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

While the expression “vote with your fork” has become a slogan for the modern food movement, many advocates struggle with how to move from conscientious consumerism to engaged citizenship. Harnessing the groundswell of public interest in food to create lasting policy change was the subject of a recent San Francisco Kitchen Table Talks, a monthly conversation about food issues. Read more

I work in food and agriculture, so when I sit down to a locally sourced, home cooked dinner with my family, I often think of the 2012 Farm Bill’s connection to the food on my table. Re-christened the “Food and Farm Bill” by a fierce tribe of good food advocates, the 2012 version is the most important piece of environmental legislation that Congress will enact in the next 18 months.

I have no illusion that my dinners are completely different from those of millions of Americans. Most people eat mainly processed food as a result of the billions of subsidy dollars diverted to industrial agriculture and the cheap food that is produced by it. The next Farm Bill is our best shot at fixing these flaws in our food system.

Good news: the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is fighting for better policies that would make local and organic dinners like mine the norm rather than the exception, including turning its attention to the 2012 Farm Bill. Read more

Whatever you call him, Steve Ritz is an extraordinary example of how one person can make a difference.

He has two missions: The first is to get his Discovery High School students to grow and eat vegetables. The second is to ignite the Green Bronx Machine and get all of the borough residents to grow and eat healthy food. (Watch out for the soon-to-come Web site and meanwhile follow Green Bronx Machine on Facebook and Twitter.)

Ritz is fueled by the irony that although the Bronx is the distribution point for produce to all five boroughs, its residents have very little access to high quality, fresh vegetables.

“If my kids can’t buy good produce at the local supermarket, we’ll get them to grow it,” Ritz decides. And grow they do! Hundreds of pounds of it a year. Where? On the classroom walls. Read more

This weekend (Friday, February 19 through Monday, February 21) the University of Oregon at Eugene is hosting a Food Justice conference, where Civil Eats’ editor Naomi Starkman and I will join Friends of Family Farmers’ Megan Fehrman on a panel on New Media and Food Activism, moderated by Michelle Branch. (Those who can make it to Eugene, you should – it promises to be a fantastic event, with keynotes from Vandana Shiva and Fred Kirschenmann, a staged reading of the play Salmon is Everything, a First Foods/Indigenous food politics panel and a FOOD: Art Exhibition.) Read more

Last month, an 11-year-old had much to say about the perils of the American food system. Speaking at a TED conference for young people called TEDx in Asheville, North Carolina, Birke Baehr discussed food irradiation, GMOs, CAFOs, farm run-off, the problem with marketing food to kids and more, all in five minutes. On the subject of paying more for better quality food, Baehr said, “With all the things I’m learning about the food system, it seems to me that we can either pay the farmer or pay the hospital.”

He also talked about his future aspirations. “Awhile back I wanted to be an NFL football player. Now, I’ve decided I’d rather be an organic farmer instead,” he said to the cheering audience. “That way I can have a greater impact on the world.” Read more

When Katie Stagliano was in third grade, she planted a cabbage in her family’s small garden. When it grew to an astounding 40 pounds, she donated it to a soup kitchen, where it was made into meals for 275 people (with the help of ham and rice). “I thought, ‘Wow, with that one cabbage I helped feed that many people?'” says Katie, now entering sixth grade. “I could do much more than that.”

So Katie started planting vegetable gardens as part of her nonprofit Katie’s Krops — she has six right now — including one the length of a football field at her school in her hometown of Summerville, S.C. Classmates, her family and other people in the community help plant and water, and Bonnie Plants donates seedlings. This past year, Katie took her commitment to a new level: she has given soup kitchens over 2,000 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables. Katie and her helpers are now harvesting the spring planting, and another 1,200 pounds will be donated by October. Read more

On a recent Sunday afternoon in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, over a hundred people gathered at the 6000-square foot Eagle Street Rooftop Farm to talk about the farm’s newest addition: six laying hens.

The farmer, Annie Novak, put together a panel that included Bronx urban gardener Karen Washington, Owen Taylor from the non-profit organization Just Food, and a thirteen year-old chicken enthusiast from Massachusetts named Orren Fox. Read more

When was the last time you went to a conference that followed dinner with a rock, paper, scissors tournament among 150 participants?  At times the 2nd annual Southeast Youth Food Activist Summit (SYFAS) felt more like summer camp than a conference (in a good way).  Don’t be mistaken though; we got down to business.

SYFAS is the first of six Real Food Summits that will be happening over the next two months across the country as part of the Real Food Challenge, a student movement to increase the procurement of real (sustainably grown, fair, humane and local) food on college and university campuses, with the national goal of 20% real food by 2020. Read more