II. Background

A major reason our food system is so damaged--so dominated by corporate interests, rife with unhealthy products, and unbalanced by unequal access--is that we too often fail to consider food a social good or to understand that growing, selling, and eating food is by its nature a meaningful social act. What we eat is far more than a pile of commodities. Not only is food's essential job to nourish our bodies, but it can also serve as a creator of quality livelihoods, a locus of community engagement and cohesion, and an engine of citizen empowerment and education.

In recent decades, globalization and exponential population growth have pushed the boundaries of “economic, social, and ecological sustainability,” threatening global food security. In our modern age, rife with technological advances designed to make food production and distribution less labor intensive, widespread hunger and malnutrition diminish the “health and well-being of millions of people around the world.” Despite the fact that it is fundamental to human survival, adequate access to food is often regarded as if it were a privilege, rather than a “basic human right.” As the food crisis rages on, urban areas in advanced industrialized countries such as the United States are becoming concentrated zones of hunger and malnutrition, despite the fact that the U.S. food supply is plentiful enough to feed every person in the country almost twice over, even accounting for exports. In the United States today approximately thirty million people are unable to buy sufficient “food to maintain good health.”