Profile in Sustainability: Joanne Burke
May 13, 2009
Joanne Burke, clinical assistant professor, department of molecular, cellular and biomedical sciences
Why is nutrition an important part of sustainability?
Nutrition and sustainability are inextricably linked. Healthy soils and waterways and environmentally respectful food production give rise to wholesome foods, supporting our health and nutritional well-being. Social, economic, cultural and political factors impact food production, access, and health outcomes. As a profession, nutritionists are trained to view the health role that nutrients in food play in health promotion but have not historically considered the food system used to produce these foods. As we become more aware of how food production and dietary practices impact our environment, it becomes apparent that sustainability must be integrated into nutrition practices.
What role can all of us play in addressing the issue of food security?
There are a variety of interconnected ways to take action. Becoming involved in food and agriculture policy decisions has far reaching impacts. Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program supports local farmers, builds capacity, and provides you with healthy foods. State, regional, and national policies and practices also are needed. Most of the US Farm Bill supports large agribusiness with few resources for small and mid-size producers. One out of eight Americans do not have access to healthy diets. Food banks provide short term food access, but were never intended to be a long term solution to failed economic and social policy. Long term system-wide strategies that promote healthy, accessible food systems and livable wages are needed.
What motivates you personally to be involved in sustainability?
I find it unacceptable that we live in a country that advertises itself as the world’s breadbasket yet far too many of our citizens go hungry. Growing up, I watched as my parents tried to make a difference. My dad worked on civil rights issues while my mom assisted Cuban refugees in our North Miami parish. Armed with the belief that individuals can and should make a difference, I find it ethically rewarding to be playing a role in advancing food security and sustainability. My husband and I hope our children, grandchildren and future generations benefit from the sustainability work we are collectively engaged in.