Guest Author: Dr. Oran Hesterman

I am so honored to have Oran B. Hesterman, president of the Fair Food Network and author of Fair Food, submit a special entry for Fed Up. Here it is:

Fed up, Filled up and…Fueled up

When asked, “Are you filled up or fed up?” it’s a both/and for me. We have had a remarkable summer at Fair Food Network (FFN) and around the country on our Fair Food book tour, and I am definitely filled up with gratitude for all those who worked hard to make this tour such a success. But not all is sweetness and light as we dissect and challenge our food system: this is where the “fed up” comes in.

I am fed up with assertions that sustainable agriculture cannot feed the world: there’s lots of evidence to the contrary, and it’s really the only way forward. Even the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations launched a new initiative this past June to help meet the food needs of our rising world population in environmentally friendly, sustainable ways. They say that economizing on production costs and helping small farmers save actually enables maximum yields and frees more funds for farmers to invest in their health and education. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

I’m also fed up with the idea that policy change is not possible because of Washington gridlock and the sole focus on debt reduction. Policy is created by people, and we have the power to change what’s not working.

I am fed up with the notion that the only way we can repair our food system is by eating local and organic, or that supermarkets provide the only solution to food accessibility.

What about those who don’t have the privilege to eat locally and organically? I am fed up with the assumption I hear so often that families in low income communities do not know how to cook, don’t want to cook, or don’t even know what healthy cooking is. Our research shows that this is simply not the case, and there are plenty of great examples to dispel this myth.

Now to the positives: I am filled up every time I see someone making the shift from conscious consumer to engaged citizen, moving beyond the kitchen to our communities, the institutions where we work, and to policy.

I am filled up and fueled up by the legions of FFN “solutionaries” who are creating successful models to provide healthy food access for our most vulnerable citizens. I am fueled up from the time I have spent in the past couple of weeks with such change makers including some of the new FoodCorps members now working in schools to connect local farms and schools.

The warm, enthusiastic reception I’ve received nationwide on the Fair Food book tour has filled me up beyond measure and has been energizing and fun. We will continue that journey well into the fall and winter.

Speaking of seasons, this late summer/early fall weather has filled my family, friends, and me up with tomatoes, basil, peaches, apples and giant collard greens from our little garden and orchard in Ann Arbor. This is the good stuff.

I’d also like to share is the excitement over our Double Up Food Bucks program at farmers’ markets across Michigan. This is quickly and powerfully proving doubters and naysayers wrong: indeed, healthy food is desired and preferred. The graph below charts our most recent successes:

This final, substantial piece of nourishment reminds us how far we have come in choosing between being fed up or filled up by these systemic challenges both big and small.

The rising number of farmers’ markets benefits producers and consumers alike in the dollars earned and spent on healthy, local, and sustainable food; this much is clear. Moving forward and expanding our awareness of the food system means challenging the assumptions we make in little ways and working to change public policy in big ways. This will indeed help sustain and nourish us all, and when posed the question, “Are you fed up or filled up?” I say…let’s be fueled up!

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