Hunger and food insecurity are growing concerns in the United States and around the world. Consequently, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated Global Food Security as one of the five focal areas for the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Recently, the USDA released a report indicating that 13.6% of Vermonters are food insecure (up from 9.6% in 2004-2006) and 6.2% are hungry (“very low food security”) compared to the national averages of 13.5% food insecure and 5.2% hungry (Nord, Coleman-Jensen, Andrews, & Carlson, 2010). At the same time, farmers in Vermont are struggling. The average net income of Vermont farms according to the USDA’s 2007 Agriculture Census was $22,816/ year. This indicates the financial risk associated with agriculture and the challenges that Vermont farmers face in achieving business viability.
Unconnected strategies that either enhance food access or build economic success for agriculture may work at each other’s expense. Hence there is a growing need for efforts that simultaneously support access to high quality, local food for low-income Vermonters while ensuring fair return to Vermont farmers. Approaches driven by this dual-goal have great potential to strengthen communities and further social equity, both important tenets of sustainable agriculture.
Berlin, Linda; Hamilton, Jean; and Schattman, Rachel, "Working towards the Common Table: How Vermont Addresses Social Justice and Food Access with Local Food and Why it Matters" (2011). Opportunities for Agriculture Working Paper Series. 3.