Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Why Local Food Systems Matter

Dwight Detter is the Local Forager for our Southern Pacific region.

Food systems have been in place as long as humans and families have. Getting food and nutrition to folks is integral to our society and economic systems.

In the 1940’s, the Rodale Institute initiated the first scientific organic agriculture studies in response to the negative effects of large-scale agriculture practices. (This study even predated our current use of 18th century industrial methods!)

Sixty years later, our global food system is based on the economics of creating inexpensive food. But hunger- and diet-related disease is present the world over, and we’ve lost our social and personal connections with the food systems we rely on for health and nutrition. These are high costs to pay.

Our basic contemporary food system involves four steps: production, processing, distribution and consumption. The main consideration driving our current system is economic vitality. How do we change this to enhance social relationships, availability and environmental awareness, yet still keep the system economically viable?

A new food movement is growing, one that focuses on rebalancing and strengthening our food system through a more holistic approach. Economic vitality is crucial, but so is food access and security, as well as resource management.

Where does Whole Foods Market® fit? We embrace each component with our Core Values. Our Health Starts Here program supports healthy eating education. Through our Green Mission we’re working to preserve and strengthen our natural resources. Our Local programs are focused on economic vitality by bringing small and start-up producers to the market place. Our community efforts here in the Southern Pacific region include working with the Orange County Food Access Coalition, which provides nutritious meals for families in transition through the Real Meals Project. These meals are prepared by Community Senior Serve in Anaheim (Orange County). Nutrition classes for the Real Meal Project will be taught by our Healthy Eating Specialists. We’ve also collaborated with the San Diego Farm to School Task Force which resulted in the first farmer and distributor showcase for food service buyers in San Diego school districts, where representatives from over thirty schools met with local farmers to source food for their cafeterias.

Whole Foods Market Local Foragers, like myself, have opportunities to teach, promote awareness and connect producers with processors and our customers. Using our resources, knowledge, networks and passion contributes measurable economic vitality within our communities. We have been working with the Fine Foods Group, a network of manufactures, artisans, marketing specialists and more. When we joined the network two years ago, there were sixty members; now there are seven hundred.

I’ve partnered with Michel Algazi, founder of the Fine Foods Group, to teach monthly food systems classes to the public. The classes are geared toward local producers looking to improve their product and sell in our Whole Foods Market stores.  From creating a business plan to the details of packaging, we guide local artisans through every step to help them get their products on our shelves and become part of the Whole Foods Market family.

Our food system can be so much more than economically vital. With the right mix of passion, innovation and hard work, it can feed people, strengthen communities and honor the environment.

How are you involved with your local food system? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.