Fair Food

fair food by Oran B Hesterman

I wrote a previous blog about this book already. But at that point, I was only on page 5, so now, as promised, a bit more about the whole book…

Best part: Hesterman takes a systems approach that not only looks at the environment, health and agricultural issues across the food system, but includes social issues such as access to nutritious food and treatment of workers on farm fields (in the U.S. and around the world) and in restaurants.

Small disappointment: Hesterman does not provide the answer. In its place, he provides hundreds of examples of innovative, mostly small-scale programs that are beginning to tackle pieces of the issues. While I understand that we don’t have an answer as to how to feed 9 billion people with local, sustainable foods, I still wanted more number crunching and gap analysis at the system level. Impossible, I know, but the title of the book led me to believe he might have the answer.

However, his suggestions at the end come close to meeting this expectation – he suggests ways for everyone to be involved in creating a fair food system that ranges from ‘voting with your dollar’ to community initiatives to institutional changes. And it includes ideas and solutions that include those living in poverty.


The premium pries at farmers markets and for organic food in the grocery stores means that it is simply not an option for a huge part of our population. They are not able to shop at their nearby Whole Foods, because Whole Foods doesn’t even exist in their neighbourhood. So Hesterman also looks at large-scale farming solutions and the role of large corporate retailers in ensuring fair practices exist across their supply chain, and community gardens in under-served neighbourhoods. Neighbourhoods like the entire city of Detroit, which does not actually have any chain grocery stores left in the city limits because it is not financially beneficial. He talks about programs that double the value of food stamps for purchases made on produce at farmers markets, and the huge increase in spending that occurred because of this offer.

And he argues, quite reasonably, that we need to keep the current principles that guide the current system: efficiency, high crop yields, and convenience. BUT, the book then focuses on adding four other principles to balance these: equity, diversity, ecological integrity, and economic viability.

So, in short. If you are interested in a more holistic picture of the issues in the existing food system and the solutions that might help, read this book. And to Oran Hesterman, thank you for writing a book that did not give me the answer I was looking for.


10 thoughts on “Fair Food

  1. I think the answer for everyone on the good earth to have healthy food to eat, is to change the way we see food. To the business world, food is merely a product to be maximized for profits. But food, I believe, should be a freely obtainable resource for everyone within a community. But that would only be feasible if each individual of a community were willing to put in just a bit of time toward planting and growing food, on whatever land is able to produce it. People wouldn’t need a food stamp card to eat, just walk down the street and pick some healthy greens or peppers to have a nice meal.

    Thank you for your well written post!

  2. i’ve been doing the voting with my dollar thing for as long as i can remember. it’s a solo project, as i do have many compassionate friends, but it seems i am rarely speaking to people who consider who they are buying their food from, and more importantly, the philosophy of greed and destruction they are supporting and giving their money to. i never buy Kraft, Nestle, etc., and when i post on FB about the newest secret, sickening bill that Monsanto has passed to help finish up their world ownership, i’m lucky to get one like or comment. people will say, “but this product has been approved by…” yes, it’s been approved by something like the FDA, or any other branch of government which is owned by Monsanto. it becomes so easy to get apathetic and throw your hands up, but i don’t have that in me. every time i’m at a bustling farmer’s market, feeling the passion everyone has for unfucked with, natural food, it strengthens my desire to never give a penny to the bastards trying to destroy food and soil itself. sorry, i’ll stop my rant now, just been knee deep in this for the last week or so….

    • It is amazing how many people don’t care what they’re eating. I think it was a talk by Vendana Shiva that you gave me years ago, which was super frightening. She said the ‘added nutrients’ that Monsanto adds to rice in the grocery store has only a fraction of the nutrients found in the rice in rural areas in India. That even before GMOs, big companies and factory farms developed hybrid rice strains that focused on bigger yields, which wound up decreasing the nutritional value. And we’ve done the same with corn and wheat.

      I love farmer’s markets, but the prices are so high they can’t ever be the whole solution. If the government took away subsidies for everything not fair, sustainable, humane, etc, and gave those subsidies to the organic farmers, then prices could come down, demand would go up and the system would change.

      • It is true so many people don’t care about what they eat or where it comes from. I work with MD’s who often eat the worst food ever-white bread, bologna-yes bologna among other things. Recently a colleague was talking about getting a diet coke-I mentioned how bad aspartame is and an MD said the studies have shown it doesn’t do any harm…Conventional medicine thinking…

      • It’s really scares me when I see people drinking diet coke or something similar…the food system needs so many huge changes and people are still drinking diet crap.

    • Hi Trish
      Please don’t ever stop ranting-silence=apathy! I think Monsanto just might be the most dangerous organization in the world yet it seems few know anything about them (other than those who do care). So please don’t stop…

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