What is in this article?:
- Pressure mounts on food security, farming capacity in border states
- Food bank dependence
- Unprecedented pressures exist on food security and farming capacity in the U.S. borderland states, according to a new regional food assessment by University of Arizona researchers and their colleagues.
- The economic downturn, water scarcity, rising oil prices, climate change and the loss of prime farmlands are creating "a perfect storm" that is likely to leave many hungry people in its wake.
Food bank dependence
A growing number of residents in these states now rely on food banks. Other forms of food relief hit an all-time high following the 2009 economic downturn.
All five of the major food banks in Arizona and New Mexico reported to Feeding America that they are struggling to meet their demand. As an example, requests for assistance at the Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque increased 50 percent following the downturn and a doubling of unemployment in the area. Other food banks, soup kitchens and relief organizations have reported similar trends.
Despite these discouraging trends, more borderlands residents are innovating and redesigning their foodsheds to resolve such problems.
While New Mexico has achieved more positive policy change, Arizona has excelled at market-driven solutions. Arizona now has 72 farmers' markets. New Mexico has 63 markets, which have grown more than $1 million in gross sales since 2001.
There are now 29 community-supported agriculture projects in Arizona and 25 in New Mexico. New Mexico has 43 restaurants that feature locally grown foods, and Arizona has 33.
Farmers and ranchers in both states are investing more effort in directly marketing heritage foods they've produced to farmers' markets, restaurants, roadside stands and online demand from consumers. Some of these foods – such as Navajo Churro sheep and White Sonora wheat – have been raised here for centuries, but are now making a comeback in niche markets.
In addition, many ranchers are now engaged with land and water trusts to protect the food-production potential of "working landscapes."
Urban farms and homesteads have begun directly marketing their food and fiber products. Native American communities on Indian reservations are also redesigning their food systems, including managing mobile markets to ensure the health of their youth and elders and to prevent further rises in the already astronomic rates of diabetes.
The report, said Nabhan, offers many preliminary recommendations for innovations that arose out of workshops held over the last year, and it encourages communities to host town hall-style meetings to discuss their food and farming future.
Hard copies of this report are available for $5 for community discussion purposes. It also can be downloaded from www.saboresfronteras.com.