The current “battle” between organic and non-organic foods has never been so hotly discussed. While most of the population eats conventionally produced, mainstream fruits and vegetables generated on gigantic factory farms (agribusiness), a few pockets of the general population have the privilege to access organic venues. This translates into food whose cultivation, at least in theory, has been kept from the harmful effects of pesticides and herbicides and is free of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which many of us choose to avoid. We are very fortunate indeed.
The harmful effects of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are well documented. In an article called Five Essential Facts about Pesticides on Fruits and Vegetables, Megan Boyle writes, “A healthy diet begins with lots of fruits and vegetables, but some of your family’s favorites may contain startling amounts of harmful pesticides. Non-organic farmers spray synthetic pesticides on crops to kill weeds and insects – and the toxicity doesn’t stop there. As they grow, plants absorb pesticides and residues linger on fruit and vegetable skins all the way to your kitchen, even after you wash them.” Alarmingly, the article goes on to remind us, “Eating food with traces of pesticides is bad for your health – especially for kids. Although the full scope of the threat is not yet known, research confirms that pesticide exposure can harm us in serious ways. Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides that can damage our brain and nervous system, disrupt our hormones and contribute to cancer.” Even those of us who are members of a CSA most likely consume some conventionally grown produce. But for many, the benefits of organically grown food are totally out of reach. It is food injustice and it is wrong that people who believe they are eating well because they are eating fruit and vegetables are slowly poisoning themselves with dangerous pesticides.
Community supported agriculture is one answer to the question of food injustice. We enjoy the benefits of local, organically grown vegetables. Offering a sliding-scale cost for qualified individuals and families, as our CSA does, increases the number of people who have access to healthy food. Still, a more inclusive model of healthy food access is needed. Resources and outreach are needed. Perhaps some change may come through our elected representatives. But it is more likely that groups of people will come together to address these issues. One group of people has formed an organization called Just Food. According to its website, “Just Food empowers and supports community leaders to advocate for and increase access to healthy, locally-grown food, especially in underserved NYC neighborhoods.” Another organization recently founded to combat food injustice and to support communities lacking access to healthy food options is called Farm School NYC. Its mission “is to train NYC residents in urban agriculture, in order to build self-reliant communities and inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues.” These organizations offer the promise of increasing access to healthy foods in communities that are often lacking in such options.
We are grateful that our family is able to participate in a CSA. We are happy that we are helping to support local farmers while at the same time providing healthy food for our family Additionally, it is wonderful that committed activists and urban farmers are taking on the issue of food justice by working to increase access to good food in typically underserved neighborhoods!
Laura Nuss-Caneda is a mother to two children, and lives in Kew Gardens. She is a teacher in a NYC public K-8 school.
Rene Nuss-Caneda was born in Mexico City. He is the father of two children and spends his free time enjoying his family and learning about keeping everyone’s food healthy. He’s a dedicated translator and interpreter. He works at the NYC Commission on Human Rights.