"Food is our most intimate and powerful connection to each other,
our cultures and to the earth. To transform our food system is to
heal our bodies, transform our economy & protect our environment.”
HEAL Food Alliance 

The ‘story’ of our food system is complicated consisting of an interrelated and interdependent web of systems. The industrialized system, food assistance programs, and the local food movement evolve together. The historic and present day ‘story’, within a holistic framework, is important for all consumers to understand as the food we choose impacts many areas of human and ecological well being. Educating consumers about the complex problems and solutions within the food system is an essential first step towards its transformation. 

Connecticut’s regional foodshed is roughly defined by the Northwest Corner, the Connecticut River Valley, the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. It reaches into New England, the Hudson Valley and south into New Jersey. With supportive infrastructure, Connecticut’s foodshed has the capacity to produce a reasonable percentage of its own food. Fostering a resilient foodshed depends on preserving the fertile and productive agricultural soils, woodlands and waterways. Additionally, urban and peri-urban farms and gardens are a critical contributor to Connecticut’s foodshed. Urban food systems, built by and for the community, bolster social and economic empowerment, and provide nourishing food grown in pockets of land where natural ecosystems provide peaceful and healthy spaces. 

Generally speaking, pre Covid-19 pandemic, most people didn’t pay attention to where their food came from, or how it arrived at the grocery store. However, for many, that changed at the height of the pandemic once they experienced empty shelves, realized the dependence on essential workers, and saw how quickly millions of Americans became food insecure. People began to question the efficacy and reliability of food supply chains. Those who had financial resources, turned to their local farmers, ranchers and fisherfolk and joined a CSA or CSF. At the same time, the under served communities who became most impacted, were more dependent on food pantries and SNAP benefits. The exposed economic disparities amplify the need for the food system changemakers who are charting the path towards a regional, equitable and just food system.

 Protected foodsheds are essential for human and ecological health.


FOOD SYSTEM -- "The food system encompass the entire range of activities, people and resources and their interlinked value-adding activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products that originate from agriculture, forestry or fisheries, and parts of the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which they are embedded. The food system is composed of sub-systems: farming system, waste management system, input supply system, and interacts with other key systems: energy system, trade system, health system. A food system encompasses all the stages of keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, packing, processing, transforming, marketing, consuming and disposing of food." Food and Agriculture Organization United Nations 

FOODSHED -- “The area of land and waters within a region from which food is produced in order to deliver nutrition to a population base.” Roots of Change FOODSHEDS are regionally distinctive, and include the land where crops are grown and animals are raised; the natural water sources that support food production; the facilities that process and distribute the food, the markets that buy it; and the communities that consume the food.” Find Your Foodshed by Bobby Peyton

• 98% of RURAL LAND in the United States is owned by white individuals and families. The disproportionate ownership is at the expense of the Black and Indigenous people who were displaced or lost land due to discriminatory practices; such practices continue today. For Black farmers in particular, the deprivation of land contributes to generational cycles of poverty and is a central cause to the economic disparities prevalent today.

• CONSOLIDATION & CONCENTRATION strains rural agricultural economies. Some of the highest rates of hunger in the United States exist within predominately white rural communities. The ‘get big or get out’ doctrine often strains and/or puts small and medium size farms out of business. Additionally, the consolidation of infrastructure often leaves regional processing facilities obsolete, making it difficult for small and medium size farmers to process, transport and market their products, within their region, in an economically sustainable way.

• HARMFUL FARMING PRACTICES contribute to the ill treatment of soil, watersheds, and animal husbandry. The excessive use of chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and the production of commodity mono-crops has lead to serious ecological degradation: loss of habitat, ecosystems and biodiversity, polluted water and air, soil erosion and nutrient depletion, and climate change. Consequently, human health issues result: chronic disease, food and farmworker injury, and emotional distress.

• WORKER’S RIGHTS are often threatened through out the food supply chain. Food workers, and farmworkers in particular, can be subject to harsh and exploitive working conditions such as forced labor, discriminatory hiring practices, substandard wages, and a growing epidemic of sexual assault.

• LOSS OF CONNECTION and relationship between citizens and the people who grow, catch and produce food. Most people do not know where their food is grown or caught, and under what conditions. The loss of connection produces an unfamiliarity with seasonality, true taste and flavor, and the skills of growing, processing, preserving and cooking.

In order to understand why transforming the industrialized food system is important, it helps to start with the gravity of its impact. Although the current food system is complex, it is generally agreed upon that it contributes to our biggest societal challenges; human and ecological health, economic disparity, racial injustice, food insecurity, food loss and waste, and it lives
next to carbon emissions as a leading cause of climate change.

It is rooted in stolen land from Indigenous peoples, and the enslavement of African Americans, and it continues to exploit,
all the while not fulfilling its promise to nourish and equitably feed a growing global population.  So,
we don’t have a choice but to transform. The United Nations states that they will not meet their 17 Sustainable
Development Goals unless we transform the food system. 

What does transformation of the food system mean?

I share the perspective of many food justice advocates that transformation is about dismantling mindsets and practices rooted in colonization, and joining together, on the continuum of knowledge that uplifts practices that are balanced and life generating. Many solutions come from the Indigenous communities that have been passed on through the generations. This moment in time is calling on all of us to remember our own ancestral wisdom, in order to co-facilitate this transformation.

How do we foster transformation and change?

We first bring awareness to the gravity problem, and educate ourselves on its history and the implications on
our present day and on future generations.

Another element is connection. It is important to step back and connect dots, understand the intersections, it helps to connect
to ourselves, and evaluate the ways in which we, as individuals, participate in this faulty system. There is nothing more powerful than connecting to each other. There is a tremendous amount of excellent work happening! The more we cultivate relationships and ways to support one another and collaborate, the more fulfilling this process will be.

Why transform the food system? 

The solutions hold great potential to re-weave a just and resilient
food web that reflects place + culture.

We envision a food system that equitably nourishes everyone and functions as
regionalfood cultures rooted in relationships, meaningful story, and a sense of place. 

The following VISION WHEEL highlights some of our ideas.
We would love to hear yours! 



good food as a human right.

in small-med size farms throughout all urban + rural communities.



 economic empowerment by investing
in community: food justice leaders, producers + entrepreneurs.


regionalization in balance with a fair + just global system.


regional infrastructure: hubs, compost, processing, distribution.


democracy, human rights, animal welfare, and environmental integrity.


foodsheds: land, woodlands,
waterways all cycles +
natural rhythms.


 every child how to grow food.


food sovereignty as central
to our collective well being.


 exploitive practices and 
misguided narrative.


 land back to Black farmers
+ Indigenous people.


 the systemic inequities
that causes poverty.

 balance + connectivity.

 place + culture.




 Indigenous + cultural foodways.


for ecosystems to regenerate.


relationships rooted in trust.





Photo credit:
Seasonal Food Wheel, Connecticut's Indigenous Peoples
By Lucianne Lavin

Food System Dashboard credit:
GAIN: Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition & John Hopkins University