The greatest part of any individual action you take concerning your food is simply applying your knowledge to your daily life. Now that you know how unhealthy and unjust industrially farmed food is, try sourcing your food from local, organic farms that employ just labor practices. This kind of food is best found at your local farmer's markets or at supermarkets that may source their products from near the community. Santa Cruz has a few stores like these. Look around to see if there are any in your town. You can also subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and get organic farm products delivered to you once every couple weeks. Many people absolutely love this, and your money goes to support an organic community farm! Awesome!
You can also find a more sustainable food source right in your own backyard by starting a garden or keeping animals. Gardening and keeping animals both seem like intimidating projects, but many people find resources and help in their neighborhood from their neighbors, workshops at community centers, books, and the internet! The public library in my hometown regularly holds how-to workshops on vegetable gardening, and I know many people who have been able to regrow veggies indoors using tutorials form the internet.
Although I haven't talked too much about processed food here, I feel like it's worth mentioning at this point that processed foods are often a)full of weird mystery chemicals and preservatives, b) use lots of energy to produce and transport and produce lots of waste for packaging, and c) generally are not very healthy for you. Instead of buying processed and packaged foods, you can make alternatives at home. I do it, and it's very easy! Not to mention, much less wasteful and much healthier for you! There are recipes for just about anything you could want, from crackers and tortillas to granola bars and peanut butter. Just give it a go!
Lastly, another wonderful thing you can do with all you've learned here is share the knowledge with others! Send them the articles I've written and share them on social media, bring up food and surrounding issues in conversation, and lead by example by eating sustainably and justly produced food. Another important piece of this is to always keep educating yourself. Keep reading books and articles and having conversations with others about food. Learn, keep yourself informed, and evolve!
For those of you looking to flex your leadership muscles, meet other people who share your interest in food and food issues, or just get involved with an organization that might already exist in your town, community and group actions are a great way to go! One of the simplest, best ways to get involved is to join a community garden. If your community doesn't have one, put your feelers out to see if there are other people interested in having one and see if you can work together to get one started in your area. Community gardens are a great option for yourself and others if you don't have any land to garden on at your home, if you want more space to garden, or if you want to create a community space.
You can also organize non-violent action around food issues in your area. Depending on what effects your community and what you're passionate about, this could take a number of forms, like boycotting grocery stores that stock industrially farmed food (we're looking at you Walmart) or rallying for better farm worker's rights.
Another great way to make an impact is to join forces with others in order to spread knowledge about food issues. Together, a group can choose to do any number of things to educate others, like publishing a zine on the evils of industrial agriculture, or hosting gardening or cooking demos to encourage others to make their own healthy, sustainable, and just food. It's up to you!
Whether you get involved in a food initiative near you, invite your friends over for a vegan and locally-sourced organic meal, or start a new organization to bring sustainable food to your community, food brings people together, and making it more sustainable and just is best done with companions!
That is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can do with this knowledge. There are all sorts of things you can do, from books to read to organizations to join, that will help you encourage better, more just, and more sustainable food systems. Just get creative, and live your life in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. Whatever you do with all the knowledge you now have about food, I ask you to act on it and actively use it in your daily food choices. There are a couple things that I either did not touch on or only discussed briefly, such as food waste, homesteading, processed foods, and foraging, for example, that will be discussed in upcoming articles, since I just can't seem to get enough of writing about food :) Until then, I hope you will be eating happily, healthily, and with justice and sustainability in mind, for my sake and yours.
*Neither of these photos belong to me, both were found via Google