Editorial: Linking Local and Global Food Security
By Andrea Platt Dwyer, Executive Director of Seattle Tilth
Whether it’s gathering with friends and family around the table during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, or rushing to the farmer’s market to enjoy the last of the season’s harvest, this time of year always holds a special meaning for a longtime food advocate like me. These last few weeks of November also present an exceptional opportunity to highlight the importance of locally-grown, affordable food and sustainable practices both at home and in some of the world’s poorest places.
As Executive Director of Seattle Tilth, I have seen the local food movement grow rapidly over the past few years, both here in Washington and around the country. As a cherished American holiday and anchor to the harvest season, Thanksgiving reminds us all that food not only nourishes our bodies, but it also brings people and communities together in the spirit of sharing and helping those less fortunate.
Having dedicated myself – with the help of an incredible team of community partners and fellow advocates – to educating and inspiring those in Washington to grow food organically and support local food systems, I simply couldn’t let this holiday go by without calling attention to the global issue of food security.
While Thanksgiving is a time for us to give thanks over a delicious meal with our loved ones, it is also an opportunity to spotlight the powerful role of food to sustain life, and the vital importance of adequate food and sustainable farming all across the world. The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in history, leading to a devastating famine and escalating food crisis that has taken the lives of more than 30,000 children in the past three months, and put 13.3 million people at risk of starvation. It is because of this that I am adding my voice to the growing chorus of food advocates and farmers joining with the ONE Campaign, a grassroots anti-poverty advocacy organization with 2.5 million members – close to 44,000 of whom are here in Washington – who are rallying our nation’s leaders to follow through on the immediate emergency aid they have pledged, a sum that accounts for less than 1% of the U.S. budget.
Farmers in Africa and throughout the developing world are striving for the same things our farmers work tirelessly for here: the resources and skills that enable them to grow nutritious, bountiful food to feed their families, their neighbors, and their communities. In Africa, most farmers – the majority of whom are women – are striving to achieve these goals on a budget of less than $1.25 a day, without adequate training, supplies or access to markets. With farming employing nearly two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, a focus on training farmers and providing them with sustainable agriculture skills has the potential to move millions out of extreme poverty and onto the path to a financially sufficient and stable life.
Closer to home, the Seattle Tilth Farm Works program helps recent African refugees gain the skills they need to establish small sustainable farming businesses. The types of support we provide these farmers in our own state should be available to aspiring farmers around the world.
As a proud contributor to the local food movement, please join me in letting Senators Murray and Cantwell know the importance of preserving cost-effective, results-driven programs that fight the root causes of world hunger – particularly those focused on teaching families to grow food to feed themselves.
I believe it is time that we make access to nutritious food and sustainable agriculture a priority this holiday season – both here in the U.S. and in the world’s poorest places – to ensure that no one is forced to go without the basic necessity of food.