Education, Food, and Sustainability

Posted: November 21, 2012

It is all about tasty food. But is it truly? Most of us here in the Costa Rica program would be unlikely to trade a delicious cup of arabica coffee, a guanabana milkshake, or rice-and-beans for a hamburger with fries and a Coke. Well, let’s not be naïve, maybe some will; but not without a bit of regret.

This semester our students have also been fostering their own organic growth with food for thought. In our program thus far we have explored various sustainability issues regarding water and energy use, biodiversity, soil and air protection, along with social equity and economic development.

Particularly within the last two weeks, these educational activities and life experiences have helped us all more personally realize that in the face of increasing consumption, sustainable food production systems are critical for long-term wellbeing.  While visiting APROCAFE, our local organic coffee association here in Atenas, we recognized firsthand it is possible to secure a sustainable source of income for owners of small farms and protect the health of their families by avoiding imported harmful agrochemicals. Moreover, these goals can be achieved while simultaneously protecting the natural ecosystems and its provision of services such biodiversity, clean water, and pollination. Watching the documentary Food Inc. and visiting the small community of El Sur, which highly depends on out-of-town food due to crop damage by wildlife, were two additional activities that further provoked us to question our eating habits.

Although many of our students are now exploring vegetarian and even vegan options, it is important to realize – for meat, cheese, and egg lovers – that even cutting our animal diet in some degree could make a big impact on the environment. Although we recognize that all animal-derived food is not produced the same way, for the most part its production follows unsustainable patterns in the name of efficiency, and often ignores the social and environmental burden on our only food provider, nature.

Is it all about tasty food? Healthy tasty food? Sustainable healthy tasty food? Our choice!