The Santa Monica Annenberg Beach House glowed in the early evening dark on Sunday, Nov. 4 for “Localicious,” (goodfoodfestivals.com/localicious) a partnership of farmers and restaurateurs who created offerings of local and delicious tastes of California seasonal foods to several hundred happy eaters as a fundraiser in support of FamilyFarmed (www.familyfarmed.org).
It was the culmination of the Good Food Festival and Conference showcasing the good food of local California farmers and the Santa Monica Farmers Markets and promoting the FamilyFarmed.org mission “to expand the production, marketing and distribution of locally grown and responsibly produced food, in order to enhance the social, economic and environmental health of our communities.”
All the food was local, but the politics of the Good Food Movement are national and international. Food is on the way to becoming a new force in politics.
Will Allen (yes, the former basketball star) is now an urban farmer, the founder of Growing Power (www.growing power.com) and the author of “The Good Food Revolution.”
“My vision,” Allen said, “is to have a world where everybody has access to good food.”
His organization, Growing Power, Inc., is a non-profit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environment in which they live by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food.
This mission is implemented by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach, and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.
Growing Power has farms located in Wisconsin and Illinois. Some of our farms are in urban neighborhoods and other farms are in rural settings.
Growing Power is part of the “good food movement,” dedicated to promoting locally and sustainably grown food. It’s a big tent movement with farmers, communities, restaurateurs, and community markets, health care providers and organizations and environmentalists and health care organizations that are united by the idea that industrial food production is in need of reform.
Cheap food has long been a goal in the United States. But it is no longer an invisible or uncontested one. Cheap food is now being understood as having severe public health and environmental consequences. Put simply, the real costs of cheap food are too high.
Michelle Obama is the most prominent advocate of the good food movement. Her work to end childhood obesity and to promote healthy eating has already had a profound effect on the new, national dialogue on food.
“In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me,” she says. “This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids think about food and nutrition.”
In fact every one is a participant in this dialogue because we all eat and that means we all make decisions about what we eat and where we get the food we eat. As Will Allen says, “Food is the most important thing in our lives. It is the very core of our being. It puts all people on an equal level.”
Count yourself a member of this movement if you support schools providing healthier school lunches and snacks, if you buy food that has labels such as, organic or cage free or pesticide free, if you voted for the ballot measure to label genetically modified crops; if you buy produce at the Farmers Markets.
A challenge the good food movement is taking on is the charge of elitism. Activists for sustainable farming are tackling the related problem of hunger and poverty and working to come up with solutions.
In Pasadena, at the inner city John Muir High School, Mud Baron is teaching his students to be farmers. Because of the farming they do, the students are able to bring food home to their families. This brings them the double reward of being able to really help their own families and to grow their own self-esteem as they grow their crops.
Environmental organizations, such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) have added their voice as they warn us that the current food system (the farming and the distribution of food) is not sustainable. The food system in the United States uses about a fifth of the total American use of fossil fuel energy and emits more greenhouse gas than is sustainable.
We have to address food production and distribution if we are to address global warming and climate change
The most direct motivation for being part of this movement comes from wanting to be a healthy person.
We know that eating sugar and fat added processed foods greatly increases the probability of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. These diseases create personal suffering on a huge scale and add economy-threatening costs to our health care system. These are preventable diseases and linked to the standard post WWII American diet.
Oprah Winfrey has joined Will Allen in the good food movement. In speaking about his appearance with Winfrey he said, “It is wonderful to see that this good food revolution has become so mainstream and so inclusive. As the message spreads, the demand for better food grows. So when someone as popular and as influential with people’s lifestyle choices as Oprah Winfrey picks up the banner, we know we have come a long way.
“The thing I would want to add, though, is that we still have a lot of work to do. We have won over the hearts and minds of the public: all generations, all cultures and all classes. Now we have to win over the food industry and the government, to see that supplies of better food meet this growing demand. And we have to ensure that this occurs equitably, so that it is no longer just a lifestyle choice for some but a life necessity for all.”