There is a saying in Pakistan that the people in the 1900’s and earlier lived longer lives because their diet was hygienic. People then were healthier and had less disease/sickness than people living now. To compare the generations, simply observe the drastic differences in the types of foods they consumed. Diets of the past consisted of fresh, home-grown, home-cooked, healthy choices and have evolved into packaged, preserved, unhealthy junk-foods. This change is also defined through the development of cities where people have less, or no access to farmer’s markets to buy fresh food; whereas, in villages, farmer’s markets are an integral part of local life. Interestingly, the U.S is no different than Pakistan as the people in counties are more attracted to healthy food than the urban areas where the concept of farmer’s markets is comparatively less.
The first farmer’s markets technically originated in Egypt over 5,000 years ago when farmers along the Nile brought their fresh produce to be sold. Today these markets are everywhere in the World. A few days ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Urban Farmer’s Markets in Washington, D.C that not only inspired the people living in the city, but caught the eyes of Restaurateurs. The article prompted me to write this blog to reiterate access to healthy foods via farmer’s markets is not only a U.S. issue but a recurring global one.
The number of farmer’s markets in U.S has grown steadily over the past century. According to the United States Department of Agriculture the figure increased 300 times in a 14 year span from year 94’ to 2008 to 4,685 as more communities partake in the trade. United States Department of Agriculture also reports that about 23.5 million Americans currently live in food deserts, including 6.5 million children. Food desert” is a term commonly used to describe communities with little or no access to healthy food, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. Millions of Americans — mostly poor, many African-Americans — live in these areas. According to my discussions with few of the friends here in the U.S, people cannot access the fresh food because there are no farmers’ markets around even if they have agriculture fields right next to their houses.
Pakistan is a Country known for delicious food and largely has an agro based economy. The rural areas of Pakistan especially in the Punjab are enjoying the perks of fresh and healthy food, whereas Urban areas and other provinces don’t have farmers’ markets at large. Food desert is also a problem in many areas of Pakistan and unfortunately nothing has been done till date to resolve this issue. Also there is a lack of opportunity provided to the small scale farmers by the Government because agriculture policies of government provides shelter to large scale farmers who are mostly the politicians. It causes reason of less facilities to the people because the small scale farmers are those who supply their products to the farmers markets.
The urban markets are strengthening the farmers and also helping the restaurateurs improving their menu as well as getting them appreciation from customers for serving them with hygienic and fresh food. To cope up with these issues there are great organizations in the U.S supporting and helping the farmers across the Country to open new markets rural and urban areas of the Country. Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is one of those organization who are clients of my host organization Creative Science Labs. I was introduced to the FMC team last week and discussed the common issues of farmers in both Countries. People in U.S are lucky to have organizations that enhance capacity of farmers with their advocacy projects and also create opportunities for farmers to grow their business in urban areas, this directly provides the urban consumers buying fresh and healthy food in cheap price. We need the same organizations all over in the World – especially in developing countries to build capacity of farmers and help them moving their business to urban markets to shape up a healthy World.