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
“I’m going to see ‘The Hunger Games’ on Thursday night with Eli. It opens at midnight,” announced my fifteen year old son, Owen. “On a school night?” I respond incredulously, “how about waiting until Friday night?” “Mom, this is a really important movie. I’ve been waiting for it to come out for two years.”
For those of you not yet in the know, “The Hunger Games” is based on Suzanne Collin’s eponymous best-selling book aimed at the young adult market. Owen devoured the book (which has now sold over 10 million copies) in his seventh grade English class. Not drawn to dystopian fiction myself, I listened in quiet horror as he explained the plot: Read more
The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington last week brought to light some of the fundamental internal contradictions of the anti-hunger movement. Specifically, the movement’s financial reliance on corporations with poverty-causing labor practices, as well as their reluctance to advocate on the politically-charged root causes of hunger. Read more
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
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
When the House returns to work this week they will likely be considering the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, twice extended as legislators struggled over the details. According to The Hill 80 percent of Americans support expansion of the act to “provide healthier food and cover more kids.” Yet in the current climate of economic crisis, finding the funding for this expansion has been a nearly insurmountable challenge. If this bill is not passed within the current lame-duck session, the new session of Congress will have to start over, perhaps with a diminished commitment to its expansion. In fact, there is reason to believe that there will be no work done the week after Thanksgiving, which means this week is make-or-break week for the bill. Read more
I spend a great deal of my time on extremely small-scale food production. Growing, procuring, cooking, eating, and writing about locally produced food is my bread and butter. Thus picking up a copy of Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations was in some ways a departure for me. Authors Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas are examining a world that looks to me much the same as the Grand Canyon must look to a mouse. Read more
The Cooking For Solutions event in Monterey always offers a dizzying array of well planned activities, all promoting that the public take a second to think about the issues that surround our current food system, particularly our seafood. But deeper into the layers of after-hours food galas, wine tasting tours, and celebrity chef demos is the Sustainable Foods Institute, two full days aimed at members of the media, brimming with information from the heavy hitters at the forefront of our food industry. At times mind numbing with content, this year’s packed agenda presented countless topics to report. After taking some time to absorb the speeches, presentations, panel discussions, and statistics, some re-occurring themes emerge, but mostly an overlying presence I just can’t shake is how much food waste occurs within all tenants of our food system, both in the ocean and on the land. Read more
In his Foreign Policy essay “Attention Whole Foods Shoppers,” Robert Paarlberg paints the movement for sustainable food production and security as a Western elite preoccupation. He writes, “From Whole Foods recyclable cloth bags to Michelle Obama’s organic White House garden, modern eco-foodies are full of good intentions… Food has become an elite preoccupation in the West, ironically, just as the most effective ways to address hunger in poor countries have fallen out of fashion.”
In the same breath that he criticizes these “Western elites” who support sustainable food production, Paarlberg espouses the very Western, elitist argument that the only definition of “good,” “modern,” or “improved” agricultural inputs are the ones created, patented and sold by big Western biotech companies such as Monsanto, where Paarlberg serves on the Biotechnology Advisory Council (PDF).
Paarlberg seems to believe that the only two options for global agriculture are dirt poor subsistence farmers barely eking out a living or mass biotech production on the Green Revolution scale. But between these two extremes is a middle ground: A diverse and robust rural sector that includes small and medium farmers serving local communities and nations along with appropriate technologies that help re-balance the mix between locally sourced and imported food options. Read more
Belo Horizonte is the stuff of food security legend. BH (pronounced beh-agah), as it is known by locals, has been on the radar of food systems folks since their innovative programming began in the early 90s, and their recognition has only grown over time. Attention has come in the form of shoutouts by the Lappe mother-daughter team in Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, the Huffington Post and Yes! Magazine and the 2009 Future Policy Award from the World Future Council, to name a few. As topics relating to food security and the future of agriculture rise on the government priority lists and health-related NGOs, more and more eyes turn towards BH for best practices. So it was with nearly four years of built-up anticipation that I arrived in BH for a whirlwind tour of all things food and ag. Read more