As part of my education in sustainable food systems, I’m sharing some of my lessons today on my blog.

Creating Lasting Change in the Food System

Systemic policy change, such as new laws and economic incentives, are the road to lasting change in the food system, according to Hesterman (2011), who states that the simple act of replacing incandescent light bulbs does not have a big enough impact to make a serious dent on issues like climate change. I would argue that even small changes can add up: fill up your recycling bins to influence your whole neighborhood, ask your favorite restaurant to purchase from local, sustainable farms to impact thousands of meals per year, or follow Meatless Monday and post your meal pictures on Twitter to inspire hundreds of people to consume less animal protein. However, I tend to agree with Hesterman’s (2011) overall viewpoint that food policies can pack the most powerful punch of all. This idea seems to be shared by other food experts. The UN reports a pressing need for new approaches in food policies in order to secure the future for a global sustainable food system, pointing to food waste and overweight (over consumption being a form of food waste) as primary obstacles to tackle on the road to long term food system sustainability (Giovannucci, 2012).

Shifting to a healthier food system, as well as healthier people, is a big problem that needs a big solution, according to David Katz, MD (Palmer, 2010). Katz says that in order to fix the problem of a surplus of cheap, low-quality food we need to make a comprehensive change in food policy, such as food education in the classrooms, subsidizing healthy foods, and controls in food marketing (Palmer, 2010). Organizations like hospitals, schools, and restaurants also can create more sustainable food policies by purchasing from food companies and farms that use sustainable practices, eliminating food waste, reducing meat consumption, and employing fair labor practices. These policies can have a big impact on the food system.


Giovannucci, D. (21012). Food and Agriculture: the future of sustainability. United Nations Department of Economic and Social affairs, Division for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:

Hesterman, O. (2011). Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All. New York: Perseus Books.

Palmer, S. (2010) A Unique Perspective: Dr. David Katz’s Take on Reversing Obesity in America. Today’s Dietitian. 12;28. Retrieved from:

Image: Farm to Fork Nutrition Workshop, Modesto, CA, Sharon Palmer, RDN

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