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Food Action: Fighting the “Powerful System That Rewards Profit over People and the Planet”

Seattle-based Food Action has been supporting sustainable farming and food systems in the Pacific Northwest for more than two decades. Formerly the Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network (WSFFN), Food Action is dedicated to food system transformation through advocacy, education, and consumer mobilization. The organization aims for a food system that is just and sustainable, and one that provides access to good food for all. Food Action has been involved in many aspects of the food system, from the Washington Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) policy changes to founding the Good Food Coalition, which is comprised of organizations committed to affordable, healthy, and ecologically and socially regenerative food. Food Tank spoke with Russell Lehman, Food Action’s Executive Director, and Arianna Muirow, Food Action’s Communications and Policy Director, about their mission and the importance of mobilizing for Good Food. Food Tank (FT): Why is supporting sustainable food and farming important in Washington? Russell Lehman (RL): It is important in Washington no more or less than anywhere else. The resiliency of our environment to offer a nourishing life source for the seventh generation from now and the good health of all people is such an imperative the question should more accurately be ‘how could it not be of vital importance to everyone?’ Arianna Muirow (AM): I see Washington as a great example for the nation in terms of food issues. We are in many ways a rural and agricultural state. The type of agriculture that we celebrate and promote here has value not only for our region, but for the country as a whole. Both big and small-scale agriculture play important roles in our food system, and I see our job at Food Action as making sure that all of these processes are taking place as equitably and ecologically sustainable as possible. We also have dense urban areas and globally-connected cities in this state, especially along the west side, with organic markets and ‘foodie’ cultures and celebrity chefs. Right now, the east and west sides of the state are very divided. Connecting about food as part of an interconnected system, and breaking down the silos of consumers and producers, health and hunger, seafood and farming, etc., is an essential part of bridging the urban-rural divide and strengthening our overall health and wellbeing as a state, and as a nation. If we can succeed in making Washington State’s food system stronger (in terms of being more ecologically resilient, more equitable, and more healthy for the environment and for people), it will be a great model for strengthening the nation’s food system as well. FT: Food Action sees three core tenants of good food: health, sustainability, and justice. How do you find these three components together define good food? RL: They are inextricably intertwined. Food that is grown in a manner such that the soil is degraded or where the people who grow and pick the food are mistreated creates an unhealthy society, and one that is by definition is unsustainable. ‘Good food’ means food that enriches us personally and as...

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