Mapping Our Food System – Circles Within Circles

Nourish Food System (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Today’s food system is made up of four interconnected components: agriculture, the economy the social/political system, and the environment. As inputs, outputs, products, and labor move through these networks, each is intimately linked and influenced by the other. It is this interlinked system – circles within circles – that is the basis of the GoodFood World mission.

Like the butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the earth and causing a hurricane on the other, the decisions we make about the food we eat significantly influence trade with the rest of the world. The choice to eat cheap shrimp from Indonesia1, beef from Australia, or yellow fin tuna “scrape” from India2 means we “vote with our dollars” to sustain distribution networks that are supported by weak environmental, food safety, or labor laws.

At the same time, access – or the lack of it – to healthy food at affordable prices and the growing problem with “life-style” diseases like obesity and diabetes, dictates where we put our health care resources. Food justice is also closely related to environmental justice. Not only is “just food” access to healthy food, but also the right to grow and sell it. Food workers are exposed to toxic chemicals or poor working conditions when growing, processing or selling food are facing unjust conditions on both fronts.

The modern food industry has made our food cheap and plentiful, disguising the true cost. We live separated from our food sources and we’re ignorant of the effort it takes to feed us or the role food plays in our lives.

As a result, many companies operate without regard to the environmental and social consequences of their actions. They want us to believe they are good corporate citizens, but behind it they are single-mindedly focused on profits. And those that do adopt – we cannot say embrace – sustainable business practices, most often consider it a sacrifice. Few view consideration for the social and environmental affects of the production and use of their products or services as an investment in the future.

Our food choices do matter. Choose food that is carefully raised, safely processed, and sold with mindfulness to give support to the small farms and small businesses that are doing their best to deliver it to us.

1 Shrimp – The Truth, Orion Magazine

2 Food Safety – Its a Global Issue, Food Safety News

Food System Map available at