Let me start with a clarification: None of us have expertise in Cuba or U.S.–Cuba relations. And we all fully understood that four days in Cuba would barely let us scratch the surface in regard to the functioning of this nation’s food and health systems. We have also found that writing almost anything about Cuba will surely trigger strong reactions from various factions in the political spectrum. But this trip, put together thanks to the wonderful work of the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, exposed us to a dramatically different model for nourishing and providing medical services to a nation’s people. The urban food production in Havana was very impressive, and the ingenious ways that people found to grow food provides a model for local foods enthusiasts in the United States. We in the land of plenty can learn something from those who have struggled so much against scarcity. It’s hard to figure out how much information on life in Cuba we actually gathered. Conversations with different people frequently resulted in vastly different perceptions about life on the island. I had a wonderful conversation with an actor who truly could not imagine a better life than he was living in Havana. On the other hand, I met a very kind, well-educated man sitting along the ocean front who had a brother in Michigan and I think he would have gladly jumped into my suitcase if I gave him the opportunity. Yet despite the confusion, some general themes emerged from our travels: • Cuba’s Special Period, the difficult years immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was anything but special for most Cubans. Shalini Kantayya provides some reflections about the Special Period from a Cuban woman she met, and the lessons this may provide a peak oil-challenged world. • It has been 40 years since the Cuban revolution, and the decades as a socialist state have contributed to a society much, much different than in the United States. Farmers in Cuba accept a level of government intervention that would be considered intolerable here, and the system has economic drivers much different than the U.S. agricultural economy. Andy Fisher reminds us that there are limits to how well Havana’s urban agriculture experience can translate to the U.S. • Many Cubans are very excited about urban food production. National planners like the concept because it could reduce Cuba’s substantial reliance on food imports. But more importantly, Havana residents are embracing urban agriculture because of the quality of the food and the financial rewards. Elizabeth U explores these different facets of sustainability and Fred Bahnson provides some insight into a very successful urban farm and its charismatic leader. • While Cuba’s food and health systems are vastly different than ours, they face many of our diet-related public health challenges. Two of our public health professionals, Alethia Carr and Erin MacDougall, provide their reflections on what surprised them about the Cuban systems. • Cubans feed their families through an assortment of rations, purchases, barters and gardens. Deb Eschmeyer, a leader in the U.S. farm to school movement, asked everyone she could about how children are fed in Havana schools. And finally, Roger Doiron created a very compelling video that provides a brief history of urban agriculture in Cuba. Urban food production is not just a nice pastime: Roger reminds viewers that a billion people in the world are hungry and in order to confront this problem we need to capture lessons from Cuba and many other parts of the world. It is in these millions of humble garden plots around the world where some of the most innovative solutions to feeding the world’s hungry will emerge. As for me, I returned home with a renewed respect for the importance of policy. Life in Cuba is dramatically different then any other Latin American country that I have visited. While culture, geography, climate, trade embargoes and many other factors contribute to those differences, the direction of national policy is obviously a huge factor. It’s a reminder that our national policies, like the Child Nutrition Act and Farm Bill, aren’t just words on a paper, but key drivers in the quality of people’s lives.If you would like to see more of the photos and videos that we took on our trip, visit the IATP Food and Society Fellows on Facebook and YouTube.