Thursday, May 19, 2022

Food for people, not for profit

On Tuesday, the Coulee Region Sierra Club will host a "garden crawl," to learn about local community gardens on La Crosse's north side. Not only are community gardens important for getting locally grown clean food to people who need it, they are also a way to combat greenhouse gas emissions caused by shipping products across the country. The group will meet at 5 p.m. at the Logan High School north parking lot to start and then bike and drive to a cluster of other garden sites ending at the Hunger Task Force's Kane Street Community Garden. The event is free and open to all.

La Crosse has several gardens, including the Kane Street garden, neighborhood Victory Gardens, school gardens, and community gardens funded by a grant from the FSPA. These help provide food for people who need food, as well as community, education, and exercise. 

If you can help garden, volunteer. Kane Street is open most days and welcomes volunteers. GROW La Crosse is signing up summer volunteers right now. And the community and victory gardens welcome volunteers, too. 

If you have a business or organization with a very nice (and not very environmentally friendly) lawn, consider making part of it into a food garden or food forest. I have always wondered, in a city where so many school families qualify for free and reduced lunch, why school lawn space is not school garden space. I don't mean the very important current, relatively small school gardens, I mean having big corn, squash, and bean fields at schools that are currently surrounded by manicured lawns.

If you have a yard that should be a garden but don't know how to make the transition, OR you'd like to help start a yard/garden sharing program, OR you might be interested in exploring starting a market garden using people's yards to grow, please email couleeprogressive at 

If you buy food, prioritize supporting local and regional farmers where possible. 

PBS Wisconsin has a very great and inspiring talk online featuring Laura Manthe and Lea Zeide, founding members of the Ohe*Láku corn cooperative, talking about Oneida and Native food systems. They talk about the community garden, tended by everyone and producing for everyone. Indigenous food systems can be a model. The old ways served the people.

And please do not confuse food with animal products. Moving to a vegetarian or vegan diet saves money, improves health, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, when asked about the baby formula shortage in the United States, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, in part, "Let's be very clear. This is a capitalist country. The government does not make baby formula. Nor should it."

Should the government make baby formula or should the government support regional public facilities that ensure people access to their fundamental needs? Or does, "this is a capitalist country," trump the right of a human to have enough food to eat? The baby formula shortage is the result of a corporate product delivery, monopoly system where the goal is not producing baby formula, it is producing profits. And, it's the result of a corporate work system where women are not supported as mothers, are not given sufficient time to be with their infants, and do not have sufficient opportunities and support to nurse. To be sure, there are many women who cannot breastfeed for medical reasons and there will always be a need for formula. But the support is just not there for those who would like to, and that exacerbates the problem.

Our current food system is not just bad for the millions of people who can't get enough food, but it's terrible for the planet. The average food item, according to this EcoWatch article, travels 1,00 to 1,500 miles before it gets to your table. And don't forget the waste. 

Check out the USDA Food programs page. Is this the sign of a healthy society? We have subsidies and assistance for children, women and infants, seniors, and more. If we really had an "of the people, by the people, for the people" system, why would we need all these supports for a fundamental human need? 

The school lunch program (USDA Food Service for Children) has devolved from a way to provide healthy food for kids and assistance for local farmers to a multi-million dollar honey pot for food manufacturers to market packaged, unitized food products wrapped in plastic and styrofoam.

People who don't earn enough at their jobs to afford food for their families must rely on donations of packaged and canned items that were probably grown, fertilized, picked, processed, packaged, stored, and shipped from hundreds of miles away. And the donation events are sometimes hyped and sponsored by the very corporations who are not paying their workers enough to buy the food in the first place.

Rube Goldberg couldn't have devised a less efficient food  system for the humans. Scrooge McDuck couldn't have devised a more delicious system for the capitalists.

Oh, yes, don't forget the plastic. 

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