Island Food Community of Pohnpei visit

The SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany class visited the Island Food Community of Pohnpei. Coordinator Emihner Johnson gave a presentation on the need to Go Local!
Vanessa, Isabella, Mylinda, and Jasmine make up the front of the class.

In a nation that is number two for obesity and a state where the diabetes rate is 32%, Ms. Johnson led the students through the CHEEF framework. Ms. Johnson noted the need to support local Culture through the growing of traditionally valued crops. She noted too the Health benefits of local foods, especially the high beta-carotene content of particular varieties of local bananas, taro, and pandanus.
Local foods have a lower Environmental impact that foreign foods. The environmental impact of foreign foods that is seen here on Pohnpei is that of the improper disposal of packaging. Yet that is only the tip of an invisible ice berg. Foreign foods are typically energy intensive in their production, and mass production techniques often degrade the environment. The destruction of vast swaths of tropical rain forest for the production of palm oil is but one example of the environmental impacts of foreign foods that are not directly observed by the consumer. Done correctly, using traditional agro-forestry techniques, local foods can be grown in harmony with the environment of these islands.

Ms. Johnson noted too the Economic benefit of local plants. Local plants provide income to local farmers. Foreign foods are simply the export of money directly off island. There is no economic multiplier for money spent on foreign food. For local food, that is money kept on island and in circulation.


Food security and safety is the F in CHEEF. Food prices are up by 28% with cereals up 44%, there is an emerging food crisis. Local food is food security, foreign food is food insecurity.

Local foods are not processed foods that are often loaded with salt, monosodium glutamate, sugars, artificial coloring, and preservatives. Local foods have been safely eaten for over 2000 years, the same cannot be said for highly processed snack foods. The ants that live in my car will eat anything, including the feet of passengers. But a collection of foreign highly processed potato chips were scattered in the back seat by a small child. Even after a week there, no ant would come near the chips. Clearly they are not a food product.

After the presentation the class toured the collection of bananas and soft taro plants. The Island Food Community has developed into a valuable living herbarium and a center for display of different varieties.

The class owes a debt of gratitude to the Island Food Community and to Ms. Johnson for the presentation, tour, and, more importantly, the work being done to improve the health of all served by the IFC. Kalahngan!

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