Barn and Silo

On October 14 and 15th I had the opportunity to attend the Healthy Foods Summit 2013 hosted by the University of Minnesota and The Minnesota Arboretum. The conference this year was titled: “Food and the Environment: Healthy Planet, Healthy People.” The topic was very relevant to the many grassroots and community movements occurring across the nation to promote a more sustainable food system.  There was so much information to take in during those two days, but here are some key messages from the conference: 1. Since 1950, we’ve seen drastic changes in the environment and its impact on food production. Climate change is ongoing and evolving; countries are face serious draughts followed by flooding from excessive rainfall. Small changes in Earth’s temperature (1-2° C) has major impacts on agricultural systems world wide. Unfortunately, the most extreme conditions are predicted to hit the poorest parts of the world the worst.  A Talk on Climate Change from Cynthia Rosenzweig. 



2. In the United States, we grow more feed for animals than we actually do for humans.

3. Craig Cox, from the Environmental Working Group, informed us that there is more grain grown in Iowa than all the fruits and vegetables in the United States. For ¾ of the year, the land for many of these farmers grows nothing, which also means there are no nutrients being enriched back into the soil through crop diversity.

4. Cristina Tirado talked about the following impacts climate change will have on the world:


1)   Composition of the food (higher carbohydrates and lower amount of protein)

2)   Access to nutrition and inadequate nutrition

3)   Increase chemical contamination

4)   Transmission of zoonotic diseases

5)   Increase spread of viruses

6)   A rise in the Earth’s temperature will increase bacteria production; diarrheal diseases will increase by 8% with 1° C degree increase, Salmonella will increase by 12% for each degree increase above 6° C degrees. Aflatoxin, a carcinogenic compound, is also predicted to increase.

7)   Increased flooding and droughts, which will in turn impact food supplies and potentially increase diarrheal diseases in low-resource countries.

8)   By 2080, prediction is that 1-3 billion people will be impacted by water scarcity, and 200-600 million will be considered hungry.


4. Chronic diseases cause 63% of deaths worldwide and are expected to rise, impacting 52 million people by 2030.  Wealthy countries consume more meat and dairy than any other country. As countries become more developed, however, they increase consumption of animal products.  Production of meat and dairy contribute the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Transitioning to a plant-based diet, and preserving the rich plant-based heritage of many cultures around the world will benefit not only human health, but also the health of the environment.

carbon emissions by country


5. Being a food producer (a farmer or a gardener) does NOT mean that you are food secure. Many of the world’s smallest farmers, though they grow food, have a very poor income and don’t always produce enough food to feed themselves and their families.

6. We need to close the gender gap in farming. Many women around the world are farmers, but they produce 20-30% less food because they do not have the same access to resources as men. FAO Facts.

7. Round River Farm in Minnesota is one amazing sustainable farm. They are farming without any fossil fuels, using entirely renewable resources (wind energy, solar energy, collecting rainwater, composting) in one of the most difficult farming areas in Minnesota. It took them 5 years to enrich the soil with organic matters, but now they harvest bountiful produce.

8. Lowering the production of meat and dairy, Round River Farmers discovered that the region of Western Lake Superior would be able to produce enough food to feed the entire community. A Standard American Diet (SAD) would require over 500,000 acres of land and would only produce enough food for 83% of the region. Conversely, diet lower in meat and dairy would require about 375,000 acres of land and would feed 100% of the region! More on the research here: Sustainable Food System 

A man holding a knife and a fork with a stack of raw steak

9. Keya Chatterjee, author of “ The Zero Footprint Baby”  shared her experiences working for NASA and what motivated her to adopt an eco-friendly, and sometimes “socially unacceptable” behaviors in response to the environmental crisis. When discussing the impacts of humans' carbon footprint, Keya asked, “ Is this the world I want my child to have!?” Furthermore she added, “Don’t pretend these problems occurs in a vacuum.” I couldn’t agree more with Keya’s message that it is our responsibility to take care of the Earth for future generations. We cannot pretend that these issues aren't happening and won't impact us... because they ARE. Keya on twitter: @keya_chatterjee

10. More inspiration from Keya.... It is in our best interest, the best interest of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.... as well as, the best interest of the public good to adopt a plant-based, eco-friendly lifestyle. 

Girl's hands holding globe --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis




In good health,



Find me on Twitter: @kristinademuth_RD