Do you know where your food comes from? When you pick up an apple after lunch in the dining hall or go grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon, do you read labels to see if your food is local, organic, or whether it has traveled hundreds of miles to get to you?
Many of us don’t know the answers to these important questions, but we should. Every day, we vote – three times a day (probably more) – with our dollars based on what we choose to eat and consequently, the type of food industry we choose to support. In the growing battle between local, organic farming, and mass-produced international produce, most of us are unaware of how much power we have to make a difference. If you’re blindly picking the cheapest fruits and vegetables off the shelf, you may be unwittingly supporting poor labor practices and unfair working conditions, the use of untested pesticides, or corporate culture detrimental to communities. Not to mention, cheap food is often lacking in nutritional value—much of supermarket produce is artificially ripened and often genetically modified. (Did you hear about the petition asking Walmart not to sell unmarked, genetically modified engineered sweet corn from Monsanto?) When you choose cheap supermarket produce, you may not know the truth about the food you are purchasing.
Fortunately, though, it is becoming easier and more convenient to make good decisions about your food and the food producers you support.
Here at Tufts, there are a number of ways you can help support local, organic industry. Tufts Dining Services serves local, organic, and Fair Trade products in addition to vegetarian options, cage-free eggs, and certified sustainable seafood. By looking for these products and choosing to avoid options that are not sustainably produced, you can make healthier, more eco-friendly choices. In addition, you can leave comments in the dining halls requesting more sustainable products—Dining Services is very receptive to feedback and communicating that this is an issue that is important to you can have a large impact down the line. (The sale of single-serve bottled water was eliminated from Hodgdon thanks to a student petition.)
Another option on campus this semester is to purchase a CSA farm share to support local farms. A CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, allows you to buy a share of a local farmer’s harvest. This is a great opportunity for consumers to invest in the local economy and purchase environmentally sustainable produce. This pilot program will run from February to April and you can get an individually packed box of fresh produce, delivered every Tuesday to the Office of Sustainability for pickup. There are different sizes available to suite different needs: a Small share (good for 1-2 people) is $24/week, Medium (good for 2-3 people) is $31/week, and Large (good for 4 or more people) is $42/week. The prices are very reasonable, especially when you consider how the CSA will replace the portion of your weekly grocery bill going to fruits and vegetables of questionable origin (and quality) with local, organic, fresh produce. To sign up, click here.
About Enterprise Farm
Besides supporting local, organic agriculture, you will also be helping a wonderful social initiative. Enterprise Farm is an organic farm whose mission is to grow the best quality produce possible and care for their farmland in the process. They allow for direct farm-to-table purchasing by selling at farmer’s markets, through CSAs and in some local stores. By eliminating the middle man, they aim to sell fresh, high quality produce at low prices.
Enterprise Farm believes that great, fresh food is a right and helps families across the greater Boston area achieve this goal. They accept food stamps and donate produce to Food For Free in Cambridge, the Northampton Survival Center, and other food redistribution organizations. The farm has also created low-cost Senior Shares in partnership with Senior Whole Health to distribute to the elderly in Boston. Finally, the farm’s CSA-supported Mobile Market traveled to low-access communities in Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, and Middlesex counties last summer with with fresh, local produce and a portable EBT machine. Through all of their initiatives, Enterprise Farm is helping advocate food justice and sustainability.
So, the next time you eat in the dining hall or go for a cup of coffee, think about all of the options available to you and the impact of your choices. Every decision you make about what to eat can either positively or negatively impact not only your own health, but the health and sustainability of the food systems upon which we all rely.