The challenges in feeding an increasing population are complicated by the ominous climate change and economic issues looming over our collective heads. We are a state founded on farming that is also wrestling with rampant growth. The major metropolitan areas such as D.C. to the north, and Raleigh to the south feed a steady stream of business growth in the I-95 corridor between the two running right through the state. This development is engulfing the previously bucolic rural landscape in a sea of concrete and driving land prices so high many aspiring farmers find land ownership completely unattainable. The epidemic of sprawling development further damages the environment & is stripping the area of it’s cultural identity as an agricultural stronghold at an alarming rate. Between land loss, average temperature changes, and weather pattern changes related to a warming planet the current state of farming may not be viable in the next several decades without adaptation. Rural counties in many areas of the state lack the technological infrastructure for even basic services such as broadband, effectively handicapping farmers ability to market themselves.
Many times small Earth friendly farmers with less market share end up with unsold product; Roughly 30-40 percent of all produce in the United States is needlessly thrown away—some 133 billion tons (or $161 billion) worth of produce annually. This is grotesque considering the state’s population of food insecure households ranges from 9-13%. Much of this is directly related to the increasing wealth gap. Further complicating this is the fact that many of the urban food insecure households are in what are commonly called “food deserts”.
Individuals in these areas often have no other choice than to rely on food that is not widely considered healthful or nutritious because of lack of access to any other choices. This in turn negatively affects these peoples’ lives in many ways. Mental and physical health are intimately tied to what we consume and lack of adequate nutrition in childhood can have lifelong, and profound effects on those experiencing it. Mood and behavior changes are common in both adults and children with poor diets. Depression, irritability, and thinking impairment, caused by these circumstances can be debilitating. Physical manifestations of the problems in access to adequate nutrition and healthful foods are tantamount to the mental issues it also causes and can include chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
If we stay the current course I believe things will not go in a positive direction. I am afraid that with the widening wealth gap, in 2050 we will see greater damage to our interconnected health, and planet. If we do not take care of our health & nutrition and that of those around us, how can we appropriately care for our land and ecosystem. An old adage goes “You cannot pour water from an empty bucket”. The same concept goes for our planet. If it is not healthy it cannot provide for us. We need to take this very seriously as we approach our future and plans for 2050.