Food sovereignty and why it is important

Food sovereignty is the right to choose what food to eat, where it comes from and how it is grown.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as the ability of all people to access enough food for a healthy, active lifestyle at all times. This is an important goal. Food is a basic human need and no one should have to go without it. However, the goal of simply having food security is not the ideal. The ideal is to have food sovereignty for all people. Food sovereignty, as defined by the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, is the right of people to choose what type of food they want to eat and also where and how they get that food. Often, those with limited resources such as people who are low income, struggle to buy healthy food for themselves and their families due to structural inequalities. Structural inequalities include not having access to full-service grocery stores and not having enough money to buy the food they want to feed their families. The food sovereignty movement was started to address these inequalities and to work towards food justice for everyone.

In the United States, there has been a rise in the number of community gardens available for people to use. These are popping up in rural areas, as well as in the middle of cities. Community gardens allow people to know exactly where and how their food is grown which increases people’s food sovereignty. It is also a great way to save money by producing your own fruits and vegetables. If you are interested in starting your own community garden to increase food sovereignty in your neighborhood, this link will help you get started. There has also been growing support for the use of farmers markets and community supported agriculture or CSAs. These are great since they support local communities by keeping money within the local economy and ensuring that the food people are buying is locally grown. It also gives people the chance to ask about growing methods. CSAs, as defined by the USDA, are essentially a way to buy a small share in a farm and in return receive food produced by that farm throughout the growing season. Another way people who use food assistance programs, such as the Michigan Bridge Card, can increase their food sovereignty is by signing up for the Double Up Food Bucks program. When people use the Bridge Card to purchase eligible food, they can earn up to $20 a day to spend on Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. For more information, please see this article published by Michigan State University Extension.

Food sovereignty provides individuals an opportunity to take control of their nutrition and to make changes in their community that result in a more just system for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about the food sovereignty movement in Michigan, sign up for the MSU Extension’s Community Food Systems Workgroup updates or check out US Food Sovereignty Alliance for more information. 

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