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Re-envisioning our Food System for Healthier Kids & a Healthier Climate

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is exploring issues and ideas that will help empower communities to build more equitable, sustainable food systems that improve people’s access to healthy, affordable food. This blog is part of a series that examines the impacts of climate change and how communities are addressing the challenges.

Climate change affects more than just the weather. Research shows it’s impacting our health, food supply, personal safety, housing and more. One example of this is the wildfires ravaging New Mexico, exacerbated by the climate change-related megadrought. Fires have burned more than 580,000 acres of land, including families’ homes, farms and communities. That’s almost twice the annual average, setting an historic record – before the wildfire season officially began in June. This event continues to threaten the health and livelihoods of thousands in the region. 

Our food systems are especially affected. Climate change threatens our ability to grow food through droughts, floods and heat — and creates dangerous conditions for farm workers. When farms struggle, nutritious foods become less accessible and more expensive. This is detrimental to our overall health and well-being and raises the risk of hunger and obesity, which disproportionately affects people with low incomes and communities of color.

California, for example, is experiencing extreme drought due to the climate crisis, making water a scarce resource for residents and farms. These droughts have affected the state’s food production, and many farms are struggling to grow and provide food for their local communities and beyond. This ultimately influences the health of families and their children, particularly among Black, Latino, and Indigenous populations.

boy holds vegetables
Research Highlight

How Our Food System Impacts the Earth

More than one-third of greenhouse gasses are driven by our global food systems, contributing to climate change that harms our crops and food supply. This study emphasizes the need for solutions on multiple fronts, including improving farming practices, focusing on more plant-based diets, and reform within energy and transport sectors. 

Read the Study

The good news: We can reimagine our food systems in ways that will not only end hunger and improve our health, but also decrease the impacts of climate change. Communities across the United States are finding sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to provide affordable healthy foods for local families and beyond.

  • In Washington State, the people of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community are using their traditional knowledge and practices to help restore the waters and fish they depend on.
  • In Puerto Rico, La Colmena Cimarrona, a partnership between farmers and the local community on Vieques island, is planting more sustainable and weather resilient crops to help respond to climate changes and disasters such as Hurricane Maria in 2017, which threatened the island’s food supply.
  • Family farms like Fred and Graham Christenson’s in Nebraska experience the brunt of climate change-related events like flooding and an increase in pests. That’s why they’re using regenerative agricultural practices to help protect crops from climate change and make food more nutritious.

Ensuring that communities have the resources and power to implement local solutions that address their climate and food supply challenges is critical for building a healthier, safer future for everyone. RWJF teamed up with StoryCorps to capture stories from people across the United States who are affected by climate change and working to build a healthier future. Explore the full collection of audio stories.  

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