Our Island is rich in natural resources and blessed with a variety of local food sources. We can fish, farm, milk, and churn, and by doing so produce healthy local food for those on the Island. So why are so many families facing food insecurity or even hunger? Why can’t we be a model of how a community can feed itself, care for those in need, and create a robust economic engine that supplies jobs in the creation and maintenance of a resilient and equitable food system?
We can get there through a number of thoughtful and achievable goals, and with the cooperation and coordination of several organizations and individuals.
Here’s how: Educate the next generation about food, where it comes from, how to grow and prepare it. Introduce a variety of good healthy foods to pregnant women, and to babies to broaden their palate at an early age.
Food is medicine, and changing eating habits and diets can reduce heart disease, diabetes, even depression. Why not start a Food Prescription Program at the hospital and with local physicians? If we can pay for expensive medications to treat disease, why can’t we offer healthy food to prevent it? We could save lives and millions in health care costs.
The Island obviously has limited land for agricultural use, so we need to maximize the production on every precious acre. Let’s help local growers access every available dollar of local, state, and federal support by devoting a full-time grants manager to research and attain those grants.
Ask our farmers to grow a few extra rows of vegetables every season that could be gleaned and distributed to those who cannot feed their families.
Create a Food Hub that would include facilities to clean, process, package, and store food. We could expand the markets for our producers, and provide year-round locally grown food to agencies serving those in need.
Finally, every time you go to the grocery store, put a healthy item into the Food Pantry purple box. Feed not only your family, but help your neighbors as well.
Rebecca Haag is the executive director of Island Grown Initiative.