Letters to the Editor

Erin White: Restoring a healthy relationship with food

Regarding the Sept. 12 article “Big Food’s biggest trend? Crusading against Big Food”: The writer gets into some complicated territory, explaining how the $256 billion fast food industry is learning to profit by actually exposing the broken food system that it’s part of. And she points out our education gap: Most Americans haven’t been taught to make sense of what’s happening on their plates, in our restaurants or on our farms. How do we teach ourselves to understand food?

Food seems like a given. Really, why should you care about food and the food system? For starters, childhood hunger, obesity and diet-related disease are serious issues that affect far too many, cost millions in health dollars and drag down our creative economy and society. Fast food, of course, is a major factor here.

Food brings us together, building social fabric that pushes back on the daily disconnects and isolations in our typical lives. And Wake County adds 64 new residents per day who all need to eat. Solving our regional food needs will be a massive economic opportunity that we can capitalize on with local solutions, or we can leave the profits to global food corporations.

We discuss food education often at Community Food Lab. How can new farmers be educated in business planning and marketing? How can economic developers learn about the massive local opportunities? How can preschoolers learn to identify vegetables and learn to love the taste of fresh carrots or lettuce? How can neighbors learn to cook nutritious meals or share gardening knowledge? Our society has lost its connection to food, and much of our work aims to rebuild it.

Community Food Lab is a social enterprise as well as a design firm. Alongside our consulting work we design community-based projects to make Raleigh a better food city, sharing information and educating as we go. We see local food and urban agriculture projects as some of the easiest ways to build awareness about food.

The Raleigh Food Corridor and its Second Saturday project are examples of our community work. In these initiatives, the Blount and Person street corridor is the starting point for an urban food movement to create healthy neighborhoods. The Food Corridor connects diverse people and communities around gardens, micro-farm businesses, cooking education, educational workshops and community conversations. With key partners including the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Passage Home and Advocates for Health in Action, our collective impact approach is gaining steam and always looking for more partners.

Is Raleigh ready to become a serious food city? Not “serious food” in the sense of our well-deserved reputation as a foodie destination. Instead, a city serious about ensuring that everyone has access to healthy food, where gardens and farms are encouraged to pop up and bring neighbors together and where residents, elected officials and institutions commit to capturing the economic, social and health opportunities that food can bring a 21st century city.

Erin White

Founder, Community Food Lab and the Raleigh Food Corridor


The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.