Saturday, October 29th, 2011, 10:08 AM
by Kristin Wartman, Food Writer
The Food Movement Must Occupy Wall Street
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 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.”
Author and activist Naomi Klein has been an outspoken advocate and participant in Occupy Wall Street. When asked how it connects to the food movement she said, “The protest is about the corporate takeover of democracy of our lives in every way. The food movement is inherently anti-corporate and it is inherently about rebuilding a real economy.” She continued, “The food movement is where a lot of the leadership is. Occupy Wall Street is not just about banking legislation. The food movement is paving the way for what needs to happen in manufacturing and I think it’s all connected.”
Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University agrees. “Of course Occupy Wall Street connects to the food movement,” she said. “If we had a healthier financial system, we might be able to fund better food assistance, universal school meals, a rational and effective food safety system, and production agriculture that promotes sustainability and affordable food that is healthier for people and the planet. The food movement needs to be there and its voices heard.”
While powerful players like Goldman Sachs and Fannie Mae were on the lips of nearly every American after the 2008 financial crisis, the names of industrial agriculture corporations remain largely unknown. But consider how much power they wield. Take Monsanto as an example. When Monsanto began selling its genetically modified Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996 only two percent of soybeans in the U.S. contained their patented gene. By 2008, over 90 percent of soybeans in the U.S. contained Monsanto’s gene. This is especially alarming given that soybeans account for the largest source of protein feed and the second largest source of vegetable oil in the world. According to the USDA, in 2008-09, the farm value of soybean production was $29.6 billion, the second highest among U.S. produced crops — and soy is ubiquitous in processed foods. It ends up in the meat, milk, eggs, and farmed fish many Americans consume (as a result of it being in animal feed) as well as thousands upon thousands of packaged foods usually in the form of soy protein isolate, soy isoflavones, textured vegetable protein, and soy oils. Soy accounts for a fifth of the calories in the American diet.
Monsanto has also produced genetically modified seeds for corn, canola, and cotton with many more products being developed including seeds for sugar beets and alfalfa. (To see how ferociously Monsanto protects its patented seeds watch the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc.) As for corn, the highest valued U.S. produced crop, 93 percent of it is genetically engineered. Physicist and internationally renowned activist Dr. Vandana Shiva points out that the notion that genetically engineered food will improve the food supply and improve nutrition is a myth. “These are illusions that are being marketed in order for people to hand over the power to decide what to eat to a handful of corporations,” she said in an interview on her Website.
Another corporation with broad reach and control over the foods we eat is Cargill, which rivals Monsanto in its control of the food supply. It is the largest privately held corporation in the nation, owning Cargill Pork and Cargill Beef, the second largest beef producer in North America. According to Anna Lappe’s book Diet for a Hot Planet, Cargill also owns dozens of subsidiary businesses, is one of the largest commercial cattle feeders in the U.S., the world’s biggest processor, marketer, and distributor of grains, oilseeds, and other agricultural commodities, and controls 80 percent of the European market for soybean crushing with a similar share for animal feed manufacturing.
If you eat any processed or packaged food, or anything from a typical restaurant or café, you can guarantee that Monsanto or Cargill played a role in those foods somewhere along the line. As Dr. Shiva points out in much of her work, these companies contribute to the toxification of our food supply. It’s not only the lack of nutritional value in many of these highly processed foods, but also the actual toxins that are added to genetically engineered foods. Bees, butterflies, cattle and other animals have been dying as a result of these crops, so how are they affecting humans? (You can listen to Dr. Shiva discuss this here).
If America’s health crisis is any indication, corporate control of the food supply is taking the ultimate toll. American children born in 2000 are the first generation not expected to outlive their parents as one in three is likely to develop diabetes in their lifetime, with those rates even higher for black and Latino children. The corporate monopolies over the food supply and the government’s role in facilitating corporate control translates into control over the health of the American population.
Occupy Wall Street illustrates a basic tenet of democracy; we must participate for it to function properly. We must also participate in our food system to develop local food economies that function with our interests in mind. Our first steps must be learning and teaching others about where our food comes from and how to access healthy food. We must also boycott companies like Monsanto and Cargill whose sole interest is profit, not our health or protecting the environment.
Writer, activist, and academic Raj Patel said that while Wall Street is certainly behind many problems with the food system, there is an even deeper connection between the two. “At its best, the food movement is about learning to see the politics in our everyday lives and then to take a stand against injustice,” he said. “That’s what Occupy Wall Street is doing–creating a space to learn, demand, exchange and organize.”
Occupy Wall Street understands that the corporations cannot be allowed to control our political systems. Similarly, when corporations control the food supply we are left with an unsafe and unregulated food supply and a population in the midst of a dire health crisis as a result of corporate carelessness and greed.
This post originally appeared on Civil Eats
Friday, October 28th, 2011, 11:05 AM
Students united to transform food system:
Not just 20% real food by 2020. At least 20% real food by 2020.
The Get Real campaign, for instance, is off and running. It’s aimed at getting college presidents to sign our new Real Food Campus Commitment–and we’ve just had out first victory: the President of St. Mary’s College in Indiana signed this week! http://www.wndu.com/localnews/headlines/Saint_Marys_first_school_to_sign…
- Food Industry News & Trends,Food Policy & Politics,Hunger & Food Crisis,Local Food,Organic Food & Farming
Monday, October 24th, 2011, 9:36 AM
After months of organizing by countless people, there will be more than 2,000 events from coast to coast—ranging from small house parties to massive festivals — for Food Day. Local governments are seizing the opportunity to announce new food policy initiatives. The National Archives will be hosting a Food Day Open House just feet from our country’s most important founding documents. There will be an “Eat In” in Times Square, with guests like Morgan Spurlock, Mario Batali, and Marion Nestle, and with a meal prepared by Ellie Krieger of the Food Network.
But more important, Food Day is poised to inspire hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans to change their diets for the better, and to push for improved food policies.
If you are already planning to participate in a Food Day event, this is what I ask you to do: Please take still photos of your event, tag them with “Food Day” on Flickr and join our Flickr group. And, if you can take a short video of your Food Day event, please upload them to YouTube and tag them with the words “Food Day.” The Food Day staff will favorite these videos so they show up on the Food Day YouTube Channel. You can also collect signatures for the Food Day petition asking Congress for better food policies.
If you haven’t found a Food Day event near you, visit FoodDay.org use the map or type in your zip code. (Be patient as events take time to load in the map—a lot of people are visiting right now!) And of course you can keep up with Food Day by liking it on Facebook, following CSPI on Twitter, or by using the #FoodDay hashtag to participate in the national conversation.
Food Day continues to get great publicity, such as these articles in The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Minneapolis Tribune, and the Portland Oregonian or in the Atlantic. You may have also seen this TV spot-featuring Morgan Spurlock-from our friends at the Cooking Channel, or this one from our friends at the wellness cable channel Veria Living.
Friday, September 9th, 2011, 9:29 PM
From the Harvard Crimson
September 06, 2011
By SANDRA Y.L. KORN
Yesterday, hundreds of Harvard’s dining hall workers, security guards, and custodians marched through Harvard Yard demanding “sustainable jobs.”
All three of these groups of workers are negotiating union contracts with the University this fall. In their contract negotiations with the University, workers have asked for more than wage raises or better benefits. Instead, Harvard’s employees have asked that the University embrace a new movement that defines “sustainability” not only in terms of the environment, but in terms of jobs.
Despite contractual wage increases, the average Harvard dining hall worker lost $900 in wages, between the past academic year and the one before, due to working fewer hours, according to the Student Labor Action Movement. These losses significantly affect workers already straining to afford food and rent, at rising prices.
Most dining hall workers are laid off during the summer and during J-term, and struggle to find summer jobs. However, many hour cuts have taken place during the school year itself, leaving dining hall workers with less than full-time work at Harvard. They must find second jobs or depend on other income just to pay their rent or raise their kids. Their jobs at Harvard are not sustainable ways of living.
Moreover, Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services cuts these hours by employing practices which are environmentally unsustainable. Dining hall workers report that the University purchases anincreasing amount of packaged and pre-prepared food, which is cut, baked, or cooked off-site and shipped to Harvard pre-made.
Not only does this necessitate the environmentally unfriendly costs of packaging and transportation, it also reduces the amount of work that Harvard’s dining hall workers must do to prepare food, which separates them from the food production process and reduces the number of hours they can work.
So, as they explained in a leaflet handed to incoming freshmen on move-in day this fall, entitled “Sustainable Food and Sustainable Jobs,” participating workers are asking that tasks like cutting vegetables and baking bread be brought back in-house to increase workers’ hours and make the dining hall food as sustainable—and fresh and tasteful—as it used to be.
The relationship between the labor movement and the green movement has been rocky at times in the past. For example, in the interest of job creation, the Teamsters union supported President Bush’s plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2004. Similarly, the United Auto Workers has opposed proposals to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for cars, fearing that increased production prices will lead to job losses.
This tension stems in part from the perception of the green movement as privileged, elitist, and removed from the realities of working class life. Today, though, coalitions like the BlueGreen Alliance advocate for “green jobs,” and organizations such as Labor Network for Sustainability seek to inspire those in the labor movement about environmental issues.
At the same time, sustainability activist groups, especially those which focus on students, have begun revising the traditional definition of “sustainability” to incorporate workers’ rights. For example, Real Food Challenge, a student movement to redefine “real” food as food which “nourishes producers, consumers, communities, and the earth,” includes the wellbeing of both farm workers and food service workers as part of its definition of real food. Harvard’s Food Literacy Project and HUHDS both plan to sponsor events for Food Day, which presses for sustainable and humane food to “support fair conditions for food and farm workers.”
Harvard’s workers are currently engaged in one of the first campaigns to unite the environmental movement and the labor movement on college campuses. Now, workers who want to prepare and serve high-quality food serve as the strongest advocates for greener dining halls. Environmentalists who view fair work practices as a component of sustainability now support workers in their campaign for full-time work. And student activists (like me) who care both about the environment and labor rights can form large coalitions that press for true systemic change in the food system.
So when you see posters, buttons, or leaflets around campus calling for “sustainable jobs,” don’t just think about organic food. Think about Harvard’s dining hall workers, security guards, and custodians. Think about full-time jobs. Think about the environmental movement and the labor movement working together at last. And think about how Harvard’s workers are redefining sustainability in a campaign that brings together students, workers, and activists in one unified fight.
Sandra Y.L. Korn ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Eliot House.
- Blog,Food Policy & Politics,Local Food,Organic Food & Farming,Urban Agriculture & Community Gardening
Thursday, September 8th, 2011, 9:31 PM
Just in time for back-to-school, Food Day, and the fall harvest season! Nourish Short Films is an engaging collection of 54 bite-sized videos about the story of your food.
Filled with insightful commentary and beautiful visuals, the DVD features exclusive interviews with best-selling author Michael Pollan, British chef Jamie Oliver, Edible Schoolyard founder Alice Waters, eco-chef Bryant Terry, healthy food advocate Anna Lappé, pediatrician Dr. Nadine, and other voices from the food movement. The short films explore an encyclopedia of food issues, from seasonal eating and home cooking to edible education and the Farm Bill. See the Menu of Short Films.
Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, says, “These shorts bring to life a vision of a world where food is good for the people who eat it, good for the people who grow and pick it, and good for the planet.”
Use these thought-provoking videos to open conversations and inspire meaningful change in your community, school, or home. Learn more and order today.
Wednesday, August 31st, 2011, 9:33 PM
If rural New York’s economic survival depends on my habits, I’d rather drink their milk than go to their prison.
Donate to our Kickstarter Campaign today!
The prison construction boom of the 1980s and 1990s found many economically depressed, rural towns that were hungry for the false promises that prisons brought to their local economies. Today, over 350 rural towns across the nation are home to a prison. Over 75% of New York’s prisons are located in rural areas.
Today, rural New York is facing two economic crises:
1. Dairy farmers are being forced to sell of their herds and shut down their businesses, because federal agricultural policy is putting farmers in a situation where they are losing money to produce milk.
2. Prison employees are fighting to keep empty prisons open amidst a major state budget crisis. Located in depressed, rural towns, these prisons often provide the most stable, best paying jobs in town.
Which crisis do you want to help avert?
MILK NOT JAILS is a consumer campaign to mobilize NY residents to support the dairy industry and the long-term sustainability of the rural economy. It is a political campaign to advocate for criminal justice and agricultural policy reform that will bring about positive economic growth. MILK NOT JAILS insists that bad criminal justice policy should not be the primary economic development plan for rural New York.
Demand a new urban-rural relationship.
Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 8:57 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Emily Walsh / Slow Food USA / 718-260-8000 x154 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Slow Food vs. Fast Food?
- The $5 Challenge, Slow Food USA’s
New Campaign, to Take Back the ‘Value Meal’-
BROOKLYN, NY (August 17, 2011) – Today, in response to a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, people eating more fast food than home-cooked meals, and increasing rates of diet-related disease, Slow Food USA launched The $5 Challenge campaign. The organization, a national non-profit working for good, clean and fair food for all, is encouraging people across the country to cook slow food that costs no more than five dollars per person. Slow food – the opposite of fast food – is food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.
“Slow food shouldn’t have to cost more than fast food. It’s time we take back the ‘Value Meal,’” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA.
On Sept. 17, the campaign will launch with a Day of Action where people can attend any one of the hundreds of slow food gatherings nationwide. To participate in The $5 Challenge, all one has to do is pledge to cook a slow food meal for five dollars or less, or attend a local event. These events and meals can take any form: some people will host potlucks where they bring food that costs them less than five dollars to prepare. Some people will cook for a crowd and charge five dollars or less at the door. Some people will cook for themselves or their family. The only thing meals need to have in common is to reflect slow food values and to cost no more than five dollars per person. Those taking the challenge are also encouraged to register their events and to share their stories at SlowFoodUSA.org/5Challenge.
The $5 Challenge is a response to the First Lady’s challenge to the nation to end the childhood obesity epidemic in a generation. In addition to Michelle Obama, a handful of other influencers such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and author Michael Pollan have increased public concern about the impact the industrial food system has on our health and the environment. The campaign is a way for everyday people to build and to share their own solutions.
Locally, The $5 Challenge will give individuals an opportunity to come together, to share a meal and to begin a conversation about what needs to change with food in their community. Nationally, the campaign will bring attention to the challenges many people face in trying to feed their families healthy, sustainable food—from a lack of access, to the rising price of fruits and vegetables and the falling price of soda and junk food.
“Right now, we have policies that make it harder to feed our children fruit than Froot Loops. But everyday, against the odds, people find ways to cook real food on a budget. We need to make cooking and eating that way a possibility for everyone,” added Viertel. “If you know how to cook slow food on a budget, The $5 Challenge is a chance to teach someone. If you want to learn, it is a chance to get started. And it is a chance for us all to unite and begin pushing for the change we need.”
For more information, to share a recipe or to find or host a meal, visit SlowFoodUSA.org/5Challenge. Creative event ideas and recipes will also be available on Slow Food USA’s social media networks at Twitter.com/SlowFoodUSA and Facebook.com/SlowFoodUSA.
About Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA is a national non-profit that believes food and farming should be sources of health and well being for everyone. Through national advocacy, local projects and bringing people together through the common language of food, Slow Food members and supporters are making it easier to access real food that is good for us, good for those who produce it and good for the planet. Slow Food USA’s network includes more than 250,000 supporters, 25,000 members and 225 chapters. To learn more, or sign up for our mailing list, visit our website, www.SlowFoodUSA.org.
Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 10:04 PM
For the series “Grist dared me to make a change,” Grist challenged me to write love poems to my favorite green groups in NYC. Click on my poem below to see more about my dare and what other people are challenging themselves to do!
Thanks to Just Food, a New York City nonprofit started in 1995:
More than 100 Community-Supported Agriculture programs now bring fresh vegetables to roughly 30,000 people living in all five boroughs.
Hundreds of people throughout New York learn about all aspects of urban agriculture through a newly launched innovative two-year certificate program, Farm School NYC.
Dozens of community gardens have been supported to start chicken coops.
We can keep bees in the city. (Just Food helped pass the city policy making it legal to keep these sweet and endangered buzzing farmer’s friends.)
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 10:05 PM
New York City, my home for the past 15 years, can be gritty and grimy. Its characteristic summertime smell of sweltering trash is a far cry from fragrant flowers and fresh cut grass, but I love this place in all its smelliness and crowded-subway glory.
I especially love it for the hope that springs up — like the relentless green that grows in cracks in the concrete — in our community food projects, urban farms, and community gardens across all five boroughs.
I love it for the creativity here — not just the latest off-Broadway musical, but in the creativity and commitment of the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who work every day to make sure that everyone has access to good, healthy food.
So for my Grist-inspired dare, I decided to bare a little love: For one week, starting July 25, I’ll be sending out poems to a selection of our city’s greatest food heroes: to the amazing projects, city efforts, local businesses, and community-based organizations devoted to transforming our food system.
My little missives will be tokens of thanks to those who get their hands dirty for us, who pick our lettuce and pluck our plums, and who work behind the scenes to advocate for better food policy, access to healthy foods for all, and fairness for food workers.
Through haiku, limericks, sonnets, and free verse, each of my various communiqués will be reminders for all of us to thank those who work tirelessly every day to heal our terribly broken food system, bringing some of those flowers, green space, and good food to a city — and a country — that desperately needs it.
So stay tuned in to Grist… and find out who gets a little love. You can show a little love to Grist, with a donation.
My first love letter was to What’s On Your Plate?, the captivating journey of two intrepid friends who set out to learn the truth behind the food on their plates. Along the way, they discover how communities can work together to ensure more of us have access to healthy, fresh food. It’s a great film and an inspiring project. Learn more at whatsonyourplateproject.org.
Friday, July 22nd, 2011, 1:43 PM
Call it Craigslist, farmer style.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched an online resource to support the nationwide development of food hubs — resources to help small and mid-sized producers work together to gain access to larger buyers and more business.
It centers around two popular trends: locally produced food, and eating food from small farms. Food hubs help producers, buyers and transporters find each other in a region, and several small businesses working together can tap into larger opportunities they can’t earn alone.
Jim Barham, agricultural economist for the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, used the example of a hospital.
Hospitals need a large supply of food, regularly. It is the kind of customer that usually can only afford to deal with large, corporate suppliers. It can’t afford to send people to inspect and buy carrots from one farm and apples at another, Barham said.
Enter the food hub. If the local carrot grower and apple grower have already made produce available at a hub, and the hub has some truck companies on board, they can guarantee customers a large, regular supply of food with variety. They can start selling to larger customers like hospitals, Barham said.
Barham said food hubs need not not exclude large companies. In fact, he said, they can help where smaller suppliers cannot.
“Food hubs are geared to support local growers, but not exclusively,” he said. “They often use larger producers as a stopgap to ensure that they will always have the volume to meet buyers’ needs.”
The process can have appeal for the larger produce buyers too.
“Produce buyers are elated to work with regional food hubs,” Barham said. “It gives them access to product that they’re having difficulty getting from regular distributors.”
Barham said Sysco, Houston, works with some food hubs across the nation as aggregation hubs. It doesn’t need to do the on-farm pickups from smaller growers when they already have their produce pooled together.
The online resource is provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, as part of its food hub partnership with the Wallace Center at Winrock International, National Good Food Network, National Association of Produce Market Managers and Project for Public Spaces. It’s also tied into the USDA’s wider efforts with its local-driven Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign.
The resource site hosts information from USDA agencies and other research organizations, and a directory of identified food hubs and financial resources. Beyond buyers and sellers, the website has potential use for entrepreneurs, advocates, researchers, media and even policymakers. As the department expands its understanding of the food hub business model, the website’s contents will evolve.
Barham said the AMS is preparing a more comprehensive resource guide for food hubs, to be released later this year. That guide will feature more non-government resources and research, provided by research institutions and the other food hub partner associations.
It will also offer advice for new food hubs, like what is working well for other hubs and what isn’t. Barham said he is inundated by people asking about food hubs — their startup costs, the warehouse space, the leasing space, what insurance is needed, or what food safety protocol they should expect from producers.
Barham said he expected that wider resource to be on the USDA secretary’s desk by September or early October.
Thursday, July 21st, 2011, 12:09 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 12, 2011 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today highlighted the importance of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and announced the findings of USDA’s first Farm to School report during the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention. Merrigan delivered remarks to thousands of school nutrition professionals at the three-day event which provided an opportunity to discuss the Obama administration’s efforts to improve the health and nutrition of meals served through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. Download the whole report here.
“By working closely with school nutrition professionals, the Obama Administration is promoting initiatives that provide kids with access to nutritious foods and information to teach them healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime” said Merrigan. “Farm to school programs are a great way to bring more fresh, local produce into school cafeterias and support local farmers as well. Many schools are also using Farm to School programs to teach students where their food comes from through nutrition education.”
They are starting the program first in Florida & Michigan. Hopefully First Lady Obama will push this further! Her blog all about her food initiatives here.