money from the government instead of from the consumer. And as we push those prices down here, we’re pushing down grain prices globally all over the world so farmers in other parts of the world who don’t have subsidies aren’t able to sell their product at a price that actually meets what it costs them to grow it. And the ripple effect of that is farm loss and poverty in other countries. In India, suicide is one of the highest causes of death among farmers because of the huge amounts of debt that they incur borrowing money to buy the seeds and the chemicals to try to grow more grain so they can make enough money to survive. So, you know, I mean, I think as we, you know, get more involved with growing food and people can see more of what it takes and what’s possible, that people will get involved with challenging and speaking up against these practices nationally and internationally that aren’t sustainable for anybody.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Bill is calling from Coronado. Good morning, Bill, and welcome to These Days.

BILL (Caller, Coronado): Thanks, Maureen. I do love this idea of gardens. In fact, I think if you look at an aerial map of San Diego, you can see thousands of flat roofs where gardens could go and you probably wouldn’t need all of those, you know, the hoops that you have to go through in taking actual ground. But my – The main reason I called was I was wondering, with all these wonderful ideas coming from Africa, etcetera, why are people not asking the Kumeyaay people about growing the food that they have been developing for 10,000 years, including growing acorns from oaks, which are considered as sort of nuisance trees but grow naturally with no fertilizer and produce thousands of tons of acorns which could become bread here. Each year they have native thistles. They have techniques like slow dams which raise the water table. They have so many ideas because they’ve been here for a long time, and I don’t hear anybody asking them for advice.

CAVANAUGH: Bill, excellent question and it sounds like you’ve done a lot of thought about this. Thank you for calling in. Ellee, I’m going to ask you to respond.

IGOE: I appreciate that comment so much. I think you’re so right that we don’t do enough to learn from the indigenous people and their knowledge is so marginalized when we think about food production. We’ve actually been talking about doing a local exchange with the Kumeyaay and folks at New Roots and so if you know anyone, I’d love to get their contact information so we can facilitate that exchange.

CAVANAUGH: And, Bill, you can always post on our website, KPBS.org/TheseDays if you have any contacts for Ellee, and thanks so much for your phone call. Let’s take a call from Natasha in San Marcos. Good morning, Natasha. Welcome to These Days.

NATASHA (Caller, San Marcos): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I wanted to ask if there were any effort to support or establish community canning centers where people who are growing their own produce or purchasing it at farmers markets can actually preserve it. Since the equipment for doing home canning can be expensive if you have to do pressure canning for vegetables, there – after World War II there used to be a lot of canning centers across the United States but those seem to have lost a lot of the government support that they used to get. So I wonder if your guests are aware of any efforts along those lines.

CAVANAUGH: Ellee?

IGOE: Yeah. Yes, I am. “San Diego Food Not Lawns” has taken a real lead in trying to educate folks on how to do canning and their website is a great resource for workshops. We are also trying to get the City Heights Wellness Center certified as a commercial kitchen and so within our own neighborhood, we can do this, we can capture the harvest, we can can it and then we can, you know, sell it as a value added product at our farmers markets or just so that we can, you know, have more healthy food throughout the year. So I think it’s an excellent point. I think it also speaks to the point that we were talking about earlier that, you know, the knowledge of how to take care of ourselves and how to foster a healthier food system is being lost because we’re not teaching it to our children. Our children are not – don’t have a venue within which we can learn it, and so it’s vital that we kind of bring this idea back into the way that we live in our neighborhoods and in our communities.

CAVANAUGH: Heather, I wanted to go back to a couple of things that you said earlier in our conversation that I thought were very interesting. And that is, obviously the thrust of this effort is not only, not just, environmental, becoming more environmentally friendly in the way that people do their farming and their growing of food but also to make sure that there’s more justice involved in the way that food is delivered and produced. And you talked about not passing costs along or not passing consequences along on the chain. Maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what we do now that is not exactly the right way of doing things as far as you’re concerned.

FENNEY: Yeah, well, I mean, I think I can go back to the example that I was giving about the subsidization of corn and soybeans and things like that. The result of that is that we have a huge amount of cheap, processed food available in our communities. High fructose corn syrup is heavily subsidized and we see it in nearly everything we eat. Soy as well, heavily subsidized and it’s used in all the processed foods. And, you know, over the last decades, you’ve seen a considerably and continued drop in the cost of processed high sugar, high fat foods and an increase in the real cost of fruits and vegetables. And we see that impact happening in people, increasing rates of diabetes and obesity, heart disease, and all of these diet-related diseases most impact people of color, low income people who don’t have – who are maybe purchasing no more less expensive foods and not fruits and vegetables and are more likely to live in communities where there’s less access to fruits and vegetables. But that – so that cost of that agriculture subsidy is being exported to the healthcare system, which we’re spending nearly $100 billion a year to address the diet-related diseases of obesity, diabetes and such.

CAVANAUGH: And it’s also part of this concept that the actual consequences of global warming come down hardest on the people who can least afford it.

FENNEY: Yeah, exactly. And that’s in the United States and also worldwide. I mean, here at home, you – we’re already seeing not only because of the subsidies, like I mentioned our fruits and vegetables are more expensive, but with rising costs of resources like fuel and water, that produce costs have gone up in the last year, food costs in general have gone up and produce as well, so, you know, as climate change continues, it’s the communities that have the least resources and that are the most vulnerable who are really going to bear the burden of the impacts of that.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Carolyn is calling from Mission Hills. Good morning, Carolyn. Welcome to These Days.

CAROLYN (Caller, Mission Hills): Oh, hi. I just wanted to mention a book that teaches a method that is very efficient in the use of space. It’s called “The Square Foot Garden.” And your guests may have already heard about it but we’ve used it to put in a front yard garden and it teaches to plant your seeds or seedlings according to the square foot versus putting them in rows which is a very inefficient use of space.

CAVANAUGH: Ah, and do you grow, Carolyn, do you grow food?

CAROLYN: Yeah. Yeah, we’ve grown tomatoes or eggplant, herbs like cilantro. It teaches in the book, say, like an eggplant takes up one square foot or you can plant 12 beans in one square foot. So it’s a really efficient use of space and it recommends planter boxes so that you get your soil right right away versus trying to improve it over years. So it’s a great way to get started and a very efficient use of space for like community gardens that are going to be very small spaces.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you for calling in and talking with us. And I look up and I see that we’re completely out of time. I want to thank both my guests, Heather Fenney and Ellee Igoe, and I want to let everyone know that both Heather and Ellee will be speaking tonight. They’ll be lecturing on "Cultivating Justice through Sustainable Food Systems." That’s tonight at 6:30 at the San Diego Natural History Museum. For more information, you can go the These Days page at KPBS.org. And Heather and Ellee, thank you both so much.

IGOE: Thank you so much.

FENNEY: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And I want everyone to know, too, that this segment is also part of our special series here at KPBS. We’re doing a series on the food we eat. The series will culminate in a special Envision San Diego documentary called “Food.” That airs November 16th at 9:00 p.m. on KPBS Television. Stay with us. Coming up, the Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin tells us about his new book “100 Heartbeats” as These Days continues on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'gill'

gill | November 10, 2009 at 2:48 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

In 1993, my wife and I inherited an eighty acre farm in northwest Iowa. We kept the farm, and we produce corn and soybeans. In 2007, we shipped 13,000 bushels of corn to the nearby ethanol plant. From our small farm came about 30,000 gallons of ethanol and, to my surprise, 250,000 pounds of distillers grain (DG). What is distillers grain? That is what I asked at the ethanol plant, seeing huge mounds of golden grain type stuff stacked here and there.

DG turns out to be food -- good food in fact, rich in vitamins (A, D, E, niacin, riboflavin) and minerals of all sorts. It is also very high in protein and, in fact, a much better food than the original corn. It is the dark secret of ethanol production that this extremely valuable food source is wasted (my opinion) on feeding animals, mostly beef. The DG is much more valuable (my opinion again) than the ethanol. In fact, the ethanol is best regarded as a waste product in the production of DG.

Here is what I propose:

(1) Outlaw feeding DG to cattle (let them eat grass)
(2) Require corn-based ethanol producers to operate so that the DG they produce is suitable for human consumption. No antibiotics or harmful by-products for humans should end up in the DG. Some corn-based ethanol producers already do this.
(3) Use the approximately 250 billion pounds of DG so produced each year in the US to alleviate world hunger. Millions of lives could be saved.

( | suggest removal )