If Proposition 37, California’s GMO labeling measure, gets voted down today, it will be unfortunate and frustrating for many. But it won’t happen for lack of a movement.
Last month, in a much-quoted New York Times Magazine article, Michael Pollan framed this state-level ballot initiative as an important test with national implications. If we can translate the growing consumer awareness about the value of organic and local food into a movement with real political will, he argued, then surely this ballot initiative was a reason to pull out the stops and push this burgeoning movement to its limit. Read more
Chefs are artists. Good ones draw people in with their inspired plates and atmosphere–performance art meets flavor. While deliciousness at a restaurant is first and foremost, more patrons are now also making decisions about where to eat based on the values behind the food–like social justice for the workers, healthy growing practices, and support for local economies.
Last week in an interview with The New York Times, chefs Thomas Keller–who has received many awards for his creative approach to food at restaurants French Laundry and the Bouchon empire–and Andoni Luis Aduriz, of the restaurant Mugaritz in Spain, took the Damien Hirst approach to feeding people: It’s about the experience and whatever it takes to create radical and inspiring food is more important than the potential impact on the environment. “With the relatively small number of people I feed, is it really my responsibility to worry about carbon footprint?” remarked Keller.
Both chefs admitted that they buy local when they can, but didn’t want to focus on that as a practice. According to Aduriz, “to align yourself entirely with the idea of sustainability makes chefs complacent and limited.”
The good food movement would beg to differ. The proliferation of farm-to-table restaurants, farmers’ markets and small food businesses, and the increased visibility of food policy issues in the media all speak to a sea change under way. Read more
This is not a food story. On the surface the only real connection this story has to food is that a young man named Trayvon Martin was at a convenience store buying Skittles and iced tea. If it was a food story, we would be shaking our finger at him for eating junk food. We’d be scolding the neighborhood for not providing him a fresh, affordable apple. But instead, because he–a young, unarmed black man wearing a hoodie–got murdered, this isn’t a food story, but a story about justice.
As a health writer who often talks about the links between what gets grown and what gets put on the plate, I consider myself an advocate. I want to see people eating good food in close proximity to their homes. It never occurred to me that walking to the store—no matter what you go there to get–could get you murdered. And as a person who cares about justice, I never thought that in 2012, our system would care so little about seeking justice for this boy. He was somebody’s son. As the mother of a young black male who often walks to the convenience store by our house, my heart is broken. Read more
For most Americans, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been largely an urban phenomenon, but last Sunday, December 4th, farmers and rural activists flocked to New York City to join the Occupy Wall Street Farmers’ March in a show of solidarity with their urban allies. Read more
If you are paying attention to Occupy Wall Street—and by now most people are—the anti-corporate message is coming through loud and clear. Most participants at the events now spreading across the country say they are no longer willing to let powerful corporate interests determine the course of their lives. These Americans realize that a participatory democracy is essential.
As it stands today, 75 percent of the population are obese or overweight and many are chronically ill with diet-related diseases. They are also largely dependent on an increasingly unhealthful and contaminated food supply that is heavily controlled by corporate interests. It’s obvious that this is our moment to drive a very important point home: Upending corporate control of the food supply is a fundamental change that must occur if the “99 percent” are to be healthy participants in a true democracy.
This could be a catalyzing moment for the food movement with a real chance for average Americans to see and hear the connection between corporate control of the food supply and our nation’s health crisis. Indeed, the declaration of Occupy Wall Street (available on its Facebook page), addresses issues the food movement has been working on for years. The declaration states, “They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.” Read more
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.” Read more
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. Read more
A couple of weeks ago, Washington Post political blogger Ezra Klein and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack had a debate in the Washington Post about rural subsidies; the substance of which was then analyzed and thoroughly skewered in a couple of excellent posts by Brian Depew of the Center for Rural Affairs and Tom Philpott at Grist. The whole affair got me thinking about another urban/rural discussion I read at the end of last year, this one focused on food—and about how counterproductive all of our country/city dividing lines are. Read more
Ellen Gustafson is beaming. She’s sitting at the center of a long table inside a greenhouse at the center of San Francisco’s Hayes Valley Farm and she’s surrounded on both sides by an assortment of guests representing the Bay Area food movement. Every now and then someone will get up and make a toast. The food is locally and organically produced and perfectly prepared and the table and greenhouse have been designed and built specially for the event, but it’s the toasts that have Gustafson smiling. This is the kick-off dinner for the 30 Project, Gustafson’s latest brainchild, and every toast is a new opportunity to hear stakeholders in the food world—from community leaders and authors to artists and business owners—put forth their vision for the food system of the future. Read more
In 2004, Morgan Spurlock‘s documentary film Super Size Me debuted. In it, Spurlock eats McDonald’s food for 30 days straight. This extreme experiment sought to document the adverse health effects of the all-to-common practice of over-eating fast food, using himself as test subject. Indeed, Spurlock gained weight, scared his doctors when his liver went south, felt depressed, lost sexual function and more. But the film also became a sort of watershed moment, shocking general audiences and thereby playing a big role in spurring growth of the food movement. I met Spurlock recently while picking up my weekly farm share (we belong to the same local CSA), and he kindly agreed to talk about the food movement, changes in the fast food industry, and how his McDonald’s binge has affected his long-term health. Read more