future of food
Future. of. Food.
Our goal is to develop a template for “future of food” workshops and dinners in communities across North America.
In October 2014, humanities scholars and their community partners utilized a “charrette” process to envision the future of food in Phoenix Arizona in 2040, asking: what should be on our plates for Dinner 2040?
The meal plan incorporated scientific, historical, cultural, and place-based practices that sustain the environmental integrity of the Southwest in United States, honor its culinary innovations, ensure health for ‘future’ foods, and promote food justice and food sovereignty.
This pilot project sought to establish a model for other communities as they consider the future of food in their regions. Starting with a pilot workshop, we explored avenues to a future food system which is more sustainable, respects the ecological integrity of the place, preserves cultural traditions, health, and ensures just practices in the production, distribution and consumption of food.
Our teams, including community partners in the culinary arts, indigenous communities, agriculture and organic farming, public health, policy planning, and food markets, worked towards constructing a new paradigm for integrating sustainable food practices into local food growing and eating practices.
The Future of Food group, led by philosopher Joan McGregor, included consultants Joni Adamson and Giovanna Di Chiro, and humanities scholars Allison Carruth, Stephanie Foote, Nalini Chhetra, Maria Cruz-Torres, David Philips, Kyle Whyte.
Our community partners were: Jeff Klopatek, Richard Sterling, Joan Baron, Dana Eldridge, Cindy Gentry, Rossane Albright, Maya Dailey, and Lora Reid. Website content was written by Joan McGregor, the website development team led by Joni Adamson, with web design and development by Patricia Ferrante, and technical support by Susan Poole Anderson.
In the next phase of our project, we are planning to host a meal for 100 community leaders in November 2016 to engage them in a layered conversation about what we should be eating in Phoenix in 2040 and how we get there.
This event will be a model for other communities to engage with humanists and community members about building a sustainable food system for their community. The potential of the “Dinner 2040” design lies in its invitation for community-wide examination of and movement towards aspirational food practices of the future. We believe it is in the interest of all communities to examine the future of our food production and consumption practices.
Values. that. Guide.
Historical, Cultural, and Place-based Practices
Desgining a sustainable food system means sustaining the cultural values of a place. History, culture, and placed-based practices are centrally important to the meaning of food in people’s lives. When designing the future of food in a particular places it is critical to reflect upon those historical, cultural and place-based practices and consider which should be reinforced or reintroduced. That reflection will include questioning why those particular food should be preserved, what traditions they are preserving. Often there are multiple cultures and a diversity of practices in a particular place over its history. Asking how we represent the diversity that exists in local cultures, and draw from those diverse sources will be required.
Sustaining Environmental Integrity
Designing a sustainable food system for the future will require considering the current strengths and challenges in the region’s availability of natural resources. What natural resources will the area have in 2040 and which resources will becomes scarce, and how will we compensate? The ecological challenges should impress upon us the need to use our resources not only in an efficient and sustainable manner but with respect for the eco-system and future generations’ reliance on them. Innovations in agricultural methods and in the uses of natural resources are occurring, how can they contribute to the provision of assurance of abundance of foods? Consideration of the current strengths and challenges in the region’s food system will be important, for example, use of drought resistant crops, harvesting of algae and other food sources that can be grown in a future world addressing these challenges; working with limited arable land; working with extremely limited resources including water, clean air; working with limitations in plant and animal species’ ability to adapt to higher ground and air temperatures; developing new approaches to irrigation, land use, and agricultural methods.
Health and Nutrition
A sustainable food system of a place must ensure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious foods. How do we ensure that our food future includes creating healthy, balanced meals and dishes that draw on culinary traditions and creativity and experimentation? The system should include pathways for education about healthy foods and food practices that occur throughout a lifetime.
Food Justice and Social Justice
A sustainable food system must ensure justice for the environment, animals, workers, and consumers. What practices will be necessary to ensure food justice in 2040? How will food distribution, allocation and access be conducted fairly, for example, how do we ensure that there will be no food deserts in the future? How are food justice, environmental justice and social justice interrelated in our society of 2040? How can we rethink sustainable practices from a food justice perspective? How can we ensure that workers within the food system are fairly treated? What is the role of immigrant labor in the food of our food?
Food sovereignty means the "ability of peoples, families, countries, and communities to control their own food supplies." The globalization of the food supplies has not only dramatically reduced of the world’s biodiverse food crops but removed control over food varieties and production from communities. At one time, over 3000 plant species were used by humans for food, but today only 150 are cultivated, and of these, only a few, including corn, rice and soy, are cultivated to produce half the world’s food. As farmers around the world are telling us, the threat posed by cultivation of too narrow a selection of food crops and seed varieties was demonstrated by the Irish potato blight which caused a famine in the 1850s. To counter the risk of over-reliance on too few foods, food sovereignty protects the value of communities to control their food system which includes protecting first foods and cultivate local and indigenous varieties of plants that have been domesticated, freely sown and shared for millennia.
On. Our. Plate.
As this early working lunch begins, community partners and steering committee members are interviewed on video. In the ice breaking session, we share our photos and objects, introduce the charrette process, describe expected contributions from each member such as idea generation, sketching, and giving each team member a voice.
Charrette 1: Imagining Sustainable Food Practices in Phoenix
In this exercise, we imagine how community and cultural identity can support environmentally and socially sustainable food practices. The facilitator reads the topic context and the topic question. Each team member briefly writes one ideal example of the topic per post-it note. If a team member finishes her/his idea before the other members, the team member can write a new idea on another note. As soon as all team members have written their first idea, each team member placed their notes on the flip chart, and reads his/her notes (30 seconds maximum per idea). Once all ideas have been read, discussion can happen for two minutes. This write/read/discuss cycle is repeated, until a total of 10 minutes has been spent on the topic. This brainstorm process is then repeated on the next topic with a new flip chart.
Historical, Cultural, and Place-based Practices
Some historical/cultural practices of the Southwest deserve to be reinforced or reintroduced because they conserve resources and support a sense of place. We can incorporate those historical cultural practices in the development of innovative culinary practices. We can draw from the diversity that exists in local cultures (such as incorporating practices of ethnic groups, indigenous groups and social groups, both current and historical). Imagine how food culture can best reflect local community identity in 2040.
How can we draw on the diverse food traditions of the Southwest to create more sustainable food practices, that support a sense of place, than current food practices?
Sustaining Ecological Health
The availability of natural resources (water, energy, land, fuel, etc.) will change by 2040. The carbon impact of production and transportation of food will necessitate more local food production. As water and energy become scarce, we must efficiently use these natural resources, and find ways to augment them. How will innovations in agricultural methods and crops provide an adequate supply of food while protecting biodiversity? (such as drought resistant and heat-resistant crops, novel low-input foods from algae or biosynthesis; working with plant and animal species’ limited ability to adapt to higher temperatures; new approaches to irrigation, land use, and agricultural methods).
Which food production and consumption practices will ensure ecological health?
Culinary Innovations for Human Health
Culinary practices need to be developed for sustainable crops and foods that will be available in 2040. These innovative culinary practices can draw from both existing and historical culinary traditions. How do we ensure that our food culture supports sufficient physical exercise and enhances nutrition? (such as devising culinary techniques for the crops of the future and for new sources of food; innovating healthy, balanced meals and dishes that creatively use 2040 Maricopa County crops).
What culinary innovations should we develop that support human health?
Food Justice and Social Justice
We can envision sustainable food practices that are fair and equitable to all members of society. For instance we need to ensure fair food distribution and access with no food deserts. Immigrant labor has played a crucial role in the food system. Workers within the food system must be assured of a safe working environment and one that treats them fairly.
How do we build food justice in Phoenix in 2040?
Back-casting: Planning for Phoenix food culture in the year 2040
To reach the imagined future from the present, each team reviews the sustainable food practices and community organizations that enable the ideal examples. You can develop one idea as a team for the back-cast, or have up to four ideas developed concurrently as back-casts. Working forward from the present, teams identify and articulate necessary intermediary steps, providing a target year for each step. Each team sketches one or more back-casting diagrams, with one diagram per 11” x 17” page. Other relevant ideas will also be sketched. Sketches need not be of publishing quality. Please feel free to express yourself visually.
4 minutes per Team
Charrette 2: Creating the Story of a Meal
Brainstorming Food in 2040
Drawing from what each team explored from the previous exercises, how can these ideas and practices be incorporated into more sustainable foods, dishes, preparation, production and food consumption practices? Each team member will propose clearly defined foods, dishes (you can consider main dishes, beverages and deserts), preparation, production and food consumption practices (one per post-it note) that address all four (or three) of the topics. In this process, a team member reads her/his idea when posting it. Discussion is allowed, with emphasis on posting many ideas, not on judging the ideas, and giving each participant a voice.
Writing and Visualizing the Story
Each team selects one or two dishes from the previous session that best embody the core ideas of your team. Your team may combine more than one dish to tell a fuller story and make more satisfying meal. Write how your team’s dish incorporates (dishes incorporate) the four topics in 2040. What struggles do you imagine were faced by the various people who produced, prepared and/or consumed the dish? What challenges do you imagine that they had to overcome and how did they overcome those challenges?
Each team succinctly writes the story of the meal production process on an 8 1/2“ x 11” page, combining the most prominent social, environmental and the culinary details. On an 11” x 17” page, sketch the dish(es) with pertinent images to illustrate the story. Sketches need not be of publishing quality. Please feel free to express yourself visually.
7 minutes per Team
The steering committee member will record each team’s collective reflections on the charrette process using cellphones or digital recorders. This information will be later transcribed.
Three-minute video clips will also be taken of Individual participants from 3:35 to 4:30. Community partners will be videoed during Reporting.
Outcome of Charrette Process for Maricopa County.
Dates and figs stuffed with goat cheese and herbs
9 bean salad (white, black, and spotted beans)
Tacos made with mesquite flour and corn flour filled with veggies & native chilies
Melon sorbet from local melons
Cucumber mint water
Tamales from locally grown ingredients
Scorpion Gummy Treats
Grilled olives and goat cheese
Roasted pumpkin (lavender, honey, and sunflower seeds; chili, rosemary, and basil)
Hibiscus prickly pear lemonade with mint
Stew – seasonal meat (elk), squash, chili, and beans
Corn tortilla with pinon (?) butter
Salad – wild greens, pinion, goji berries, sheep’s milk cheese
Farrow with grapes and pumpkin seeds
blue corn mush
Corn cakes with apple and honey
Mesquite amaranth crepe with verdolagas onion salad, topped with red chili mole and goat cheese
Squash with pumpkin seed soup
Prickly pear juice
Dates with honey