Food Systems

“We are so focused and so good at doing our work and keeping our head down that we forget that at the values level , we are all behind the same good food movement, we just have to enunciate them.”

Ken Cook Keynote speaker at the 2018 Food Tank Summit hosted at Seattle University

Food is the great connector. Through food we connect to soil, rain, sunlight, farmers, animals, ranchers, and truckers. Through our food we are in relationship with immigrant farmworkers, family and faith traditions, grocery store clerks, fossil fuels, agricultural policy, and the list goes on.  

Consider the following: it takes 6.7 pounds of grains and forage and 52.8 gallons of water to produce a single quarter pound hamburger (*). Nearly 15%  of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table (**). About half of all American children will receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at some point before age 20. Among African-American children, 90 percent will enroll in SNAP before age 20 (+).

Clearly, how we grow and transport our food and who has access to healthy food have a great deal to do with sustainability and environmental justice. Ongoing research on the process by which the world’s food is grown, raised, distributed, and used is important so that we can better understand and address food systems that are harmful to the environment and to already marginalized and disadvantaged populations.

Research Highlights:

Local Organizations1:

  • Food Lifeline is a nonprofit that recovers leftover and excess food from restaurants and business and distributes them to the community to provide nutritious food to hungry, low-income people.
  • Seattle Tilth teaches adults and kids how to grow food, compost, garden organically, raise urban livestock, and conserve natural resources.
  • Green Plate Special engages ethnically diverse, middle-school youth through hands-on learning in growing, cooking, and eating healthy, tasty food. See the video here!  
  • FareStart is a culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals.
  • Seattle U Urban Farm is a collaborative effort between the King County Wastewater Treatment Division and the Environmental Studies program and all produce made is distributed to local food banks.
  • Urban Food Link works with communities to create a fair, vibrant regional food system that connects people to healthy food.
  • Beacon Hill Food Forest is an edible urban forest garden that inspires the Beacon Hill community to gather together, grow their own food, and rehabilitate the local ecosystem.
  • Solid Ground 
    • Nate Moxley discusses food justice and the importance of educating youth about healthy eating. Solid Ground is a multi-service agency committed to eliminating poverty through housing, transportation, advocacy and food programs



The resources listed were compiled by CEJS as examples of local organizations working on environmental programs and sustainability initiatives. Seattle University is not affiliated with these organizations and expressly disclaims all responsibility for any content provided and all liability that may arise out of participation in any organization programs or activities.

 *JL Capper, Journal of Animal Science, December, 2011.

** "Household Food Security in United States, 2010." US Department Of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2011.

+ "Estimating the Risk of Food Stamp Use and Impoverishment during Childhood," Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Volume 163 (Number 11). November 2009.