Shopping for Change

Action and Learning Resources

Published Feb 19, 2019

Our web feature Shopping for Change takes you on a trip through a typical supermarket, showing how each product you pull off the shelves reveals an array of food system problems and solutions. We offer a short list of action and learning resources for each item. Here, we've compiled those resources on a single page.

Here and now action opportunities are things you can do individually, by making informed shopping choices or by learning more about the food system and your role in it. Big picture opportunities involve action by policymakers, businesses, public institutions or community groups.

Fruit: Protecting farmworker rights

What we can do

Here and now

  • Look for labels that indicate fair labor practices, such as the Alliance for Fair Food’s Fair Food Program or the Agricultural Justice Project's Food Justice Certified label.
  • Buy fruit grown with organic or other less-toxic methods, which mean less pesticide residue for you and healthier conditions for farm workers.
  • Know your farmer. Buying fruit at a farmers market allows you to talk directly to farmers and learn more about their labor practices.

Big picture

  • Tell Congress and federal agencies to enforce laws and regulations that protect workers from pesticides and unfair labor practices.
  • Support agroecological research to help farmers reduce pesticide use.

Learn more

Fruit and health

Farmworker rights

Coffee: Fair trade

What we can do

Here and now

  • Look for Fair Trade Certified coffee, which guarantees a minimum price per pound for farmers. Not all fair trade certifications are created equal, though, so do some research on the ones you buy most.
  • Even better: buy beans that are also labeled organic or shade-grown, methods that protect forests and pollinators, reduce soil erosion, and minimize workers’ pesticide exposure.

Big picture

  • Ask large coffee chains and institutions with buying power (like universities and corporate campuses) to serve sustainably grown, fairly-traded coffee. Initiatives such as the Good Food Purchasing Program can help these institutions use their food budgets to drive the transition to a healthier, fairer, more sustainable food system.
  • Support climate change and alternative energy policies here at home to minimize global warming and help keep faraway coffee growers in business.

Learn more

Coffee and health

Coffee and fair trade


Meat: Less and better

What we can do

Here and now

  • If you eat meat, try eating it less often and in smaller portions. Replace it with plant-based proteins (like beans and lentils) and sustainable seafood.
  • Choose meat and poultry raised in sustainable systems without antibiotics. This may include organic and pasture-raised products. Look for local producers and ask about their practices.

Big picture

  • Support science-based Dietary Guidelines for Americans that explicitly address the health implications of eating meat.
  • Support public investment in agroecological research as well as programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, that help meat producers, and feed crop farmers adopt sustainable practices.
  • Advocate for stronger regulations to ensure safe, fair labor and business practices in the meat and poultry industry.

Learn more

Meat and health

Meat and sustainability

Meat and fairness

Cereal: Put some real goodness in your bowl

What we can do

Here and now

  • If you eat cereal, look for whole grain options low in added sugar. (For a little sweetness, add some fruit.)
  • If your usual choices are corn-based, try swapping in oat cereals, or better yet, oatmeal!

Big picture

  • Urge the USDA to expand programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which can help farmers adopt conservation crop rotations.
  • Increase support for agroecology research, which can help develop solutions to challenges farmers face in applying sustainable practices.

Learn more

Cereal and health

Industrial farming and the alternatives

Vegetables: Bigger servings from smaller farms

What we can do

Here and now

  • Look for the organic label, which tells you that vegetables were grown in ways that are healthier for you, farm workers, and farmland.
  • Buy vegetables in season, when they’re bursting with flavor and nutrition, and often less expensive. Find a farmers market near you—many accept food stamps and other nutrition benefits, and they’ll often double the value of those dollars. (Don’t turn your nose up at frozen vegetables, either; they can be just as nutritious as fresh, and cheaper.)

Big picture

  • Advocate for programs that connect farmers with local markets and help low-income consumers buy fresh, local produce.
  • Support other policies to help fruit and vegetable growers thrive, such as expanded crop insurance and research funding.
  • Urge institutions like schools and hospitals to adopt “good food purchasing” policies, which prioritize regional food buying (among other criteria).

Learn more

Vegetables and health

Smaller farms, local markets, and "good food" purchasing


Soda: A deceptive price tag

What we can do

Here and now

  • If you’ve developed a sugary drink habit, try to cut it down (or better yet, out). Your body will thank you for it.

Big picture

  • Support a shift in federal farm policies and incentives to encourage production of real, nutritious food rather than an endless supply of corn and corn sweeteners.
  • Keep the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act strong to ensure healthy school meals for kids—for instance, by preventing cafeterias from substituting sugary chocolate milk for the real thing.

Learn more

Soda and illness

Corn overproduction

Eggs: Making a nutritious breakfast less cruel

What we can do

Here and now

  • Seek out “pasture-raised” eggs, which are humane and sustainable. Next best is “free-range.” “Cage-free” doesn’t guarantee adequate space or outdoor access. However, these are largely unregulated marketing terms, so learn as much as you can about where your eggs come from (good advice for all fresh foods). If you can, buy from a farmers market, CSA, or regional co-op.

Big picture

  • Support laws and regulations that require humane practices and restrict routine use of antibiotics.
  • Support research into innovative farming systems, such as rotating chickens and cattle on pasture, that can benefit both animals and the environment.

Learn more

Eggs and health

Animal welfare in agriculture

Beans: Healthy protein that builds healthy soil

What we can do

Here and now

  • Eat more beans, peas and lentils!
  • While you’re at it, learn about how farmers like the folks at Lentil Underground are using legumes to transform our food system.

Big picture

  • Support agroecological research that can help farmers find ways to succeed in the face of growing challenges from drought and other climate change impacts.

Learn more

Legumes and human health

Legumes and sustainable agriculture

Seafood: Protecting a crucial food resource

What we can do

Here and now

  • Seek out varieties fished or farmed with less impact on the environment. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch consumer guide is a great reference.
  • Beware of species that may contain high levels of mercury or other contaminants. Check local fishing advisories, and heed federal advice, especially for pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and young children.

Big picture

  • Support sustainable farming practices on land. When farmers are able to limit their fertilizer use and reduce runoff, that’s a win for fisheries in downstream lakes and coastal waters.

Learn more

Seafood and health

Seafood sustainability

The Dumpster: Trimming our waste line

What we can do

Here and now

  • Buy ugly (and just as delicious!) fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy local when you can—local food is typically fresher, giving you more time to eat it before it spoils.
  • When you end up with more food than you need, freeze it, dry it, preserve it, or (if all else fails) compost it.
  • Learn about freshness dates. “Best by” usually doesn’t mean “discard after”.

Big picture

  • Learn about the food rescue movement and opportunities to get involved in your area.
  • Support policies that promote waste-reducing behavior on farms, in food processing and retail, and in institutions like schools.

Learn more

Food waste and the food rescue movement

The Back Office: Starved for justice

What we can do

Here and now

  • Support farms and food businesses owned by people of color in your area.
  • Learn about the role of racism in shaping the US food system. We've linked to some good starting points below.

Big picture

  • Find out about the food justice movement and get involved in whatever way you can.
  • Support legislation that would remove barriers to full participation in the food system by people of color, women, and other marginalized people.

Learn more

Food justice

The Cash Register: Making good food affordable for all

What we can do

Here and now

  • Learn the facts about SNAP. If you’ve never used SNAP, don’t stigmatize participants or judge their food choices.

Big picture

  • Let your legislators know you oppose attacks on SNAP. Support initiatives that would make it easier for SNAP participants to buy food at farmers markets and other alternative retail sources.

Learn more

Affordability, access, food insecurity, and SNAP

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