A drive straight north from New Haven, CT (my hometown) to the shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT (the location of a conference where I was a speaker) on a beautiful August day is sheer joy, given the natural beauty that embraces one travelling north, even if one is not “on a mission.” But alas, I am always on a mission: to engage the health care “sector” in the national movement to reinvent our food system (the subject of my speech at the conference), and to promote New England Farmers Union as an important actor in creating solutions to the food system crisis we face. So, the drive was a bonus and the experience of being a participant and a speaker at the conference was… a gift. I learned that:

The work being done by the “Farm to School” movement is profound and pioneering. Profound because:

  • We have a generation at risk of living with disease, meaning that they will never live as long as their parents.
  • We have committed and dedicated individuals who understand that school systems, and the food services they provide, are key vectors to addressing this crisis of neglect, hunger and disease.

Pioneering, because:

  • Just as the wagon trains encountered barriers while settling new lands in America to escape oppression and seek opportunity, the school food advocates are using ingenuity, inner strength, and a “never give up” spirit to make their way forward and settle this new “food country.”

The difference is:

  • The early settlers encountered mostly natural challenges. The vagaries of terrain, a land so vast that they put one foot in front of the other simply on the basis of faith and the need to create a good life. Farming was the backbone of that good life.
  • Today, our Farm to School pioneers work brilliantly to overcome the complex barriers imposed primarily by consolidated corporate control of the food system and agriculture policy in need of reform. They work to provide wholesome food for children in our schools. They all ought to be invited to teach at leading business schools to show the creative “work-a-rounds” they develop to achieve objectives of the programs they support.

These advocates are New England Farmers Union’s critical and natural allies. Through their work, they will help us reclaim the backbone of a good life: good and wholesome food produced by farmers, in robust local and regional agricultural systems. Then, maybe the health care sector will follow the lead of these pioneers. I am still working hard on making that a reality and building partnerships with the Farm to School movement and Health Care Without Harm and the Healthier Hospital Initiative. We have great alliances forming, like the recent addition of Vermont Fresh Network as an organizational member of New England Farmers Union.

Thank you, Alyssa Nathanson of Vermont Farm Fresh, for leading this important step of collaboration with New England Farmers Union.