Skip to Content

Sustainability News

Sustainability In Action

August 17, 2010

At West, the Freshman summer reading was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  In a recent article in Utne Reader, he stated that “Americans have not had to think very hard about where their food comes from, or what it is doing to the planet, their bodies, and their society.”  Well Mr. Pollan, your book got us thinking.  A full year series of events called “Much Ado About Food” kicked-off on August 26th with the goal of educating our community about the impact of the foods we eat.  Education is just the first step though.  It is clear that we also need to create opportunities for our community to make lifestyle changes based upon the lessons they learn.

With that in mind, we are launching a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program on  September 15th.  Each week for twelve weeks members of our program will receive fresh produce harvested from a local farm that grows its food free of synthetic chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers.  The cost? $20 per week.  For some, no price is too high when it comes to caring for our health, our environment and the economic stability of our community.  For others, $20 may seem a little steep for an amount of produce that you could buy for about $10-$15 at a regular grocery store.  But is the price we pay at the grocery store the real cost of food?

From a sustainable, holistic perspective, it certainly is not!  The Sierra Club put together a video and exercise that speaks directly to this point.  The True Cost of Food (http://www.sierraclub.org/truecostoffood/) breaks down the hidden costs of industrialized food.  It examines the cost of beef from a factory farm and the cost of a tomato from a monocropped field.

Factory farms waste an obscene amount of oil, water and healthy grain and corn, pollute our air with green house gasses, and blatantly disregard the health and well-being of the animals and the consumers of their meat.  When added up, the real cost for one pound of beef is $815.  Large monocropped fields are doused with toxic pesticides, loose tons of top soil each year, contaminate our rivers and drinking water, historically loose more crop to bugs with pesticides than without, run local family farms out of business, and waste a tremendous amount of fuel.  When added up, the real cost for one tomato is $374.

So when you’re asking yourself if you can afford to spend $20 for a bag of produce, when the alternative is $1189 for one pound of beef and a tomato, the real question is, can you afford not to?

By Leslie Lindo