Coalition Report

By Melissa Vatterott,
MCE Food & Farm Coordinator
Coalition For The Environment

The Foodshed: Where Farmers, Foodies & Environmentalists Come Together

When we take a look at our “Foodshed,” the 100 mile radius around St. Louis, nearly half a million people or 12% of the Foodshed population live in areas of limited healthy food access. For those individuals, if they want to eat healthy, let alone eat locally, they would have a difficult time finding healthy foods in their neighborhoods. In addition, many individuals who live in areas of limited food access have modest to low incomes.

Therefore, even if individuals in limited food access areas can find a way to reach healthy food markets, the higher prices often seen on local, organic, and/or pasture-raised foods create another barrier to increasing local healthy food consumption. Addressing this issue of true consumer choice requires looking at prices and researching policies needed to make healthy food more affordable.

Communicating the local food demand and assisting farmers in reaching more markets are only some of the needs for thriving, healthy, local food systems.

Addressing the issues of limited food access and no true consumer choice are equally important. Across Missouri, many of the areas with the highest rates of obesity and diabetes overlap with areas that have few food stores offering healthy, fresh food.

The St. Louis Regional Food Study outlines the current state of our food system. The next step is to identify barriers to increasing local food production, access, and consumption. By engaging with local farmers, public health advocates, nutritionists and local food enthusiasts, we are exploring opportunities for creating thriving, healthy, local food systems in Missouri.

Our industrialized agriculture system also impacts our health and environment. Monocultures that prioritize growing one or two crops over hundreds of acres and large scale livestock operations are degrading our soils. Intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to maximize production threatens food safety and water quality. Food produced this way may be cheaper, but it costs us in our health and in the damage we do to our environment.

If you are interested in participating in MCE’s local food efforts to make fresh, local food affordable and accessible, please contact Melissa Vatterott, MCE’s Food and Farm Coordinator, at mvatterott@moenviron.org. The St. Louis Regional Food Study is available at: www.moenviron.org/stlfoodshed.