An update from Update from CCOF Inc.
Beyond the coronavirus crisis, the United States continues to face unprecedented levels of chronic disease. Organic farming, which provides nutritious food and prohibits synthetic pesticides, plays a pivotal role in public health. Recognizing this, the CCOF Foundation has released the Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report, which provides next steps for putting organic to work to improve the health of all people.
U.S. faces health inequities
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic illness like asthma, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, but not everyone is equally impacted. Structural racism and discrimination mean that frontline communities—LGBTQ people, indigenous people, low-income people, and communities of color—experience unjust social conditions, such as lack of access to healthy environments and healthy food, that burden these communities with disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease. In California’s agricultural communities, the California Department of Public Health found that Latinx children are 91 percent more likely than white children to attend schools with the highest pesticide exposure, which research has linked to increased cognitive problems, impaired neurobehavioral development,and enhanced risk of diabetes and asthma.
Beyond the impacts to communities, health inequities from environmental pollution and poor diet cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Chronic disease management makes up the biggest portion of U.S. health spending, according to the CDC.
Organic is heathy
Today, many healthcare institutions are turning to organic because they recognize our health is determined not only by the quality of food we eat, but also how the food made it to the plate, from farming and food processing to labor practices, pricing, and access.
Organic crops produced without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers protect agricultural workers, frontline communities, and consumers from pesticide-related diseases.
Organic soils release fewer greenhouse gases and sequester more carbon, combatting climate change impacts and fostering a resilient food supply for all people now and into the future.
Organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants important for human health, and organic meat and dairy contain healthier fats and higher mineral content.
Putting organic to work to combat inequities
Today, too few communities have access to the environmental and nutritional benefits of organic because only one percent of American farmland is under organic management. Insufficient investment in healthy environments and healthy food has contributed to inequities and limited the impact of the organic sector. Supporting access to organic farming and food for all people is a key strategy for improving health equity.
The Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report presents policy solutions that leverage the proven ability of organic to improve health. Policies include expanding organic options in nutrition assistance programs and investing in organic school meal programs to supporting farmers who choose to transition to organic and encouraging innovative “food is medicine” approaches like organic medically tailored meals. Learn more and read the full report at www.ccof.org/roadmap.
Now is the time to prioritize health equity and work together to create an inclusive organic future that makes all of our communities healthier. //
This article was prepared by Laetitia Benador, CCOF Research and Outreach Specialist.