I asked a friend for advice, and he said, “Lay out your goals and KISS – keep it simple, stupid!” It was so obvious once he said it. Yet the instant before it wasn’t at all obvious.
Our food system can be like that: confusing and murky until someone says something so obvious that we all wonder why we didn’t’ see it before.
Since 2006, when I began teaching food system planning at the University of Virginia,I’ve continued to be amazed by the staggering complexity of our food system. There is so much to learn about our food and how it gets from a farm to our table – its production, processing, packaging, distribution, affordability, and impacts on our environment, social and physical health. I don’t pretend to understand it all, and anyone who does is probably channeling Einstein.
For most people, it’s not at all obvious how food gets from farm to fork. Even less obvious is that there is a system that accomplishes this feat, or that this system now laces the world together, creating startling paradoxes where people may be stuffed and starved, where food lost to waste is more than enough to feed all our hungry.
Even people who are immersed in the world of community planning don’t necessarily get it. A professor of planning at another university asked me earlier this year, “But what does a food system planner do?” The answer is simple: the same thing other planners do for housing, transportation, education, and health. Food system planning seeks to make healthy, safe and affordable food available to all.
The Big Picture and Practical Information Spiral
I straddle two worlds – the academic world where people are trying to build understanding about our food system, and the grassroots world where people are doing something concrete in their own community to improve their food.
As I conducted research for my new book, Reclaiming Our Food, I was amazed at how many people are hungry for the both kinds of information – the big picture and the practical. People I sat next to on planes, people I met in airports, or in stores, without fail everyone had a personal story to tell about food. And equally without fail, everyone also had a personal concern about the impact of food – on a parent, sibling, child, or even on their own health.
With this BLOG, I want to help people learn about both the big picture and the practical, to help us all spiral toward a better future.
Keeping It SIMPLE
So, remembering my friend’s advice, here are my goals and how I plan to keep it S-I-M-P-L-E.
Short – My grandfather always advised, “less is more.” This may be my biggest challenge, as I love words and tend to use too many. Still, I aim to keep my blogs short and sweet, no more than 800 words each. Fast bites for a fast life.
Inspirational – There are innumerable reasons to feel overwhelmed and depressed by events in today’s world, balanced by equally innumerable reasons to be inspired. I choose to portray the reality of our food challenges while offering inspiration drawn from real things real people are doing to address those challenges.
Mindful – Awareness of complexities often fades to gray in today’s colorful frenzy of headlines, tweets and oversimplifications. I hope to stay mindful of our interconnectedness, how even small actions can have big effects on others, and to raise awareness of unintended consequences.
Practical – Inspiration without an avenue for action is like soda going flat. I aim to provide practical, personal suggestions for ways you can put inspiration to good use in your daily life.
Light – Few issues are so grave that they can’t benefit from a little levity. Humor and laughter can lift our spirits just enough to help us gain insight and perspective. I’m not a professional humorist, but I plan to inject quirky humor and won’t hesitate to poke fun at myself.
Empowering – Too often the pressures of daily life can leave us feeling powerless in the larger arena of world events. I will strive to empower you through balanced knowledge, insight, and, when possible, ideas for practical action.
Please poke around my site, and let me know your suggestions for worthy topics or projects to share with others.
Thank you for joining me!