Member Highlight: Marianne Smith Edge

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky recently added significant health expertise to its Board of Directors with the appointment of Marianne Smith Edge.

Marianne, from Owensboro, is a registered dietitian who founded The AgriNutrition Edge, a communications consulting firm that helps food and agriculture companies navigate the complex consumer food environment.

A sixth-generation farm owner, Marianne is no stranger to food systems and agriculture. She writes about them, and their connection to nutrition, often on the AgriNutrition Edge website.

"Will the crops we raise today actually sustain the health and well-being of our nation and the world? Are we raising food for nutrient benefits or economic gain? Is having an affordable and safe food supply enough?" she asked in one post. "These are all complex questions without simple answers! Resolution comes with understanding our food systems and consumer concerns. It will do us well to reconnect ourselves and ‘meet at the table' with our neighbors and communities."

Farmers, Marianne notes, comprise a relatively small share of the population, and with most Americans living in urban and suburban areas, they rarely interact with the people responsible for the food on their table.

"Today, as the eighth generation of Smiths are growing up, we are a society of 324 million with only two percent of the population engaged in farming," she writes. "But 100 percent of us want to understand how our food is grown."

One way to do that, according to Marianne, is through farmers' markets.

"Regardless of where we purchase food, all food has a story, but we find the story more directly when we visit farmers' markets in our respective areas during the growing seasons," she writes. "For some areas of the country (California-envy) and around the globe, local outdoor air markets are a way of life, but for others like us in Kentucky, the growing season is limited so the opportunity to meet the producers and farmers face-to-face arrives in the spring and continues through late fall."

Marianne's concerns go beyond an individual's relationship with food and farming, however. She recently wrote about a report that found current diets are harming the health of both people and the planet, and that the food system is currently unequipped to deal with an expected increase in the global population to 10 billion people.

Instead of doomsaying, though, Marianne argued the report ignored progress in some key areas.

"The need for sustainable agriculture is correct as mentioned in the report but what the report fails to highlight are the accomplishments of the current agricultural system that are protecting the land and water resources as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions," she wrote.

Overall, Marianne argues that people should adopt a "think globally, act locally" mindset when it comes to food systems and sustainability.

"Food is at the core of our existence regardless where we fit in the food system," she writes. "If we are truly committed to ensuring an adequate and healthful food supply for all, we should look no further than our own practices and food habits before we start pointing fingers at others."

Marianne has a bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Kentucky and a master's degree in public health, with a specialization in nutrition, from Western Kentucky University.


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