When we are kids, food seems to magically transform from a potato into a thanksgiving dinner; however, the steps that the potato took to get to our tables is not as simple as it seems. As we get older maybe we learn how to cook, what a ripe tomato looks like, or that beets grow underground, but there are still so many unanswered questions about what our food has actually gone through to get to our tables. The food system is that complex web of actions that can answer the questions about how food gets from its source, to our plates, and everything in between.
The food system includes five main phases, production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste, that dictate how food gets to our plate. Let’s break these down:
Production is the first step in the food system. It encompasses everything that happens within the production process: i.e. planting seeds, watering crops, and harvesting the bounty. It also can include feeding animals and raising them for meat. Production occurs at places like ranches, fisheries, gardens, farms large and small.
Processing is the process of getting food ready to distribute, after production. Sometimes processing occurs on the farm or ranch, and other times it occurs at processing plants. On many small produce farms, the processing includes the washing, storage (cold storage), and sorting,