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Faith Institutions Leading the Way Towards Healthy & Sustainable Food Systems

Faith institutions can pave the way for improved urban-rural food system collaborations.

Photo of Kelly Moltzen

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Interfaith Public Health Network (Church of God of Prophecy is the fiscal sponsor)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Other

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Faith-based organizations, non-profit organizations (Black Church Food Security Network, ChurchLands, Goodlands, Healthcare Without Harm, Virginia Foodshed Capital, Bronx Eats). Our vision for a new food system has been informed and influenced by our work with the following: academic institutions (CUNY School of Public Health - Urban Food Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future, and the Wake Forest University School of Divinity Food, Health and Ecological Well-Being Program); faith networks (i.e. GreenFaith and Catholic Climate Covenant); faith-based food producers (Our Lady of the Angels Province of Franciscan Friars Conventual, Catholic Rural Life); food hubs (GrowNYC, Catskills Food Hub, Common Market), food systems non-profits (HEAL Food Alliance), and governmental agencies and policymakers. The network established for this work will comprise the categories of partners necessary for creating sustainable food systems changes.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://cogopbx.org/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Bronx, New York City

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Northeast and mid-Atlantic region of the United States (contiguous counties from Boston, MA to Albemarle, VA)

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Hunt’s Point Food Distribution Center in the Bronx, New York City services the entire northeast coast of the United States and is the largest food distribution center of its kind in the world. With food shipped in from 49 states and 55 countries, it services a population that exceeds 22 million people within 50 miles, feeding 9% of the entire U.S. population. Four and a half billion pounds of food are distributed through the Hunt's Point Food Distribution Center annually. About half goes to New York City and half goes outside the city. 

The food that flows in and out includes a large proportion of food brought in from far distances. While there is a $150 million Hunt's Point Food Distribution Center modernization plan that was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in March 2015, changes to the food landscape are based on consumer demand, and there is much that faith communities can do to support a regional food system based on regenerative agriculture. 

By creating and supporting new regional food hubs along the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. in partnership with faith communities, we can reduce reliance on food shipped in internationally from the Hunt’s Point Distribution Center, reduce impacts on climate change, improve local food security, support local farmers and economies, consider ways to grow culturally significant foods more locally, and allow faith communities to be havens of fresh, healthy food. One such example is the Catskills Food Hub, which has the potential to source more New York State food for New York City. The Catskills Food Hub is located within Sullivan County, which ranks 61 out of 62 counties in health outcomes according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings Report - right behind the Bronx, which ranks 62 out of 62. Supporting regional food hubs can provide an economic boost to farmers in the region while providing increased access to fresh, affordable food for people in low-income communities.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Cities within the geographic area, especially New York City, are very diverse. However, within and surrounding each urban metropolis, many communities are still segregated along socioeconomic and racial lines. There is a “mixing salad” of culture, with some adopting of others' cultural food practices, but many people are still separated by cultural and ethnic traditions. Most people do not farm, but are dependent on a smaller and smaller number of farmers. Of those that do farm, there are many more white farmers than farmers of color, while migrant farmworkers are not provided economically just wages or provided with adequate healthcare benefits. The climate is temperate, with the landscape mostly flat with some mountain ranges. People in the community have hopes of connecting more with their neighbors, of being able to access and afford fresh, healthy food, and have the time to enjoy the food in the company of others.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

99976

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

37666629

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Current challenges: farmers are struggling especially dairy farmers and other small and medium-size farms. Small farmers struggle to find the funds to become USDA Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certified and to find vendors willing to purchase their products. There is also a lack of cut and wash facilities, reducing the ability of farmers to participate in Farm to School programs and other institutional procurement opportunities.  Relying so heavily on foods shipped in from other parts of the world is not sustainable and does not support the local economy and local farmers. We are also at risk of not being able to grow food in the world in 50-60 years if food is not grown more sustainably and climate change addressed.  

Access to capital is a huge barrier for local farms as are the inequities of the marketplace perpetrated by Big Food and Big Ag. Cheap food is an illusion. It is incredibly costly when poor health, environmental devastation and socioeconomic disparities that result from our industrial food system are factored in. It makes a few people rich and the rest of the world poor in more ways than one.

Environment: local food systems need support in order to become more sustainable: use sustainable agroecological practices, raise livestock sustainably as an alternative to concentrated animal feeding operations, and ensure organics are composted instead of sent to landfills. There is a need for more methane digesters to minimize methane emissions from food waste.

Diets: There is a need for people to move towards consuming more produce, whole grains, legumes/beans, and less animal-based products, to promote health. Animal-based products that are consumed should be raised sustainably. 

Economics: New and local farmers need more support and to be connected to programs such as those from American Farmland Trust and Virginia Foodshed Capital, which provide loans to farmers.

Culture: Culturally relevant foods that can be grown locally need more support and research, and cultural/traditional food practices need to be shared across culture groups to promote greater appreciation for diversity.

Technology: Technology to help connect consumers and producers that are local needs to be cultivated and expanded.

Policy: There is a need for more organizing for policy changes that encourage local food systems.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The Interfaith Public Health Network will engage the membership of "para-church" organizations (Faith in Action/PICO, Catholic Rural Life, Franciscan Action Network, GreenFaith, Interfaith Power & Light, and other interfaith networks such as those that comprise membership of the Washington Interfaith Staff Community), healthcare (i.e. Catholic Health Association, Healthcare Without Harm) and food systems organizations (i.e. Food Chain Workers Alliance, The Good Food Institute, Reducetarian Foundation) and sharing content about the connection between food, environment, health disparities, racial injustices, and other food systems issues in a framework of reflection that provides people an opportunity to undergo spiritual conversion, and make action plans for making lifestyle changes and advocating for policy changes.  The State Innovation Exchange, which helps develop and support legislation on the state level that promotes “healthy and thriving communities through ecologically and socially-responsible agriculture and local, direct-market food systems,” will also serve as a resource for identifying promising policies that faith communities could support. 

Regional food systems will be more equipped to serve local communities, taking some of the burden off of the consumers in finding foods that have fewer food miles attached to them. Consumers will be more connected to the farmers and other people working in their local and regional food systems.  People in faith communities will be united regionally rather than just through denominational or racial lines, and will also become more aware of their faith traditions’ perspectives on food and ecology, which Pope Francis has set a precedent for in the Catholic Church and beyond through the publication of “Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home.”  The faith institutions will shift land use towards growing food, and in a sustainable manner.  People will learn about the food cultures and traditions of their neighbors. Those in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States will be less reliant on foods grown in other parts of the world.  People will be more attuned to the needs of local food systems and can better help advocate for local food systems for people in other areas as well. For example, people in New York City and Washington, D.C. will be better able to think about how food and trade policies should support the local food systems of people in Central America and Mexico and advocate for policies which support these systems.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The land and its people will be healthier, people will be more connected to one another, food systems and watersheds will be more sustainable, leading to increased food security over the long run.  Farmers will be better supported.

A regenerative food system along the eastern coast and mid-Atlantic region of the United States will support small and mid-size farmers using regenerative agricultural practices, use technology to improve the ability to transport fresh food to places where consumers can purchase it, change food procurement of anchor institutions to be locally/regionally sourced and supportive of growing culturally relevant foods, change consumer demand to that of eating foods grown more locally and emphasizing reducetarian eating practices, improve affordability of fresh, healthy foods for low-income populations, and increase the presence of food and nutrition education in school curricula. Moreover, the Interfaith Public Health Network envisions making this a reality through organizing faith communities to get involved with changing the food system, through learning new information and undergoing spiritual conversion; practicing lifestyle changes; and advocating for policy changes.  

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

SUPPORTING LOCAL FARMERS VS BIG AG

Faith communities will work with existing regional food hubs to convene Farmers and Workers Listening Sessions. They will advocate for regional metropolitan planning organizations to prepare food systems reports that could be incorporated into governance bodies, as has been done in Chicago. They will also advocate for funding to support regional food hubs, certification for small farmers, and policies that support living wages for farmers and economic justice for farmworkers, particularly migrant farmworkers. Currently, small farmers are in need of funding for the United States Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practice certification which will allow them to sell food through the food hubs. Faith communities will also advocate for the use of other certification opportunities that focus on the types of farming practices being used, such as Certified Naturally Grown and the Regenerative Organic Certification.  

America Farmland Trust and Virginia Foodshed Capital will provide loans to farmers. America Farmland Trust catalyzes federal and state funds to enable farmers to protect their land and adopt new conservation practices. They also help new farmers to identify land. Virginia Foodshed Capital provides 0% and low-interest loans to farmers using underwriting practices that focus on equity/fairness, patience, risk-tolerance, nimbleness and environmental stewardship. These loans serve small scale local farmers who are excluded from the traditional financial system, an exclusion which is heightened with farmers of color.

Faith communities will advocate for increased regulation of harmful fertilizers and pesticides by the Food and Drug Administration. They will also advocate for policies which reduce the number of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). An example policy is U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s bill which calls for an immediate moratorium on new large-scale CAFOs; halting the expansion of existing CAFOs over a certain size; and devoting $100 billion over 10 years to a voluntary buyout program for CAFO owners who want to exit the business. The fund would also offer transition assistance to operators who want to take up agriculture activities such as raising pasture-based livestock, growing specialty crops, or organic commodity production. 

Faith communities will advocate for ending Farm Bill subsidies that go towards conventional farming of monocrops and instead advocate for money to go towards a Regenerative Farming Support Payment, like Senator Booker’s “transition assistance.” This would be for farmers that 1) can prove the use of regenerative organic practices through certification, 2) are selling most (i.e. 75%) of their product locally, and 3) are paying living wages, including housing costs, to employees. The payment would support a food system that is using agroecological practices, and producing a wider biodiversity of specialty crops than is done in conventional agriculture. From 1995 to 2019, the top 10 percent of commodity payment recipients were paid 78 percent of all commodity payments. (EWG) 

Faith communities will also support farmers with resources for climate resiliency and growing food in changing climate landscapes. 

CONNECTION/TRANSPORTATION

Technology will be used to connect producers and consumers, as individuals will be able to find one another based on geographic vicinity and buying power will be created through the faith communities (i.e. Produce Peddlers app). Technology will also be used to suggest different recipes that can be used to prepare various ingredients, such as the VeggieBook app.

Faith communities will organize for the technological solutions that can help improve local food distribution. Refrigerated trucks could support distribution of food grown from regional food hubs to food retail outlets. The trucks will help with ensuring the fresh food can be delivered the “last mile” to points that are accessible to community members.  

CHANGE PROCUREMENT

Faith communities will help to advocate for the food procured by anchor institutions such as hospitals to be locally and regionally sourced. This can be done through partnership with Healthcare Without Harm, the Healthcare Anchor Network, Common Market, and the Center for Good Food Purchasing, and will provide a market for foods produced regionally through regenerative organic farming practices. 

The food that will be produced and sold/shared within communities will be informed by the cultures of the people comprising the community. GrowNYC’s Farm Roots program has expertise about cultural foods that can be grown in the region, and further information will be collected through community listening sessions and research including by the University of the District of Columbia. Communities will inform their regional food hubs and farmers about the food items they wish to be grown, and farmers will grow these foods to the extent possible. This will enhance the environmental sustainability of the food system because it will reduce food miles. Fewer foods will need to be shipped in from the other side of the country or even internationally. 

Through national advocacy and policy change, trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA will be modified to encourage production of more traditional food items in Mexico and Central America, thereby improving the economy, health and livelihoods for food producers in these areas.  

FAITH INSTITUTION CHANGES

Faith communities will come together in new ways through ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, focused primarily on the work of improving food systems. One example is The Keep and Till, a community of faith and farming in Carroll County, Maryland. Faith leaders will develop liturgies that speak to and enact new ways of community. They will come together around meals to learn about food preparation such as through a model developed by Bronx Eats, which brings people together to cook food and learn about health and the food system.  

The faith communities will learn about their traditions’ perspectives on food and ecology, such as through “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” the 2015 Catholic Church encyclical by Pope Francis. 

Faith institutions that own land will be supported in transforming arable land into farmland, building on what the Black Church Food Security Movement has done in Baltimore, and the Franciscan Friars Conventual have done with the Little Portion Farm in Ellicott City, Maryland. GoodLands could analyze and support larger-scale land-use planning across the region, helping faith institutions transform their land into farmland that is managed sustainably.  

Through faith community education about food systems and farm immersion opportunities, people in urban areas will be more connected with the source of their food in rural areas, cultivating a greater appreciation for local food and the farmers who grow it. Agricultural immersion opportunities can also help to foster community among people of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, as has happened through Anantoth Community Garden in North Carolina. Wealthier members of faith communities will also be able to provide charitable contributions to funds such as the Black Farmers Fund set up by Soul Fire Farm, as well as help to subsidize farm shares for lower-income individuals and families. People will also join or establish regional or state food policy councils in order to contribute towards local, state, and regional dialogue on improving food systems.

Through communal meals such as “The People’s Supper” and “Living the Change” Suppers, faith communities will gain a greater appreciation for different cultural foods, while becoming more conscious of the injustices within the food system. They will vote with their forks (moving towards reducetarian diets with fewer animal-based products), as well as advocate for needed policy changes within government.  They will become more aware of the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and climate, and shift towards diets that are healthier for people and planet: diets with more produce, whole grains, and legumes/beans. We are not advocating for meatless and vegan diets, but rather reducetarian diets which emphasize consuming fewer animal products and paying attention to environmental sustainability. Animals play a critical role in building soil fertility and protecting biodiversity. We will focus on how food is produced. Meat production and consumption will be treated as a holy act, as it should be.

The food system we wish to build will encourage and support faith communities in purchasing foods from their regional foodshed as compared to processed foods sold by grocery chain conglomerates and dollar stores. Consumers will be able to demonstrate demand for more organic and sustainably produced foods. Our agricultural and dietary choices will be guided by the EAT Lancet Report. 

AFFORDABILITY AND HEALTH DISPARITIES

Food retail incentives will be created that encourage consumers, especially low-income people, to buy local/regional, healthy food. This will provide a means for consumers to more easily access healthy and affordable local food, and will financially incentivize consumers to purchase foods with fewer food miles. 

Faith communities will also advocate for their local healthcare providers and health insurance companies to incentivize participating in fruit and vegetable prescription programs, including financial incentives for low-income individuals, thereby encouraging consumption of fresh, local food and supporting disease management and reversal. 

CURRICULA CHANGES

Faith communities will advocate for standards-aligned food and nutrition education curricula to be incorporated within public and private schools. This will ensure future generations are learning about how to live interdependently in a sustainable food system.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Conference/event
  • 2019 NYC Food Tank Summit

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

The people who provided input into the initial vision were first contacted to add further details about how their organizations could contribute to the vision. Additional people were asked to offer their input who we did not have the chance to reach out to initially. Many of the individuals and organizations who were contacted provided suggestions for vision refinement, articulated how their organizations could be involved in the vision, and offered further resources that could be included in the vision. Kate Clancy from Johns Hopkins and fellow semi-finalist 4P Foods provided recommendations as to how to conceptualize the region and the importance of trading between regions. Eric Darrisaw from Green the Church provided valuable insight into how to use technology to connect supply and demand within faith communities, and conversations with 4P Foods led to initial ideas about how the technology platforms envisioned by the Interfaith Public Health Network and 4P Foods could intersect.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

Public Sector Consultants; Green the Church; Black Church Food Security Network; Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future; ChurchLands; Newborn Community of Faith Church; Bronx Eats 

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

New people were contacted who did not have a chance to participate during the initial stage.  Kelly Moltzen posted on social media including LinkedIn, garnering 46 reactions and 10 comments, and Facebook, gathering 96 reactions and 32 comments. Catholic Climate Covenant shared information about the vision and the refinement process in their newsletter in March, reaching over 850 people. The Interfaith Public Health Network included a post about the Food System Vision Prize semi-finalist status on our website and in an email that went out to 200 people, representing about 100 organizations, in mid-April. In addition, Kelly Moltzen spoke about the vision to representatives from approximately 40 organizations through individual and group phone calls.  We reached out to leaders from varying faith traditions, more para-faith organizations, academic institutions, food chain worker organizations, community-based food system organizations, and the Stony Point Retreat Center. We asked some of these organizations to reach out to their members and collaborators for them to share their ideas as well. We also reached out to and spoke with 4P Foods, another semi-finalist in the geographic region. Our vision naturally fits in well with collaboration with other semi-finalists, as it entails faith community convenings with organizations that have been working on building regional food systems for decades. 

Over 1100 people from 140 organizations were reached through email, and over 3,000 additional people reached through social media and other outreach. Participants ranged in age from about 25-70 years of age. 

A full list of organizations we reached out to is included as an attachment.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

Over the past several decades, the food supply has consolidated into fewer and fewer corporations that prioritize wealth over health, contributing to fragility, loss of small farms, and a population burdened with health disparities. Previously dependent on slave labor and currently dependent on immigrant labor, the U.S. food system has been riddled with injustices since the country’s inception. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues, but has also broadened awareness of the food system’s brokenness and the possibilities for creating a new normal.

Collaboration between contiguous states’ governors in providing directives on stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic is a promising signal for regional food systems. This demonstrates an increased recognition that what one state does will impact neighboring states, providing the rationale and opportunity for developing a more robust inter-state coordination for other public health concerns, such as creating a resilient and flourishing regional food system.

Another trend during the pandemic is the movement towards more home cooking. Many people are getting re-connected to preparing meals for themselves and their families, whereas previously they may have done more ordering out or fast food. The pandemic has also created an opportunity for people to realize the value of eating together, so that when communities are able to open up again, shared family and communal meals may remain an important priority.

Another trend over the past few decades has been an increased interest within the region in building a regional food system. The Catskills Food Hub was created in Sullivan County, NY to source food from upstate NY and deliver it to NYC; NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo invested in the GrowNYC Food Hub in the Bronx; the New York Community Trust awarded the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute a grant to help develop the first ever long-term food plan for the tri-state area; and the Wallace Center’s Food Systems Leadership Network has facilitated regional food systems collaboration.

Faith and spiritual traditions include ecological stewardship, including land-based practices and eating lower on the food chain, as well as promoting fair wages and labor standards for farmworkers, supporting fair trade, and advocating for food policy changes that promote health, sustainability, food security, and equity. Many faith-based organizations build upon these traditions.

The success of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program is a signal which demonstrates the possibility of expanding the number of industries that agree to follow the standards of the program and the power of activism around these issues.  

Farmigo is a technology platform facilitating the purchase of local and regional products that faith communities are beginning to adopt, a signal of the potential for faith communities to contribute to aggregate purchasing which can leverage economies of scale. 

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

The farm share coordinator at the local church gets off the phone with the Farmigo-Food Port technology company to schedule another training for members to learn about the platform and how they can place their desired order through the system.  Just last month, another 20 people participated and signed up to order food from the farmers in the region.  She is grateful that the 2030 convening between the faith community and the food system experts led to advocacy and investment which established positions for people like her, and that further advocacy within her county increased the number of these positions, including the creation of her current position. 

The farm share coordinator walks outside to take a look at the church’s vegetable garden. While small due to limited land availability for growing, it makes her smile. It is an example of love in action, an opportunity for those pursuing agricultural vocations to volunteer their time, for youth in the religious education program to experience gardening and food and nutrition education firsthand, and an opportunity for growing some of the food that supplements the food pantry delivery from the regional food hub. 

She walks around to the side of the church by the entrance to the kitchen. It is time to welcome the delivery man for this week’s farm share and to begin the meal preparation for the communal meal. The plan for this week’s meal is to highlight foods that were traditional to the indigenous people of the surrounding area. She is excited to be welcoming some members of the local tribe to join in this meal together and for the youth from the religious education program to present about what they have learned about Native American crops to the rest of the meal participants. She has also asked one of the members of the tribe to speak about a topic of interest.

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

The northeast United States encompasses 7 of 8 U.S. growing zones. Therefore, there is immense opportunity for our food system to develop biodiversity and resilience in order to protect food security in the wake of climate change. 

People from the faith community who enter into an agricultural vocation training program, as well as other interested members of the faith communities and students in schools, will be educated on regenerative, agroecological practices and the latest climate adaptation science.  Students will learn from the experiences of those in the southwest, including Gary Nabhan’s “Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Climate,” as well as studies from the Rodale Institute. There will be an emphasis on sustainable agroecological practices: more biodiversity, fewer monocultures (to minimize pest risk and total crop loss), more cover crops, composters, biodigesters, aquaponics, regenerative agriculture, and sustainable fisheries. There will be sustainable livestock husbandry as an alternative to concentrated animal feeding operations, and organic food waste will be composted instead of sent to landfills. There will be more methane digesters to minimize methane emissions from food waste. Vehicles which deliver food will run on clean, renewable energy. These ecological practices will also serve to improve the health of workers within the food system as well as consumers. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated an important opportunity to reduce food waste. As Michael Pollan wrote recently in The New York Review of Books, “Today the US actually has two separate food chains, each supplying roughly half of the market. The retail food chain links one set of farmers to grocery stores, and a second chain links a different set of farmers to institutional purchasers of food, such as restaurants, schools, and corporate offices. With the shutting down of much of the economy, as Americans stay home, this second food chain has essentially collapsed. But because of the way the industry has developed over the past several decades, it’s virtually impossible to reroute food normally sold in bulk to institutions to the retail outlets now clamoring for it.”  Through the creation of more regional food hubs, where food from farms goes to central regional locations, and then is distributed to both retailers as well as institutional purchasers, in the case of an emergency, the food system will be made more resilient to immediate needs, such as rerouting food that had been destined for restaurants to grocery stores. Instead of two food chains, we create one more integrated, efficient, local and reliable one. This approach works for people by minimizing the possibility of massive unnecessary waste and the risk of total disruption and upheaval to the food system that is caused by our current global industrial food system. Large concentrated systems are simply not as resilient. 

When future environmental disasters strike a particular regional food system, the nearby regional food systems will pitch in to address the need, while community leaders and politicians troubleshoot how to reverse the damage done.  An emergency response and recovery will be easier within a more localized food system. Cities and states will have the means to withstand shocks and chronic stressors. Supply chains will have been retooled to become more diversified, nimble, and local which will mean fewer food shortages and insurmountable transportation and labor challenges of getting food to people in need.

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Most malnutrition in this geographic area is caused by overnutrition rather than undernutrition. There will be more widespread education and awareness among the faith community, faith-based schools and public schools about the links between human and environmental health, diet and disease, and the importance of eating more plant-based meals and whole foods vs. animal products and processed foods. As Alex Askew writes in “Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community,” people will begin to see the value of consuming real food as compared to junk food. The healthcare system will also incentivize disease prevention and reimburse healthcare providers for offering fruit and vegetable prescription programs to promote healthful eating. 

Hospitals and healthcare institutions will procure fresh food from nearby regional food hubs. These institutions will educate patients about the benefits of plant-based diets (more produce, whole grains, legumes/beans, and fewer animal-based products) for ensuring optimal nutrition. Using food insecurity screenings administered by healthcare institutions, dietitians will identify a dietary regimen for individuals with malnutrition and provide food pantry and social service referrals through the healthcare institution and faith-based organization. They will also help to provide these individuals with the appropriate food they need to meet their dietary regimen. 

These healthcare approaches will drive increased demand for healthier foods. Production and supply will adapt to meet the growing demand. Food pantries will continue to provide food to families and individuals who need it. The food offered in the food pantries and in the overall region will be sourced as much as possible from the nearest regional food hub, making it far more nutritious, local and sustainable than our current model which often offers processed foods such as chips and soda, lacking the nutrients that are necessary for healthy living.  In order to ensure nutrition security, a diversity of food will also be supplied through neighboring regional food hubs through an interconnected network of food hubs spanning the geographic region from New England down to Florida. 

Though a new scope and standards that will be developed through a partnership between the Religion Member Interest Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Health Ministries Association, dietitians will be trained to be Faith Community Dietitians, building on a model initially established for Faith Community Nursing through the Health Ministries Association. 

Families will be referred to providers through health ministry programs. A model being developed by Adsystech, in partnership with faith-based organizations, extends the social services delivery system to underserved communities. 

Pastoral staff and health ministries will be trained on an enterprise case management software platform, an IT database and social services evaluation program for registration of individuals and families seeking assistance. Families who are seeking healthcare assistance will be referred to healthcare partners including doctors, dietitians, access to healthy food, job training, nutrition education and ‎other social services.

The role of healthcare ministries is to advocate for families in need. The long-term plan is a community outreach partnership with healthcare providers and implementation of an enterprise case management intake process and services delivery model. 

Leveraging the trust of faith-based organizations in local communities with IT training and mobile platform applications will augment local health care systems. 

“Internet of Things” (IoT) solutions as well as HIPAA compliant health and wellness apps will be utilized to make community members aware of important health information and monitor key risk factors including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  

The goal of Pastoral Healthcare education programs is to assist congregation members and local communities with self-management, healthy diets and lifestyles. 

Chronic disease-prevention and self-management programs will include training on using the Farmigo technology to order fresh food from the regional food system. 

Food grown in the region will represent a broad array of agrobiodiversity, making the regional food supply a rich, nutritious and varied food source.  Soil health and biodiversity will be prioritized; natural and sustainable methods of pest control will be standard. Livestock will be grass-fed, leading to improved Omega-3 fatty acid content of animal products that are consumed and reducing the dangerous environmental damage that the industrial meat industry causes.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

Equity and the dignity of work define faith traditions and are core values. Some social movements, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), have drawn inspiration and strength from these religious principles in order to build the case for better wages and working conditions for farmworkers.  Since 1993, CIW has organized and advocated for better wages and working conditions for farmworkers, starting with tomato workers. With grassroots support from faith communities, including boycotts which lead to changes in company practices through altering supply/demand dynamics, CIW has been able to push for increased wages for farmworkers, establish the Fair Food Program, and persuade 14 major food retailers to adopt these higher standards for doing business. The work of holding growers in other industries accountable for paying better wages for their farmworkers has only just begun.  

By 2050, more communities of faith will advocate for policies which improve wages and working conditions for people working within the entire food system. They will have learned from the initial accomplishments of CIW’s Fair Food Program and achieve far greater accountability for other sectors of the food supply to ensure living wages and healthcare for farmworkers.  They will also build on the work of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility by echoing the calls for farmworker labor wages and rights, and ensure that Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) Standards are abided by among all growers and food retailers. As the EFI Standards also include standards for gender equity, implementation of these standards will also ensure gender balance and equity among workers within the food system. 

Further, black farmers have historically been discriminated against in gaining access to the capital and resources needed to procure land. According to the Center for American Progress, black farmers lost 80 percent of their farmland from 1910 to 2007, in part due to insufficient access to loans and insurance necessary to sustain their businesses.  Faith traditions have a clear mandate to pursue equity and racial justice, and that will be more actively demonstrated by faith based groups advocating for expanded ownership of land by black farmers. This solidarity across racial lines will catalyze more interest in supporting policies and practices which increase loan opportunities for a new cadre of diverse farmers, advocate for fair wages and better working conditions for farmworkers. This is a holistic and comprehensive investment in community health and an opportunity to make partial amends and heal from long-standing racial disparities regarding land, food, and health. 

Faith communities will advocate for more racial equity within USDA funding and more ethnically diverse participation in the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. New racially diverse farmers will be connected to and receive support from organizations such as American Farmland Trust, Agrarian Trust, and Virginia Foodshed Capital, which provide loans to farmers, as well as GrowNYC’s New Farmer Development Program. 

There will be an increase in the number of jobs supporting farm share programs, farmers markets, and regional food procurement from institutions. There will be more growers, workers in regional distribution centers and cut and wash facilities, and artisan producers making value-added products. 

In 2050, individuals within a majority of faith-based organizations will be paid to oversee farm share programs for their congregations and the local community.  Having a paid staff member who can provide congregation members with access to local, regional, and ethically-produced food will increase visibility of the importance of purchasing and valuing high-quality farm-fresh food within faith communities. 

More people will be trained and hired to educate members of faith communities about how technology can be used to identify and meet demand for regional food, such as through the Farmigo platform, which emphasizes community ownership of data.  There will also be technology jobs that support the creation and maintenance of applications that increase transparency of the food system, such as the Mid-Atlantic Food Port envisioned by 4P Foods. 

There will also be more jobs in communications and marketing for regional and healthy food.  Per the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, as of 2017, food, beverage, and restaurant companies spend almost $14 billion per year on advertising in the United States, and more than 80% of this advertising is for unhealthy, processed foods.  This is 14 times the entire budget that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to spend on all chronic disease prevention and health promotion ($1 billion). In 2050, there will be greater awareness of the need to promote and consume regional foods and to pass policies which limit the marketing of highly processed, unhealthy foods, particularly to communities of color.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Faith and spiritual traditions which acknowledge the interconnectedness of all people and creation, and the importance of honoring the dignity of those on the margins, will be re-emphasized so that all cultures and community traditions can flourish, especially those of people who have historically been marginalized. 

Bringing people together around food will allow for the intentional sharing of cultural, spiritual and community traditions.  Faith community dinners will provide an opportunity for the sharing of cultural meals. Training, education, and communal meals will be opportunities for learning about the history and cultural significance of certain foods and for rebuilding connections between diet, culture, faith, the environment and the community. Oldways, Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics and Agriculture (WANDA), BCA Global, Coqui the Chef, and Bronx Eats are examples of organizations that revitalize and activate interest in healthful ways of preparing nutritious traditional foods from diverse cultures. 

This food justice system will include making sure that culturally relevant foods for immigrants and those who are indigenous to the region can be and are grown.  Members of the faith community and beyond will discuss how memories of where you are from, especially foods, are powerful parts of one’s identity and, when it comes to food, can be adapted to an immigrant’s new home. Immigrants want to eat culturally appropriate food, especially in challenging times, and the communities in this food system will understand and support this desire. 

Cultural/traditional food practices will be shared across cultural groups to promote greater appreciation for diversity and to improve health. This practice will also give immigrants a sense of belonging while living in a new country. 

Faith-based and public schools will educate about cultural food traditions in a systematic way through curricula, such as through social studies. Students will learn about foods indigenous to their communities and regions, asking questions such as “What were the forces that led to colonization and the industrialization of the food system?” and “What are modern communities doing to reclaim food cultures that center around respect and dignity for other people and for the environment?” Such discussions will awaken a deeper understanding of Place, traditions, agriculture, history, and themselves.

Particular to faith communities, the fundamental elements of sacraments will be highlighted.  Water, fire, earth, and wind are all used in rituals within religious traditions, and the significance of these elements will be articulated more explicitly to people receiving these sacraments and through religious education. For example, the bread and wine that are consumed through Communion in the Christian tradition come from the earth, and the cosmic Christ that is signified by this food is an invitation to recognize the sacredness of the gift of food that nourishes us daily. The concept of “mindful eating” will be taught more directly so that more people develop a deep appreciation for the interconnections between our bodies, food, health, the environment, social justice and sustainability. Jewish tradition also celebrates food and meals by offering blessings and thanks before eating meals and when celebrating holidays. Many of the Jewish holidays and rituals have to do with gratitude for food, commemorating the harvest and the change of seasons with varied prayers and rituals. Jewish tradition also places a strong emphasis on welcoming the stranger, taking care of the vulnerable, including orphans and widows. Opportunities for interfaith dialogue and connection on these topics will be encouraged.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

The key to long-term growth and stability of local produce markets is collection of consumer data, use of mobile poling platforms, and analytical tools.  Training faith-based organizations in database development will empower and catalyze a new generation of community leaders in the digital age. 

Information Technology will be used to expand and deepen the connection between consumers and producers. Consumer purchase data is critical for local produce markets and long-term self-sustaining social enterprises to operate efficiently. 

Aggregation of faith communities’ buying power and the development of consolidated Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) records of consumer produce orders in partnership with Farmigo, a scalable cloud based Agtech software platform, will help farmers plan their harvest season and mitigate financial/operational risks. 

Data-driven virtual CSA food hubs will source suppliers within their region, providing producers with consistent quantitative measurement of local produce demand, and customer orders.  

CSA hubs will select farmers offering produce at prices which are fair to both the farmers and the consumers.  

Technological advances, such as those being envisioned by 4P Foods for the Mid-Atlantic Food Port, will increase transparency within the food system, so that consumers will be able to know the source of their food and select foods that match their values - from the geographical location, to sustainable and regenerative growing methods, to the ethical treatment of workers who harvested the food.  The platform will also provide nutritional information about the food items, as well as link to resources with recipe suggestions such as those in the VeggieBook app. This system increases social equity by giving everyone affordable access to local and regional fresh food, mitigating some of the dire rates of disease and poor health outcomes among people of color due to a broken food system. A strong local and regional food system offers a more democratic, empowering and healthy alternative to our current global model which wastes energy, pollutes, shows vulnerability in times of crisis, and does not serve individual communities in a caring way. Local food systems care about the communities they service; a global food system does not. More local responsibility and autonomy in our food system will strengthen community bonds and give people a sense of pride of place and connection which is desperately needed. 

Enterprise case management software will be utilized to evaluate and connect congregation members to health care institutions and referrals for medical, dietetic, food security, and other social determinants of health needs.  

Transportation partners will help ensure fresh food can be delivered the “last mile” to points that are accessible to community members. Inclusivity, equity and racial justice are the foci and measure of success.

Technological solutions will be needed that do not undermine environmental health or human rights. Partnerships will be set up with environmentally-friendly transportation companies to support distribution of food grown from regional farmers to faith institutions and food retail outlets. Further, minerals for electronics are often mined in ways that contribute to loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and contamination of surface water, groundwater, and soil, and are part of a supply chain that puts wealth in the pockets of those who fund violence, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, students will learn about technological solutions that are needed to bring about a resilient and equitable food system; students will be provided with examples of innovations that are produced with clean energy and are not resource intensive, and they will be asked to create their own environmentally-friendly technological innovations.

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

In order to ensure that the food system of 2050 is resilient, healthy, equitable, and just, we will need policies which make each of these elements attainable.  Food policies and politicians at all levels of government will need to promote local and regional food systems, building more regional food hubs, assigning more land in urban areas to be used for urban farming, and lifting restrictions which make it difficult for people to access capital and land to grow food. Farming will need to be incentivized by the federal government in such a way that it becomes economically viable for small farmers to earn a decent living, and affordable and logistically simple for consumers to buy regional food. Politicians will also need to incentivize the growing of agroecologically diverse crops rather than conventional growing of monocrops of the commodities which are currently heavily incentivized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Such regional-centered policies will ensure soil health and the biodiversity necessary for healthy ecosystems. They will restore balance between producer and consumer and radically improve the quality of available food. We can use this COVID-19 moment to reimagine our relationship to nature and rethink how we want to live more sustainably on this planet. Our policies will reflect this new understanding, this shift away from a global food supply chain that can be easily disrupted to a local and regional one that puts people over profits and actively supports and responds to the varied communities which it serves. Politicians will work to reverse the decades of subsidizing of cheap commodity crops and corporate and shareholder profits taking precedence over the interests and health of the people. 

Policies will reduce the number of concentrated animal feeding operations and offer transition assistance to operators who want to take up agriculture activities such as raising pasture-based livestock, growing specialty crops, or organic commodity production, such as through Senator Cory Booker’s Regenerative Farming Support Payment.  Policies will also strongly regulate harmful fertilizers and pesticides through the Food and Drug Administration. Independent American slaughterhouses will receive government subsidies so that farm animals can be slaughtered locally and humanely, reducing the recurrence of the current animal crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic in which there are not enough places to slaughter hundreds of thousands of cattle and pigs, many animals are consequently being euthanized and yet a meat shortage has arrived due to workforce illness and distribution challenges. Politicians will make sure that 80% of U.S. beef is no longer produced by only four large companies. 

Funding opportunities will need to have an explicit focus on being accessible to racially diverse farmers.  Policies will need to encourage technology to be developed that will support regional food systems and also equip community groups, including faith communities, with the knowledge of how to utilize this technology.  Educational policy will need to support bringing food and nutrition education into schools through curricula, such as through scope and sequence standards being developed by Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Policies will support the creation of regional metropolitan planning organizations to prepare food systems reports that could be incorporated into governance bodies, as has been done in Chicago. Policies will support certification for small farmers, living wages for all farmers and economic justice for farmworkers, particularly migrant farmworkers. Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practice certification will allow small farmers to access this certification and thereby sell food through regional food hubs. Other certification opportunities that focus on the types of farming practices being used, such as Certified Naturally Grown and the Regenerative Organic Certification, will also be approved through policy measures. 

Policies will also support implementation of the Good Food Purchasing Program for greater institutional procurement from regional sources that adhere to the value category criteria. They will incentivize culinary medicine programs and allow fresh produce to be prescribed in healthcare institutions as an evidence-based measure to prevent diet-related diseases.  They will ensure that healthy food is accessible and affordable to low-income people, and that technology can easily connect people to needed resources through referral systems that connect healthcare and social service agencies. 

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

For centuries, Native Americans, African Americans, migrants from Central/South America and other racial and ethnic minorities have been exploited and oppressed for the social and economic gain of whites.  By lifting up and empowering these peoples and cultures, much will flourish. Society will rest on sounder principles of equity and sharing rather than competition and domination. Healthful ways of preparing traditional ethnic cuisines will become commonplace, and demand for highly processed, unhealthful products will decrease. 

Agroecological farming practices are traditional to most cultures as they existed before the advent of toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and harmful growing practices. By supporting historically oppressed peoples in growing foods in more traditional ways, we will return the soil and farmland to regenerative uses and return power to the disenfranchised.  Promoting plant-based diets, nutrition education, and regenerative growing practices within faith-based organizations, education policy, healthcare policy, and technology apps (which make it easy to access recipes directly relevant to the foods people are buying) will reduce the impact of the food system on exacerbating climate change.  

In the face of climate change, policy, technology, culture, and diets will need to shift to support farmers in growing foods that can be grown in the region given the changing climate, in such a way that returns balance to the economy and creates better defenses against a food system breakdown.  Similarly, in the case of an environmental or public health disaster, policy, culture, and technological solutions which emerged during past disasters and required a more local and regional food-growing and distribution process will be more easily activated and adjusted to ensure food and nutrition access and security for the affected region’s population, while minimizing food waste. For example, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, food destined for restaurants will be able to be redirected towards food rescue, farm share programs, and food retail establishments to meet demand.  The systems at play will be ready to respond more effectively than before because there will be more collaboration between the actors and less of a silo mentality.

Another consideration is the impact that technology of the future could have on the environment and local economies.  As the raw materials for electronics are often mined in ways that contribute to ecological destruction and violence (known as “conflict minerals”), educational policy will encourage students to learn about technological solutions that are needed to bring about a resilient and equitable food system. Youth will also be prompted to find simple, regenerative and resilient solutions through the cultural practices ingrained in them through faith communities, such as solar powered light “bulbs” made from recycled plastic bottles that are popular in the Philippines. 

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

Many people are used to lifestyles with fast food that is convenient but lacking in ethics, health, and sustainability, as well as food that has traveled many miles to get from the farm to the plate. People will need to become amenable to lifestyle changes which may take a bit more effort than the convenience they were used to before. It will take time to galvanize residents of the region to take control of their health and move towards an innovative alternative to the current unhealthy industrial food system, one which rests on principles of social justice, works for the common good of its community members and residents, and does not depend on the historic exploitation of labor and land. 

Building the capacity of faith-based organizations to grow the demand for regional food will take significant investment of time and money. Faith leaders will need to be educated on ecotheology, bioregional ecclesiology, connections between food and climate change, and effective advocacy for regional food systems, and then communicate about these topics to their congregations; faith communities will need to investigate and hold accountable food industry leaders to ensure equitable and just treatment of workers; some members of the faith communities will need to learn about agricultural vocations, and some will need to learn how to efficiently manage the technology needed to measure and build demand for regional food.  Faith communities will also need to foster solidarity and build relationships between members of their congregations and food workers through communal meal programs and shared political activism. This will only be able to happen when the cultural, economic, and political will shifts course in the general population too. Immediate and pressing concerns such as ensuring food security for the hungry and responding to environmental disasters may also overshadow the larger systemic food system transformations required for better living in the future. Therefore, it may be a slow process of building grassroots support within faith communities and beyond before economies of scale are achieved to shift demand towards sustainably and ethically produced food from regional food systems.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

1. Educating faith communities about the different aspects of a resilient, healthy and ethical food system will be essential to build a core understanding of the role they can plan in growing this system. 

2. Once faith communities are aware of what is possible, capacity building training will be needed to set up the databases and collect “demand data” from congregation and community members. Data collected will begin to be used to inform decisions about where food should be sourced from within the region and about program development. Concrete connections with farmers will begin to be made and plans developed. 

3. Faith communities will build on past successes achieved in holding food industry sectors accountable for adhering to ethical business practices and will start a new wave of advocacy for a resilient, healthy and ethical food system. 

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

Building capacity of the faith-based organizations at the beginning stages will set the groundwork for more substantive changes to be made in the food system by 2030. We will have had several convenings at the Stony Point Retreat Center and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. These convenings will educate faith leaders about how their congregations can be involved in growing the regional food system economy built on values of resiliency, health, equity and ethics, and equip them with the practical tools to do so. The Fair Food Program will have been expanded to several new industries of food production, with more corporations signing on to participate in the program. The Good Food Purchasing Program will have been adopted by most cities within the region, and key milestones accomplished in working towards achieving a values-based procurement system. Most faith-based healthcare organizations will be in conversation with Healthcare Without Harm about adopting its institutional food procurement guidelines, and will be in conversation with faith-based organizations about adopting Adsystech’s technology platform that links congregational health ministries with health services. Most healthcare institutions, both public and private, will have established a partnership with faith communities to address local disparities in health. At least five foundations will be engaged in conversations about accelerating the growth of faith community involvement in the regional food system, and data analysis based on consumer demand for ethical and sustainable food producers will drive the regional marketplace, which will be self-sustaining and efficiently operated. Due to faith community engagement with policymakers, most policymakers within the region will have a working knowledge of the importance of supporting the regional food system for the overall health, well-being, and resiliency of people, the environment, and the economy.

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

The prize will be used to begin to convene faith communities including para-faith organizations, farmers, land trust organizations, food system experts, healthcare institutions, policymakers, and funders at the Stony Point Retreat Center and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.  These conversations will build awareness among all stakeholders of the myriad ways that faith communities can be involved in supporting a regional food system, providing examples of successful endeavors that could be scaled in the region, such as those of the Black Church Food Security Network. Information will be shared about farmland under threat, and about the process of GIS mapping of religiously owned land so that faith communities can make decisions about which of this land could be transitioned for ecological and agricultural usage. Information will also be shared about Farmigo technology that can be used by religious institutions for identifying demand for regionally sourced food within their congregations and communities, which will be used to help the faith-based organizations identify farms where they could source the food from. 

Prize money will also be used to collect data about faith-based organizations’ capacity and demand to source and procure food regionally, and about religiously held land that could be converted to be used for agricultural purposes. This data will be used to inform technical assistance which will be provided to faith-based organizations to support them in implementing food and faith initiatives in their own congregations and communities.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

A regional food system established with faith communities will increase demand for food that promotes nutrition, environmental sustainability, local economies, a valued workforce, and animal welfare. It will give marginalized communities access to farmland, and give everyone affordable access to local and regional fresh food, promoting food security and health equity. It will bring diverse people together around meals to share food and culture, fostering community, solidarity, and peace.

The Interfaith Public Health Network believes the vision of faith communities leading the way towards healthy, sustainable food systems is a universal one that could be adopted by faith communities and food system advocates across the world.  Faith traditions hold a key to transforming land use in their scripture. These are addressed for the Judeo-Christian traditions in books such as “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture” by Ellen Davis, and “Soil & Sacrament” by Fred Bahnson, and in the Islamic tradition in the book “Green Deen” by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin.

The words “repent” and “metanoia,” which will be recognizable to those familiar with religious practices, mean to turn around. We as a society need to repent from the historical exploitation of land and people, beginning with sugar plantations and slavery, and turn towards a society that is founded on respect, dignity, and health for all people and the environment, to which humans are inextricably interconnected.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

This visual can also be viewed at:  https://app.creately.com/diagram/CNziq3mh3FV/view 

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