GOOD

Four Ways the Local Food Movement Is Transforming Race Relations in America

In the salad bowl that is American diversity, these four pilars of the local food movement are bringing people together to learn about each other.


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My suburban street is a picture of American diversity. Nine ethnicities from around the world inhabit this residential area: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Koreans, and Vietnamese. Despite living side by side for 25 years, we barely interact with each other at all. Although in many ways America is a melting pot, I believe the analogy of the salad bowl tends to be more accurate for describing race relations here. In the salad bowl, the different components of the salad are next to each other, but they remain separate pieces.
At the heart of the reason why our multicultural society remains segmented is our lack of familiarity with each other. For example, the different ethnic groups in my neighborhood share very little in common as far as cuisine or native language. Naturally, they are unfamiliar with each other’s cultures. Each family tends to associate with others from their same ethnic group. The lack of familiarity among different groups leads to separateness, which can lead to stereotyping. In comparison, communities where members are more familiar with each other tend to have more of the mingling and interaction that makes neighborhoods vibrant and wonderful.
To my own amazement, I have observed how the growth of the local food movement is helping to change race relations for the better. As awareness about the dangerous chemical methods used to farm conventionally grown food spreads, demand for local organic food is spreading across color lines. The simple act of eating differently is radically changing race relations as diverse communities interact in newly forming local food economies. Here are four ways that local food is affecting Race in America:
1. Urban gardening is increasing sharing and trade among racial groups. As more people become local producers through activities like planting gardens, beekeeping, or bread baking, the result is a growing bounty of diverse local food. The produce can be given away, traded for something else, or become a part of a new food business—in each case, local economic transactions are being generated that weren’t happening before.

New and deep conversations focused on lifestyle and food are happening among racial groups that otherwise silently waited in line next to each other at the supermarket. In my own community, we’ve formed a relationship with some of our Hispanic neighbors through trading Sapote—a sweet custard fruit that is traditionally grown in Latin America. Our community fruit trade is part of a growing trend of food cultivation and exchange that is taking place across America.
2. A return to organic farming methods is fostering respect for traditional cultures. The rejection of chemical farming methods has resulted in a revival of traditional techniques, which are still widely used in other countries and are often still practiced by minority ethnic groups in America. As M.K. Anderson points out in his book, Tending the Wild, modern farmers and restorationists are finding that traditional Native American agricultural methods are proving to be the most effective and efficient ways to manage crops.
The revival of organic agriculture is stimulating a wholesome respect for the traditional cultural knowledge of minority groups and Europeans alike. Respect for other cultures is an important step towards interaction and cooperation.

3. Community gardens are facilitating cooperation towards common goals. Community gardens are popping up in every city. These are centrally-located plots of land where communities come together to produce food. They are often structured so that individuals are given small garden plots, or sometimes run collectively. In either case, these gardens serve as meeting places for people from all walks of life—young, old, black, brown, or white—to share knowledge, swap seeds, work together, and create something beautiful.

In an article in the Journal of Agriculture and Human Values, scholars Tanaka and Krasny conducted a study of 20 Latino community gardens in New York City. They found the gardens to be unique “participatory landscapes” where neighbors from the entire spectrum of Latin America, including Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, and Salvadorians, gather and work cooperatively. The proliferation of these community gardens across the country is strengthening interethnic ties.

4. The local food movement is putting a renewed focus on our common humanity. The global demand for clean food comes from a firm belief that chemically-treated food is not good for humans or the planet. The culture of this growing movement emphasizes that access to nutritious organic food is something that all human beings have the right to enjoy. This movement is cultivating better racial relations because it calls attention to our interconnectedness as humans living together on one planet.
In a country like the United States, with its history of slavery and waves of immigration, race remains one of the primary issues that shape our society. Our racial differences often divide us. At the same time, our unprecedented diversity is part of what makes America innovative and dynamic. As a nation of immigrants, it is part of our nature to be passionate and ambitious. And maybe this is why we plunge so deeply into things that we believe in, like the local food movement.
The seeds of better race relations are already being planted across the country in home gardens, community farms, and farmer’s markets. As we build local food systems together, the different parts of the American Salad Bowl are going to mingle and connect more than they ever have before. I look forward to tasting the bold new creations that will emerge.
Ro Kumar is the Editor of Localblu.com, a blog covering urban farming and sustainability. He is a student at Stanford Law School.\n
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.\n
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Articles

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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The Planet