You know how when you learn a new word, you suddenly hear and read it everywhere? It seems like some amazing personal coincidence, but then you realize it’s been there all along. You never noticed it before, but once you’ve learned it, your ears perk up when you hear it.
That’s how it’s been for me with food politics. Over the last few years, and especially in the three months I’ve been writing this blog, it seems like everywhere I turn there’s someone taking a stand against the current state of industrial food production: The neighbors with their backyard hens, literally taking their food supply into their own hands, or the chefs who have started meticulously sourcing their ingredients and teaching food lovers about them. There are the vendors and patrons of farmers’ markets, who turn parking lots into Main Street USA’s once a week, and there’s our beloved Park Slope Food Coop, which just started carrying vegan beer. Even Cookie Monster is now eating fresh fruits and vegetables while advising kids that junk food is “sometimes food,” not “anytime food.”
As Michael Pollan notes in “Food Movement Rising” in the latest The New York Review of Books, the movement takes many forms:
- school lunch reform
- the campaign for animal rights and welfare
- the campaign against genetically modified crops
- the rise of organic and locally produced food efforts to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes
- “food sovereignty” (the principle that nations should be allowed to decide their agricultural policies rather than submit to free trade regimes)
- farm bill reform
- food safety regulation
- farmland preservation
- student organizing around food issues on campus
- efforts to promote urban agriculture and ensure that communities have access to healthy food
- initiatives to create gardens and cooking classes in schools
- farm worker rights
- nutrition labeling
- feedlot pollution
- various efforts to regulate food ingredients and marketing, especially to kids
No matter what tack activists take, the movement is unified the shared conclusion that our system of food production needs to change, because its costs–whether environmental, health-related, or animal-welfare-related–are simply too high.
So, yay! The issue that’s been occupying so much space in my head, heart, and belly is undeniably a movement that’s coming of age in the mainstream. I’m delighted that so many others are as disgusted as I am. I’m even glad that we are disgusted in different ways, for different reasons. They all lead to the same demand for change: nourishing food, produced ethically, marketed honestly.