San Francisco has La Cocina‘s incubator kitchen, and street eats, underground food folk, and pop-up restaurant types work out of places like La Victoria Bakery, while thriving food enterprises such as Blue Chair Fruit have found a home in the kitchen that houses Grace Street Catering in Oakland.
The life of a farmer is hardly mundane. There is constant work, little time off, and yet the seemingly homebody, non-lucrative career choice certainly isn’t short on hustle and bustle. As someone who is by no means a farmer, more a macro-gardener who tries to make some extra income from our one-acre excess, I am doubly impressed with Lynda Hopkins’ The Wisdom of the Radish. Her ability to balance life’s components makes her head first dive into the hardships of organic farming particularly triumphant especially since she has written a book to prove it.
The documentary film Forks Over Knives starts in the middle of a health crisis. In a video montage, statistics on heart disease, obesity rates, prescription drug use, and the cost of healthcare are interspersed with sound bites from the likes of Bill Maher, who declares, “the answer is spinach!” While the tone is dark, Maher’s prelude stands for the hope within this film. Forks Over Knives compels us to consider that spinach is in fact an antidote to our disease of affluence.
For most of us working in food policy, it’s hard to remember a time when food outbreaks of bugs like E. coli didn’t happen pretty much weekly. But reading the new book Poisoned by Jeff Benedict made me realize that bacteria-contaminated hamburgers are a relatively recent phenomenon; a striking reminder of how our food system has gone very, very wrong.
Would you change the way you eat if it kept you from getting cancer or stopped the disease in its tracks? Could you see yourself adding more sustainable, fresh local foods to your diet every day if it might prolong your life? Cancer researcher Dr. William Li, of the Angiogenesis Foundation, thinks you can.
Li’s work revolves around looking at the way that our blood vessels–every person has around 60,000–deliver oxygen and nutrients to the all our body’s organs, but can also feed cancers and grow tumors in the body. To prove his theory about the preventative powers of healthy food, his Angiogenesis Foundation has kicked off an Eat to Defeat campaign, that has a goal of signing up one million volunteers who are willing to increase their intake of healthy foods, and to become a part of his research.
It’s 2:30 on a Friday afternoon. The loudspeakers blare, “Garden Program is Good.” Then, out of grey military barrack-like buildings meander 30 or so men, headed to the “chapel” for class and some days, to a garden bursting with color. Dressed in their “blues.”
The group of men is predominantly African-American, with a healthy mix of other races. On the yard, razor wire and heavy chain-link fences surround them, with several guard towers looming over the area.
They are the class participants of the Insight Garden Program (IGP) at San Quentin State Prison.
Like many social movements, the so-called “good food movement” relies heavily on young people for their vision, energy, and idealism. And yet, when Naomi Starkman, one of the organizers behind the Kitchen Table Talks series, invited six young leaders to speak at a panel called Next Gen Food Activists, she pinpointed just what sets them apart.
“This group is interested in rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty,” said Starkman from a podium at the UC Berkeley Journalism School, which co-hosted the panel. “They’re also one of the most technologically connected generations, using social tools and the internet to organize.”
Indeed, as the discussion illuminated, the young men and women present have succeeded in ways that have seamlessly blended the online and offline worlds. They also represented multiple lenses on the edible world: from food justice to green business, to the “delicious revolution.”
On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, farmer, poet and food movement hero Wendell Berry, physicist and seed-saving advocate Vandana Shiva, nutritionist and professor Marion Nestle, and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales were among the speakers at The Future of Food, a conference put on by the Washington Post at Georgetown University.
The media was quick to focus on the comments by Prince Charles, who has been farming land on his Highgrove Estate for 26 years and selling produce under the name Duchy Originals, the profits of which are given to charities. But though the Prince gave a thorough and informed 45-minute speech about soil loss, the importance of biodiversity, and a critique of U.S. agriculture policy (you can read the whole speech here), some media and online comments focused on the perceived hypocrisy of the Prince as an environmentalist with a huge carbon footprint, and the old fall-back of detractors of the food movement: Elitism.
James Berk is a serious young man of few words. But when he speaks people take notice. And it’s not just because of his radio-ready baritone. When asked why he got into the grocery business he says simply: “The food I was eating was killing me, and it’s killing my community. I wanted access to better food for myself and the people in my neighborhood.”
As a young teen, Berk’s diet largely consisted of Hot Pockets, Hungry Man dinners, soda and the “O”s (Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, and microwavable burritos, sometimes with Cheetos stuffed inside). He knew his eating habits weren’t healthy, but the West Oakland child of a low-income single mom found food where and when he could.
A little over a year ago, I radically changed my family’s diet from what most American’s would consider to be “normal food” to strictly “real food.” Before making this drastic change we thought we were making fairly healthy food choices, but I now realize those decisions were heavily influenced by what the food industry defines as “healthy.” I was planning our meals around supermarket sales and coupons, allowing our kids to indulge in fast food on occasion, and–I admit–eating my sandwiches on store-bought white bread. I’ve always had a love for cooking, but never once did it occur to me to plan our meals around the fresh, local food that was in season, nor did I ever think to read, much less scrutinize, the ingredient list on a food product before buying it.