Improving the Food System and Fighting Obesity, Creatively: Foodie Underground


ColumnTo change our food system, eat better and fight obesity we have to think out of the box. Get inspired by these individual and community approaches. 

In a world of agribusiness and fast food it’s very clear that changes from the food system aren’t coming from the top down any time soon. No really, you think Monsanto and McDonald’s are going to team up to encourage children to eat an organic apple instead of a GMO-filled white bread hamburger bun? Doubtful, and if they do, it’s only because eating an apple makes a child want double the amount of hamburgers.

In this food system where big business runs the show, if we want change, we have to make it ourselves. Which is why when it comes to food, community solutions are essential. And the solutions have to be creative.

Take the Food Bank for New York City for example. They’re cashing in on the food truck trend and driving an anti-ice cream truck around the city, also known as their Change One Thing campaign. You won’t find any high fructose corn syrup in this summer vehicle, instead it’s all about promoting healthy eating and encouraging teens to switch out bad eating habits for good ones, even if it’s as simple as one a day. Certainly a start in for those who want to fight obesity.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg is partnering with architects and designers to rethink urban planning and design spaces that promote movement. Yes, that means walking. Part of the Active Design initiative also involves “Improving access to nutritious foods in communities that need them most.” When we take a look at the positive changes experienced in food deserts when people are given access to healthy, affordable food options, this can only mean good things.

Small scale is also essential; embracing the idea that one step at a time really does make a difference. In Tallahassee, Florida Claire Mitchell and Danielle Krasniqi, the two women behind, Ten-Speed Greens are growing produce on a farm they built on a vacant lot and distributing it via bike. That might sound like a utopic, hipster fantasy, but remember that this is good ol’ Tallahassee, not Portlandia. Change can take place anywhere.

And then there are the multitude of innovative independent projects and operations that never cease to inspire. An aquaponic shipping container farmer? You could put a farm anywhere. A tarp that simplifies gardening and even encourages schools to launch their own gardens? It’s good to start children early. A program that lets people trade compost for fresh vegetables? Genius.

The solutions are there. We just have to keep supporting them. One food truck, one organic piece of produce and one urban garden at a time.

This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at

Image: paul bica

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.