What Are the Solutions? A Place at the Table, Reviewed

Participant Media Films has a provocative mission. Through their films and partnerships with companies and organizations, they create social action campaigns, with the hope to entertain their viewers and ignite dialogue around world issues. Many of their mainstream documentaries of the last decade declare that our food system is broken. Films on fast food, animal welfare, factory farming, and now hunger have entered our dialogue to expose parts of the system that need fixing and reform.

Their new food documentary, A Place at the Table, seeks to uncover the stories of a few families who face poor quality of life and food insecurity due to lack of nourishing food in their daily lives. Read more

Connecting Students to Something Bigger than Themselves: an Interview with Nina Suzuki of Center for Land-Based Learning

In a three-part series, the Edible Schoolyard Project interviews the directors of sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship programs at Center for Land-Based Learning.

The first interview with Nina Suzuki, Program Director of Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS), addresses the value of working with high school students and the long-term goals of Center for Land-based Learning. SLEWS engages California high school students in habitat restoration projects with a focus on classroom learning, leadership development, and hands-on environmental impact. Read more

Planting Roots in Abandoned Lots: Mark MacInnis’ Documentary on Detroit’s Urban Farms

Mark MacInnis is a native-born Detroiter who returned in 2009 to document a burgeoning urban farming community that is converting abandoned lots and open spaces into local food production and a sustainable food system. His film, Urban Roots, takes a close look at what happens to a city after a post-industrial collapse and suggests a new type of American Dream – one founded on nourishing community through the creation of a local economy. In a place where 46.6 percent of children live below the poverty line, there is an urgent need for change. Read more

Michael Pollan on The Farm Bill: New Film From Nourish (VIDEO)

Every five years, we have the chance to influence the way our food is produced, our land is conserved, and our health is protected. The legislation that addresses these issues is known as the Farm Bill, and in 2012, it’s up for renewal. “It isn’t really a bill just for farmers,” says food journalist Michael Pollan, in this video from Nourish Short Films. “It really should be called the food bill because it is the rules for the food system we all eat by.” Read more

Prophets of Bloom: An Evening with Joan Gussow, Michele Owens, and James Howard Kunstler

On Tuesday, authors Joan Gussow, Michele Owens, and James Howard Kunstler joined Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally in a conversation about the state of our environment, our national politics, and our natural landscape. “Prophets of Bloom” contextualized these topics within our present political climate and debated the possibility for a return to a more sane and happy existence.

“Prophets of Bloom”—instead of doom—suggests that the greater systemic problems with our environment and our food system can be confronted and opposed by more sustainable efforts to keep our lifestyles reliant on local economies and land use. That’s the suggestion at least, but for the panelists of this evening’s conversation, the current reality was undeniable: We’re facing a progressively “disabled culture,” to use the words of Kunstler. Each author shared an opinion on how to navigate within our larger societal framework. Read more

Farmer Apprenticeship Program Seeds Next Generation Small-Scale Farmers

It’s not the first farmer apprenticeship program of its kind, but the University of Vermont’s upcoming curriculum aims to be just as revolutionary as its university counterparts. Farming apprenticeships at Michigan State and UC Santa Cruz, have already proven that college graduates are not only ready for intensive, professional training in sustainable agriculture, but are capable of turning their experiential education into sustainable jobs. Read more

Change Of Heart: A Review of Nick Cooney’s Activist Theory

The founder and president of the Human League, Nick Cooney, has two tasks as the author of Change of Heart, a book that dissects the interplay between psychology and effective advocacy work. His argument must compel his readers—draw them in through persuasion and confident presentation—and encourage advocates to use his tools to affect the greatest good for humanity. He successfully does both things by offering concrete research on advocacy and a how-to approach (supported by tools for successful campaigning). Cooney’s objective to enact the greatest good for animals is already familiar to many readers, but his theory is relevant to all fields of advocacy and should be viewed as a guide for action. Read more

Who’s To Blame for All We Waste? We Are. A Review of American Wasteland

Throwing out suspicious food in our refrigerators is, for some, an inconsequential part of the day. But how many of us stop to think where this food actually goes? It doesn’t miraculously return to the land. Cities like San Francisco and Seattle, where city mandates and requirements have increased mindfulness surrounding food waste, rouse their residents to make composting a priority. The cost benefits to such a waste management initiative? There are many: People pay less for their garbage disposal, are incentivized to follow their city-wide programs, and ultimately help to decrease methane emission into our atmosphere, by allowing oxygen-reliant bacteria to digest organic compost material into water and carbon—as opposed decomposition into methane, which happens in the anaerobic environment of landfills.

But, because food waste is measurable at all levels of the food chain—production to consumer waste—the crucial question to consider is why we’re compelled to waste and what’s to be done to fix the crisis rather than compensate for it. Jonathan Bloom’s investigation into the topic is the subject of his new book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It). In it, he seeks to understand the American sociology of waste as a result of our national food narrative, our opportunity waste and the landscape on which food has become devalued. When we evaluate the American habit of wasting food—a half of a billion pounds of food every day, 160 million dollars a year—the neglectful numbers become too large to ignore. Read more

Measuring Sustainability: In Response To “What’s New For Dinner”

The latest egg recall teaches us that large-scale farms have a lot to lose—in dollars and cents—by not properly regulating the quality of their products. It also reaffirms loss in quality-control, food safety, and sustainable production for concerned consumers, environmentalists, and food activists. Both forces might agree that the food production system needs an overhaul. In order to accomplish such a feat, the measurement of that “success” will need a clear definition and a consensus from corporate conglomerates and food activists combined. Read more

Mapping Mobile Slaughtering: An Interview With Judy LaBelle

The growing demand for locally raised, pasture-fed meat is confronted by a lack of high-quality, humane, and regional processing plants. Even the USDA has gotten involved in identifying where outreach is most needed, by helping to build or maintain local slaughtering facilities. The agency just released an updated version of slaughterhouse maps that target local processing establishments. (The re-release can be found here [PDF].) But well before this week’s map release, organizations like Glynwood set out to understand and assess the need for mobile slaughterhouse units in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Working since 2008 to address the obstacles that have prevented the construction of adequate facilities to serve small to mid-size farmers, the organization created a modular mobile slaughterhouse—their Modular Harvest System (MHS). Civil Eats spoke with Judy LaBelle, President of Glynwood, to find out more about the first and only modular mobile slaughterhouse in the U.S. Read more