The Midwest is a region of agricultural activity, but much of our local land is designated for corn, soybeans and wheat production. Meanwhile, much of the produce we purchase is transported vast distances, from other regions or countries. Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s 2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study provides an overview of our industrial-heavy food system and its impacts.

Industrial agriculture requires large amounts of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which contaminate our water systems. Nutrients in soil are depleted and soil erodes more quickly due to large-scale monoculture. Concentrated animal feeding operations endanger public health through harmful emissions, water pollution, disease, and overuse of antibiotics. Industrial agriculture harms our environment, farmers, and community health.

Food insecurity in the St. Louis region further exacerbates local health disparities. In many low-income areas of St. Louis City, there are few grocery stores and limited access to healthy options. Missouri Coalition for the Environment’s Food Access story maps illustrate that about half of St. Louis City residents are both low income and have low food access.

Local, sustainable production of nutritious food and equitable access to it are key needs in the St. Louis area.

A 2018 study showed that sustainable, locally-produced food makes up only 3.38%, or $530 million, of the total $15.7 billion St. Louis foodshed for 4 million people. That share was projected to grow to $628 million by 2020, signifying the increasing demand and opportunity for local, sustainable food.

More responsibly grown, raised, and distributed local food can reduce environmental harm, improve public health, and increase equitable food access.

The Franciscan Sisters of Mary support efforts that contribute to a thriving, sustainable, local food system in the St. Louis region, which is essential to our mission of compassionate care of creation. We especially center the empowerment of marginalized people and their communities, community and collaboration, and health and healing for all creation.