What is Food Sustainability?

Written by:  Ben Robinson

Over the past few years, the term “food sustainability” has become something of a buzzword. The phrase dominates environmental activist circles and is frequently thrown around at farmers’ markets, often without much ensuing explanation. But if we’re serious about making a better future for our food, people, and the environment, we need to unpack what food sustainability means and explain how it relates to our efforts to build a more just and sustainable world.

Food sustainability is about watching what we shop for and eat – but there’s more to it. Cultivation, packaging, and delivery are also critical factors in maintaining a viable system of food production and consumption. 

Sustainable farming practices, for example, aim to avoid damaging natural resources and also seek to minimize carbon production throughout the process. Further down the supply chain, grocery stores have the opportunity to facilitate sustainable consumption practices and reduce waste. Some have begun to sell near-expiration produce at discount prices, and larger chains like Trader Joe’s are cutting down on plastic packaging. It’s also important to think about where food comes from before you buy, and independent retailers with plenty of locally sourced fresh fruit and vegetables do some of the thinking for you. 

There are also many organizations working hard to increase access to healthy food, broaden sustainable cultivation and consumption practices, and persuade politicians to make important changes. The Fair Food Fund Network invests in entrepreneurs seeking to improve community health through sustainable food production. Organizations like Food Policy Action focus on the explicitly political dimensions of the issue by influencing legislation and educating the public on how Congress votes on matters ranging from feeding the hungry to supporting family farms. 

The quest to improve food sustainability comes down to a simple equation without an easy solution. We must strike a balance between economically and environmentally viable production on one hand, while allowing for and incentivizing workable consumption practices on the other. 

In the coming posts, I’ll write more about the organizations, lawmakers, and activists working to make Colorado’s food future work for people and the environment. We’ll also learn how the Boulder Food Rescue’s initiatives fit into the larger goal of furthering food sustainability and how you can play your part in making Colorado a better place to eat and live. 

Stay tuned!

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