Among the greatest challenges of our generation are water, food, and energy. Food is almost an offshoot of the other two because so much water and energy is used to produce it. So how do we make sustainable food choices on a large scale? By connecting it to a value that every human being can relate to: Good Health. At this year’s Kaiser Permanente Food for Health Forum, forum host Dr. Preston Maring brought together doctors, caregivers, chefs and industry to find solutions towards better health through better food choices.
Eight years ago, Dr. Maring started the first hospital-based farmer’s market at the Oakland Kaiser Permanente. Since then, 40 hospital-based farmer’s markets have sprung up around the country. While it is impossible to quantify long term health impacts of his program so soon, over 71 percent of market visitors surveyed are eating more and different kinds of vegetables due to his markets program. Dr. Maring advocates eating more vegetables and fruits, and also buying them from local farmers who practice pesticide-free farming.
According to the NRDC and reports presented at the forum, pesticides and toxic chemicals used to grow industrial food are showing up in increasing quantities in mother’s breast milk, a leading indicator of health of our future generation. Choosing pesticide-free food truly influences personal, social and environmental sustainability in a big way. Before pesticides reach the consumer, farm workers are exposed to them in large quantities, and excess pesticides runoff into water-sheds, polluting future water sources. That is why Dr. Maring is working on connecting small and midsize farmers with institutional purchasers. He is building a market place for farms that produce healthfully, so that people can access this good food and the farms can focus on what they do best: changing human and environmental health, one carrot, apple or tomato at a time.
Connie Kwan is the CEO of RealMealz.com in Silicon Valley, CA. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and covers stories about triple bottom line businesses and projects. Follow her on Twitter @RealMealz.