As Nutrition and Health care professionals it is important to be conscious about the dietary recommendations that we make. These recommendations will affect their cultural/heritage and traditions of people.
Food Sovereignty is defined as
“The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.”US Food Sovereignty Alliance
This concept focuses on six guiding principles
- Focus on Food for People
- Makes Decisions Locally
- Values Food Providers
- Build Knowledge and Skill
- Localizes Food Systems
- Works with Nature
Focus on Food for People.
Food Sovereignty focuses on the food of their ancestors, heritage, and culture. Most cultures have deep food traditions. This is why when you travel to other countries or parts of the country, one of the most exciting things is to try new foods. This is how cultures express who they are. Through food. When we take away those foods for reasons such as laws and policies, urbanization, whitewashing, etc there are often many repercussions including physical and mental health challenges.
Examples of how we are not respecting other cultures' food traditions are very apparent with Native Americans. A study published by UC Berkely found that 70% of Native American Households said they never or rarely get access to their native foods. Additionally, 92% of these households suffered from food insecurity. Controlling for poverty, the study also found that providing native foods helps to reduce food insecurity.
Respects Nature and Builds Knowledge and Skill
Food Sovereignty respects nature. Our relationship with nature impacts both human and planetary health. Without respecting nature, we are unable to have healthy food, then we are unable to have healthy people. Cultures that truly care about their culture's food will not harm the environment when producing it. They will grow their food with the ebbs and flows of seasons, soil needs, and wildlife surrounding them. Most industrial agriculture today that depends on monocropping, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides leave fields in worse shape than they were when they started farming on it. Instead what is needed is a way of growing food that celebrates diversity and soil health. Communities will provide training and teachings on how to respect nature and produce in such a way that the environment benefits.
Localizes Food Systems, Makes Decisions Locally, and Values Food Providers
Food sovereignty focuses on localized food systems through growing food for the people of the community rather than for exports around the country or world. Farmers will grow what the community wants and needs vs. what the market demands. Small farmers, artisanal artists, and specialty markets are celebrated.
Farmers now are heavily influenced to grow subsidies, sell to very few markets, and use seeds that are genetically bred to only work with specific machinery, specific chemicals and produce a limited number of crops. In 1990, small and medium-sized farms accounted for nearly half of all agricultural production in the US. Now that number is less than a quarter. This paper on Food Sovereignty and Autonomous Local Food Systems in Europe is excellent and easy to read to learn more.
If you are in health care or talking about food and nutrition to others, think about the recommendations you make. If you are just consuming food, think about where it comes from, how it is produced, and be excited to eat the foods of your heritage even if they are labeled as 'unhealthy' by society. All foods have a purpose.