healthy food access

  • Food and Farm Program

    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Food & Farm Coordinator

    Why is an environmental organization working on food? 

    Our current, industrialized agriculture system threatens the quality of our water, soil, and air - all of which MCE has worked to protect for over 45 years - and has adverse impacts on the health of Missouri residents. 


    There is a massive disconnect between people and food. Our current food system is not feeding our children, supporting our communities, or ensuring the protection of our soil and water resources. Missouri is fortunate to have naturally high quality soils capable of producing an array of fruits and vegetables, yet most of our land is dedicated to growing corn and soy - crops used primarily to produce livestock feed, processed food, and ethanol. Much of the fruits and vegetables found in grocery stores comes from far away places - California, Mexico, Chile, and Canada. Our grocery store shelves are lined with cheap sugar-, salt-, and fat-laden processed foods. Federal policies make Hostess Twinkies(R) cheaper than a bag of carrots. Issues of limited food access and no true consumer choice hit home for many families in urban and rural communities across Missouri and the nation. 

    I believe it's time to back control of our food supply.Through our Food and Farm Program, MCE works to ensure that all Missourians have access to affordable, healthy food that is produced by local farmers who care for the land and are paid decent wages.

    MCE works to change the status quo of Missouri’s agriculture industry so that our farmland supports a robust, sustainable, secure, and equitable food production system that preserves the environmental integrity of our air, land, and water.


    Read more about the environmental and health effects of our current food system, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and the importance of Farm Bill - an omnibus bill that funds an array of federal programs, including programs related to corn production, school lunches, greenhouses, and farmers markets.

    2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study

    We believed that our current food system was threatening all of the resources we seek to protect at MCE, so we wanted to see how the industrialized food system is impacting our health, environment, our farmers, and our local economy here in the St. Louis region. In order to understand these local effects, we compiled data from USDA and Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES) and to produce the 2014 St. Louis Regional Food Study. We found that there’s a clear link between our food, our health, and the health of our environment in the St. Louis area. Explore our Food Studypage for more information, including access to the complete abridged report and the executive summary. Read below to find the main points of the seven-chapter Food Study.

    1. The St. Louis Region Foodshed is defined as the 100-mile radius around St. Louis in which we’ve studied the relationship between environment, food, and health.
    2. The types of foods we consume and how they’re produced have plagued our area with disease and negative health consequences.
    3. Creating a more localized food production system will keep money and jobs within the St. Louis region, and empower small farmers.
    4. We have valuable land and soil resources for growing our own food in the region, but these resources need to be protected.
    5. Industrialized farming practices in the St. Louis region are reducing the diversity of crops and harming land quality.
    6. The St. Louis region has a huge investment in the livestock industry, but not an investment in healthy, safe animal farming practices.
    7. Industrialized chemical modifications are currently threatening the safety of our food, environment, and health.
    8. We need to make healthy food available on a local level to St. Louis area residents.

    People throughout Missouri and the nation are questioning our dependence on fossil-fuel based agriculture, high fat, high sugar processed foods, and a food system in which our food travels farther in a week than we do in a year. Increasingly, farmers, gardeners, chefs, consumers, health professionals, grocers, schools, hospitals, and restaurants are seeking foods that are free of chemicals, produced with respect for land, water, and wildlife, locally grown as much as possible, fresh, and that promote good health. We contribute to that effort by identifying policies to promote these aims, targeting obstacles to these aims, connecting communities creating solutions, and sharing information to help inform public decisions.

    Goals for MCE's Food and Farm Program

    1. Reduce pollution from fertilizers (manure and synthetic) and farm chemicals in order to keep waters healthy and safe.

    2. Protect and restore wetlands and floodplains to preserve the flood storage, pollutant-filtering and wildlife habitat capacities of these landforms.

    3. Promote a  healthy, sustainable food system that is independent of fossil fuels and petrochemicals, that uses water wisely, and restores and protects Missouri’s soils.
    4. Promote a food system that maintains a diversified seed stock independent of genetically modified and privately patented seeds.
    5. Promote the preservation of quality agricultural land for farm purposes rather than industrialized use.
    6. Promote strong conservation requirements so that taxpayer funded farm program benefits do not go to producers who fail to protect soil and water.
    Local Food Policy

    One way to mitigate the negative impacts of our industrialized farm system is to support local food movements. For instance, one of our current projects is researching gapsin the current food system. We are convening a multi-stakeholder group to advocate for policies and projects that can close these gaps and support a thriving healthy local food system around St. Louis. Click here to learn more about the other local food initiatives that MCE hopes to support, such as cooking demonstrations, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs. If your organization is interested in being a part of the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, contact Food and Farm Coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Missouri Foundation for Health Funds New Food Policy Coalition


    Contact: Melissa Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator, (314) 727-0600, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Date: December 8, 2015

    St. Louis, MO: Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) has awarded Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) a 23-month $120,000 advocacy grant to lead the new St. Louis Food Policy Coalition (STLFPC).

    Where food comes from, how it is grown, and the relationship between health and the environment are important concepts to MCE. MCE’s Food and Farm Coordinator Melissa Vatterott is raising awareness about the connections between agriculture, public health, and the environment. As the coordinating agency for the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition, MCE will advocate for and advance policies that will address gaps in the St. Louis region’s capacity to deliver healthy, fresh, sustainable, and accessible local food, with a specific emphasis on targeting communities with limited access to such food. Missouri Foundation for Health’s policy portfolio prioritizes “increasing health equity for all Missourians,” which is something Vatterott anticipates the work of STLFPC will foster.

    After the release of MCE’s St. Louis Regional Food Study a year ago, Vatterott conducted outreach to stakeholders for the first four months of 2015, bringing groups together to develop a set of policy initiatives and collaborative projects to address the food system needs of the St. Louis region.

    “To effectively advocate for the health, environmental, social justice, and economic needs of the entire St. Louis region, it’s important to include organizations throughout the 100 mile radius of St. Louis,” Vatterott says.

    Such a group has existed in St. Louis before, the St. Louis Food Policy Council, which began in 2010 and closed in 2012. The new group formed as a coalition in contrast to the former council in order to emphasize the collaboration of new stakeholders and new priorities, such as emphasizing local production within the food system.

    Mary Bolling, Nutrition Program Associate at MU Extension and steering committee member of STLFPC explains, “Supporting our local farmers through STLFPC works to support improved health, lesson the environmental impact, and contribute to the local economy. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are most flavorful, most abundant, and least expensive. Locally grown food is often tastier and more nutrient dense because it is allowed to ripen longer due to the fact that it doesn't have to travel thousands of miles before arriving at the store.”

    For more information, see the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition webpage (



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