Honor the Harvest on Earth Day

April 21, 2017

Celebrating Earth Day on April 22 gives us the opportunity to embrace agriculture and appreciate the land and the farmers who provide food and nourishment to people in the U.S. and around the world.

Whether a farmer, student, teacher or health and wellness professional, each of us can learn to embrace our stewardship role to help protect the land, animals, air and water. Working together, innovating, each doing our part big or small, we can achieve meaningful goals for our earth.

How can we be part of the solution? In April 2016, the United Nations and the World Health Organization declared that the next ten years would be the “decade of action on nutrition” and called for stepped-up efforts to eradicate malnutrition worldwide and to ensure access to healthier and more sustainable diets. Likewise, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, now in its centennial year, created a vision to help solve the greatest food and nutrition challenges of the 21st century and to achieve improved health through the transformative power of food and nutrition.

One of several challenges is food and nutrition security -- an area that provides many opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Malnutrition is widespread across the globe; an estimated one in eight American households were food insecure in 2015. While some people don’t have access to enough nutrient-rich food, far too much food is being wasted.

Acting to prevent and divert wasted food at every stage of the food-value chain can help provide nutrition to people who need it, help protect the environment by keeping wasted food out of landfills and use food waste and farm waste to generate renewable energy and fertilize future crops. Check out my six-part series on food waste to learn about practical ways you can help your community by redirecting wasted food.

National Dairy Council (NDC) celebrated its centennial in 2015. As it moves into its second century, NDC is expanding its efforts not only to support the health and well-being of Americans through better nutrition, but also to educate on the intersection of food, nutrition and agriculture. Some dairy farmers have a legacy of being stewards of the land. Every day is Earth Day for these farmers, who have always been dedicated stewards of the land. In fact, the entire dairy community is committed to providing nutrient-rich milk and milk products to people using sustainable methods and continuous improvement to manage resources. Every year the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards recognize dairy farmers who innovate and implement cutting-edge sustainable practices. Look for the 2017 Award winners to be announced in June.

This Earth Day, you can find your own unique way to connect with agriculture and honor the harvest – and have fun doing it. Take kids to visit a farm, start a home garden, learn to compost, help kids plant seedlings, try these tips for meal prep and planning to reduce food waste at home or donate the time or money you save to your local food bank.