A program initiated, developed, and run by Tufts students, to
educate the university community about environmentally and socially
responsible food choices.
SHORTCUT Sustaining the Planet
KEYS: Locally Grown Foods
Organically Grown Foods
Integrated Pest Management
How Can My Eating Habits Help the Environment?
Where Can I Get Sustainably Grown Foods
What is the Tufts Food Awareness Project
For More Information about TFAP
Links to Other Web Sites
between food, agriculture, and the environment are poorly understood and
rarely discussed outside of professional circles. We don't often consider the
impact of our food production system on the environment. Yet the way we get
food from farm to plate has a significant impact on the environment,
contributing to global warming, air and water pollution, soil erosion, and
human health problems.
Modern food production practices, which rely heavily on
mechanization and technology, synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and
high-yielding varieties of plants, are very efficient, providing an abundance
of cheap food. This "green revolution" has helped to provide affordable food
to millions of people around the world, and has allowed our food costs to
remain low over time. However, some of these methods are also harmful to the
environment and human health. They damage soil, water, and air quality, and
have been linked to destruction of tropical forests and loss of biodiversity.
The good news is that positive, efficient alternatives to these destructive
methods do exist - including foods that are grown and eaten locally,
organically grown foods, crops grown with Integrated Pest Management, and
Most of us don't stop to think about where our food comes from,
but how far food travels to reach you has a significant impact on the
environment. Cheap gasoline has allowed food to come from all over the world
-- kiwis from New Zealand, fast-food hamburgers from Argentina, bananas from
Costa Rica. In fact, the average mouthful of food in the United States
travels 1300 miles before it is finally eaten!
- Locally produced foods are better for the environment in several ways:
- Transporting food a few miles instead of
thousands reduces fossil fuel emissions that contribute to air pollution, acid
rain, and global warming.
- Local growers often use fewer pesticides
than large commercial farms. This avoids polluting water supplies, is
healthier for the environment, and reduces human health risks.
- Locally grown foods have other advantages as well:
- Because it is often eaten sooner after
harvesting, local produce often does not need added wax, other preservatives,
or chemical ripening agents.
- Locally grown food is fresher and often
tastes better, because it doesn't have to travel for days or weeks to reach
- A healthy local food system -- including
small family farms -- helps create a thriving local economy. Buying produce
locally helps these farms survive.
- Small local farms preserve precious open
space and connect urbanites with the real sources of our food.
Large commercial farming systems depend heavily on the use of
synthetic chemicals, which often expose farm workers and their families to
high levels of pesticides. The World Health Organization estimates that one
million people are poisoned by pesticides each year, with 20,000 deaths.
Also, some environmental and consumer advocates believe that pesticide
residues on food and in water supplies can have negative health impacts.
Many farmers use growing methods that are safer for the environment and human
health. Organic farming works to maintain healthy soils, clean water, healthy
foods, and a thriving ecosystem. No synthetic pesticides or other synthetic
chemicals are used in organically grown foods. In Massachusetts, a farm must
be free of synthetic pesticides for three years before it can be certified as
An increasingly popular alternative to conventional farming
is a system called Integrated Pest Management. IPM relies on natural pest
controls, and reduces the use of pesticides whenever possible. Because it is
environmentally responsible and can reduce production costs, farmer acceptance
of IPM is growing rapidly. In Massachusetts, IPM standards exist for several
crops -- including apples, strawberries, and sweet corn.
By now, most of us know that consumption of saturated (usually
is associated with heart disease, some cancers, and other health
disorders. But other problems linked to our dependence on meat are
less well know -- for instance:
Eating vegetarian products that are "lower on the food chain" have a
number of advantages:
- It takes an average of around seven
pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, pork, or poultry, as well as
huge amounts of land, water, energy, and chemical inputs. Producing the beef
in just one cow can use over a hundred thousand gallons of water!
- Meat production is also linked to
significant water pollution, the degradation of natural areas such as forests
and paries, and global warming.
- Some developing nations use up much of
their limited land and resources to produce cattle for export to wealthier
- They reduce our intake of saturated fats
and cholesterol, and can increase our intake of fiber.
- By reducing demand for animal products,
plant-based foods reduce the attractiveness of overexploiting limited
resources, converting rainforest to pasture, and intensive animal farming.
- All in all, replacing some or all of our
consumption of animal foods with plant-based foods helps to promote a
healthier environment, human health, humane treatment of animals, and social
There are lots of ways you can contribute to a healthier
environment. You don't have to be a vegetarian!
- By more locally grown foods -- the closer
to home they are grown the better. Choose foods grown nearby in season
over those that come from far away.
- Have a veggie rollup, or yogurt and fruit
and a bagel, or pita and hummus, instead of a meat based meal.
- Look for produce grown with Integrated
Pest Management. Keep in mind that local fruits and vegetables are often
grown using IPM.
- But organically grown produce when
- Eat fewer fast food burgers and chicken.
- Find out where your food comes from and
how it is produced. If the labels don't tell you, ask!
- Encourage establishments where you eat
and purchase food to carry more sustainable food choices.
- Express your opinions about the campus
food selections to student representatives, to Tufts Dining Services
management, to the university administration, or to the Tufts Food Awareness
Food co-operatives, natural food stores, farm stands, and farmers'
all good sources of organically grown foods, locally grown produce, and
vegetarian products. Commercial supermarkets are also beginning to stock more
of these products in response to increased consumer demand.
You can even get some of these foods on campus. Pound and Dewick/MacPhie
Dining Halls carry a good variety of vegetarian foods. The Campus Center
Commons features a salad bar, several vegetarian selections, local juices,
carried locally grown apples in fall 1994 and is considering providing more
plant-based options, depending on demand.
The more people demand these foods, the more likely it is that eventually the
supply will increase and the prices will drop.
We're a partnership of graduate and undergraduate students, staff,
that was created to educate the university community about environmentally and
socially responsible food choices, and to help increase the availability of
these foods on campus.
In 1994, several
Tufts University students from the
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy
School of Nutrition
worked with Dining Services on a class project related to improving the supply
of local foods at Tufts dining facilities. Because the project raised a
number of exciting possibilities for the university, students continued
working on this project after the semester ended, and established TFAP in
- Write to:
- Tufts Food Awareness Project
- c/o Tufts University Dining Services
- 89-91 Curtis Street
- Medford, MA 02155
- or send e-mail to:
- email@example.com (who is this?)
Visit ECO links
for related sites on agriculture, energy, and other environmental issues with
a Tufts perspective.
TFAP Home Page <