Posts Tagged ‘food politics’

It’s a good thing I’m reading these two books simultaneously.

I’m (according to Kindle) 41% of the way through Paul Roberts’ The End of Food.  It’s a long book, and thus far Paul has walked me through human history from our first meals of nuts and bark to our current astonishing dichotomy of feast and famine where there are as many overweight/obese people as there are starving people in the world;  where industrial agricultural yields have soared, but the vital sources of those yields – water, stable weather patterns, and fertile soil – are being lost at alarming rates; where food is a booming global business, but markets are artificially created, manipulated and propped by government and corporate policies that put more food into the mouths of the fat and more money into the hands of shareholders, while hungry people and farmers starve. (more…)


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FRESH! was the first film screened by my newborn Food Films Club.

Produced and directed by Ana Joanes, FRESH! highlights inspiring players in the food movement – folks who are key because they’re successfully challenging the status quo and making significant differences on a local level. The message of the film is that these efforts can be supported and replicated by everyone who cares about the safety and wholesomeness of the food we, as a society, have to eat.


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Bell peppers ripening, cayennes ready for picking, and swiss chard bigger than my hand, on our balcony.

I heart Katherine Gustafson. She’s a regular writer at change.org’s Sustainable Food blog. Her style and topics get me fired up every time. Yesterday she posted an article on an essay by a guy named Richard Keller, who is editor of a trade magazine called AgProfessional (“a magazine dedicated to serving ag retailers, crop consultants, and farm managers”) in which he harshly criticizes advocates of local, sustainable eating/growing as “the new hippies”, “upper-class individuals who hire gardener-entrepreneurs to turn their yards into food gardens”, and “city dwellers who are doing some type of communal gardens, rooftop gardens, patio gardens, etc., who weren’t growing any of their food a few years ago. Now, it’s a way to impress your friends and be hip.”

Retorts Katherine, “Here I was thinking my lack of designer duds and swanky apartment was limiting my hipness factor. I guess if I just grow a few more rooftop tomatoes, my popularity is sure to spike.” (more…)

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Peace, progress and prosperity...

In his first speech on foreign policy after taking office, Dwight Eisenhower weighed the true cost of heavy defense spending. At the end of a decade that had seen the highest defense spending in our nation’s history, and on the eve of the cold war, Eisenhower sought to turn the priorities of the nations of the world to peace and betterment of the human condition. His hopes in this regard, “did not get past the speech-making stage.”* Nevertheless, as we evaluate the impact of hunger and food insecurity both in the United States and around the globe, and consider that U.S. Defense spending has increased by around 233% since 2000, Eisenhower’s words carry an enormous moral weight worth repeating:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

*Reevaluating Eisenhower: American foreign policy in the 1950s, Richard A. Melanson & David Mayers

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The following posts really caught my attention this week. Which ones resonate with you?

Thoughts on Pollan’s Big Food Movement Essay Grist’s Tom Phillpot evaluates Michael Pollan’s essay in the New York Times Review of Books in light of two questions: where is the broader progressive “movement”? And could the “food movement” galvanize progressives to come to a single table with their varied plates? (Lame metaphor mine, not Tom’s).

Mmmm, school lunch!

Eat Lunch with Your Kid Day No it’s not a real thing, but Ed Bruske (in a post featured on Grist, The Slow Cook and La Vida Locavore) lobbed a soft-ball at the First Lady, proposing she and White House chef Sam Kass, along with parents of all the school kids out there, join the young Future of Our Nation for lunch one day. The photo of a likely entree is revolting.

Can Altruism Help Your Diet? This post meant a lot to me because I know it has been true for me. Writer Sara Reistad-Long discusses a study done by Stanford University researchers indicating that “people were far more likely to make healthier diet choices in order to protect the planet or support a whole foods movement than to improve their own health.” Antidote to cravings for bad foods just might be an understanding of the widespread harm they do – not just to us but to the world around us.

Lavender + clothesline = green and dreamy

Grist offers a GreenLaundry Challenge (with prizes!) that got me thinking about ways we could reduce laundry costs AND our carbon footprint a little. I found a cool indoor clothesline and outdoor clothesline for people with small spaces. I’m thinking of getting the collapsible outdoor line to take advantage of the 10th-floor breeze on our balcony. At $50, it is roughly the cost of 25 dryer loads of laundry, so I feel that it would pay for itself (at one load per week) before the weather got too cold to use it).  If it works, I’ll plant a little container of lavender to scent my drying laundry ala Provence.

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Michael Pollan is drawing a little fire these days from … feminists.

Photo (c) Sarah Owens via flickr

In a recent article in  New York Times Review of Books, Pollan reviewed several books that highlight the various circles of thought under the “big, lumpy tent” that is the sustainable food movement. It’s a good read, and I’ve got a few more books on my reading list now.

One of the books he reviews (at the top of my to-read list) is The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society by Janet A. Flammang. Of this  book, Pollan writes:

In a challenge to second-wave feminists who urged women to get out of the kitchen, Flammang suggests that by denigrating ‘foodwork’—everything involved in putting meals on the family table—we have unthinkingly wrecked one of the nurseries of democracy: the family meal.”

Feminist blogger Anna Clark responded via Salon.com in an article worth reading in full:

My take, as a feminist and local foodie? Blaming feminism for luring women out of the kitchen, stealing the ritual of the family meal, and thereby diminishing “one of the nurseries of democracy” is both simplistic and ridiculous. It’s true that shared meals are powerful spaces for building relationships and “the habits of civility.” But if we’re going to talk about who’s to blame for our current culture of processed food, why not blame untold generations of men for not getting into the kitchen, especially given Pollan’s characterization of the family meal as having a meaningful role in cultivating democracy? If it’s so important, why is their absence excusable?”

My response is, Anna, I get what you’re saying, but your article stops short of doing anything more than stamping your feet about it. I think plenty of men fall under Pollan’s critique – but honestly, who, until you, saw this as a blame game? Lower your hackles, girl! How passe of you to jump right into a tit-for-tat and insist if any woman be blamed a man must also be blamed. Honey, have you read Pollan’s books? Many, many men are blamed for the mess our food system is in. How is it so wrong to say that feminism played a role in the loss of healthier food traditions from days gone by?

Moreover, I say, Anna, accept the credit that Pollan is handing women – it’s in our hands to bring goodness back to our tables. Hopefully, and very likely, our men will help too. But whether they do or not, we know we have the smarts and the skills to feed ourselves and those we love well.

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I enjoyed reading and sharing Amanda’s guest post on her personal food politics earlier this week, and her story reminded me of my friend Becca’s story. I got to know Becca, a talented teacher at the school where I work, through discussing food. Cross-Pollanation? In contrast to Amanda’s story, Becca’s journey lead her back to meat. She posted her story on her own blog as well.

So, I’m co-leading a book club after school for 4 5th/6th grade girls.  We’re braving the Young Reader’s Edition of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and so far the girls are taking it all in with an amazing level of maturity and critical thinking.  I love my school for fostering students like this :)

But, back to the subject.  My co-sponsor and I talk about food… a lot.  And she asked me to write a guest-post on her blog about my own personal food politics.  So, here goes:

Becca dreams of hunting a wild boar, which is purportedly as blurry as it is delicious.

In 2004, working full time at an environmental non-profit AND managing 3 bands, I met a music producer who became my best friend.  In mid-conversation one day (appropo of nothing) he asked me if I was a vegetarian.  “No… why do you ask?”  “Well, most of my friends who are as compassionate as you cite that reason for going veg.”  Huh.  He was writing a book – a collection of peoples’ stories of why/how they went veg.  I read the forward to the book, his own story.  It was hilarious, anchored on the imagery of a bunch of punks teasing him for eating McDonald’s, his 30-day vegetarian challenge, and his epiphany that “Hamburgers don’t grow on trees!  McDonald’s is using the Hamburglar to brainwash the youth of America to think that their food doesn’t come from animals!”

I didn’t quite harbor his conspiracy theory, but I did come away thinking “Huh… there are a lot of good reasons not to eat meat.  Do I have any good reasons to keep doing it?”  And the answer was, “Nope.”  My 30-day vegetarian challenge turned into 5 years of a strict veg diet – no dead animals in my body, ever.  I never went vegan (ok, ok – except those 3 days in Portland… but I ate cheese the minute I got back to San Francisco).  (more…)

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