part 4 of 4: Dietary Adaptation to Climate Change: Rethinking Food in the Next Hundred Years
The NSLA was enacted under President Truman in 1946 in efforts to improve the dietary health of future generations. Before 1946, many men were turned away from the war efforts due to undernourishment or related health problems. Afterward, agriculture’s industrialization provided an excessive food supply yet dietary health issues persisted. Sodium levels of canned foods and storage of fats were proportional to the increase in production. Childhood obesity and other related illness are among the new dietary health challenges today. At the same time, there still exists a growing concern of food insecurity with the economic disparity domestically and globally.
Under the National School Lunch Act (NSLA), The Farm-to-School initiative enables the potential to establish the connection between local farms with their local communities. According to the USDA 2015 census, the program has grown and impacts 42% of public schools nationwide. Ensuring these meals reach all eligible students is essential to mitigate hunger as a distraction to learning. Studies have proven that students suffering from hunger or food insecurity are prone to perform negatively in academics and behaviorally socializing with peers.
The national food supply is not dedicated only to domestic needs but also to international exports. Incentives to encourage commerce between local communities and local farms is a subsistence reformation act of agriculture. Unhinged from the demand of a global market, programs like Farm-to-School allow local farms to shift focus towards filling in food gaps among low and middle-Income communities. With 42% thus reaching 42,000 schools, supplying 23.6 million students with school meals, the goal of ensuring wholesome school meals are a guarantee by local farms. Farm-to-School has the potential of:
- Reducing food waste in scaling back production instead of over-cropping to meet the demand of the foreign market,
- Reducing the carbon footprint of domestic transport and distribution of food products when bound to local routes,
- Developing communities’ relations with local farmers increases awareness of the benefits of whole foods and the process in which they are grown; thus, educating community members about the quality of products they are consuming,
- School-age children being introduced to local farm produce will influence the dinner table as parents strive to deliver balanced nutrition and healthy eating behaviors and discover that their children may not be averse to fruits and vegetables.
In closing, local farms can sponsor school vegetable gardens and local nurseries, therefore increasing children’s exposure to rural life. Today’s children are gaining familiarity with growing vegetables and fruits or tending to soil and can become the agroecologists or new-age farmers of tomorrow. Challenges such as cultivating drought tolerant crops, desalination of water supply, plant diversification, food-health equity and carbon sequestration are being left for future minds tackle in curbing climate change. Agrarian life being woven into urban society can be nurtured in children through daily interaction garden activities; thus, preparing the next generation thinkers and growers to intrinsically possess a more responsible stewardship of this Planet.
Cohen, J. F., Richardson, S., Austin, S. B., Economos, C. D., & Rimm, E. B. (2013). School Lunch Waste Among Middle School Students. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 44(2), 114-121. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.060
Datz, T. (2014, March 04). Study shows kids eating more fruits, veggies. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/03/study-shows-kids-eating-more-fruits-veggies/