This article originally appeared at Earth Island Journal.
In case you
didn’t get the memo, today is Food
Day. In more than 2,000 communities in all fifty states, people will be
taking a moment to step back and celebrate our food—and the growing ranks of a
food movement working hard to ensure that healthy, sustainably, and ethically
raised food, grown and produced by workers paid and treated fairly, is the norm
not the exception.
myself and dozens of partners including Corporate Accountability
International, Slow Food USA, the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Land Stewardship
Project are launching Food MythBusters—a series of short online movies to help you
detect truth from fiction when it comes to your food and how it’s made. The
first film takes on the myth that we need chemical agriculture to feed the world
and looks at the true costs of industrial agriculture and the power and
potential of sustainable food and farming.
Have a look!
years, I’ve been traveling around the country talking food. My talks must
sometimes feel like a withering assault of bad news: Did you know agriculture
contributes to about one third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions? Or, that
thanks to agricultural chemicals most of us have—at minimum—13 pesticides
detectable in our blood on any given day? Or that because of our broken food
system one in three kids born in this country will develop debilitating diabetes
in their lifetime? Bummer, right?
Q&A, invariably someone raises their hand and asks what difference it makes
to try to do anything to make any of this better—with things so damn dire. It’s
the moment I wait for all night.
difference can we make? A huge one. Just look at the big wins the food movement
has accomplished over the past fifteen years:
Farmer’s markets: Bell bottoms might have been big
back in the 1970s, but farmers markets weren’t. There were only a few hundred
still kicking by the mid-1970s. Thanks to hard work in communities across the
country, there are now 7,864
farmers markets across the United States, more than double from just a
decade ago, directly connecting folks to their food producers.
Farm-to-School: Fifteen years ago you wouldn’t have
found any big school districts partnering with their local farmers to get farm
fresh, regional food onto kids’ lunch trays. Today, there are farm-to-school programs in
10,000 schools—in every single state in the country.
Farmworkers continue to be among the most poorly paid and
exploited workers in our economy and yet, thanks to the hard work and organizing
by the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers (CIW), farmworkers in Florida are starting to see
wages and working conditions improve through the organization’s Fair Food
Program. This month, after six years of campaigning, Chipotle announced it will
sign the Coalition’s Fair Food Agreement to respect the rights and dignity of
farmworkers by committing to pay a "penny-per-pound" premium for tomatoes to
lift farmworker wages and only to buy from farms with fair labor practices.
The CIW is now partnering with other worker advocacy groups through the Food Chain
Workers Alliance, bringing
together workers from seed to plate.
Protecting our water and
farmland: Over the past decade, some of the biggest oil and gas companies in
the world have been working overtime to expand fracking, aka hydraulic
fracturing. Research is showing that fracking decimates farmland, generates
toxic waste, and pollutes our air and water. That's why California, Illinois,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New York have all passed measures against
this destructive, toxic practice. And, 250 communities around the U.S. have
taken action to stop fracking, thanks in part to the chutzpah and organizing
power of our partners at Food
& Water Watch.
Real food on campus: Started in 2008 to encourage
universities to shift some of the $7 billion spent annually on food purchases
toward “real food,” Real Food Challenge now connects students on hundreds of
college campuses. To
date, they’ve shifted $48.5 million of school purchases toward real food—that’s
a lot of local carrots! Today, 250 Real Food Challenge campus chapters
are hosting Food Day events.
And those are
just five examples – I could have picked fifty more.
perhaps the biggest food fight is playing out in California ballot boxes over a new ballot
initiative to label foods with genetically engineered ingredients. Food
movement organizers succeeded in getting one million signatures (one million!)
to bring Prop 37 to voters in November and have won major popular support. With
efforts like this one, and the ones like those I mention above, we can make a
thousand farmers markets bloom, get junk food pushers out of schools, encourage
some of the world’s largest corporations to do the right thing—and
still got a lot of work cut out for us. And sure, we’re still bombarded by the
marketing and PR spin from the food industry. By last count, biotech giant
Monsanto and many of the other biggest players in the food industry had poured
$40 million into the campaign to defeat Prop 37—and their well-funded
misinformation is making a dent in public support. In a recent New York
Times article, journalist Michael Pollan wrote about the fight over Prop 37
and suggested this vote will be a litmus test for the movement—a chance to flex
our political muscle. But with ad spending at this rate, it may become a litmus
test for how unlimited campaign funding distorts democracy.
face of big-budget marketing campaigns, we have the truth—and taste—on our side.
We can shout our story from the rooftops—or, rooftop farms that is—and make sure
that more of us know the real story about our food we eat and about the
successes of the food movement rising, not just the story the chemical pushers
and junk food juggernaut want you to believe. Check out my Food MythBusting series,
launching today, and join with us to spread the real story what we
Anna Lappé is a national bestselling author, sustainable food advocate,
and mom. The founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and Small
Planet Fund, her latest book is Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It (Bloomsbury 2010). Anna is also the co-author of Hope’s Edge, with her mother Frances Moore Lappé, and Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen
with Bryant Terry. She can be seen as the host for MSN’s Practical
Guide to Healthier Living and as a featured expert on Sundance Channel’s
Ideas for a Small Planet. An active board member of Rainforest Action
Network, Anna has been named one of Time’s “Eco” Who’s Who has been featured in The New York Times, Gourmet, O-The Oprah Magazine, Food & Wine, and Vibe, among many other outlets. Learn more and see where Anna is speaking next at www.takeabite.cc.
Image: "Red Spinach" by Stewart Butterfield, licensed under Creative Commons.