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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

The Food Movement’s Final Frontier: Taking Care of Workers

Rita has worked for the same Missouri-based pork processing company for 13 years. And yet she feels like she could lose her job at any time. If this 49-year-old mother of four is late for work by as little as five minutes, that’s one strike. If she takes more than her allotted seven minutes to race to the bathroom and back, that’s another strike. Three strikes is all it takes.

Rita (not her real name) cuts pork on a line she says has sped up considerably in recent years. The factory has reduced its staff, but demands the same amount of work from the employees that remain. She has to move fast, with a sharp knife, on her feet, for eight to 10 hours a day. “I’ve never seen so many people with heart problems,” she said of her co-workers over the phone recently. “I think it’s because of the stress. Where there used to be four of us, now there are two people. [The managers] say, ‘You all can do this.’”

In recent years, some workers have started talking about the conditions they face and trying to organize for better ones. Whenever this has happened, the company takes two approaches, Rita tells me. They start with a small raise (most meatpacking workers make a dollar or two more than minimum wage) to calm everyone down. If that doesn’t work, they’ll start firing people. Through all this, Rita has stayed on at the plant. “There are no other jobs,” she says. Read more

Hunger In The Fields

Across the United States, farmworkers are having difficulty getting enough to eat. And they’re not alone: Rural communities as a whole are poorer and less able to feed themselves than their urban counterparts. In regions where our food is being grown, access to it is limited and the people who grow it are unable to afford it when it is available. Lack of transportation, fear, and other social issues increase farmworkers’ isolation and limit their food choices even more. The food security movement, working to increase access for communities at risk of hunger, tends to overlook rural people–and especially those who work in the fields. Read more

GROWing a movement

The movement for reform to our flawed food system is growing stronger every day. Cooks, consumers, and campaigners alike are waking up in increasing numbers to the dangerous and unsustainable impacts of the way much of our food is grown, sold, and consumed.

This progress could not come at a more important moment. Our global food system works only for the few–for most of us it is broken. It leaves consumers lacking sufficient power and knowledge about what we buy and eat and almost a billion people hungry worldwide, millions of whom live here in the U.S. Read more

Extraordinary Food For All

A recent New York Times dining section piece told the story of a 17-year old on his spring college shopping tour. Apparently the young fellow’s selection criteria was not limited to a school’s academic strengths but also included the quality of its dining service. On the day the young man visited Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, he was transfixed by the dining hall’s sumptuous repast that included vegetable ragout over polenta, spicy orange beef, Dijon-crusted chicken, vegetarian pho and spinach sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Precocious palate or not, the would-be collegian readily admitted to “something subliminal from the food…that influences your decision [about the college].” Read more