Susan Purdy: Menus that benefit people and the planet

Published: 8/9/2023 1:04:15 PM

As we sort through national reports of record-breaking heat, wildfires and drought, and here, in the case of western Massachusetts, the July floods and May frosts, it’s challenging to peer into the future without grave concern. We have already heard reports of how these climate events have affected the food supply and resulted in overwhelming economic struggles for our local farmers and providers. But what does this mean long-term for our struggling environment?

While focus is often on reducing fossil fuels, there is also great potential in transforming our food and agriculture systems, which are responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gases coming from: 1) deforestation to grow feed for livestock; 2) methane gas from intensive animal agriculture; and 3) the production of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. These chemicals are also harming people, wildlife and pollinators. Finally, all this is wreaking havoc on our soil, which becomes less capable of growing nutrient-rich food and at the same time is less resilient to extreme weather patterns like flooding and drought.

I know my daughter, an eco-dietitian and governing council member of the Coalition for Organic Regenerative Agriculture, is having plenty of sleepless nights. She knows that what serves the environment also serves human health. Changing what we grow, eat and serve (let’s hear it for more plant-based foods!) as well as how we grow it (organic, regenerative practices) are just two avenues towards reducing emissions, improving health, and protecting biodiversity.

I hope U.S. Reps. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, will be advocates for climate-friendly policy like the Agriculture Resilience Act, introduced to the 118th Congress in March of this year, and that members of our community will use their voices, votes and forks to advocate for practices and menus that benefit both people and planet.

Susan Purdy


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