Olympic training regimens are the stuff of legend, but here’s one you probably haven’t heard of: spend 18 hours a day for five years researching every fresh, healthy, comestible, and delicious recipe the host nation can muster—and then be ready to serve them all at lightning speed.

It’s a new sport, launched by an intrepid group of food planners charged with feeding the athletes—and everyone else—at the London-based Games of the XXX Olympiad, which kick off officially today. Over a total of 27 days, 14 million meals will be consumed at 44 venues in and around the city. The athletes alone will pack away 1.2 million of them—65,000 on the busiest day.

The food for what has been described as the largest peacetime catering operation in the world is measured in tonnes (2,200 pounds), as in: a staggering 330 tonnes of fruits and “veg”; 100 tonnes of meat; 21 tonnes of cheese. But that’s the warm-up. If a “Food Vision” meticulously plotted under the auspices of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) succeeds, it will lead the way to a much bigger prize: a new standard for the procurement and consumption of healthy, regionally sourced, environmentally sustainable food in London and beyond. Read more

To reform our food system lastingly and effectively, we’re going to need a lot more authoritative research from valued institutions of higher learning. So there was cause for celebration last week, when the inaugural Stanford Food Summit brought together representatives from all seven of the university’s schools under the slogan, “Complex problems require multidisciplinary solutions.” Read more

My no-nonsense New England mother instilled in me the belief that Mother’s Day was about manufactured rather than genuine sentiment. She also shunned formality when it came to flowers, preferring bouquets plucked from our garden to anything a florist could dish up. But now that she’s gone, the holiday has assumed for me an unbidden emotional significance. I always want to observe it, but I’m never sure how. This last weekend, quite by accident, I found my answer: I happened to spend Friday morning on an organic farm. Read more

The world of public-school lunch reform is abuzz this week as chef/author Ann Cooper, the outgoing Director of Food Services for the Berkeley Unified School District, takes charge of Boulder’s school cafeterias. Cooper earned national acclaim for remaking Berkeley’s meals program top to bottom in three years’ time. Out: transfats, high-fructose corn syrup, anything processed and pre-packaged, frozen vegetables, syrupy canned fruit, Wonder bread, vending machine snacks. In: fresh whole fruits and vegetables (many from local organic farms), salad bars with seasonal produce, organic milk, whole grains, fresh-baked breads, composting, recycling – and breakfast. Read more

If you’ve spent years listening to well-meaning and otherwise well-informed people patiently explain to you why it’s elitist to think everyone should have access to fresh, delicious and locally produced food – if you’ve occasionally even lost the will to argue back, then each encouraging word on the subject from Michelle Obama arrives like a long-awaited gift. Read more

Van Jones was at the First Congregational Church in Oakland last Tuesday, ostensibly to talk about his green-for-all campaign, the subject of his recent bestseller The Green Collar Economy. But seeing as how he was back home, in the heart of his own congregation and community, he reveled in the show he put on and it was like we all had backstage passes. With his wife and two children in the audience and surrounded by old friends, including Ada de Leon (who read some of her poetry) and Alice Walker (who didn’t), he took us from bouts of hilarity to sober reflection and back again with memories of how this extended East Bay family had braved the last few decades and especially the last eight years.  “Barack Obama didn’t create this movement,” he said at one point, “this movement created the opportunity for Barack Obama!” He noted that joy over the Obama victory was twinned with outrage over the passage of Prop 8, adding that it “has an expiration date,” since voters 35 and younger overwhelmingly opposed it. But no one in this group is going to sit by passively and wait for justice to be served up to them. Read more

The new Dining Commons at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California – feeding students since August – opened its doors to the community on Saturday to show off the latest phase of a revolutionary approach to school lunch. For the first time, several hundred parents, teachers, local food activists and assorted politicians – including Mayor Tom Bates, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier and Congresswoman Barbara Lee – could sit together in this extraordinary new building and share an ordinary school lunch: lentil soup, grilled chicken with roasted root vegetables, green salad and bread, fresh fruit. They paid $100 apiece for the privilege (the proceeds going to support the program). Students pay anywhere from 40 cents to $3.50 for a comparable meal (depending on family income). Read more

One of the lasting mysteries about food for me is how it can be so deeply personal on the plate and at the same time so very cosmically impersonal—and complicated—in the world. Learning about food systems and the politics and industry that define them has been a steady process of learning how much I don’t know and admiring those who can find a cogent and meaningful through-line to follow. I admit I was relieved when I realized a little while ago that, while there is much to be gained from tackling the large and knotty issues around agricultural production and distribution, industrial hegemonies and trade contortions, not to mention the Farm Bill (or, as Michael Pollan so aptly renamed it, the Food Bill), you can glean an amazing amount of useful knowledge across the spectrum by visiting a farmer. Read more